Tag Archives: grief

A Body of Water (Short Story)

We stood at the stern of the boat, my living friend and I, and looked toward the rolling hills far on the other side of the lake.  It was hard for her.  She had accompanied me here, not really comprehending the depth of my grief.  A brave journey.  A true friend. 

For I was still in the abyss of loss.  Adrift in a valley that I had free fallen into the night the call came to tell me that they had been killed.  An endless crevasse that seemed to have no bottom for me to hit so I could literally shatter into the thousands of broken pieces that seemed to be all that remained of me.  I had no substance now.  I was neither dead nor alive, but a hollow shell adrift on the water in search of peace.

As I looked down into the icy grey depths of the water, I knew she could never understand my desire to fall forward.  To sink into the chilling endless mass – in the hope that it would freeze the agonies that ripped through my mind and body.  I believed I owned this body of water.  It had come from my own tears and flowed down and filled this valley.  Now it wished to return, back up through my nostrils, into my ears and eyes and down my throat.  To suffocate the scream that will surely come and that I am afraid will never end.  To stop the noise, and then to carry me, down, down, down.  To silence.  To sleep.  Where I can at last awaken and be reunited with those I have been forced to farewell.  “Take me with you,” I screamed in my head, “wait for me and take me too!” 

A cold wind rushed across the water and we both nestled further into our woollen coats.   The cold of course, didn’t bother me at all.  I was beyond the physical.  I could feel no more.   I faked a small, sad smile and suggested a hot cup of tea.  As she headed for the galley I knew my time had come.  I had a moment’s hesitation, a thought for her and how badly she would feel, but the call from deep beneath the boat, from them, was too loud to ignore.  I simply fell forward and lunged for their embracing arms.  ImageDown, down I swam with the coldness constricting my lungs, my heart.  Forcing life out from every pore of my skin.  “I’m here,” I cried, so desperate to see them and hold them again that fear could not grasp me.

I sank deeper and slowly a numbness enveloped me and gave me solace.  My friends swam ahead, playfully, naked and knowing nothing of the cold.  I swam to them and felt their arms surround me.  I knew they would be here. The days had been so dark and lonely without them.  A haze had covered the sun and reduced the power of light.  Everything was bleaker.  Her rays no longer warmed me, but mocked my very existence.  It was no life at all, for I could not bear to be there without them by my side. 

I heard a “hush”, not through my ears, but my heart.  “We are everywhere” they sang, “playing and laughing and free, and we always will be.  But it is not your time to join us yet.  You have to go back – there are stories we want you to tell us, tales from a life that has yet to be lived.  And we live it with you, every day.  There is still so much for us to see through your eyes.”  I wanted to weep, for I could not endure saying goodbye again. 

“But you’ve never had to.  For we are right here.  You have only to say goodbye to who you were before we left, for we took her with us to keep us warm”.  They smiled at me, and a feeling like love exploded in my head and I closed my eyes and simply sank into their longed for embraces.

I awoke to more suffocating.  Something choking me.  I lunged forward and spewed a column of water directly onto a pair of booted feet.  I realised that I was on the shore.  Medics surrounded me, and they had been calling my name.  I ached in every place imaginable, but none so much as the place where my heart should be. 

I felt a hand grab the back of my coat.  Firm and sure.  My head lifted involuntarily and my eyes again focused on the distant hills.  “We have more of those to climb together here first,” my friend whispered.  “You have been sent back here for me.”  I fell into her arms and offered more liquid to the already enormous lake.  And she held me until all the tears ran dry.

I have said farewell to the woman I was before that phone call.  I have grieved for the loss of innocence.  Mourned the loss of faith that all is well in the world and that I, and those I love, are safe.  For we are not.  Tragedy lurks in many a corner, but often he has the courtesy to wait, so one more day of joy can be had first.  I now live those days and fall to bed victorious that I have been given another reprieve. 

Slowly the haze has lifted and the sun again warms my skin, making her liquid journey through my veins and I sense that I am truly alive.  Changed, but alive.  And I have obligations to fulfill – for I feel eyes upon me, from those who have gone before.  To embrace and know the things that surround me, so I can share it all with them.  I no longer stop and think, “they would have loved this”.  Instead I laugh, and know that they do.  I now walk in both worlds.  Climbing mountains with my living friends, and frolicking in the pristine clear waters that time has turned from salt filled tears, to the warm pools of perfect memory.

©Michele Harrod, 2002 (Picture 2012)

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)