A thought about grief

So tonight is Friday night and I’m sure many of you are out having fun and enjoying that Friday feeling, but I’m also pretty sure many people are sat there in a world of grief.

Im doing neither, however I am thinking about grief. I’m thinking about what grief means to me as thoughts of my brother cross my mind. I’m talking about the more conscious thoughts; my brother (who took his life at the age of 15 three years ago now) is always on my mind, like a thought in my mind that has no words but from time to time gets slightly louder and finds some words to remind me what has actually happened.

It wasn’t always like that though, the words were the loudest, that monologue that follows you through your days. I remember when I wondered at what stage in my life there would be more than a 2 second window of time that the thought of him taking his life would pass, or if it ever would. That 2 second window slowly became 10 minutes and I was almost relieved. Eventually it was an hour that could pass and I hadn’t had any direct, loud thoughts about him.

The loudest thought of all

I became aware (almost instantly after the first hour had passed) that an hour must have passed since my last thought about my brother. The loudest thought of all was then ‘Shit, I haven’t thought of my brother’. I could even tell you exactly where I was as it was that profound. I was lying in bed one evening thinking about my business plans.

I realised so much about grief in that moment. I went into full analytical mode of my thoughts and feelings. I was feeling guilt and confusion, a detachment from my brother and my family, there was a slight anger that I had forgotten. All of this was kept inside but rather than it get the better of me, I listened to myself, tried to make sense of it in the best way possible and allowed myself to be human and recognise the feeling of disgust that was slowly starting to flood through me. I knew in that moment I would need to make sense of this or the feeling and confusion could take over.

the questions started with myself and I found all the answers I was looking for.

We use the word ‘grief’ to describe an emotion but in actual fact, that word sums up so many emotions. Grief isn’t just a word that describes someone who is down and unable to function. It’s not a word that describes someone who is constantly crying or in shock – grief is a mixture of whatever you are feeling that is outside ‘the norm’ when you have lost someone/something in your life.

you may have heard people say “grief means something different to everyone” and I now completely understand this. I don’t just hear the words now and think ‘yeh, people act differently’, it actually has a whole new concept. Grief is a mixture of feelings and I believe that each feeling needs to be dealt with in its own entirety. Guilt, regret, loss, fear, love, pain, sadness, anger, confusion, comfort, pity, lonely, misunderstood, detached, helpless, hopeless…….when you separate these feelings, you identify with grief in a different way.

I realised that a mixture of feelings like many of the above didn’t bring me the comfort of closeness to my brother I wanted. In-fact quite the opposite. Holding on to such negativity gave me a false sense of attachment. We can chose what emotions make us feel attached or close to someone. I didn’t want the feeling of guilt every time an hour passed and I hadn’t thought of my brother but in a sick way I also did. By analysing this feeling in its own right, I decided to make a choice because that feeling of guilt was also causing confusion. I decided that I would chose to be happy with great memories and positive thoughts which would make me feel even closer to him. That way, there is no guilt when an hour or two now passes and I haven’t had a conscious thought of him. Instead I welcome the thoughts. I’ll even say ‘ah, it’s been a little while today but I’ve had a good day – shame you didn’t see things through that bad time, I know you would be enjoying life now and appreciating the leaves on the floor as I am’ (This was a very clear thought of mine yesterday when walking back from Tesco). It’s said with sadness of course but a manageable emotion (one emotion of sadness rather than 10 different emotions that we pin the label of ‘grief’ on).

when you deal with each emotion separately, it becomes more manageable, the same with most things in life. Some emotions take longer to deal with like anger or loss, helplessness or anxiety but recognising them individually can be a great help in healing.

I didn’t want to find comfort in distress

I didn’t need to hold onto grief in order to feel close to my brother; I found closeness in doing good for other people and by becoming a better version of myself. I decided that I wouldn’t let my adversity in life make me a worse person by leaving me with feelings of resentment, anger, bitterness or hatred, instead I found comfort in everything opposite. When a situation can’t be changed, the only thing you have any control left over is what you become from it. Your actions won’t change the past and making positive steps and finding happiness again doesn’t mean you’re not grieving or experiencing a loss, it just means that you are choosing to experience your life in an alternative way.

If we can find comfort in our tears and anguish, we can find comfort in our smiles and achievements, when the time is right that is. The time was right for me, the moment I analysed each feeling separately.

I still feel shocked at times and I take a moment to deal with that. Giving myself the time I deserve to experience that shock and find an alternative.

I still feel confusion at times – I do the same, and I do the same when I feel upset or hurt. But I don’t have the overwhelming feeling of grief anymore and I don’t feel guilty for not having it because it’s about taking back that control and finding another way to hold on.

The term ‘letting go’ means letting go of emotions to me. I know this is about interpretation but I do not feel you need to let go of someone’s memory or importance in your life; I do believe however, in letting go of emotions that no longer serve us in our own life.

I’ll be trekking the Sahara Desert in February 2018 in my brothers memory for Mind-The Mental Health Charity and you can make a donation HERE if you like.