Warning: F-bombs up ahead.
For a while now, when I’ve been feeling grief, I’ve not wanted—or been able—to concentrate on anything else.
I’ve needed to be quiet and on my own at home with candles burning. I’ve needed to be focused and breathing deeply—gently taking my feelings seriously. I’ve needed to be on my yoga mat or curled up in bed with a hot water bottle. Or sat beneath a tree in the garden, with nothing but my sorrow, the earth, and the clear air.
I’ve needed to show my feelings I truly care—I’m really listening.
I feel so much guilt and shame, and an aching sorrow, for this grief. She was neglected, and not seen, for so long.
You have my full attention now.
Fuck anything else.
I’ve sat one-on-one with my grief so much the last year, learning how to let her have the release she needs. Learning it’s safe to collapse and let my whole body sob. Learning how to resist being all-consumed by the stories and memories in my head, and be inside my body instead.
I’ve learnt I don’t have to actually ‘do’ anything except just grieve when I need to grieve.
Grief seems to show up in two ways, for me. There are the little showers of rain—the moments my pain spontaneously bursts to the surface, tears falling, and my body aching. I crumble, but after a few moments of allowing my tears to be here, I feel freer.
Then there are the tropical storms—the ones I can see coming across my horizon. I tend to run for a while, terrified and screaming inside. I’m desperate for someone to stop the storm happening. Whilst I run, I often bash myself with a belief that if I just worked or tried harder, I could change my internal weather system—I could avoid such pain, mess, and chaos.
I know, in my heart, that this belief is bull. It’s just my noisy critic or control-freak perfectionist trying to take charge of the situation.
Sometimes the grief’s been so deep, I’ve run from it for a few chaotic days. Other times, it’s just been half an hour or a morning. Then all of a sudden, towards the tail-end of my running, I look up and realise there’s no hiding—my sky has clouded over and my storm is here. I feel scared but also relieved—my body and mind aches for the release.
I head for cover. I set up nest. I make my favourite tea. I get warm. I make sure I feel safe and am exactly where I want to be.
Then it hits—my heart bursts open and I sob. Tears fall from places I forgot were open. I cry into my cocoon of duvet and warmth. I dance between the desperate need to do this forever, and the voice in my head that’s telling me I can’t.
Eventually, I let them both be here.
The more I sob, the less cloudy and discombobulated I feel. I feel lighter, but so, so, tender. I feel like I could break if I moved an inch. I wrap myself even tighter in my duvet and whimper for as long as I need to…sometimes minutes, sometimes hours.
Out of the blue, my critic yells: “I bet your friends aren’t doing this! You’re a massive weirdo and a fucking mess, falling apart like this. Pull your shit together, woman.”
I suddenly feel overwhelmed with shame and embarrassment towards myself and my process. It doesn’t matter that no-one else can see me in these moments—I can see me.
I long to not need to do this, but I can feel my heart wide open and my body filled with relief and gratitude that I’m allowing myself to, regardless. I’ve learnt to remember in these moments of crippling doubt, to remind myself of everything people have told me, and everything I’ve read, that reaffirms the already natural instinct I have, telling me that these crumbles and storms are actually really fucking healthy.
The cracks really are where the light gets in.
I breathe deep and step outside my cocoon to check out my grief wreckage (usually just spilled cups of tea or candle wax, and cushions everywhere). I drink what tea hasn’t spilt, smell an oil, look in the mirror at my tear soaked face and smile with warmth and compassion. I try and cuddle any embarrassment that’s still left.
I love my tender post-grief moments—I feel beautiful and raw, young and old.
I feel the most authentic I ever feel.
Through being one-on-one with my grief, I’ve learnt that she’s safe. I’ve learnt that her seemingly breaking me apart is actually her breaking me open. I’ve learnt that I’m strong enough to hold her, no matter how wide she seemingly stretches or how deep she seemingly burrows.
I’ve also learnt to notice when I do need to run from a storm, but run to someone who can guide me through my process—I don’t always need to grieve alone. It’s okay to say I feel scared or overwhelmed.
Since realising and honouring this, I trust myself more. I trust that I’m not going to take myself face-first into a grief-storm, as I have done in the past, unless I feel safe and supported enough—internally or externally—to handle it.
I’m learning to trust my grief knows what she’s doing. I’m learning to gently and consciously check-in with her as I go about my day, to let her know I’m listening and feeling, even though I’m not actually crumbling in that moment.
As I do this, I’ve noticed I feel a new kind of comfortable with her—I can get naked and it’s okay.
My tropical storms have been lighter and less out-of-the-blue. And when they do hit, the shame and embarrassment is not as huge.
I feel increasingly beautiful in my process, rather than ugly and gross.
I have more patience and space in my heart for how my grief speaks—tears in the middle of a shop, gentle sobs along the street, moments on friends sofas where I spill from my heart, rather than my head.
The other night, mid-grief storm, I went for a walk to one of my favourite nature spots in the city. I allowed myself to feed my grief and I, with the beauty, magic, and joy, of all that lay around me, and all that I could see. My heart sung, as it burst open.
Instead of taking my grief home, I found a stillness with her, within myself.
All I now want around me when I’m grieving, is life.
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Editorial Assistant: Amani Omejer/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Melanie Metz/Pixoto