Loss & Grief | Emily Bashforth

Loss & Grief


Loss is a part of life. Something ridiculous like 55 million people die every year. People get sick and they die. People simply get old and they die. Some people are run over by cars and they die. Some people are attacked and they die. Some people experience natural disasters and they die. Some people just can't mentally carry on any more and they die.
There are a million and one ways in which one could die. And it isn't just the loss of people we endure. Some lose pets, homes, jobs, possessions, opportunities, money, sanity. And other species experience loss too. Caterpillars lose a part of who they once were when they turn into butterflies, Mums lose their puppies when they are taken away to live with a new owner, elephants lose their babies when they are hunted. Loss makes the world go around in the same way that life does. Without loss, the world just wouldn't work in the way it does. It's just something we have to accept and wait for. But, although loss is a part of life, that doesn't mean it isn't allowed to hurt.

Disclaimer: everything written in this blog post is from my own point of view and is based on my experiences. You may be able to relate, or you may not.

Loss affects everyone differently and different loses provoke different reactions. For example, the loss of a possible £80 million on a dud lottery ticket doesn't quite have the same impact as the loss of a family member. But in terms of death, I find that loss has universal affects.

'Death' is quite a harsh word, don't you think? It’s very blunt, straight to the point, it’s as if, for years and years, it’s all life life life life ooh I love life and then all of a sudden it’s BAM. 'Sorry. They’re dead.' One moment they're there, the next, they're not. Just like that. I'm not a big fan of the word, mainly because I prefer to think of people as 'passing away' on to the next stage of their being rather than just suddenly not existing anymore. I don't believe in people just, all of a sudden, ceasing to exist. I think it’s ridiculous to think so. Nobody just fades out. There are always traces of them around somewhere, whether it be their home, their belongings, photographs or whether you just keep their spirit alive in your heart and through conversations. Nobody just simply 'dies.'

However, the process of learning to cope with somebody's passing and getting to that stage of being able to speak about them to keep their memory alive is a tough one. You have to grieve. Like, you just have to. I think a lot of people don't feel as though they can grieve. Perhaps because they have children or because they have a full time job or because they aren't an emotionally open person. But I strongly believe everybody has to grieve, everybody deserves to grieve, and nobody should be made to feel silly for grieving. Whether you've lost somebody close to you or someone you've only ever had one conversation with, you have every right to mourn and be upset about their passing. Death is a harsh thing, a cruel thing, and just because it happens every day that doesn't mean you just have to 'get over it' and 'get on with things.' You can grieve and you can cry and you can fall apart as many times as you like before managing to come to the terms with their loss because grieving isn't futile, its part of the healing process. Once you've given yourself that time to mourn, you feel a little bit better, a phrase I use loosely as I'm not really sure what other word to use. It feels wrong to say you feel better once you realise that somebody isn't going to be around anymore, although, after the grieving process, you sure as hell feel a lot better than you did at the start of it. I guess what I want to say is that, once you've come to terms with the loss and you've given yourself that time be broken, you can put yourself back together, realise it’s what your loved one would've wanted and it’s as if you've properly said goodbye. Because, as much as we hate to hear it, life does just go on. In your time of mourning, it just feels wrong to think that. You feel like you're betraying the dead by knowing that things just carry on as normal even when they aren't there. But they do. You break down, you grieve and then you just get back to doing what you're doing. Nobody can grieve forever, we need to live, we need to live so that, when we die ourselves, we can say that we lived, you know? We cannot spend eternity wishing for the impossible, for people to come back. Loss is just something that, unfortunately, makes up our existence.

But the grieving process is almost unexplainable. I'll do my best, but it can't really be put into words what it feels like. The moment you are told that your loved one has passed away, it’s almost comparable to an out of body experience. You want to laugh because you may have seen that particular person every other day for ten years but, all of a sudden, you won't be able to do that anymore. You kind of choke on your own breath and want to utter the words "You're joking!" but at the same time, you're speechless. It’s as if everything inside of you just leaves your body for a moment, you're just skin and you feel like you could flop to the floor at any moment. You want someone to jump out of a cupboard with a camera and tell you you've been Punk’d. You refuse to believe it, because why should you? You didn't see that person die, you're just taking someone else's word for it. It seems ludicrous that they just physically are not here anymore. Being told that someone you love has died is an insane experience. It isn't really one which you can put into words. Even if you saw it coming, perhaps through illness, it still doesn't feel real, probably because you don't want it to. We all have some sort of mental utopia which we would love to be a reality. We all have our own visions of an idyllic world and many of our ideal worlds would probably include immortality. But that just isn't realistic. Death happens and we expect it at every waking moment yet. When it does actually happen, you want someone to pinch you and tell you it’s all just a nightmare. When we hear of millions of people dying in earthquakes, tsunamis or explosions on the news, because it’s something which, unfortunately, happens so frequently, it’s as if it doesn't faze us. Of course, your hearts go out to the victims and their families and you want more than anything to help, but you don't know those people personally so it’s as if it’s just 'another day, another death,' but when its actually happening to you, when it’s your family people are offering their sympathy to, when it’s you who has to grieve, you realise how unbearable losing someone really is.

