grief is like an onion…

Last week I had a realisation that I’d been completely ignoring my grief. Yes, me. The person who blogs about it and posts on social media about it. My writing is saturated by the tears of grief. Yet, lately, I hadn’t really been feeling it.

Grief is such a funny state of being. It’s always there and you know it. Yet, you can easily live outside of its remit emotionally. It’s there but you’re not letting it have full-reign.

I would see something that reminded me of Dad but before any pain could hit I would switch the thought for another, like a record player flips to a new record in an instant. It became automatic.

Then I felt ill. I felt completely and utterly exhausted. My body can’t take it being bottled up. I didn’t realise I was doing it until Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.

My Dad loved Bob Dylan. When the news broke on Twitter, I didn’t think:

“I should tell Dad!” Then have an awful realisation that I couldn’t.

That never happens to me and for a moment I stopped to wonder why. I concluded that it’s because I just live in this bubble of avoiding all thoughts about him. What a terrible thing to confess. Somehow, the truth of it is that he’s always on my mind, but at the same time is not; not fully, not wholeheartedly.

It hurts too much. The pain is too great and far-reaching. I can’t face it every day and still live through each day. The thing is, it needs to be faced and felt on a regular basis and who willingly does that to themselves with ease?

Robb also loved Bob Dylan. It hit me that this December will mark ten years since his death (I tell the story here). Ten. Whole. Years. One day this week I wept on-and-off for most of the day. I was overcome by grief again and in a different way.

You see, I had been suppressing this grief for different reasons to my unwillingness to face the magnitude of my grief for Dad.

How do you grieve for a relationship you no longer want to be in? Since I’ve been married I’ve not wanted to, nor felt it appropriate to really dwell on the loss of Robb. But it’s not just that, I’ve genuinely not felt the need to at times. My grief has been very distant. Until the anniversary rolls around and then it descends like the autumn leaves and onset of Christmas.

This past week I’ve felt what I’ve not felt for a long time. I’ve missed Robb. I’ve felt sadness over the fact he’s not lived these past ten years. Not lived from age 24 to 34. Not been married, not had children, not seen any more of the world. It doesn’t seem fair.

It’s a difficult, uncomfortable pain and what triggered my day of weeping was a dream. I won’t go into the details but the dream was evidently my subconscious expressing this conundrum:

How do I feel the pain of losing Robb without hurting my husband?

How can I feel sadness whilst yet, somehow, not ever wanting to wish for a different outcome that would have cost me my wonderful marriage and beautiful children?

What a thing!

Well, if you’ve seen Shrek, ogre’s and onions aren’t the only things that have layers. Grief does too. It can be very hard to peel it all back and see what’s really going on.

Robb died a week before Christmas and it’s such a vivid time of year in many ways. As the clocks change my senses are taken back to then. Back then I had my Dad. An ever-present rock and support. He helped me through it.

Now, I have to get through the loss of Dad, without Dad. I have to face ten years of losing Robb, without my Dad. A whole world of pain.

But, understanding all its dimensions helps no end. As does vulnerability. I was honest with my husband about what I’m feeling even though some part of me was saying I should feel shame over it and that I would hurt him.

He was amazing and has always been an incredible support without feeling threatened. He knows that this grief is a separate thing. Something that needs to be felt and worked through that doesn’t have any bearing on how I see my life now. He knows it’s a part of who I am.

He asked me a very pertinent question:

Do you think you’ve sort of seen Robb’s death as a story in your past that is somehow separate?

Bingo. I have lived a bit with the head knowledge that it happened, but as if it happened to someone else. I would sometimes think: flip, I can’t believe that actually happened to me, it sounds so dramatic!

It was dramatic. It was a big deal. It is a big deal still. It’s my story. It really happened and it’s shaped who I am and how my life has progressed.

I grieve over it with each year that goes by, and I’m thankful for my life as it is. Somehow, the two can co-exist.

I need to figure out how to face up to grief better but I know telling my story is key. Perhaps it is for you too. If you want to tell your story of loss, please get in touch here.

Words that apply to everyone I love whether still here, or gone


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