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What is grief?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. I spend a lot of time online which is good from the point of view of finding out information, and bad because you never know if the information is good or not! We have a local hospice which offers grieving counselling and bereavement support, the doctor made a referral for the family to them at the beginning of May, but typically for government organisations we’ve not heard anything yet!

Just so that I could connect with other people in a similar situation I’ve been browsing a few forums dedicated to grief and loss, particularly that of the loss of the spouse. They are a mixed bunch really.

One of the things that seems to be standing out is that everyone is grieving struggles with the concept of what it actually is, and what they should do.

A person posted on one of the forums yesterday that her family thought she was obsessing about her late husband, she posted a whole host of things she was doing and asked the forum if she was indeed obsessive or whether this was normal.

The question is, what is normal? And who makes up the rules?

Reading through the posts that many of these people are making I’ve come to realise that in this situation we make up our own rules, and then beat ourselves up with them… What a crazy thing to do.

Each time I catch myself using words like should, must or ought I ask myself the question “Who says?” – and most of the time it’s me, putting my own pressures on myself.

Learning to ignore myself is a strange thing to do. I’m learning to accept that however I feel at any given moment is absolutely fine, I don’t have to do anything. There are no stages of grieving! People have said that everyone goes through seven stages starting with denial then anger then some other bull shit… Who says?

In my own grief I refuse to be defined by other people’s version of normal. I refuse to define myself as a grieving person.

As ever I’m writing this post off the top of my head and things keep coming to mind, and what comes to mind now is the political correctness regarding disabilities (okay, my mind leaps around all over the place). I always used to think that the person with disabilities was ‘disabled’ – and I remember advertising campaigns saying they are not a disabled person, they are simply a person living with a disability. It always seemed like a semantic argument, but now I understand. I’m not a grieving person, I’m a person living with grief – I refuse to let it define me.

One of the other things that other people on the forums seem to struggle with his guilt. I can understand this but choose not to do it myself. Sitting here writing, if I think about it, I can find lots of things to be guilty about. Guilty that I didn’t make Claire slow down a bit. Guilty that we didn’t move to her beloved  seaside a couple of years ago. Guilty that we didn’t take her to the hospital sooner. But I choose not to beat myself up over these things. What’s the point?

Guilt only serves one purpose and that is to destroy us. The reality is that Claire and I made the best decisions we could, at the time that we made them, knowing what we knew then. With the extra knowledge I have now, if I could go back in time, I would make different decisions. But when those decisions were made I didn’t have that additional knowledge, and so we made the best decisions that we could.

I’ve let those things go.

One of the things that someone said on a forum yesterday was that people die, but love doesn’t. I took comfort from those words which reminded me of what Claire and I had engraved on the inside of our wedding rings:

“Endless Love”

And it is…