It’s a long weekend here and it’s wet and cold. Perfect weather for staying indoors, the six of us still in pyjamas eating croissants and doing nothing.

One of my kids was playing songs (if you can call them that) from his iPod and the conversation somehow turned to John Denver, with Rob and I telling our kids that his music is real music, not the horrible suffering they were listening to.

I truly have turned into my parents.

Anyway they all moved off into another room and left me going through YouTube videos of John Denver when ‘Angel’ by Sarah Maclachlan popped up in the side bar. This song means so much to me, more than any other. It by far signifies the worst chapter in my forty four years.

It hasn’t happened to me for quite a while but as soon as the song started my head was flooded with grief, transporting me back to when our twins, Ella & Jasmine, died. Our first born, just born too soon and too little to survive on their own. In the year after they died, I barely left my apartment. I stayed home and cried and played ‘Angel’ over and over again, stuck in a pit of grief so intense that I’ll never recover entirely from it.

I know how low the human spirit can go and it terrifies me. I’ve been there and I never want to go back. Ever.

I’ve written about it before here if you’d like to read it so I won’t re-tell the story again but today I wanted to talk about grief.

Grief is such a powerful, mysterious and all consuming state. It’s a very private journey, one that nobody can truly understand and it’s so, so isolating. Never have I felt so alone. It’s not tangible, you can’t see it, there’s no cure, there’s no relief, the only thing we can hope will lessen it’s intensity is time.

Time. The one thing a person engulfed in grief doesn’t want to hear. It’s of no comfort to say “in time you’ll feel better” or my favorite not helpful line “time heals all wounds”. These things are of no comfort to the grieving. Telling me back then, although it’s true, that time will heal my grief gives no relief. Unless you can somehow make the time go faster.

What I have learned is that there is no way around grief. You can try to avoid it, bottle it up, push it aside but unless you go straight through it head on and give yourself to it’s horrible, painful and at times unbearable truth, it will never go away. Some of us are unable to bottle it up and have no choice but to travel through it immediately like I did but for men especially, pushing it aside will likely mean down the track it will smack you in the face when you least expect it.

There is no hiding from it.

I’ve watched someone I’m very close to for the past two years grieve for the loss of her family home where she lived for nearly thirty years. That home saw children and then grandchildren and held decades of memories. It wasn’t grieving for the physical house but having to say goodbye to the central hub of her family when her husband moved on to a new relationship. They had been divorced for a long time but lived harmoniously without any plans to separate, until one of them met another partner.

Nobody expected she would feel so much pain for the loss of their home. It’s not even the fact her ex husband had moved on, it’s the loss of a time of her life, a chapter that has closed. I feel like I’m probably the only one in my family who understands that there is no time frame around grief, no specific amount of days where we should “get over it”. Who are we to put that on her or anyone?

Losing a time in your life is a very difficult type of grief because it’s so hard for others to understand another persons sentiment. For me, trying to understand what it’s like to say goodbye to a family home wasn’t comparable to how my relative felt about it, but I understand that. I know she’s hurting and I don’t know how long, if ever, it will take for her to look back and be at peace. But it’s not up to anyone else to tell her when that time should be.

I feel for my darling friend, Lisse, the pain she feels around her Mums death a few years ago and her Dad’s death a few years later. I see it in her eyes when we talk about them and I know it’s always there just under the surface of her always beautiful and peaceful smile. I know it’s there. It will never go away. But she soldiers on, learning how to move forward with grief on her shoulders.

But grief isn’t necessarily just losing a loved one. I grieve for my life in London. I’ve stopped writing about it because I can hear the eye rolling through my laptop screen but I still grieve for my old life every day. It’s not a grief like losing a loved one but its a grief I don’t know how to fix. It’s not a debilitating grief like losing my babies but it’s there and it’s isolating and it’s really annoying. I’m tired of being sad about it but I don’t know how to make it go away. I never imagined four years down the track I’d still be hung up on it but as I’ve mentioned, grief and time do not travel along simultaneously.

The point of all this above is to tell people that if you know someone grieving, have patience, have empathy. Do not assume they think like you do. Do not push your time frame expectations onto them. Listen. Be kind. Give them hope. Be there. Have compassion.

Because if I have learnt anything in my adult life, its that compassion is hard to come by and this world doesn’t have nearly enough of it.





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