I am a writer, I usually write a minimum of 2,000 words per day (not including my long-winded Whatsapp messages), I lost someone incredibly important to me 1 year and 8 months ago, and I have not written about it. Not a diary entry, not a blog post, not a poem and not fictionally.
But there has been a topic clutching my mind for months now, and it feels like it is time to get it down on paper, or web-paper at the least.
Here I go, and I am terrified.
I hate being the person that knows grief.
There it is. As self-obsessed as it is, I hate that when someone else experiences loss, everyone turns to me. It feels like it’s happened so often since my Dad passed. Before him, I didn’t really know people who had lost someone, except for grandparents, and they had seemed sad, but never destroyed as I was. Then suddenly, I lose him, and months later someone else loses their Dad. A few months later, someone loses a grandparent. Two months later, someone loses their Mum. And every time I heard about it, or they told me themselves, I felt physically nauseous. I felt sick to my stomach, I felt like I was right back in that hospital, right back on the floor of my bedroom. That part of my grief that I usually manage to numb so effectively starts to scream in agony.
I’ll break it down further though.
Everyone turns to me, as if I should know what to do.
They ask me for advice, and you know they’re thinking that I should get in touch with the person, even if we’re not close. That I should offer them my wisdom, wisdom which I sorely lack. Even if I barely know the person, a mere acquaintance on a social media platform. I have experienced grief, and so I should know what they need.
Except I don’t, because I still don’t know what I need. And also because grief is so unique for everyone, it manifests and curls up within us and roars its head when least expected. I pretended I was fine, I think I’m still pretending. Whereas my sisters wanted to discuss my Dad, and my family felt hurt that I pulled away from this, that I kept everything bottled within. I was terrified that if I released just a little bit, everything would unravel. My life was a balancing plate, and my ears were waiting for the smash.
Yet suddenly I am the expert of grief, the leading member of the Grief Club, the one you turn to when a parent dies, and what an awful role to be shoved into unwillingly.
But worse is that I feel like I should know what to do. I feel like I am consistently failing them. I reach out, I send a message, I add that they don’t need to respond, as I remember how grateful I was when people said this. And I wait, in agony. Even if we talk a bit, I still feel like I’m not doing enough. I’ll send flowers, but I feel like I should be doing more, that their grief is my responsibility. It’s a helplessness that no one wants to experience. Particularly now, during COVID 19, knowing you can’t even go see them, hug them. You have to be there for them through a screen. You feel trapped and powerless.
And then I realise how many people experienced this same helplessness with me. People reaching out, their frustration when I pretended to be fine, their silent anguish as I self-sabotaged over and over. Suddenly I feel so guilty.
Sometimes watching someone grieve is like looking in a confronting mirror, and other times it is seeing how I should have done it better. Dealt with my emotions, switch off social media for a welcome silence, tell people what I need.
It feels competitive, this natural phenomena of grieving suddenly feels like a competition, that I am always losing.
I hate that we end up in this Grief Club together, but more than that, I hate that you have to join at all. I wish that I could be the sole member, just so no one else has to experience the anguish of losing someone too soon, losing someone suddenly, simply losing someone. We talk about how long our lifespans will be, living to 100 at the least, yet these people didn’t make the cut. And that feels so damn unfair.
I hate being the one who knows grief, as then I know what’s to come for everyone. I know the pain waiting for them, as if I can see the trapdoor just a few steps ahead.
It feels like now, in our 20s, is when it’s really starting. When death stops being this vague concept, and instead becomes a possibility. And once you actually know someone, have loved someone, who has died, death perches on your shoulder forever more. YOLO stops being a silly phrase, and becomes a constant truth, that you could die. They could die. Anyone could die. A year stops feeling like a long time, tomorrow stops being an acceptable option. The clock is ticking, and every other person to go is yet another painful reminder of it.
I wish I could tell my friends not to think of me in these moments. That no, I won’t find it interesting to hear that so and so lost someone, just because I have. That I will suffer the entire day following, and many after. But I can’t, because even as much as I hate knowing their grief, and hate being the leader of the dead family member club, I also accept the responsibility. Because I can’t help but want to do something. Maybe something I say will resonate with them, will bring the smallest bit of relief. Or perhaps they’ll simply feel understood, less alone. And in a time like that, you need it. So recommend away, send me their name, send me their details, I don’t care. Because as much as I don’t want you in the Grief Club, once here, I will be there for you more times than a Friends theme song.
We get this responsibility, when someone passes and we’ve already lost someone, to know. To know what to do, what to say, how to react, how to be there for them. And I hate it so much, because it’s all false. You can’t know what to do or say, you can’t know how to help them really. You can try your best, you can do your research, and you definitely should be there for them.
But no amount of experience will help them, only time.
Join my email list for more insights and articles!