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Photo courtesy of  @dashahcowley

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23 July 2023

Good Grief


Grief was once described in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s infamous television series, Fleabag, as ‘love with nowhere to go.’


That is the painful element. Hosting a collection of deep gratitude, love and attachment for a person with nowhere to house it. Grief and loss, as topics, are something I do not believe we speak openly about enough, even in 2023. For my own personal evaluation of grief, I have split them into two categories which we all will go through in our period of living. First, the grief of someone we love dying and second, the grief of losing a person who is very much still alive. Whether that is because of a broken friendship or romantic relationship.


I thought initially I would write about the state of sorrow that comes with grief. Though, even as I wrote this piece, I wondered if sorrow was a process rather than a state.


C.S. Lewis describes it perfectly, I think. In his memoir he writes of how mourning kicks away the props we rely on. It confiscates our cognitive assets and undermines our rationality. 


Remembering that this is a process and not a state is the sentiment I find pretty comforting to take into daily life. Whether we are grieving a person who has died, or our loss is for someone who is alive and we see from afar - how we deal with it now and for the rest of our lives is a changing trajectory. To look at our deepest heartache during breakups, people speak a lot about ‘being over someone.’ How our friend is beginning to date again and how we endorse it because it is evident that they are finally ‘over’ their ex. But I don’t think this is really the case. I do not think we ever ‘get over someone.' To me that implies a level of complete forgetfulness. Like when people remove all traces of their ex from their social media accounts, as if their relationship never existed. Almost in an attempt to prove they remain unaffected by the loss of someone who was at one stage, greatly important to them.


I think the secondary presence of grief can be felt completely by this sentence: ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache and about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. And specific to grief. Part of every misery is the shadow of it that follows you. The fact that you do not just suffer the event but that you continue to think about it. You continue to think about how you are suffering. Therefore, you do not only live each endless day in grief but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.


Grief is like fear in the way it gnaws the gut.


The absence of the person you’ve lost is like the sky, spread over everything. Constantly unshakable. You fear that you focus too much on your grief but also fear forgetting that person. So, in order to keep peace, you isolate yourself on an island from those around you. I think this is mostly because we fear encounters with those who are not bereaved. The performative way you reply, ‘I am fine yeaaah’ when asked how you are. Standing before you, their faces show attempts at goodwill but betray feelings of shame or, worse, pity. I think it is easy in these times to remain isolated. This is where I believe the toxicity of the ‘clean girl aesthetic’  begins to show. We reassure ourselves our period of aloneness is not isolation, but personal growth. We convince ourselves that deleting all contactable social media accounts is not detachment from our healthy relationships, but instead the pursuit of independent self-contentment. Although, I think in times of bereavement, it becomes undoubtedly important to remain close to those around us, even when we feel like burdens.


Loving someone is a privilege and to give yourself to someone unabashedly is brave.


When that ends, there should not be pressure to ‘get over them’. Just as it is profoundly stupid to tell someone experiencing grief with the loss of a loved one that ‘time is a healer, you will get over it’. Because the truth of it is our relationships mould us into who we are. Both the ones that continue and the ones that end - whether that is because of death or a breakup.


Everything we learn in these relationships can become lessons we take into future encounters. That can be a beautiful way to still feel someone with you whom you have lost.

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