Grief in reality versus grief in fiction.
I don’t know how to grieve. I tend to push my emotions down until they bubble over like a boiling pot. When my daddy died, I acted like a hostess during his funeral. I couldn’t keep still. I had to move around speaking to people, thanking them for coming. I couldn’t let go and deal with my sadness because I had to keep it all together for my mother and for my children.
I cried more at my best friend’s father’s service than I did my own father’s service. Her father died just a few months after my dad, and I think I felt a freedom to let go of my emotions and let out some of my grief that I didn’t feel at my dad’s funeral.
In reality there is no right or wrong way to grieve as long as you are staying healthy mentally and physically.
Like most people I know the basic levels of grief: the shock, denial, and guilt, the anger and acceptance. But I also know that for each of these aspects there are a myriad of emotions that twists and turns both character and real person with a tangle of confusion. Some of these emotions return over and over again even after a person feels they have graduated through that level of grief.
Death is a big part of life. In one of my recent novels I killed off a favorite character. It was a difficult choice but when bullets are flying, and explosions are destroying the good are often swept up in the destruction along with the bad.
One of my first memories is the loss of my sister. I was just shy of my sixth birthday when my much-anticipated baby sister was born. She lived a month before she died. She never came home. I saw her once while still alive when my father, grandmother and I drove her from one hospital to another. (This was fifty years ago, and I can’t imagine a hospital allowing parents to transport a sick child from one hospital to another now.)
I don’t know how my parents dealt with their grief at the time. They were both in the mid-twenties, so young to deal with so much grief. Years later, when we talked about my sister’s birth and death, they both said they couldn’t go through that pain again. The fear of losing another child, kept them from attempting another pregnancy so I became an only child.
Grief shapes a person, changes them. I never got over my sister’s death. How different would I have been had I not known grief so early? Who knows? But in some ways my sister’s loss made me more sympathetic but I think it also hardened me in other ways. I learned to compartmentalize my emotions, hide them, and suppress them, because children can be cruel when they see weakness in another child.
The next year after my sister’s death, my dad’s mother died, a couple years later his father…losing my grandmother was difficult but I didn’t know her that well. We moved back to North Carolina after my grandmother died and I was blessed to have a relationship with my granddaddy. His death was one of the most difficult to deal with because I was older, and I understood more what his loss meant.
Why am I writing an article on grief?
Early this month a dear friend gave up the good fight and passed away. She’d battled cancer and struggled to regain her strength. I didn’t know her health was failing. Her dynamic personality should have been enough to keep her going. She was a force to be reckoned with. But even as she was suffering, she was still giving. Her whole life was about giving to others. She was on the fire and rescue squad, a diver, she volunteered and supported her community in so many different ways. When I published my first book, I talked to her about my ideas for my second book and she took the time to talk to me about my ideas and shared her knowledge. When my son started diving, she loaned him her equipment until he could get his own. She lived life to the fullest. She never let fear stop her from trying something new. She was fierce and she leaves that legacy behind for all of us to emulate.
Later the same week I awoke to learn my newest grandchild had passed away. It is so hard to understand why one so young could be taken so soon. We hadn’t even had the chance to get to know him. This beautiful baby, just a little over a week old had seemed so perfect and strong. He was such a sweet little blessing but his stay with us was much too brief. Unlike my friend who had a good, long life, this child hadn’t even begun to live.
Grief changes us. The loss of a friend, the loss of a parent or spouse, a beloved grandparent, can change your life but the loss of a child…I don’t think you ever completely recover from this kind of loss. While you may learn to shove the sadness into a place you don’t explore often, it is still there, a shadow on your heart.
Reality or fiction, grief is difficult because no one grieves the same way.