Grief is a dark place and a roller coaster of unfamiliar emotions. For those of you who haven’t experienced it yet the following will prepare you to some degree.
The unraveling of grief is a painful process of suppressed emotions. When emotions are suppressed it leads to illness, depleted energy, and mental health issues.
I began to understand the concept of grief when my father died all of sudden in 2010. I woke up in the middle of the night and looked at my mobile. There were ten to fifteen missed calls and a voice message. I knew at that moment that my dad had died.
I was already emotionally withdrawn from an unhappy marriage, an abusive relationship prior to that and a severe illness the year before. This caused me to close down further,
I wasn’t a happy child, I didn’t have an idyllic childhood. Before I was five we moved to Pakistan twice and then came back to UK twice, where we were born and live today, for good. On our return we lived with relatives and friends, until our own house was available from our tenants. In this short space of time I witnessed domestic abuse and suffered from an incident myself (not from parents thankfully). This forged the future of my life.
Back to my dad’s death, when he died a part of me died too bequeathing a black hole, a void, an emptiness and another level of loneliness.
I went home to my parents in Manchester. Neighbors, relatives and long-terms friends all started to pour in. Everyone asks the same question: “How did it happen?” Then they start going on about how someone in their family has died and make it all about themselves.
I don’t remember being hysterical at the time or anytime for that matter. My mum and elder sister were at home when Dad passed and by time I got there they’d fallen to pieces, rightly so, and I must have been thinking that one us has to keep it together.
I remember going to the doctor’s, then the chemist for my prescription and reported my father’s death to anyone who would listen. I look back now and don’t think people knew what to say!
Coming from one of the monotheistic religions we had to follow certain protocols surrounding death. Basically people come and pray for the deceased. What I realized is that people bring their own burdens, their own stories and their own grief. I remember thinking: “Please shut up. This is about me and my family. It’s my dad. I don’t care who’s died in your family at the moment.”
The other situations I observed include power struggles between extended family members, each trying to outdo the other or make each other look bad.
Then you get the nosey people! “Why did you get divorced, and why haven’t you married again? Why did you move to London? Will you move back to Manchester now?”
After the first few days people slowly stopped coming and I was appreciating the peace. I remember going out and letting the cold air hit my face and hair, calming my scrambled (over-fried) mind and heart.
I took just under two weeks off work and went back to my own home. I look back now at the pain I was in and the fear of falling to pieces. I didn’t think I could get back together again and most of all I had no one there for me intimately.
Work people give their condolences, act nice for a couple of days and then get back to the grindstone and office politics. The manager doesn’t ask “Do you need extra time off? Are you seeing a counselor?” or say “Take it easy.”
So when we live in a society like this how can we grieve or process what has happened in our life when expected to carry on as normal, to deal with it and move on? You don’t get over the death of a parent, You come terms with the shock. The big black hole starts to fill, but the pain still sits there.
My sisters, my nephew and my nieces took some items of my dad’s clothing that they liked. Personally it still causes me pain to look at or feel his clothes. At work guys would wear jumpers like my dad did. I felt like telling them to stop because it reminded me of me of him. I walked through the market and smelled popcorn, one of my dad’s favorite treats. I felt like crying. I wish I did. My eldest sister completely removed everything of my dad’s. That was her way of dealing with it at the time.
I hear people say that it’s a sign of weakness that I didn’t cry over my father’s passing. I might not have cried but the emotions still need addressing one way or another. How long can one take pills, substances or begin dead-end relationships in order to numb the pain?
Grief is attached to change. We go through so many changes in our life, we don’t understand that we need to accept the change and come to terms with what is going on. Whether the change is chosen by you or thrown upon you, you need to learn to adapt to the loss.
When your parent, partner or sibling passes, you die with them. You’re expected to put on some bravado act on to appease society because they can’t cope. We humans are taught to handle emotions, to brush them under the carpet, that eventually they’ll pass.
The following year I stumbled across a mind/body/spirit magazine and one of the articles was about grief, how related emotions begin and why. As far as I remember he wasn’t a counselor or medical practitioner. He was someone in the New Age arena. Thanks to him I learned what grief was/is and how it applies to day-to-day life.
I chose to end my marriage. It was time. Still, it was upsetting to part with someone with whom I lived for seven years and transition to living my on own. Every Saturday for seven years I visited my in-laws. Suddenly I had Saturdays free.
The darkness of grief is pain closing you down. It’s like you can’t breathe, and you’re trying to come up for air but you don’t how. The pain transforms into anger and the anger rages inside because God has taken someone from you. So many things weren’t said and so many things that were said shouldn’t have been. You didn’t say sorry. You didn’t say bye. This will haunt you unless you take precautions and begin communicating more mindfully now.
You can’t drown you demons. Repressed, they only become stronger; however, you can learn to tame them. At the end of the day your dark side is a part of you! Learn to integrate it.
If you can cry for your best friend that died, your parent, grandparent, partner, sibling, your beautiful pet. They deserve your tears. Cry for their honor because they deserve it. Cry, cry and cry! I can’t wait for the day I cry, cry and cry. I wish I had given myself permission years ago. If I cried maybe I could prevent potentially psychosomatic symptoms like dry eye syndrome and pressure headaches
All of the above observations apply when friendships end, when one moves home or away from home, when one changes jobs. Simply put, when we change environments the body, the mind and the spirit need to come to terms with the change.
Rest in peace Dad, Paul (best manager ever), and my two late childhood friends.