The Passenger

Of all of life’s myriad set of events, grief has the distinct honour of being both universally encountered, yet intrinsically unique in its nature. Sure you’ve got the five stages of grief, as cliche as they may seem. But how one interacts with those stages, how they experience their grief is as individual an episode as one can go through.

Nearly six years ago to the day I lost my old dear. Nothing out of the ordinary in the grand scheme of things. I’ve lived, comparatively speaking, a highly comfortable existence. But there’s nothing like your mum literally dropping dead to turn life sideways for a little while. And whilst I feel, rather than properly remember, the years immediately after her death they’ve had an impact.

For a significant period of time my own grief has been held just out of my peripheral vision. Something I’m aware of, but as an entity it slips just out of sight. There are moments of fleeting anguish, bleak sadness. But for the most part life is life. You meet up with mates, spend time with family, do a never ending list of chores. Though occasionally, just occasionally you revisit front and centre what for the most part has sat on the edges.

Dealing with grief can be a debilitatingly isolating and conflicting period. At the time you’re screaming to be left alone, in your head at least. Holding your tongue as the umpteenth person asks you how you’re doing (answer: shit mate I’ve just lost me mum). Yet when you finally get that space, it can be overwhelmingly, soul crushingly, lonely.

As Brits we’re famed for our emotional stuntedness, I personally describe myself as having the emotional range of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker. Actually understanding my thought processes is a bit of challenge. So when the little things set you off, it can be difficult to know how to deal with what you’re feeling. You expect it with some events, like getting married, seeing your brothers getting married and having kids. Billy Bragg’s Tank Park Salute can also reduce me to tears. But others can blind side you. It’s all part of the process.

Ultimately with grief we’re both drivers and passengers in the experience. It’s something that’s happened to you, but it’s also an episode that you have the ability to own, control and shape. Though it seldom feels like that’s the case at the time. When the inevitable happens I just hope you have the same loving, kind and utterly patient friends and family that I had. They make all the difference in the world.

Photo Credit: Paul K (2008) I Saw a Heffalump Today Piglet