Death. A singular word that conveys a hundred different feelings. We all have our own relationship with death and what we believe about it. We all have words to describe it or to avoid talking about it altogether. Whatever your beliefs and feelings are they may well be similar yet so different to mine. But you will have some thoughts and feelings about this subject. Even denial is one.
So why this topic when it doesn’t seem to fit with the blog title or where I thought I was heading with my intentions? Well, I recently found out my friend; Stevie had died. I’m using this word as it what it is. I had thought about using the many phrases we all have, for example, passed away, gone, no longer here, lost even. I didn’t, I chose not to use these phrases for one simple reason. Throughout my time as bereavement worker I came across many ‘formats’ and linguistics used to denote death. None of them convey its seriousness and almost have a ‘phantasy’ element to them where perhaps the person may return. This is not so. He won’t return, he won’t pop in for a coffee, nor will I ever see him again. He is dead and this is the fact I must accept, whether I like it or even want to.
This is hard. For anyone. The realisation and acceptance is difficult to ‘get your head round’. Fact. It is also the saddest sad feeling I have ever encountered. I’m not saying I’m a ‘pro griever’, but it is something I have encountered quite a lot and can now sit with and be accepting of. (To a degree- I don’t like it but I can sit with it.) It has taken many occasions, many friends and family and even strangers to teach me this. I have learned that I know it’s the only sure bet any of us have. The odds are so fixed. At some point you will experience grief. That’s a hard fact to swallow too. What is hard for me is to see people who are experiencing it for the first time.
So I’m now writing about death and bereavement in a new way. It is a subject I can talk about candidly and openly. However, this time my children were affected..deeply. My friend was also their friend and hero. Stevie was a football coach to them and a dear friend to all of us. I found myself carrying my own grief and as a mum I carried the grief of my children. I found this particularly and deeply saddening. It was a feeling of sadness that ran very deep, sadder than I had ever been for myself. I hurt for my children as the realisation of life and it’s finite reality was brought to them. They hurt and I hurt for them.
One of the conversations we had was how both Stevie and I had chosen to be each other’s friend and how he had chosen to be their friend too. Stevie was like this with a great many people. The huge word in this whole conversation for me was ‘chosen’. This made the friendship all the more real, priceless, deep and at the same time as I realised the positive and happy aspects to it I realised just how those feelings were mirrored by grief. It was going to hurt and I was going to need time to ‘mend’ the void that would now be there. My children had this void too. This was their first experience of a friend dying. They would need time and they would need to talk too. I thought about how much losing a friend hurts when you are a child.
I thought about primary school and how devastated I felt when I lost a friendship, albeit for a day. You know the ones, they take their bat and ball home and you think your world is going to end. Ones in my teenage years were even harder to ‘get over’. Friendships are really powerful. The invisible string that holds you together can stretch years or even miles around the world. But when it’s broken, it’s so sad. So very very sad.
My children are in this process, this is not a bat and ball scene. Stevie isn’t going to call for them, they won’t get to hear his voice anymore, they won’t be coached by him. This sucks. I have and will continue to give my children different ‘permissions to grieve’ than I had in my childhood, I will not pass on the injunctions I received. They can cry, scream, shout, laugh, sing and dance in order to grieve. Its a personal process for each of them. They need to move through it with support and also with the knowledge that it’s ok to feel whatever they feel. I’ve laughed at some of the memories we have of Stevie, I’ve cried too, all within 10 minutes of each other. This is how it is, there are no rules to grief, the only thing I can say from my perspective is it takes as long as it takes in whatever form. Just because you don’t see tears doesn’t mean I nor my children are not hurting, just because We are laughing doesn’t mean the same either. I miss Stevie. I will never forget him and I know the people he ‘infected with life, love, football and comedy’ will never forget him too. My children will never forget him either. They miss him and right now they are very very sad.
It took a while to write this post and we will have attended the funeral by the time you read this. I needed to spend time with my children.