Updated: Nov 21, 2020
An article about how lonely grief and losing someone actually is.
One thing that no one had ever warned me about, was that grief would be the loneliest place.
Undoubtedly, it was a day that I would never forget. A day that would leave a permanent and obstinate wound on my heart forever; the day that my world fell apart. On 28th June 2018, was the day that my dad passed away. It all began when my dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer: an aggressive cancer that had spread all over his body, a cancer that would change all of our lives eternally and a cancer that would change everything.
It was on a vibrant and warm June day when my father had taken his last breath, with his favourite song playing while his life slowly faded into the next. I remember looking at him, so shocked and confused- completely lost for words. It was something that I had never witnessed before in my life- something that I never thought I would have to see. Seeing someone die in front of your eyes, especially your dad, changes your life forever.
Slowly, with tears profusely pouring down my face, I walked towards him and placed my hands on his shoulder. In that instant I could feel that he was no longer there- he was merely an empty vessel, and it felt as if his soul had floated off into the serene, sunlit summer sky. But in the midst of all the pain, the one thing that had brought me solace in that long moment of darkness was that he was no longer in pain- he was finally free and at peace.
Indescribably, the first few months were truly sorrowful and painful. It was a cocktail of numbness, sadness, shock, guilt, denial, anger, depression and acceptance; in fact, this cocktail of feelings is so strong and intoxicating that they still last to this day. This cocktail is my grief. A feeling that follows me everywhere I go and a feeling that affects everything I do. Grief is like an ocean which comes in waves, it is sometimes small but impactful, and at other times it is like a tsunami- big, overwhelming, threatening and dark. It is an ocean which is full of the unknown, and it is an ocean which often feels lonely. I am just on a small canoe, floating and sailing on a wide expanse of sea.
Unquestionably, death is something that will affect all of our lives in different ways and at different times, so why is it seldom talked about? Why is it so taboo? Surprisingly, this was something I had never thought about until death had caught up with my life.
People offer their condolences: “I’m so sorry”, “this must be quite difficult for you”, “I understand what you must be feeling” ... And then it is forgotten about. After about a month, for everyone else around you, life resumes to being ‘normal’ and grieving time is completely over-, but I couldn’t resume being ‘normal’. People didn’t expect me to change, instead, they expected me to move on, be strong and feel ‘normal’ again. In fact, I could never get back to ‘normal’, because that wasn't me anymore. Grief changes you. Every day I still went home and cried, I still thought of my dad constantly and I still felt empty.
It was only after experiencing a colossal loss in my life, that I had come to the realisation that often, people do not want to talk about death or grief and that our society does not cope with the concept of death- which made everything harder.
We fear death, so we ignore it. We forget that death is a part of life (even though we know it is), because we choose to. We choose to ignore that one day it will happen to those we most dearly love and we absurdly believe that it won’t happen to our loved ones- leaving us, in the end of the day, ill-equipped and incapable with dealing with it well.
Grief and death should not be taboo. As a society we need to support each other, we need to speak out about death and grieving more often- so that when someone does experience a loss, they have a strong support system, they can feel less lonely and so that we can soften the blow. Losing someone is never easy, but as a society, we can make it feel a little easier and lighter. We need to be prepared- and it is our responsibility to acknowledge and to speak out about death. The longer we leave death under a plaster, the more painful and detrimental it will be to rip it off.