Life Afterlife: The Incessant Cycle Of Grief

Posted on 6 min read
picturesque trees reflecting on water to highlight grief
They say grief substantiates as a time healer. That over time it will steadily harvest into a root that solely exists at the rear of the stewed garden they call life, rather than budding in bedlam at the forefront; overgrowing so the branches scratch and thorn until you’re left with nothing but a weeping wound. A wound that can’t easily be detected by the naked eye; but which, to you, is as prominently raw as a spearhead to the gut. They say grief becomes a passing thought, that the pain dulls and leaves a salvation of space for you to carry on blooming. And it does. I wouldn’t call it a blatant faux tale. But the scar never dissipates..

It’s ten years today since I lost my Dad.

Ten years since I last saw his face and heard his voice.

Ten years since he closed his eyes for the final time.

Ten years since those lashes I’ve inherited stopped fluttering.

Ten years since the heart holding so much warmth, goodness, and irreplaceable memories I was blessed with stopped beating.

Ten years since the wonted light went out only to be replaced by a hollow, emotionless ember.

Ten years since the palpable ripple of numbness bestrewed my being; feeling too much but not enough.

Ten years since that first bout of guilt and quandary inhabited my mind – guilt for the rockiness in our relationship, guilt for resenting him at times, guilt for my first thought being how much this could’ve been prevented with his own volition, guilt for wondering whether he knew how much I loved him and wished we had so much more time together, as he passed.

Ten years since I laid lifelessly in the darks of the night thinking “what now?” my brilliant, beefy, buffoon of a father isn’t here anymore.

Ten years without his guidance by my side and an entire lifetime to go.

I was 15 when he took his last breath. I’d just finished my school production and gotten into college. Two honorary events that should’ve been celebrated with both parents by my side; smiling in rejoice and heading home with a pizza and DVD or whatever was the recreational trend back in 2009. Instead the man who meant the most to me was laying lifelessly in a hospital bed, blue eyes devoid of any sparkle and limbs torpid, telling us this was it and he’s had enough.

Dealing with that emotional pandemonium at such a young age, knowing my dad wasn’t going to be on earth to walk through those stages of my future, was the cruellest, hardest heaviness I’ve ever had to deal with. But death and grief and sorrow don’t have an age. They don’t care. They don’t have the slightest solicitous sympathy for what the impact of loss is going to bring. They don’t send condolences to that silent breakdown when picking out your funeral outfit or your brother going off the rails at school or the bereavement counsellor introducing herself to an inoperative teen or the sorry messages and awkwardly glum pitiful expressions you have no idea how to face or the emptiness you’re still going to feel 3650 days down the line.

sun shining behind row of trees highlighting stages of grief
Nobody needs to hear the ugly, multifaceted enormity of grief. I’ve spoken about it before but I think, if you’ve lost someone close to you, you’ll agree that nothing quite equates nor compares to the real thing.

Grief isn’t romanticised like in the movies. You aren’t gifted a hero to swoop down and show you life is still worth living. There’s no shadow of a ghost guiding you to the edge of repose. Grief is nothing but heartache and sombre and stepping stones. The five stages of denial, anger, confusion, depression and acceptance iterated like a false promise in house of parliament. There’s no moving on, only working your way through with pace; turning a turbulent tap of feelings.

The world’s still spinning. The sun’s still rising and setting with prospect in its vesper of colour. The shore’s still drifting with sand in its perimeter. People are still having to say a permanent goodbye to their people every single minute of every day. The people who shape them whole, breaking the left behind into unmendable parts. It’s savage and it’s sad. Really fucking sad. There’s no ‘grief process’ because that would warrant a beginning and an end – and instead it’s an endless tunnel of old and new damage.

Grief isn’t a glorification like it’s portrayed in the box office but when you come across a digital depiction so near to the bone it’s almost riveting. I spent last weekend watching the affirmed Afterlife and what I didn’t expect was the flick of a button, a sonorous start up sound, and impulsive Saturday night entertainment to inspire me to write another vulnerable, wordy post. What it displayed was a raw and harsh insight into how grief can flip you upside down, beautifully delivered in a heartbreaking and heartwarming way that allows you to trace back to when you found your soul again and re-emerged through tears of mirth and the correlation of dolour.

Because grief does change you. It changes the way you think. The way you act. The way you behave. Your attitude and your persona and your outlook on the world but it’s possible to bounce back. It’s possible to continue on and allow death to push you, to mould you, to escort you back into consciousness. You’re allowed to be angry but you’re also allowed to propagate remote happiness. Grief changes you but it’s met with strength, solidarity, humour, and the posthumous reflection of both hoping and knowing they’re proud and at peace.

It’s a tough case when grief isn’t afresh. When you’re not the girl who’s just lost her dad. The ten year anniversary comes around, the empathetic messages reel back in, and there’s no viable way of getting out of it. You can’t avoid the dreaded date. You can’t skip a day to bake cookies and sing along to Disney and road trip under the moon or whatever else makes you saccharine style happy. You just have to face it head on. People presume that abysmal hole isn’t as vehement but it is. You’ve adapted and grown but that void remains.

It remains in the random and uncontrollable to and fro of waves that drench the surface and wash out the intestinal fire. When a song etched from fond nostalgia comes on the radio. Whilst you’re getting ready. When you’re alone and your thoughts manifest. As the clock chimes and your schedule runs and the calendar approaches those double dates in June with a marked gap where the birthday bash betides. When you think about how much they’re missing out on – the good and the bad and the ‘your daughter’s had a stroke’ type of news. When you wonder what they’d look like if they were still around; would they still walk with their head up in the air, would that same head now be completely depilated. When you like to think they can hear the unsaid words and are watching the monumental minutes. When you need a big bear cuddle or a chin pie. When a funny joke that instils their character is told or a notable point in your life is reached. When you know they’re dead but your subconscious still instantly goes to tell them; like you’ve not forgot they’re no longer here but you still sense their presence. It hits you, it chokes you, and it spits you out. Your breath catches and the emotional pain transfigures into physical.

Grief messed me up. It left me bereft but yearning to continue living in this finite and fragile life. Like that six part series said, all we’ve got is each other to help us through the struggles, to get up and carry on. Today and every day forward I’ll find solace in the photos, the conversations, the family, the possibilities to excel, unravel his story to the descendant flesh and blood, and contour that celestial triangle of dancing stars; his name on them all. I’ll light a candle and I’ll pin some supermarket flowers to his tree in the garden; the one we’ve shared so much fun in at the back of the house where we formed an eternal bond.

Ten years ago on that solemn day in a seasonal switch there was a hole punctured in my heart; a piece of it fragmented and discarded never to be restored whole until we meet again and until that day I’ll hold his memory close in the remaining pieces that circulate and fill my nuances purely with his spirit interlocked in my soul.

The light can prevail amongst the dark, storm clouds allowing the peep of sunshine to banish the hurt that exists. And right there in a spotlight of a shadow will be a single white feather on a bed of roses. Floating and flourishing. A reminder that he’s never really gone. My Dad. My pillar. My forever.

13th June 1967 – 26th March 2009.