• "Grief is not linear, it comes and it goes." (Kane Taylor/ Unsplash)Source: Kane Taylor/ Unsplash
“Grief is not linear. It comes, and it goes, it can be all encompassing, it can be a fleeting moment…and it is different for every person.”
By
Shona Hendley

23 Nov 2020 - 9:07 AM  UPDATED 23 Nov 2020 - 9:16 AM

It seems many of us are always in a hurry. A hurry to get somewhere, a hurry to find an answer or receive a reply, a hurry for something to be over, a hurry for something to start. But recently I have discovered that not everything should be hurried. Some emotions are impossible to rush. Time has no influence, even if you want it to.

While I am not new to the experience of grief, this year I have faced the loss of loved ones often. In fact, three people close to me and my family have passed within only months – an aunt who was like a second mother, one of my best friends and my father-in-law.

While all of these losses were felt differently, each of them reminded me a truth about grief – it cannot be hurried, it will take as long as it needs.

While all of these losses were felt differently, each of them reminded me a truth about grief – it cannot be hurried, it will take as long as it needs.

It was my psychologist who first helped me see this.

“Grief is not linear. It comes, and it goes, it can be all encompassing, it can be a fleeting moment…and it is different for every person,” she says.?

And she was exactly right.

The insight had come at a crucial moment. At the time, I had begun to doubt the time it was taking me to grieve.

You see, a few weeks prior to that, a friend of mine commented that I should be feeling better about things, that it’s been months since the loss of my aunt and of my friend and surely that meant the pain of losing these people should no longer be so intense. She said that I should be at a point of moving on.

Those two words - moving on - left me winded.

Was I taking too long?

Why was I taking as long as I had?

I ruminated about this conversation for weeks until I saw my psychologist and she offered her insight.

I ruminated about this conversation for weeks until I saw my psychologist and she offered her insight. Her words were the reassurance that I needed: how it was normal to wrestle with grief in the fleeting moments and the all-encompassing moments, that on some days I wouldn’t feel at all; yet on others that would have me crying myself to sleep. That all of it was normal and all of it was okay.

At the same time, the realisation also gave me the strength to push back on the notion that grief should be felt, dealt with, overcome and moved on from in a consecutive sequence and a timely fashion.

?

In the days following my psychologist visit, I spent time with an older relative of mine. A wise owl. In her 80s now, she has lost friends and family over the years and I wanted to hear her perspective, so I shared with her what my psychologist said.?

Nodding as I spoke, she replied:

“I often sit in my chair at night, watching whatever it is that is on the television… I then talk to [my late husband] Les, I glance toward his chair now empty but I see him and I talk to him about all that he has missed that day and how I wish he had been there, how I still wonder what he would have thought about what had happened or what funny joke he would have said. I am sure if I told some people this, they would think I was a lunatic, but this is how I still deal with my grief, even ten years on and I don’t think I will ever stop.”

And that is the thing about grief, it can still be intense - after months, even after years - when there are anniversaries or birthdays, Christmases that go past without them.

And that is the thing about grief, it can still be intense - after months, even after years - when there are anniversaries or birthdays, Christmases that go past without them. When you walk past a person who wears the same perfume or see the bobbing head of a woman in between clothes racks at the store and just for a moment you think it is them.

Or sometimes it is in the quietness of a lounge room watching the television where we reminisce about memories we shared with them, plans we made but never got a chance to do.

Just like love, grief is a fundamental emotion, it one that is powerful, raw, sometimes overpowering but it is not just a task to tick off your to do list, it is not as simple as that.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer. Follow her on Instagram @shonamarion.??

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