But people don't just die and then that's it. The suffering is passed on to those they left behind. It’s all one big cycle. As much as we would probably like to, as it would be a hell of a lot easier and less painful, we cannot just go back to how things were. We bring it upon ourselves to grieve and grieve and grieve for an undetermined amount of time until we feel like we've properly allowed ourselves to mourn the loss of that person. We don't want them to be dead so we hang onto every last piece of their existence for as long as possible until we finally realise, okay, enough is enough now, time to get myself together.

Everybody grieves differently, of course, it's all relative, but, for the most part, I'm guessing most of us experience the same emotions. It’s like, when your loved one dies, a piece of you dies with them. Over time, you are drained of everything that makes up the person you are until you are nothing more than a shell of your former self, the former cheery, bright, bubbly person you once were. You realise that those characteristics were as bold as they were because of that loved one. They put the cheeriness, the brightness and the bubbliness into your character and, without them, you don't see a reason to be that person anymore.
You cry a lot whilst grieving. You can't cry forever, but you cry a lot. You cry until you reach the point of crying for the sake of crying, you start crying and then continue to cry because you're crying. You end up wishing that there was another way of crying without actually crying, because crying is draining. It’s pointless really because, let's face it, it won't bring anybody back from the grave, but it becomes the only way in which you can express yourself. Because what else can you do? Saying "I'm sad" just seems pathetic because 'sad' doesn't even come close. So, you cry. The crying at the beginning is the worst type. You cry when you are told the news, then you relive that conversation over and over in your head and that makes you cry every time, you replay happy memories with the person you lost in your mind, you cry, you talk about them, you cry, you have a funeral, you cry, then everything you do on a daily basis suddenly starts to remind you of that person, and so you cry. You'll probably wake up many mornings with sore eyes and puffy lips. And then, when you aren't crying, you feel guilty for not crying. You feel as though you should be crying because it’s the only way in which other people can see how distraught you are. You feel like you're betraying your lost loved one when you aren't crying. But, as previously mentioned, you cannot cry forever. Most of the time, you'll probably only cry for ten minutes max, the rest of the time after that you're just making whale noises and choking on your own spit without realising.

Crying isn't the only way to mourn, though. It would probably be easier if it were as at least you're doing something, you're focusing on something. When you aren't crying, you just have to be a human being, and being a human being sucks at the best of times, but particularly when you are in pain. That's what grieving is – pain. People on the outside don't really understand until they feel it themselves, because it’s a pain unlike any other. It’s a mental pain, an emotional pain and a physical pain. You can't just get rid of it. It isn’t something you can take tablets for or just have a nap and it’ll all go away, it’s a pain that makes up your existence for a while so you just end up being used to it being there. It’s a crippling pain because it impacts on everything you do, but you know it’s a good thing for it to be there, because being in pain at the loss of a loved one shows that you care.You feel so drained when you're in mourning. Not the kind of drained you feel when you have to get out of bed on a Monday morning, the kind of drained that prevents you from even being able to think straight, the kind of drained that stops you from carrying out your daily routine, the kind of drained that makes you simply unrecognisable. Occasionally, you have moments when you want to binge on every existing form of junk food but, fort the majority of the time, you don't eat, you barely drink yet don't realise it, you don't want to wash, get dressed, put make-up on, brush you hair, make your bed, open your curtains, or make any form of communication with anybody else. Your sleeping pattern is affected too. Most of us don't sleep as much as we should at the best of times but, during grieving, it is physically impossible. You spend all day feeling tired and wanting to go to bed but, when you actually go to bed, you can’t even close your eyes. You just lie there, lifeless almost, knowing you could feel just a tiny bit better if you slept for a couple of hours, but not being able to.
It would actually be quite nice to just hibernate for an extensive period of time, alone, in your bed, in silence. That being said though, you do want to be alone, but you also want to be surrounded by people, you don't want to talk but you just need constant reassurance that they haven't left you as well.

