Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Grief and loss

Today, I visited the grave of my grandfather.  Yes, I know that today is Halloween but, honestly, that means little to me.  I was near the cemetery, so I would have felt guilty if I'd not visited his grave, at least for a short time.

I had to use another entrance and walk a longer distance than usual from the car, and it was raining hard.  On my way, I noticed there's a little garden within the grounds of the cemetery - a very calm, very beautiful place.

When I reached my grandfather's grave, I thought about how we lost him so close to Christmas, and everything I felt at the time came flooding back.  It's twenty years since my grandfather died.  Although he's gone, and all that's visible in the cemetery is a carved stone that bears his name, I felt a great deal of guilt about leaving.  I didn't visit him when he was sick, and it's something about which I've had mixed feelings ever since.  I'd always known him as a man of tremendous strength: maybe not so much physical strength as he aged, but certainly strength of character.  Seeing him weak and helpless, knowing that we would soon lose him, was not something with which I could have coped at the time.  I didn't want the memory of him suffering.

On the drive home from the cemetery, I questioned whether he would be proud of his grandson, of the way I live my life, of the man I have become.  If there is one thing I learned from him, and try to emulate myself, it is his way of making everyone feel important.  He wanted to listen to you and be in your company.  It was genuine.

When we meet with someone who's recently suffered the loss of someone they love, we find ourselves at a loss for words.  We're aware that this is something which can never be put right.  We have no answers and we can't bring back the person who's been lost.  Adding to our sense of powerlessness is the fact that grief is an experience where our differences are particularly apparent - we all grieve in our own way.  Really, nothing needs to be said, because the best thing we can do is listen.  They might want to share their memories of the departed, or they may just want to sit silently, but not alone.  Often, the mere presence of another human being is enough to bring us comfort when we are facing our darkest moments, and words are not necessary.

If you're reading this, having recently lost someone you love, there's no set way of coping with that loss.  There's also no set time for grieving.  If anyone ever tells you that you should be over the death of a loved one, when a certain amount of time has passed, they're setting a time on something that has no set time.  If people don't know what to say to you, maybe you could let them know that they don't have to say anything.  If you need to do so, however, talk about how you feel.  I can bring you no comfort, and I can't tell you that it will get better with time.  You must deal with the loss in your own way, and not how others think you should deal with your loss.

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