Reflections on Grief

Grief is a strange animal.  I’ve read loads of descriptions and poems about grief since Mac died – and in their way, they all describe some of what you find yourself living with.

For me, the one that resonates most is the image of grief as a person walking beside you.  At first the grief is holding onto you, reaching into your heart and constantly there and pulling away at your insides.  Then slowly, bit by bit, grief start to let go his grip on you.  You start to walk a little easier; the hurt is no longer ever present and constant. But from time to time he gets in your way and makes you stumble, he grabs at you and the pain comes back.  These times begin to become less frequent, less intense, until eventually you reach a steady state – grief is walking behind you.  He doesn’t impede your progress any more, but you know he’s there.  Sometimes, he might tap you on the shoulder, just to remind you – but the hurt is less and the memories are good.

I think that is where I am now.  And from time to time, the tap comes.  You can’t always predict what it might be.  I know for me that music is one of my key triggers.  For Children in Need this year, an album of covers was created to raise money.  The songs were all covered by famous actors.  The whole album is fantastic, and for a cause close to our hearts – but two songs particularly resonated with me:

“Yellow – by Jodie Whittaker” and “Never Grow Up by Shaun Dooley”.  “Yellow” was poignant because Jodie dedicated it to her nephew who had died recently.  And “Never Grow Up” has words that I think all parents can relate to as they see their children growing up so fast before their eyes.

Mac and used to listen to music together all the time in the car.  He would gently tease me that he didn’t like my taste, and then later, he would choose to play the song that he knew I liked, and he secretly liked as well. 

I find myself missing those times – but what I really miss is the conversations that we might have today.  I listen to my friends talking about the conversations and relationships they have with their grown-up children and whilst I revel in them and love to hear them – it will always be accompanied by that pang that it is something that I can never have.  There will be no new conversations with Mac – the conversations I have with him in my head will go unanswered.

Being a dad was such a huge part of my identity.  It was hard won, and something that I loved so much (even the really hard bits), and something I think I was good at.  I felt that sense of protection for Mac as soon as he walked through our door and we became a family.

I used to love to join in with conversations with my friends and colleagues about their children, comparing notes, sharing tips, laughing at the latest teenage mishaps.   

And, of course, I can still do that now – but I worry that the stories I share start to feel a bit lame, somewhat past their sell-by date.  And if it’s someone that doesn’t know, how do you answer the question,

“And how old are your children?”

I can tell you, there’s no better way to destroy an atmosphere than to tell someone your child has died!  But I still want to join in, and I do. 

When Mac first died, I remember asking myself, “Am I still a dad?”.  Everyone told me not to be stupid – of course I was.  But I realised that there is no name for what I had become:

  • If you lose your parents, you are an orphan,
  • If you lose you partner you are a widow.

There is no word for a bereaved parent…

Grief walks behind and sometimes taps you on the shoulder.  This weekend has been one of those weekends.  The tragic news of the death of Caroline Flack is awful on so many levels.  And whenever I do hear about someone dying before their time the tap comes on the shoulder. 

  • It makes me think of the things that Mac has missed. 
  • It makes me realise that this year he would be 20, and that seems so hard to imagine. 
  • It makes me think about all of those people affected by Caroline’s death – the ripples in the pond of life – just like all the ripples we felt when we realise how many people had been affected by Mac’s death.

But mostly, I remember that there is another set of parents out there who have lost a child way before their time, and will begin on the journey they never thought they would have to take – and I pray for them.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Grief

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