Grief changes colour. A grieving person is a chameleon. There is always a new colour in response to the changing landscape of the life they are living. A new tone. A new issue. It sneaks up, unexpected, or invited. You change. But then you don’t. So you have to deal with a myriad of changes, all at once. I’ve confused you, haven’t I? I’ll elaborate…
Your current reality is different because of this absence. This person is not there. Routines you may have had, time you’d have spent together, it’s all gone.
But also, when you lose somebody, your identity is redefined. You lose a child, you’re still a mother. But a mother who isn’t carrying that child, isn’t nursing them, isn’t changing their nappy or singing them to sleep. You’re a mother, but yet you’re not in a practical sense.
I am still my Dad’s daughter. A daughter of loving parents. But it’s true to say that I don’t have a Dad. The knowledge that he was once here, providing love and security, isn’t enough.
In recent months I have had to face the specific pain of that. I have felt orphaned. At 30 years of age. Feeling it was triggered by losing my Grandad in April this year. It was a raw pain and I noticed myself feeling more inclined to seek approval. It was ok to feel orphaned. A natural response. But it’s not ok to allow it to form the basis of my redefined identity. It was not ok to adopt an orphan mentality:
“I’m not loved.”
By the grace of God I was able to feel the pain, reflect and be thankful for what I have. A family that loves me. A father that instilled in me a sense of worth. But mostly, I’m thankful for my faith that tells me that no matter what happens, I have a Father who will never leave me.
How life changes depends on who you lose. Who you are. How your life has played out up until this point. But the pain relating to how life has changed, including the good changes as well as the bad, needs to be acknowledged and felt. It’s not nice, but it’s important. The fact that good change can be painful is why you shouldn’t try to find the silver linings for someone else – they need to find their own.
At our 30th birthday party recently, I was pretty much glued to the dance floor and for some reason decided to dance in front of everyone showcasing our cake with my hands like some QVC presenter. It crossed my mind that our guests might assume that I was completely wasted.
I wasn’t even a bit tipsy for a large part of the evening. I have changed. I am more fun-loving, less self-conscious, more inclined to suck the joy out of any and every life experience.
It’s hugely out of character. It’s out of character for me to be putting myself out there on this blog and on social media. It’s out of character for me to attend a networking event – a once painfully shy girl who refused to attend ballet class. I think that’s why I struggle to relate to my always-do-a-runner son. I liked my pushchair. I would sit in it at home. Why doesn’t he?!
I’ve had a very laissez-faire attitude. I’ve changed. But then the past week I’ve had anxiety. Everything I’ve put my hands to that has pushed me out of my comfort zone has hit me right between the eyes and it turns out the old me is still there, with my fears and insecurities. And so my grief takes the form of missing the person who would reassure me and be one of my biggest fans and constructive critics. I can’t keep up.
Am I grateful for the change? Yes, and no. Sometimes I don’t recognise myself. Even 15 months later.
The loss changes
It’s not always that punch in the gut, cry your eyes out, pain. But it’s ever-present. As your life changes direction you feel the loss of this person’s presence, input, support – whatever they’d have brought to your life. Life is always changing, right? Thus you always feel the absence. It adds a grey veil to everything. The beautiful, joyful colours are more enriched and vivid by the contrast. But the grey is still there.
Having lost my boyfriend at the age of 20. I was utterly thrilled and grateful to marry my husband. But I’ll always be sad Robb never got to live that. It could have been with someone else, that detail doesn’t matter. I often think of him as I enjoy the life I’m living, knowing he didn’t experience half as much as I’ve had the privilege to.
The way you handle change, changes
I’m now more inclined to see change as an opportunity. It
is what it is. The more adaptable you can be, the better. But alongside that there is pain to be felt and accepted. It will be a rocky season of different issues to work through, some predictable, others complete curveballs. Probably some anxiety and depression thrown in there too. The important thing is to accept and express it all. I am often so inclined to think I’ve failed because I find difficult, stressful, painful things hard. It makes no sense.
I will close with my number one phrase (that I stole from my mother):
Be kind to yourself!