You think you understand grief until you find yourself grieving. The natural progression of life and death makes sense until someone you love dies. I’ve experienced grief and up until this moment, I have realised that not all grief is created equal.
When I heard that Jason had passed, it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t breathe. And then, slowly but surely, I returned to my senses and in the distance, I could hear sobbing. The painful staccato of sound was coming from me. I was sobbing.
My husband woke up to the sound of me sobbing uncontrollably, unable to catch my breath to tell him why. In the hours following the tragic news, I found myself fluttering between disbelief, anger, and deep sadness. Above everything else, I was in denial because there was just no way this was possible.
I kept thinking there had to be a mistake and someone was going to say this wasn’t true, but as the information kept coming in about the events surrounding his death, deep down I knew that no matter how much I wanted this to be a bad dream, it was reality. I was filled with rage and wrought with guilt.
In the pit of my stomach was a cold, aching void that would not go away no matter what I ate or drank, and I’d often catch myself randomly shaking my head in disbelief without even thinking. I was having great difficulty processing the fact that I would never see or hear from him again.
While my relationship with Jason started off on a somewhat contentious note, when we did click, we connected on a deep level and there was no going back. What I loved most about Jason was the sincerity of his character. He was authentic and lived his life in the most authentic way. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and had no trouble setting me straight when I needed it most.
Jason was wise beyond his years. He was smart, funny, and charming. He had a smile that could light up a room and he was a consummate gentleman who went fearlessly after the things he wanted, inspiring others along the way. Jason wasn’t supposed to go so soon.
He was supposed to be my daughter’s godfather and live to a ripe old age with children and grandchildren of his own. If anything, he was supposed to attend my funeral since I’m the one who’s older, even though it never felt like it during our time as friends.
The days between finding out about Jason’s passing and leading up to his funeral were a blur. I was on autopilot, running the gauntlet of my life like a robot. In the months after his funeral, I packed my emotions into a neat, little box and tried to shelf it. I thought I was doing a pretty good job until I started experiencing the physical symptoms associated with repressed grief.
Grief is personal
It was in these moments I was forced to face my grief head on, and during this time I learnt that grief is a lonely place. Author Susan Fletcher once said: “Others may grieve for the same soul, but they do not grieve exactly for what you also grieve. No one has lost precisely what you have lost.” For me, truer words have never been spoken.
I looked at the family around me who also grieve for Jason, and I try to rank our grief accordingly. I felt as though I had no right to feel the way I did because there were people who had lost more than me. But the truth is, no one has lost precisely the same thing.
Relationships are personal, and grief is not logical. We all move through the process differently based on the relationship we had with the deceased and repressing my grief because I was fearful of other people’s reaction towards it didn’t help.
It’s been just over six months since Jason has passed and I am still riding the rollercoaster that is grief. I can’t believe he is gone, and it hurts as much today as it did the moment I found out.
But with everything in life, there’s a lesson to be learned. As painful as this is, I’ve learnt to be honest about my feelings and to never take anyone or anything for granted because tomorrow is not promised. I’ve learnt that repressing grief is akin to sitting on a powder keg, and it’s okay to feel everything you need to feel, including anger.
Now, I no longer run from my feelings. I cry when I need to cry. I remember the good times and the bad times and all the conversations in between and then I cry again for all the conversations we will never have.
I’ve learnt that grief and love are intimately connected and the only way to carry on is to embrace grief through the words of Franchesca Cox: “Grief only exists where love lived first”.
As a country and a community we’ve lost so much over the last two years if you need help or more information about dealing with grief, check out these resources.