Precisely at the moment we thought we’d found hope and a way forward into better health, along comes another challenge to send me several steps backwards again.
People talk about what an unpredictable beast grief is, grief for a loved one who has died, grief for a parent. The complexities of loss – lost presence, lost future as you’d imagined it, the loss of the way things were; but have we really ‘lost’ him as if we were careless and forgot where we put him, or did he die and we can’t bring ourselves to name the reality for what it is. There are other people who want to be comforted in their grieving, while we attend to our own grief; we have shared grief for who he was to us together, and deeply personal grief for who he was to each of us alone. There are regrets and anger and gratitude and love. Mostly gratitude and love.
Administrative tasks to enable life to proceed for the wife, my mum, whose life was till now so intertwined with his keep her moving steadily through each day.
Communication tasks with family and friends keep us all busy, and telling and hearing the stories over and over again – helpful at first, then not so much for us as for them.
Liaising tasks with church and funeral directors, collaborating together on eulogy and photo tribute and music – simultaneously wishing it was done, we had more time, it never had to happen at all.
Raising children crowds my sister’s grieving, and also gives us all invitation upon invitation into joy and delight and the reminder that life will go on, does go on, and will carry us forward.
I got the earliest plane I could, the morning after it happened, and it has been good and important to be in the collective mutual embrace of my immediate family.
I am unused to being in the constant company of other humans, and such company does wear me out. This presence with each other is not an easy presence this time, as we grieve, moderate the expression of our grief for the sake of each other or hold each other’s letting go. And his absence is a strange being in the room demanding attention but taking our effort to ignore because it hurts.
There is pain. The heart ache of loss crippling from within. The inflammation of chronically fatigued muscles crippling from without.
There is fatigue. Grief is exhausting. Thinking through all the things to be done is exhausting. Negotiating shared space with other humans is, for the chronically fatigued, exhausting.
There is sorrow. A heavy blanket dampens all with the uncomfortable reminder that something is wrong in between all that continues to be right and good and lovely. The black dog sniffs the air; its movement a warning.
I slept most of yesterday.
Mum has found me a friend with a pool and a spa for some hydrotherapy today.
We are wrapping me in cotton wool and I am trying not to think regretfully of this extra burden on my family in a time when we need it the least, for that will make things worse. We each of us bring the complexities of our lives into this season of grief: his death meets each of us where we are and we will each have to carry his absence in our own way.
I will accept the invitation to the pool.
I will rest.
Chronic Fatigue will compound my grief, as it complicates everything. I have good practices of paying attention to help me see what is grief, to listen to it speak, and to let it have the space that it needs. Paradoxically, then, the illness prepares me with the practices and rhythms of care that will also be helpful to carry me through this grieving for my Dad.