A few months ago I was lucky and knew nothing of grief. I thought I knew what it was like to be sad, but that too was somewhat fake. The pain was always temporary like a cut easily concealed with a band aid and repaired with time. Real grief creates a scar that remains no matter how many times I think it is gone, it always returns with greater force than before.
I try and intellectualise everything so I have tried to uncover how I can expedite my grief. I have just read a series of essays by Slate writer Meaghan O’Rourke on the subject and found that while my experiences are completely different our feelings are similar.
I have been in grief. I walk down the street; I answer my phone; I brush my hair; I manage, at times, to look like a normal person, but I don't feel normal. I am not surprised to find that it is a lonely life.
Grief is common… We know it exists in our midst. But I am suddenly aware of how difficult it is for us to confront it. And to the degree that we do want to confront it, we do so in the form of self-help: We want to heal our grief. We want to achieve an emotional recovery. We want our grief to be teleological, and we've assigned it five tidy stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Yet as we've come to frame grief as a psychological process, we've also made it more private. [We] don't mourn in public anymore—we don't wear black, we don't beat our chests and wail. We may—I have done it—weep and rail privately, in the middle of the night. But we don't have the rituals of public mourning around which the individual experience of grief were once constellated.
I more than anyone else have expected that I would make a speedy recovery from my achingly terrible depression. It gets harder every day though. The closer I feel to returning to my ‘normal’ self, the more upset I become, because being myself started this depressive chain in the first place. I know I need to change things, but change what? I really have no idea. The things that used to excite me no longer do and it is hard to tell whether that is a cause or a symptom of my depression. I no longer feel like me, but rather just a shell with a hard layer. ‘Me’ as I used to know him may be lost forever…
Last night I saw a movie about grief not knowing its subject matter going in. It resonated with me because I recognised that the state of grief is all consuming, and all powerful. Grief is the cruelest disease because it tackles you violently at unsuspecting moments, just as you think you are about to break free. It eats you up and swallows your identity in its totality if you let it… and sometimes even when you can’t help it.