Monday, 28 October 2013

The grief that does not speak...

       "There is no grief like the grief that does not speak" Longfellow

Is grieving something that comes naturally or do we need to learn it? Maybe we all instinctively know what to do but something in our socialisation means we bury it away? It’s part of living of course but I wonder how often we really give it the time and space it needs.
 A good friend was once trying hard to reassure me that, the fact my usually gentle golden retriever had just killed their family pet rabbit was really ok.
 We got the rabbit to help the children learn about life and death and how to cope with that, she explained. I have long suspected it was more like an introduction to terrorism but it I tried to take comfort from her reassurance! And she is so right that one of our key roles as parents is to help our children learn how to do the hard stuff like grieving ,too.
But grief is such an individual thing. I learned many years ago not to make assumptions. As a fairly young health visitor I was referred to do a bereavement visit on an elderly lady who had recently lost her husband. I knocked on the door with trepidation, wanting to find the words to offer support to someone I hadn’t met before. I haltingly stammered out my sympathy and asked how she was. I missed the dog more, she told me. I tried to hide my shock and listened as she explained her husband had routinely abused her. She was of a generation that never spoke of such things. Even the time he broke her jaw for a mark on the cooker she had told not one. The dog however had loved her unreservedly. Yes I learned a lot from her, her courage, her honesty, her final disclosure, allowing her to grieve for all life had dealt her.
As regular readers of my blog know my father died just after I finished breast cancer treatment for the first time. My grief was so complicated by his dying from and my coping with my own cancer but also that I lost his warmth and love at the very time I needed it most. Just last week I went to pick up the phone to talk to him about something I know he would have been very interested in and even- nearly twenty years later -I felt his loss. And this week seeing the impact of Alzheimer’s on my Mum I recognise there are so many different stages of grief in a condition like this too. But her joy in her great grandchildren is a marvellous way to be reminded that it’s those moments that count now.
As the wise GP I read once said, no one ever prayed for more time at the office on their death bed, no we pray for precious time with those we love. So perhaps the best preparation for grief is to not regret missing time with those you love. Create the memories now that will warm you after they are gone. And remember too that grief is part of life but the milk of human kindness will ease its journey.

Reasons to be grateful. Time with family was precious this week and welcoming the new baby of the family. And its all about new babies this week...looking forward to lunch with old colleagues and meeting the new baby too. 

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