Grief is an ill-mannered beast

I am writing this for a precious friend. And for all the others of us out there who struggle with this, including myself. Before you start reading, you may wish to make sure you have a hanky on hand, and are in a peaceful place (not on public transport or besieged by small children). I apologise for any tissues you may require…

Grief is an ill-mannered beast.

It stomps in uninvited and disrupts the even flow of our lives.

It demands our attention with all the grace and charm of an over-tired toddler whose will has just been thwarted.

It is not content to wait until it can be conveniently dealt with and despatched. It requires us now, whether we seek its company or prefer to avoid it. It will not wait patiently for our comfort.

Grief is an ill-mannered beast.

If we refuse to acknowledge its presence, it will lurk in the supermarket car park or behind the school hedge, and make its demands known at the most inconvenient of times (usually just after we have applied the non-waterproof mascara).

Despite our valiant efforts, it cannot be avoided. It will not wait until the dinner is cooked or the work day is over. It grabs us now and sends us swinging wildly over the edge, frantically grasping at the vestiges of our sanity as we are thrown into the raging torrent.

Grief is an ill-mannered beast.

It refuses to soften its screams of anguish or easily relinquish its tears of pain.

Instead it hangs around for weeks or months or even years, blocking the light from our souls and making everything soggy, long past the time when those lucky ones who are not in its grip think it should have left us and moved on.

Grief is an ill-mannered beast.

It refuses to be consoled with meaningless words. “At least it wasn’t your mother/husband/child” – as if there was a limit to the depths of love and connection. “It was only a cat” – as if our hearts knew the boundaries of species.

It refuses to let us arrange ourselves for others’ comfort. “Are you still upset about that?” – as if there was some time limit to the eternity of our souls.

It refuses to release us until it is ready.

Grief is an ill-mannered beast.

It is wild in its nature, and is not quelled by our suburban civilisation. It is older than that.

As soon as there was life, there was death. And as soon as there was death, there was grief. Who are we to discount the sorrows of our distant amoebic ancestors? (Even though we are so quick to discount our own sorrows, and the pain of others around us…)

It is wild in its nature. Its anguish is deep and strong. It cannot be suppressed and caged.

It is wild in its nature. It must be gentled and comforted along. Quiet words. Gentle tears. Sympathetic hugs.

It requires our presence: our time and our attention. Precious gifts we only reluctantly give it.

And yet, if we will relinquish these small, yet precious, gifts, the beast can be slowly tamed. In time, it will shrink and become mild-mannered, though it always remains wild. (And there may well be the odd occasion when it rampages again.)

Grief is an ill-mannered beast.

And yet it can also be a master-teacher.

It can show us the hidden things we prefer to forget and force us to confront our deepest shadows.

It can teach us lessons in perseverance and persistence, and help us find reserves of patience and doggedness we never knew we owned.

It can reveal the mysteries of our hearts and the depths of our souls.

Grief is an ill-mannered beast.

Yet in an odd and ungainly way, it is also our friend.

Although we think of it with pain and fear, it does not seek to hurt us from malice.

While it brings us sorrow, it can only do this because of the depth and breadth of our love.

And with love, we can survive the visits of the beast.

It does not mean to harm us.

It simply (if not easily) needs our love.

The Monster sitting down, from 'A Monster Calls'

Illustration by Jim Kay

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Author: verdant1

belly dancer, mother, student, public servant, shaman, knitter, sister, feminist, gardener and a lot more...

7 thoughts on “Grief is an ill-mannered beast”

  1. Thank you for this Jude. On the 1st of August, my mother will have been gone a year and every word you have written is as if you have looked into my soul.

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  2. Magnificent. Very timely and such healing words. It feels like you just sat with me and explained why it is not just okay, but necessary to grieve. I felt safe and reassured that in the grief there is growth and movement forward, even if it is slow and awkward. A balm to my soul. Keep writing Jude.

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  3. Thank you so much, Fiona. I do feel privileged to have been able to write these words and offer some comfort. Best wishes for your moving forward, whatever pace and shape it takes.

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