Soon I will be 50, and it surprises me how fast that age seems to have arrived. As with all lives, I have had a wealth of experiences – fun and foolishness, love and loss, mistakes and right turns, rich and poor. But the hardest experience, and one I think we all shy away from, is the loss of those we love. As I get older, I’m more aware of my own mortality and that of the people I care about. Grief and loss are like so many things, unless you have been through it yourself, it is hard to understand. I was talking to a friend who recently lost her dad in similar circumstances to the way my dad died – a painful slow illness. It is agonising to watch men who have been the big strong guy all your life dying by inches – and it is painful to lose a parent. They are not meant to die, that isn’t the deal, they are meant to live forever.
My friend is now on the first part of the journey of grief that I went through, and it is one of those things that no matter how much advice and comfort we seek from others, it is a road we travel alone.
I was once given some advice by a psychologist that all loss and grieving takes at least four seasons times two. Each season in the first year brings a cue and a memory that we have to face – the first Christmas, the first birthday, the first anniversary of an special event – winter, spring, summer, autumn – all carry a moment and a memory. Then the second year is the beginning of healing – the second time is easier – the loss less painful, the memory special.
Grief is painful and hard – you just want it to end, the tightness in the chest and throat to go away, the sorrow and the tears. But it does go away, and now I understand that it is all part of the process. We grieve because we loved, we cry because it hurts, and as time passes, the memories transform and become not painful but tender and we change with it. It is life.