A Road Map for Grief

I have recently being going through old files, and have come across some writing that I did during a very difficult time in my life.  Eleven years ago, 2 people very dear to me, were murdered in their home.  It was a violent and horrific crime.  This event shook my world to it’s very core, challenging everything I believed in – truth, justice, fairness, my naive view that ‘good things happened to good people’ – and not the other way around. My entire belief system was shattered the moment I got this terrible news.

And it had an immense physical impact on me too.  Several months later, I began to get very ill.  No one could explain it, doctors kept throwing me out of hospital, until finally, almost a year later, an artery in my heart proved to be blocked and my heart was literally dying.  To this day, I know it was simply broken.  Thanks to a great GP and a humbled heart surgeon, I now have a stent, and today my heart is sturdy and formidable.

Back at this time however, I had the misfortune of seeing someone who was particularly impatient with my being ill, and generally frustrated with the immense sadness I would feel about my friends.  I wrote this for him.  I am very proud of these words, and I would like to share them for anyone else who is grieving, to remind you too, that there is no time frame for grief.  It’s not a 2 week affliction, or a 2 year disease.  Not a limited sentence that must be served.  Let no-one tell you otherwise.  What I realised, reading this now, 10 years later – that I was right – grieving is in fact a road map – for the journey YOU alone take, towards your new future.  I hope it helps you any time your heart is burdened…..

“You tell me that I live too much in the past.  Perhaps of late, you are right.

But don’t you dare tell me how to grieve.

You can never know how much, or exactly what it is I grieve for.  Not just the loss of my loved ones.  But also the loss of myself.  The very part of me that they loved most. I cannot even BE who they loved me for being.  John’s very own words to me, which I can show you, here, written in a letter, were “you will never know how much I admire your zest for life”.  Oh, I had so much of it!  Yet that very zest was stolen from me, by the very people who stole them.  The ‘zest’ was cut from me as surely and cleaning as they cut off their heads. So do not tell me how to grieve, or how to ‘move on’.  I do not know how to lay them to rest.  I cannot forgive yet.  So I examine was to build zest around that blackness.

And nearly one year later, when they find my own heart is literally ‘broken’, forgive me if I ponder the likelihood that it is bitterness that has built up the blockage.  Perhaps the mortal blow of hearing of their deaths literally did cause the artery to collapse.  And as only anguish and rage and horror were present from then on, is it really so curious why a toxic mess stands in the way of my life flow?

Medical science has discovered this damage, and repaired the break.  I am just learning to accept that it is not yet time for me to see my friends again.  My life will go on without them.  I want that to be a life they will love.  A life that will honour them.  One that is zestful and filled with generosity, kindness and love.  Just like theirs was.

But I will still mourn them.  I will shed some happy tears and some sad tears when I remember them, for their loss will always be too huge to parcel up as a ‘fact of life’, or something to ‘move on from’.  I believe there will never be anything positive to take from their deaths either.  Nothing ‘good’ could ever come from such evil.  So don’t ask me to look for silver linings in the clouds right now.

You can never know the impact that John had on me as a young child, or the extent that I adored him.

I am sorry if you have not loved in such a way.

I am glad you have not suffered such insufferable loss and pain.

I do not ask you to share mine.  Just never try to minimise it, or to ever treat it like on over-worn jumper that should be put in the rag bag as it is now out of fashion, or becoming shabby.

The past is sometimes packages of inconceivable joy.  Other parts simply a collection of wounds.  Some day they stop weeping, but always, scars remain.  Some are discrete and hidden, others are emblazoned across the face for all the world to see.  Eventually they fade, and we learn to cover them, with laughter, or make-up, whatever works.  But the bearing of them, whether visible or not, fundamentally changes who we are.

Grieving is not ‘living in the past’.  Grieving is part of learning to create a new future.  Never judge me for the speed (or lack of) at which I undertake that process.  The gift of this grieving is that it may, someday, allow me to find an equal enormity in the power of loving.  This is how I will honour them.  This is how I will begin to create that new future.  For me.  Left here, without them.”

© Michele Harrod  (written in 2002)

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