Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Raw - avoiding the pain of grief and loss

Someone asked me recently why my blog posts had become so sparse over the past year or so. I humbly and finally admit that it's a classic case of avoidance. Yes, that self-protective panacea that we are all so familiar with, but our clever little brains always find a good excuse for. I remain ambivalent about sharing this, which leads me to my own good excuse.

Grief strips a layer off you. And when you experience several losses one after the other, the layers drip off so fast that you quickly find a way to stop looking at yourself. You peek out the corner of your eye, you catch sight of your shadow and shirk away from it, you step away from your own reflection - especially when you see it in the eyes of other people.

Sympathy nips like vinegar on raw flesh. It feels like the worst possible thing you could put on a wound. But no one knows what to do or say, they have little to offer except sympathy. What does that really mean? They feel sorry for you and they're glad it's not them. I know I sound ungrateful, but maybe I am just voicing the unspeakable truth that actually there isn't anything that takes the pain away and often other people make it worse.

As a therapist, I regularly "deal with" grief. It's different. There's a process. There's time. There's space. To just sit with the pain, so someone doesn't have to sit with it alone. Outside of the therapy room there isn't time and space or the willingness to tolerate another person's bottomless pit of distress. Even people sharing the same grief, it's not sharing. It's different for each of them. Loss is so very personal and individual that we struggle to comfort each other and mostly just feel alone with what we are feeling. The ripping away of an attachment is so basic and core that we can never fully explain what a person meant to us and what their absence means.

There's a reason why traditionally we wore black for eons while in mourning. It's off-putting. By nature, we are not drawn towards it. Black is so solid, so immovable, so permanently black. There's also a reason why every guideline ever says it's not a good idea to try and therapise the grief out of people, why people should wait before accessing grief counselling. We are supposed to be sad when someone dies. If we loved them, it's supposed to hurt. It's what makes us human. It sucks. it really really does. But it's supposed to.

“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”  J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King

So I've been hiding. Otherwise known as avoidance. Normally I'm not an advocate, it's not the most helpful response and can get us in a right mess. But it's what I needed. I can do lots of other things and be sad at the same time, but I can't write when I'm sad. I can suspend sadness while I'm in the therapy room, while I'm doing training, while I'm laughing with my friends and my family. But I cannot write when I'm sad. I'm still sad, so maybe the blog drought will last a bit longer. For now, this is a tiny drop of moisture that wasn't quite a tear.

Till the next time. Dr M

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