Grief is one of those things that everyone is going through in some shape or form and we seem to think that the polite thing to do is never, ever bring it up or mention it ever. And if that could stop immediately that. Would. Be. Great.
My first instance of grief was second-hand. A close friend lost her mother after a long illness when we were just 13 years old. For so long we steered clear of the subject. Desperately amending our stories to exclude our mums lest we mention them and look at her with horror as if we were rubbing her face in her loss. We couldn’t have known how else to handle such an awful situation at that age.
A week after my 18th birthday my Nan passed away. We weren’t exceptionally close but this was the first time I was grieving for me and not just feeling sadness for someone else. I remember not being able to sit with my friends at lunch, opting instead for the floor of my teachers office. This was my first tug of the fish hook pain of grief.
While studying in Edinburgh my Gran died. Even though we had said our goodbyes before I left, this was not the news I was hoping for. So you can imagine my extreme dissatisfaction with the universe when two months my mum told me that my stepfather was sick out of the blue. He died two weeks later.
It is damn near impossible to give a shit about anything when you’re grieving and I was stuck sitting my final exams. I passed 2 classes but dropped the ball on the other. I traveled for about a month afterward feeling torn inside between guilt of being happy, delighted that maybe he was with me seeing all these amazing places too. Ultimately I felt alone. I was with my partner and neither of us could make me feel whole.
When people were game enough to ask how I was doing, their head tilted in concern, the Fish Hook Of Grief is how I’ve tried to explain my thoughts without screaming “I’M GRIEVING, YOU IDIOT”. Indulge in a little imagination and picture a fish hook that has pierced your cheek and is pulled upwards slightly. If you saw this you would ask the person about it, right? And if you were the one with the hook in your face you would surely expect someone to question it. It’s infuriating that nobody brings it up.
More than just the sight of it, you can feel it. Some days it will feel like someone in the clouds above is actually trying to yank you up to them. Some days it feels like a light sting. You can become familiar with the feeling but you can still tell it’s there.
Grief to me is love that has nowhere to go. That includes break-ups and other difficult good-byes. I don’t think grief is as taboo as it seems. So many people are grieving and it’s normal and natural and it sucks but it can be healing too. You can't tell how hard other people are hurting and even when you don't know what to say, just be there and listen.
To end on a happy note, here's a cat picture.