A few mornings ago, I woke up after what had been a rough night with grief that had been triggered by a succession of sad news about other people in my life. Suddenly, losing dad was fresh again.

Despite several hours sleep, I felt as if I hadn’t slept at all. I reflected on the fact that grief wise, it had been a pretty steady week or so where it had definitely managed to catch me in moments – I was walking through a forest with my family at the weekend and suddenly felt grief try to shake me by the shoulders – but that I’d managed to keep myself together. Tears started but retreated. I immersed myself in the moment. I took a deep breath, or yes, drew on my capacity for humour. Not possible that morning though. I sat on the edge of the bed in a daze, picked up my phone, opened up Evernote and this came out:

I’m bench-pressing life.

The grief sits on my chest, heavy, lighting up the lines of pain that run through me,

Alerting me to the presence of loss.

Reminding me that I feel.

Reminding me that even as I go on living, there is grief waiting to be released.

If I block the feelings, I can lift life a little but then the grief comes crashing down, harder, weightier, meaner than it felt before.

Suddenly what seemed manageable seems insurmountable.

The grief pushes down on me.

It’s tempting to give in.

It’s too much.

But to do so will mean that I’ll go numb, that I’ll be unable to deal with life.

So I feel, and at first it feels like I’m collapsing, choking, like it will be too hard.

Like this loss is taking my organs in its fists and squeezing the life out of me.

But my other feelings are also there, reminding me of my ‘humanness’, of my ability to care deeply.

Reminding me that I love and that I loved. That I chanced, that I breathed in joy for as long as it would hang around for this relationship.

That I’ve struggled, that I’ve fallen, howled, raged against it,

That I’ve broken before.

And that I can and will heal, with room to remember this loss but not be owned by it.

I am still me.

I can fit around this loss. Or is it, that it will fit around me?

Grief is rounding out the sharp edges of losses gone by, lighting up the pathways of old memories, old hurts, old stories that I had forgotten along with their significance to my current self-concept.

Pointing out to me how I respond to that which comes upon me to challenge me, grow me, reveal to me where I am blind to my power.

I have lost, but I’m also gaining in ways that I might not be aware of for some time, but they’re there.

I have lost, but grief will restore me in unexpected ways.

For now, I just need to let grief do its work, even though it hurts,

Even though it wants to pull at me at inconvenient moments.

Even though it likes to tap me on the shoulder after I think I’ve figured it out, just to remind me to surrender to the uncertainty of it.

One day, soon, I will be able to lift more of life than I did previously.

There will be moments where, with the benefit of hindsight, I recognise

Without grief, I would not have healed what used to come up in times gone by.

Without it, I would be disrupting joy without even realising it.

Without it, I would not be as much of myself.

Grief helped me do this.

Grief made this opening possible.

Grief is making me possible.


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