Recently I took an opportunity to write up to 300 words on grief. I was reminded of how writing is often a form of therapy for me. Below is my piece.
Grief is a changeable companion. We’ve met before, in various guises, but in the past year it has been a constant in my life. It took me a while to recognise its return, and longer still to understand that this wasn’t a fleeting visit but a long-term residency. Perhaps even permanent.
It can arrive in a myriad of ways. A sudden, breathtaking appearance, shattering everything that had seemed so solid and immutable. Or it can be insidious, trickling through in a series of gradual changes, gently undermining and invading normality. For what is grief but an affront?
The shape and feel of grief shifts over time. Thinking back, it was like a playful bear cub who comes along, thumps you so hard on the back that all air is expelled and you fall, heavily and without grace, to the ground. It then cheerfully sits on your chest, pinning you down and winding you. It knows not its strength, the damage and bruising that it causes. After a while it might wander off, find someone else to torment, but it hasn’t forgotten you. It will track you down. It has your scent.
There is a plethora of books on grieving and loss, and grief is a common experience documented in movies, music and just about anywhere you look. We grieve for matters large and small in our life, from the loss of a job, the end of a friendship, to the deep bereavement that comes with losing someone you love. Yet it retains the mystique of taboo. When you are grieving, people are often unsure of how to help despite your obvious pain. At times they don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. Or they call upon clichés. Time heals all wounds. It will get easier in time.
How do you continue on when your heart is splintered? How do you show your face, go through the absurdity of life when everything that matters most to you is ravaged? How I longed for a discrete way to show that I was broken, that I needed to be handled with great care as the slightest bump could destroy me and send me spiralling into a dark void. My senses were on high alert, everything felt altered and distorted. Nothing mattered. Grief is confronting and debilitating but it can also provide a simplified perspective when you need it most.
It took an age for me to realise that I have to accept grief into my life. It will walk beside me now, giving me a shove every now and then. I’ll never forget what I’ve lost, the wound will not heal, but by slowly understanding this I can keep living.
Is writing a kind of therapy for you at times?
[Photo: view of the Pittwater, Sydney]