Grief is a palpable thing. It crushes us beneath its weight. If left unchecked we can find ourselves buried along with the dead (either metaphorically or physically). Often we won’t even realize we’ve suffocated until somehow we crawl out of those dark depths. Then and only then can we see the sun.
As many of you know, I’m intimately familiar with pain and grief. Over the years I’ve had many losses. When my father died I was shocked by the level of grief I felt, how it hung on. Long afterwards, I’d see something that would bring back a memory of him and a sharp stabbing pain would constrict my heart rendering me unable to breathe. I rarely, if ever, do that now but I still miss his quiet presence during Thanksgiving dinners.
At one point on my path of pain, I’d lost my sense of self in an abusive relationship. Literally, I had to rebuild myself and start over. (A note to friends and family of abused loved ones—never diminish this pain.) Loss of self is simply a different form of death. If you’ve lived—you’ve lost, to some degree or another. Loss does not always have to involve death.
Grief changes us. Still it’s vitally important to process this pain. And it takes time. For those on the outside who want to help, remember sometimes the best thing you can do is to be there or to help with a household chore. The grieving person doesn’t always need to talk. Let them do so when they are ready. Til then, sit beside the hurting/grieving person so they don’t feel isolated in their pain. Or do the dishes to ease the strain of trying to function while dealing with mental anguish.
For my writer friends, don’t forget the importance of having your characters grieve. They need to be believable. In fiction, base this off reality. What would someone do in the real world if their child was hit by a car? In both fiction and nonfiction, don’t forget to show the unspeakable. Remember words are not always needed. Sometimes actions speak much louder. The wringing fingers, the shaking hand or the trembling legs are all minor details that reveal large feelings. Strive to push your writing to show the levels of pain through action as well as, if not in spite of, the words.
The sad thing is that in life, and in writing, there comes a time when we all need to walk our paths of pain. Unfortunately, this is one of the many aspects of this fallen world we live in. However, if we navigate it well, we will eventually see the sun.