Grief is a family standing in a stark hospital room trying to process that a loved one has died. It’s wanting to cry because that’s what people do but you’re in shock and the tears won’t come. 

In order to protect itself your brain goes into survival mode and you simply function on autopilot. It’s hearing your mom has died but still being able to get into your car and drive to the hospital. Alone. It’s arriving at her service and saying a few words that aren’t quite what you wanted to express. 

I still regret my eulogy not being heart wrenchingly sad. I want a do-over so I can bring everyone sitting there to tears. I want to be able to collapse in a pile and have everyone rush over and make sure I’m ok. But my brain doesn’t let me. I don’t get to rewind that day. What the guests at my mom’s memorial service remember is me being cold, distant, aloof, speaking words that would make a pastor look good, a grieving daughter not so much.

I want to redo her service. And make sure that everyone who loved and cared for my mom is there. She was incredibly loved by everyone and I know for who she was and what she did her memorial service was empty. The 40 or so people there did no justice to the lives she had touched, and although very much appreciated the guests present didn’t reflect the life my mom had led.

Grief is weeks and months (and years too, although I’m not there yet) later still wanting to phone her. It’s not deleting whatsapp messages and calling her cellphone in the hope that it’s off just to hear her voice (mail message). It’s thinking to yourself you haven’t spoken to her in ages and you really should phone her.

It’s seeing her in the shadows and feeling her just over your shoulder. It’s not about sweet dreams with a smiling image of her but rather horrid nightmares that keep you from falling asleep. 

It’s gaining weight around your belly area because your cortisol levels are abnormally high and you’re in fright or flight mode all the time. It’s being in a state of hyper-arousal, which has nothing to with my libido, but rather that the slightest noise or incident has me literally jumping out of my skin. It’s your hair falling out from stress. And from you pulling it out literally. 

It’s being so tired but not being able to fall asleep. It’s having too much energy to sit still and do something productive but being too exhausted to do it. It’s being happyandsadandangryandirritableandyelly for no reason at all. It’s snapping at our husband when he’s been the only one around and it’s shouting at your kids, who are your only real source of happiness.

Grief is achingly lonely. I’ve read how support is important when someone has just died, but that it’s even more important 6 months later, and a year down the line. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t get the support then and there’s none around now. 

I can count on one hand the friends who have said they’re sorry about my mom dying. I don’t mean on Facebook and via WhatsApp messages, I mean face-to-face. And I don’t need all five fingers to count how many have asked how I’m doing since. 

Grief is everyone moving on because “she had a good life” and “didn’t suffer”, but life standing still to the day you got the call and when you saw her lifeless body under the sterile hospital sheet. 

It’s dreading every celebration because they’re no longer that but rather a very painful reminder of what is gone, and what’s left behind. It’s hoping to speak to someone else who has lost a parent because they’re the only ones who get it. 

Grief is hanging onto every memory you can remember but looking at photos and not knowing the person looking back at you. It’s putting meaning to coincidences in the hope there is an afterlife and that she’s watching over me. It’s people who you thought were friends avoiding you. It’s late night sobbing when everyone has gone to bed because you don’t want them to see just how raw the pain is. 

Grief is who I am.


One thought on “What grief really looks like 

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