Grief is weird. I don’t agree that there are easily identified stages that everyone transits through. It seems to me that while everyone experiences it, we all experience it in different ways; 1) because we are all different, and 2) because the circumstances that are the cause of the grief are equally individual. You might have also had someone die because of bowel cancer, breast cancer, suicide or a lightning strike, but they are just the big TITLES – the labelling. There are different phases of grief, but I don’t imagine that they are common to everyone. I can only write about mine.
I read about someone else’s experiences of grief on Edenland – first the death of her stepfather, and then the suicide of her brother. Dark and desperate times. I mention her because when I found out about my dad’s diagnosis, I was flailing. I had been reading Eden’s account of how she was coping with the death of her stepfather, and I wrote to her. Told her the lot. I wasn’t allowed to blog about my feelings, or the situation from which they stemmed. I needed to tell someone who I knew would get it – someone who I knew would comprehend my desperation. She wrote me back a letter, for which I remain grateful. I knew she got it. She told me: “Be gentle on yourself and take a deep breath and know that you will make it through. You will.”
As I type this with the waves as my background noise, and the caravan quiet around me, I wonder at the last two and a bit years. I wonder that I am not spending this time on my own entirely consumed by thoughts of my dad and what I have lost. This is where the personal experience of grief takes over from the overriding labels of CANCER or STRUCK BY A BUS. I am not consumed by my loss. For the most part, when I have to talk to someone outside my family about what has happened, I crumble. But on my own, I am content to fill my time with the novelty and minutiae of being alone.
The initial terrible flailing grief that captured me when I learned his diagnosis, and the last two and a half years of treatment, worry, desperation and despair, seem to have sapped a part of me. Maybe if he had been hit by a bus I might be spending a large part of my time here crying on the floor. I don’t know. The reality is that I remain raw, but I am not dwelling on him constantly.
Grief seems to have been an ongoing process since diagnosis. And it hit me like a hammer on 7 May 2015. But now, half the time I feel like he is still here. Either in his chair at home or stirred up into the stardust that is everywhere. A feeling of surreality continues. I am still getting the google alerts I signed up to two years ago ‘bowel cancer’, ‘liver metastases’, ‘colon cancer’ – I have a research file in Evernote with 119 entries in it. Different research studies, papers, complementary therapies, side-effects of various medications – the works.
It is too soon for me to put a stop to the google alerts, to delete my research folder I shared with him. I can see that I am going to have a prolonged period of adjustment to his absence. I have lost the person who is most like me in all the world. And I’m not sure what to do about that, other than to try and soak up life and live it the best that I can. And mourn whenever I need to. To me, he will never be gone. He is a part of me always.
Grief is a process, not an event. It is a journey, not a destination.
Grief: Better Health Channel