Thursday, 28 April 2016

Day 25 - In response to For Grief by John O'Donohue

I am yet to wake up happy. Mornings still feel unbearably hard. I get that tense, sick, nervous feeling that you get on the day of an exam, or a long journey. or the day of a funeral, every day.

I remember waking with you on the day of my mum's funeral, feeling myself curled tight, eyes squeezed shut, hoping to block out the day, not sure if I could face it. I managed to shuffle myself across the bed and snuffle my head onto your chest. 'I don't want to go,' I said. You wrapped me up in your warmth and at some point we emerged, donned the uniform of grief and prepared ourselves to face it.

On the morning of your funeral, I woke alone, got the kids to school and then got ready to say goodbye again to your body, although I had said goodbye in person the day before. I had sat with your coffin, grateful for a moment to know where you were and to have you next to me, returned from hospitals and post-mortems, even though you were in a wooden box. I had talked to you and cried on that wooden box. When I had my head on that box, close perhaps to where your head might have been, when I was saying how sorry I was that you had been all alone and that I hadn't got to you sooner, I felt your coffin lurch. I thought it was going to fall off its stand. I felt you were trying to reach me. I was frightened for a moment but figured it was probably in my mind, or my body, that I had seen you dead and you had been through numerous tests in search of a cause. There was no way you were alive in there. If you were trying to reach me, I knew you would be telling me not to blame myself. There was nothing I could have done. I sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It's the song I sing to my children, the one I sang to you on your microphone in your music studio the weekend before you died. It seems like an odd thing to do but it felt right at the time.

I wore a dress that I thought you would like, collected my notes and put the yin yang ball that you gave me on my birthday in my pocket. It seemed like a strange present at the time but I have carried it with me ever since. It jangles when I walk, keeps you close.

Speaking at your funeral was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. I was speaking to a congregation of people that I had never met. But I had to do it. I had to tell the world what you meant to me, couldn't bear to have you summed up like a mediocre cv by someone in a suit who didn't know you. I was scared that people would view me as an impostor. What could a relative newcomer tell all those people who had been in your life for the 52 years when we weren't together? But in the end I felt embraced by the warmth and gratitude of those people. They loved you too.

The weather of grief is as turbulent as the weather outside my window. On Tuesday night, I thought the grief might kill me. I was crying so hard that I couldn't breathe. And then, yesterday I wrote about that feeling, the feeling of the waves and the water, and then I wrote some more about the signs that you are around, l led my writing group and only cried at the end when someone asked me how I was, I played with the children. And last night I slept a peaceful sleep and woke with that same lurching feeling, that same desire to roll back over into your arms, back into the duvet. But I dragged myself from the bed and I feel sort of normal again. The sun came out while I walked the dog. I looked up into the clouds and felt its warmth. Then I picked up a pure white, baby-soft feather from the path. I can go on.

I know the grief will come again. I know I can't predict when. I know that it will probably be in a matter of hours rather than days. But I know that after every storm, there is calm. I hope that one day I will sit in that calm with you alongside me and know that it will be ok. It makes me think of the yin yang ball. Without darkness, there can be no light. Everything is interdependent. Our love and my grief are fire and water at the same time.

I  know I will never get over it. I know I will never forget. I'm not sure I want to wake up happy without you. But I would like the last lines of the poem: to be able to enter the hearth in my soul where my loved one has awaited my return all the time. I know that you are there. I hope you will wait for me to return.

For Grief
When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto that black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed,
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

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