GRIEF – THE FIRST 24 HOURS
The statistical splitting of hair aside, those who have known loss in these Covid times have suffered grief. The moment of hearing the news of someone’s passing is always a shock, no matter how ‘prepared’ you are for it.
It is when life’s frame freezes and for days after, your mind can replay that frozen moment and everything that was around you and what you were doing at that precise moment. The right foot raised over the step as you were rushing up the stairs to reach in time, the sound of traffic and laughter as you received the phone call, the boiling over of the tea in the saucepan as you read the message.
Some more time please!
It is a moment when hope crashes around you. An unexpected death traps you in a vortex of disbelief, but even the death of someone afflicted with a terminal disease sees the last of the hope, the prayer for a miracle, rudely demolished. It’s too early to cry because first there is the loss of faith. You feel let down. Let down not only by whichever Higher Power you have been appealing to for days but also by the departed. Couldn’t that person have hung on for a little while more till ‘something’ could be done? Of course, there is no answer to this ‘something’. The rational you know that nothing could have been done, and yet right then it is the irrational you that has taken over.
Never at any other time in life do you feel the sheer helplessness of being human. This impotency makes you feel angry. The anger is accentuated if your mind and heart tell you that the death was premature, that it was of a person who was decent and without malice. The anger then is directed towards the unfairness of the event. You can’t understand why out and out villains are still around while a ‘nice’ soul has been snatched away. The consolation that the departing is a sign of a good soul wanted in the other world is hollow. It just is not fair.
If family, you soon get caught up in the rites and observances. I suspect one of the reasons they exist is to keep the family occupied and supported by the larger community until reconciliation sets in. If friend, the true grief hits, along with tears, when you go over memories of how much that friend has been a part of your life or a chapter of your life. You don’t realise the power of the human memory until this stage, when long forgotten words, expressions and actions play like a cinema before you. Somewhere along the way, you are engulfed by terror, terror that you will never be able to step into the same town, the same house, the same shops and restaurants without breaking down because all of these are so closely associated with the laugh, the quirks, the habits that are gone forever.
Down the memory lane
The more practical will try and get busy with mundane tasks to distract the emotions. Probably a futile attempt but it gives you a sense of getting through the day. At the back of your mind, while you are dealing with daily acts of living, is a kaleidoscope of faces – both of the departed and the parents, spouse, children left to handle the void. Since you are involved in ‘living’ now, your thoughts go to them. Empathy is strong. Grief shifts to those left behind, and dark thoughts – depending on the degree of empathy – rush unbidden into your mind of being left in the world like them.
They say time heals; the next 24 hours and the next probably get easier. There sets in a numbness, a point when you can let those memories run simultaneously with acceptance of an inevitability of human existence. A numbness that protects but still does not proffer the courage to face those closely bereaved or script the adequate words to tell them. Yes, life will move on. Except, a movie of memories will now have an end – a freeze frame added to the library of your mind and heart.
About the author: The writer loves to be known as a parent – a parent of two energetic spaniels who run their own blog at https://poochpickles.blog/ and of their elder human siblings who run their own lives.