Friday, 15 June 2012

Grasping even the most brittle of straws...

The bereaved learn a great deal about human nature. Of course it's a harsh and cruel way to gain this indepth understanding of the human psyche but there's no doubt about it, those who have lost loved ones do gain that unique insight which is: human beings, by their very nature, cannot deal with mortality. It's not just that they're afraid of dying, it's not just that they're afraid of losing their loved ones, it's that they simply are not programmed to accept, accommodate and process the fact that they are mortal. A bereaved person wears their grief on their sleeve. It cannot be hidden. It's in their eyes. It emits a signal... a warning that death was here, death is near. This signal repels others. Those who come near it feel that it must be crushed.

What I am learning is that because I'm the spouse of a recently deceased man, that makes me the closest thing to death that exists for those around me. So, in short, I represent death. I carry it with me. When I wish to talk about our loss - my husband, the hospice, the funeral, the loneliness, the crippling grief - I serve only to increase the 'death' emissions. The only hope for those around me is that I move on quickly, suppress the grief, smile and look on the bright side. People will always look for 'the bright side' regardless of how fucked up things are. The process goes something like this:

THE BEREAVED: Love... grief... heartache... sad eyes. Death emission overload.
THE FRIEND: Refuse to listen/observe. Offers platitudes.
THE BEREAVED: Grief... heartache... sad eyes. Death emission overload.
THE FRIEND: Refuse to listen. More platitudes. Push against death emissions. Suppress.
THE BEREAVED: Reacts to grief suppression. Anger... rage... irritation...
THE FRIEND: Push push push... keep pushing until she smiles.
Ignore... ignore... ignore... keep ignoring until she smiles.
Distract distract distract... keep distracting until she smiles.
THE BEREAVED: Smiles with sad eyes.
THE FRIEND: Observes 'smile'. Relief!
Halle-fucking-lujah, she's healed.
Long live [the pretence of] immortality. 


  1. ...makes me the closest thing to death that exists for those around me...

    True! The first halloween After, I wanted to wear a little button that said "no costume necessary. I am your worst nightmare."

  2. lol Megan! Good idea. Or a button saying "I KNOW you don't know what to say. Just say HELLO."

  3. Right! I wanted one in the early days that said "please excuse my odd behavior. My husband just died and I am not myself." Handy for when standing at the grocery checkout, crying, unable to figure out how many of the pieces of green paper in my hand equalled the number the cashier just told me.

  4. The worst people are the ones who try to cheer you up. I want to tell them to F*%K OFF in no uncertain terms.

  5. I know I'm commenting on an old post, but it's made me smile & cry.

    I've used it to get rid of door-to-door & telesales people.

    I keep being asked "are you alright" and "what's the matter" - by my late wife's father.

    But instead I tried a bit of sarcasm & said "well I'm a bit down because - well - you know - people have been dying around here and stuff".

    1. Hi Alan. Thanks so much for posting. I'm so sorry for your loss. Such early raw days for you. I'm afraid I'm in the habit now of using so much sarcasm many people cringe and run when they hear me! It's a coping mechanism. What do you say to to yet another idiot who comes out with the latest platitude "you're lucky you had him for so long", "you're lucky you didn't have him for longer", "you're lucky he didn't suffer for too long", "you're lucky he didn't die suddenly". Ah, yeah, they're only trying to help but like you said in the other comment you just want them to listen. They don't have to solve anything - we know they can't - but just listen. Best of luck to you Alan.

    2. Thanks Deb
      I love how your reply & posts have a way of cutting through all the #### and helping me to realise I'm not going crazy!
      I wish I could say something that would really help.
      [Big hugs]

  6. What helps is knowing you're not alone. Much as I hate to think of anyone else going through this - especially going through the raw brutal pain of the early months - it is comforting to know there are others out there going through it. You're not insane Alan but I can tell you with certainty last year was the closest I have come to insanity - and there was some stiff competition ;) Grief and insanity aren't too far apart, except perhaps there is a reason for grief whereas often insanity has no logical reason.