Loss and grief are experiences so central to what it means to be human, and yet ones we hope we never have to know. Grief especially, is such a private and personal process, that I’ve found it difficult to articulate the changes my life has seen in the last three months.
What we don’t often bargain for, is everything else that has to exist alongside your grief after losing someone. Auden wrote when he lost his partner:
“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come”.
But the reality is that the clocks don’t stop, the telephone still rings, the dog still barks and pianos still play; and whilst the mourners may come, they go again, and once they do you’re left to carry around your grief, taking it inside yourself, because life goes on. What’s on my mind is how we go about living, when the worst has happened. It doesn’t seem possible and yet here I am, months on, still with the same routine, the same friends, the same everything, even though my everything has changed irrevocably.
This paradox is so striking, particularly because whilst experiencing a grief that has at times felt paralysing, isolating and utterly bewildering, I was in the first month of a relationship that has made me happier and more content than I have ever been before.
The sun shone down and the days got longer and lighter, I fell in love, and made new friends, I laughed at jokes, got addicted to Love Island and became even more bored/frustrated with the Brexit induced constitutional crisis that just never ever seems to end. Everyone I spoke to about how jarring I found my ability to sustain my normal life in the wake of such a momentous change, told me not to feel guilty. But the truth is that I didn’t. I still don’t.
Instead of guilt I feel amazement. I’m amazed at the human heart’s ability to be able to love even when it is wounded, at the mind to be able to argue, debate, form opinions, when it is still trying to comprehend how someone you loved just doesn’t exist anymore.
Grief, just like all human experiences, has contradiction at its core and even that is a contradiction, because we spend so much of our time trying to understand and simplify what is complicated and nuanced. I don’t want to simplify my grief, I don’t even want to run from it anymore. I am not defined by it, but it is part of me now, which is an important distinction. It lives in me yes, but my life will grow around it, I can already feel it starting to. It isn’t all encompassing, all consuming, I can be the happiest I’ve ever been and still be grieving, I can be in love and have a bruised heart, I can move on but not forget, there is no mutual exclusivity in this.