You can't hibernate though, because there's a big ol' world out there and everyone else is getting on with their lives so you have to chip in at some point. This is one of the reasons why I feel people aren't able to grieve properly. You can't just take a year off work, you can't miss more than a week of school because you're drowning in outstanding work even after skipping one day. You also have family members and other friends who rely on you. You're a cog in the lives of many and, if you aren't doing your bit, things start to get messy.
So, you go back to work, you get your butt into school and you just do what everyone else is doing. You stack the shelves, you answer the phone, you make the coffee, you do the work, you answer the teacher's questions, you socialise with your friends at lunch, despite the fact that you feel utterly hollow inside and want nothing less than to be there. Just getting yourself out of bed and putting on clothes was an effort. But verbal communication, forced smiles, holding doors open for people, it’s all a struggle. And you can't concentrate either. When reading, words are just a blur on a page, when somebody speaks to you, none of it goes in, no matter how many times they repeat themselves, even when you're walking you have no idea where you're walking to and could probably continue walking until you fell off of a cliff and not realise. You feel useless, really, because, although you're doing the things you normally do, you're not doing them properly. And you can't just be miserable. People get annoyed by miserable people. You just end up in the way and people get frustrated with the fact that you're just there. But that's what you are, just there, you aren't even conscious of your own breathing, you're just aimlessly going about your day feeling invisible in a crowd of people who don't have any problems of their own. Of course, the do have problems, big ones, but when you're in mourning, it doesn't feel that way, it is as if everyone else has a perfect life and you cannot for the life of you understand how they're managing. You see them being normal and question how they are doing that. You were doing that yourself just a matter of weeks ago but you've now forgotten how to do it. Those strangers haven't a clue that your loved one has passed away, but you still don't understand how they're able to just go about their day to day lives after somebody you know has just died. You feel as if everyone else should be grieving with you, especially if the person you've lost was particularly amazing. You just want everyone else to feel this crippling pain that you are feeling. But they aren't. Upbeat songs are played on the radio, people are laughing and joking, people are still trying to sell you things in the street that you don't want, but you just. Don't. Get. It. How are they doing that? How are they managing to exist so easily when all you want to do is bury yourself in a duvet for the rest of the century?

Speaking of other people, one of the most annoying things, shall we say, about loss is that you have to tell other people. It’s annoying because it'd be easier for you if they kind of just already knew, like, if it was on the news or something, so you didn't have to try and find the words yourself. Also, you kind of never stop telling people. You tell your colleagues, your friends, teachers, neighbours, family friends, strangers, you're constantly encountering people who don't know what's happened but you have to tell, meaning you're constantly reliving that painful experience. However, when you tell them that such a person has died, their reaction is never the same one that you had when you found out, because, a previously mentioned, to them. It’s just another death.
When you do break the news to other people, friends specifically, it’s hard to know what to say. "___ has passed away" or "___ died" never feels right, but you go with it anyway. You kind of wish that harsher words existed to really portray how much of a painful event it is. We are so used to people dying that the words just don't hit us that hard anymore. People don't understand either. They act as if they do. But they don't. You always find that they say exactly the same things too. Pretty much everyone has the same response. It’s as if there is a universally accessible rule book on what you're supposed to say to someone when they tell you someone they know has died. Everyone has their reply subconsciously rehearsed. "I'm so sorry" is always in there. It’s a classic. They say it as if it’s their fault. They usually then tell you that they are "thinking of you," although you know the moment they send that text message or put the phone down or walk away from the conversation, they will be thinking of everything other than you. Another favourite is "I hope you're okay." My personally favourite, along with "Are you alright?" It’s always golden when this one is thrown out right after the funeral too. Like, excuse me, what do you want me to say? Of course, you say 'yes' and 'I'm fine,' because they pragmatically understand that you aren't. They know you're just saying that yet they don't pull you up on it. Someone has just passed away yet you're being asked if you're 'okay?' Well, if your definition of 'okay' is falling apart in every way possible and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning then yes, I’m marvellous thank you. It is difficult to know what to say to someone in those situation though because no words could ever compensate for the loss of a human life. No amount of 'I'm sorry for you losses' could take away the pain that you feel. It’s almost better when people don’t say those things though and just offer a simple "I'm there for you if you need me." Granted, you probably won’t ever go to them but it’s just comforting to know that they care enough to offer you a shoulder to cry on and to know that, despite losing someone important, you are still surrounded by others who love you dearly. A hug is good too. Tight ones especially. The tight ones help to put your broken pieces back together slightly.

