I've no intention of trying to imitate the great Baz Luhrmann, and I'm hopeful that most of you know the benefits of sunscreen, but on a recent boozy outing I found myself extoling the virtues of the patch test to my somewhat reluctant friends. It made me realise how things change. Here I now was, the most risk averse within my friend group. It led me to want to share the musing of my own meandering experience, from the view of the unexpected reactions to grief.
Most of our experience, prior to a great loss, of grief and death tends to come from the media, most probably a TV Mini series starring James Nesbitt. When our experiences make the leap from the small screen to our actual world the reactions and following actions can be anything but formulaic. Suddenly, what we thought of as some kind of myth, something that we watch as a break from our day to day existence, becomes our reality.
Unfortunately. many of the things I experienced, still do experience, were not foretold to me in any deep voiceover fashion, but merely learned or figured out through trial and error.
This is without doubt essential. Before grief I was probably, at best, dismissive of anything I would have called "That Hippy Shit". I was a great believer of shrugging it off and getting on with it. Probably okay when the worst you have to shrug off is a hangover followed by an early start with the kids (not that I'm minimising the trauma of that situation.) But when it becomes real, a real gut wrenching pain, a physical struggle to put one foot in front of the other, then it definitely does not work. Self-care is not a one size fits all, and it certainly doesn't happen overnight, It took months before I could go to bed, or even sit still, without waves of pain washing over me, but with dedication and effort it will make things easier. For me it is in the way of adaptogen herbs to reduce stress, yoga, exercise, family and friend's. Occasionally, when I'm feeling good, I forget how much this is benefitting me and then a fall out of routine,., BIG mistake. I can go a couple of days but any more than that and the clouds start circling, sometimes I'm not sure why, putting it down to a couple of bad days, but more often than not I can put it down to slipping in my self care.
As a youngster, like most, I was blind to the risks that life held. I'd happily jump in the back of a transit van to travel to London to watch friends bands perform, hitch hike to festivals, go out to clubs with no idea of how I was getting home. Age, and specifically motherhood, has restricted the risk taking. But, although I was always called the fun police by the kids for my warnings, I was still quite likely to think that it'll be okay and be the first to cut corners. After all, bad things only happen to other people. Not so much now. So now I follow the safety instructions to the letter. That means to always do the patch test, because these things happen to people, people like you and me, who didn't expect it. I check for infections meticulously and even own a proper fancy thermometer for checks during illness. I know that some things, like errant teenagers I cannot control, but what I can control I do & will.
Fighting the fear is an ever present peril, after all just because something had happened once doesn't mean it won't happen again. I'm no less or more likely to suffer another awful calamity than the next person. But the awareness that monsters do lurk out there is difficult to navigate. Their omnipresence brings the fear which can override all sense & reason. I guess that links up to Risk Aversion too but in a heightened way The fear can drive away friends and loved ones because they can't stand the irrationality of it, even though, by definition, it is completely rational, it can freeze the incumbent, make them unable to function to think straight. Like a rabbit in the headlights. It is tiring, the constant battle between life and fear, and needs the help of loved ones to quieten nerves. I don't want others to have to change their behaviour because of my fear, although I'm pretty sure they do, and I'm thankful for it. Like the rest of grief, the fear is always there, there is no real escape, no getting over it, just learning to exist alongside it.
As in, to keep each moment full of joy & love. We all mostly try to do this, make the most of every situation. I originally wrote something here about how you cannot truly appreciate what you have, until you feel what it's like to lose part of it, and although that is true it's not the real reason behind this. I have read that grief is just love with nowhere to go, which I feel is a pretty much perfect explanation. After all without love there would be no grief, no feelings of any kind. So now that I am having to deal with the bad effects of love I compensate, try to equal things up, by ensuring that I also get all the good effects of love. That means making sure that everyone around me knows what they mean to me and how important they are to me. By making sure the implied is explicit in everything I do it gives space for the love to shine through. If I have to deal with the crappy feeling of the love that has nowhere to go, I am most definitely going to benefit from the good feeling of the love that does still have a home. So although it probably makes me a better and nicer person, the reasons behind it are actually quite self centred!
I'm not sure I really managed to explain the true extent to all of these, but, after all, it is just my unique standpoint and is probably not shared by anyone else.
Sometimes, more than anything, it is just good to share.