The digital world has transformed the way we interact with each other, share information, and more specifically the way we grieve. Many people post pictures, write poems, 140 characters of compact grief. The funeral selfie actually became a thing. On birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions we give a shout out to the people who have left us, as though they’re checking their twitter feed from the void beyond.
Some of us don’t do any of these things. We don’t post pictures, write memorials for every special occasion, or create a photo-montage of our dead grandmother. It doesn’t mean that the grief is not there. It does not mean that we don’t feel like we are walking around with a black hole where our hearts used to be.
Your grief is not a grief like mine.
There is no real correct way to experience loss or grief. There are constructive ways to process it I suppose, but really it is as unpredictable as the vast ocean itself: one minute you’re swimming along fine and then you find yourself drowning. I know that you shouldn’t drink to forget, but it didn’t stop me downing a bottle of red wine when I was alone in my house a few days after my Father died. I sat there, hoping each sip would make the sorrow go away. It didn’t.
Grief hit me hard, in a very visceral way. It was a physical pain that emanated deep from within my chest. It was an unending sorrow, is an unending sorrow, because how can you stop loving someone just because they are gone?
Your grief is not a grief like mine, because it does not come in a one-size fits all package. If you need to memorialise through Facebook, then who am I to stop you? If I chose to be silent about my grief, who are you to stop me?
Too many times, I hear and see people throw their grief at each other:
“That was my son! How could you know my pain?”
“That was my wife! How could you know my pain?”
“That was my cousin! Your pain cannot be as bad as mine.”
Grief is grief. There are no Grief Olympics where families and friends compete for the prize of feeling the most shit about losing the person they loved. Posting “RIP” on Facebook does not make you better or worse than someone who doesn’t. It simply makes you different.
Some people put their grief into running marathons; others do charity work, volunteering, knit-a-thons for crying out loud. But that is the beauty in this thing called sorrow. You don’t get to own other people’s grief. You get to deal with how you process your grief and you can help people get through their own loss, but you can never control someone else’s hurt.
It is not yours to govern, this grief like mine.
Grief is not always remembering the pain. It can also be remembering the joy. When I need encouragement and hope and I don’t know where to find it within myself, I re-read the last birthday card my Father gave me. In fact, it sits on my desk and I get to look at it every day as a constant reminder of my Father’s love, support, humour, and happiness.
When the grief is bad, I cry all night and my eyes are swollen the next day. I feel flat and empty, like when a gust of wind takes away all of a flower’s petals.
When the grief is good, I can remember my Father’s face and our fishing trips together. I can see him, clearly, in our garden and we are picking radishes together. When the grief is good, I can remember all the wonderful times we had, despite it all. And I can remember him as a human, perfect in his imperfections.
When the grief is quiet, I don’t like to talk about my Father. His name gets caught in my throat and I cannot bring myself to utter it for fear of opening a floodgate I don’t know how to close.
This grief is mine and it does not stop.
It belongs to me. I carry it.
It is light and heavy,
black and gold.
It is no one else’s.
It is mine.
And mine alone.