Whilst we're on the subject of what others like to say to you when they discover you're grieving, let's talk the advice and "reassuring words" that they love to dish out in a bid to make things feel better when, in fact, they're just making them worse. For example, "Don't be upset" or "don't cry." Firstly, I cannot control my emotions, secondly, a person has just DIED, I'm going to cry and, thirdly, do you expect me to throw a party? I understand that words like this are supposed to be comforting but it’s important to understand that people need to be upset in times of loss. You HAVE to let people cry and you HAVE to give people that time. The healing process isn't something you can rush and, if you attempt to do so, it’ll all only come back at a later date and you’ll fall apart harder than imaginable. Just give people some time to get it all out and allow them to cry without making them feel guilty for it. As I've said, sadness for the loss of a loved one shows that you care.
Additionally, a lot of people love to tell you that "It’s what he/she would’ve wanted" or "They're in a better place now," things that are said with good intentions but, actually, aren't all that reassuring and it isn’t something I would say to someone, but that’s just me. I don’t quite see how telling someone that their family member wanted to die and that they're better off dead than alive is going to comfort someone upset about their passing, but that’s just my personal opinion.

'Death' is a tricky one though, especially if you didn’t know the person because what can you possibly do to help a friend in their time of grieving? You can’t do anything and, chances are, if you try to help, you're probably only going to end up annoying them. Everyone hates to hear it, but it all just gets better in time. You just have to wait it out and get everything off of your chest. Nobody mourns forever.

I don't really know where to go from here. I'm not sure what else to say other than the fact that dealing with death isn’t something you can prepare for, there's no handbook or instructions to follow whilst grieving although, it is vital you know that you can grieve and you can do so in whatever way is best for you. If you want to go on holiday, go, if you want to go back to work, do it, if you just want to cry and hibernate in your bed, go for it. Just ensure that you allow yourself the time to heal and don’t rush back into things before you're ready. Don’t allow people to indoctrinate you with "Oh ___ wouldn’t want you to be sad!" What your loved one would have wanted is for you to live a happy and healthy life and if you know you’ll only be able to do that once you’ve properly said goodbye and taken yourself right to the edge, that’s fine. Never let anyone tell you how to mourn or interrupt your grieving process. It’s all relative.

But it’s all painful too. It’s strange because grief makes you feel so empty inside yet, at the same time, it’s such a heavy pain. You feel so lifeless yet so weighed down. I'm not one to use expletives. Swear words just do not come out of my mouth. Whilst I don’t have a problem with others using them, personally, I think there are far better words in our beautiful language to use as substitutes and we should explore the marvellous language we have been blessed with as oppose to opting for the nearest cuss words, however, I will say this. Dealing with death and grief is shitty. It’s really REALLY shitty. I only say that because I don’t quite know what else to refer to it as. 'Shitty' is a really brutal word and death causes a brutal pain, so we may as well go with that. But yeah, that’s what it is. It’s a right PAIN in the backside. It would be nice if it just didn’t happen, but it does and we suffer from it but then we pick ourselves back up and we bloody get on with things. Because what else can you do?

In times of mourning, families can have a tendency to fall apart and distance themselves from one another, but just be there for people, yeah? You don’t have to say a lot because words are pretty empty in times of despair. Just be. There. Your presence will say more than words ever could.

I’m also not too sure why used the pronoun 'you' all throughout this blog post rather than speaking in first person. I guess it just shows how detached from your own self grief makes you feel. You just really do not feel like you anymore. But, if you are in mourning right now. I hope that you soon find a way to piece yourself back together and live a happy life that you loved one would have been proud of. I hope that you manage to grief in whatever way is best for you and I hope that everyone around you does too. I hope that the pain you are feeling right now eases once you have had chance to say goodbye and I hope that you realise that you have the power to keep your lost friends and relatives alive. They may not exist physically but there is no reason why they cannot exist verbally, emotionally and mentally. Like I said at the beginning of this post, nobody just dies, all those who we have lost could never just stop existing, they will always be living inside of us. They have shaped us into the people we are today, whether we realise it or not, because everyone you encounter has an impact on who you are as a person.
Remember that, yes, loss hurts, but the fact that is hurts shows that you have a heart. Never let anybody tell you that there’s no point in feeling sad and try to see that beautiful things can still happen after you’ve been through all of this pain. Oh, and surround yourself with your family as even the old and tough ones still need support. I’ll leave you with the cliché, shall I? Life is short. Like that sentence. In the time it took you to read that, somebody lost their life. So appreciate every inch of everyone and everything around.


Love, Emily :) xx

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