5am Grief

I am reliably informed that what I’m experiencing now is grief. A totally expected and necessary response to everything that’s happened. And looking over this blog, I guess you can read it as tracking the course of grieving.

What I hadn’t realised was that it’s not just the loss of a living presence that you need to grieve. You can mourn the loss of your own life, the one you had and thought you were going to have. When things, huge things, drastic things, things beyond your control happen to you that bring about irrevocable changes in your life, you need to let what was move into the past. That full realisation of what you’ve lost because of what’s happened so you can start to rebuild and letting what was move into the past, that’s what grief is for. At least that is what I’m hoping it is for.

As I say, I’m looking at this blog now and seeing gestures of grief; moments where I’m trying to understand the bleakness and pointlessness of some of the huge changes that crashed over my life, peppered with efforts to think myself into the next moment, the space beyond the aching, the bit where life starts again. But I didn’t recognise it as this until now. It’s only now, when the absolute last remnant of the life I was hoping to lead has gone that I can see the loops of hope and despondency, creativity and stagnation for what they are – the cycle of grief.

Letting go of possibilities, leaving the hopes you held for one particular future behind altogether, leaving the lives you dreamed of sharing with people behind – I’m trying to figure out how to do that. Because grieving alerts you to the fact that those hazy, warm hopes will become daggers in your new world, ideas that will tear a hole in anything you try to do and lacerate your new efforts with the failures of the past. You can’t ever leave them behind totally, as much as you might feel you want to at moments, but for me, grieving is a process of blunting these newly- formed blades. Finding the hidden daggers that used to be your hopes and blunting the blades. That takes time.

It’s the rollercoaster nature of grief that makes it almost unbearable at times. Each peace you make will be punctured by something – a stray thought, a seemingly unrelated comment from a friend, a trace of your old life interrupting the new. And then you’re back in there, in the midst of anger at the injustice of it all, despair that anything is worthwhile anyway, horror at the enormity of what is happening to you and just pain. Throat-blocking, thought-blocking pain.

You work your way back up to some kind of peace again, although you know it’s fragile. I’m told that the spaces between peace and turmoil get larger, but it’s early days for me still. But even this early on, I guess the depths are getting less deep. The fact I can write this is telling me something.

The worst part about this process for me is that it’s something you have to do alone. And when part of what is causing you pain is getting used to being alone, it’s even harder to accept. Yes, you must talk to people about it, you can’t bottle it up. But talking to people is one thing. They can’t share your pain, even if they’re suffering the loss too, because the shape of that loss is so different for everyone. And no one can do the work of blunting the daggers but you, because no one else knows where they are. But you don’t want to be alone and you want people to understand and tell you the answers, and when they can’t, it hurts all over again. It’s amazing how angry and frustrated grief leaves you at the very moment when everyone is actually doing all they can for you.

And no one can do anything about the 5am grief (5am if you’re lucky – when it starts at 2am, you’ve got a long night ahead of you). You can’t call anyone because the world is resting, but even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to say anything that comes close to the enormity of it. It’s wordless, directionless, thoughtless. This morning, a single thought woke me up at 5am, especially to ensure that I got my daily dose of horror and hopelessness before the rest of the world began its day. A single thought. Oh my god, how has this happened to my life? Then, thoughtless, chest-heaving pain.

No one else can get you through these moments. You literally just have to live them out. I guess it’s the last gasps of my old life breaking in when I’m at my most relaxed and leaving me gasping instead. But if I just keep breathing, I’ll get to the next moment. And the next. And then the next.