This writing lark feels much more vulnerable than it did to begin with and it is not because of the content but more to do with a fear that people will judge me, or wonder why I think I have anything worthwhile to say, or that I am full of nonsense. A very big part of me wants to stop but something (probably God) is compelling me to keep going and I am trying to take the attitude that even if what I am writing about is helpful to one person then it is worth doing, if my story can just give hope to someone else who is grieving or struggling then it does not really matter what anyone else thinks and maybe nobody thinks anything anyway and it is just my insecurities.
I am sure for many introverts the thought of putting their innermost feelings, hurts, hopes and dreams out there for anyone to see is their worst nightmare and they could not possibly grasp why anyone else would choose to do so. Well I am not an introvert I am definitely an extrovert and have no problem at all being open, honest, real and out there but I have had to learn a tough lesson that not everyone is like me. That may sound like a really obvious statement as we all know that we are all different, we see those differences all around us every minute of the day, we work with people that are fundamentally different from us, we marry people who are often our polar opposites and often families are made up of a total mish mash of different characters and personalities. We only have to look at the reaction to the recent election to see just how different we all are.
However for me in my grief that reality was one of the hardest things for me to cope with. When people were not grieving like I did it made it hurt all the more. When people did not want to talk about John and almost pretended he never existed I would want to scream at them (and sometimes did) and ask them did they not care, did it not hurt them too.
I would love to be one of those people that could at all times hold my feelings in and be dignified and well put together but I have tried and I can’t really go more than a few hours. I need to talk about feelings and emotions and relationships – it is the very core of who I am. I love people who are real, honest, raw and warm – when I find people who are like that I hold on tight because they make me feel alive and connected.
The problem being that I have a lot of people in my life, who I love totally and desperately, who are not like that, who would prefer not to talk about how they are feeling, a large part of my family are like that, I married a man like that and many of my closest friends are like that. And actually my experience is that that is ok when life is plodding along and things are good/normal, it makes life interesting, but when tragedy comes, when the “shit hits the fan” and when life flipping hurts those differences can become insurmountable and hard to navigate, leading to misunderstandings and broken relationships. In my previous job I saw this being worked out in families on a daily basis – most times you could see that the dispute was not about money but deeply held issues that went back years and because fundamentally family members were different and reacted and handled things differently.
When John died I needed to talk about him, needed to talk about how painful it was and how much I missed him. Grief is definitely one of the most complex emotions I have ever experienced – it is so much more complex than you could ever imagine unless you have been there. One minute you feel a total desperation and no hope, the next you feel numb and nothing and then you have moments where you may just be able to see a pin prick of light which allows hope to settle only for it all to be swept away again as the despair and desperation sets in and for the whole process to continue round and round in circles. I needed to talk about that process, to express everything I was feeling and so many people around me, people I felt should be hurting too, did not want to go anywhere near those conversations.
Very close family members and some of our closest friends didn’t want to go there and it hurt like hell. I remember one family member saying to me it was not a comfortable subject for people and I had to accept that and not make a fuss (that was one of those moments where I could have quite easily have become violent) – I would say to my parents over and over it was me that had had my life devastated so why could these people not step outside of their comfort zones to make it easier for me. Some friends left Sheffield shortly afterwards and said they just needed to put it all behind them, which hurt me immensely. Thankfully they are now back in Sheffield and those relationships are healed and good again and we talk about John often.
For me I could not understand if these people had cared about John as much as their relationships with him would have suggested then why were they not crying, why where they not talking about it, why couldn’t they express how they felt about it. It was such a hard thing for me to grasp, if you love someone and you lose them, then you express that, you let it out. I battled and battled because it felt like they did not care about John or me, that their lives had been totally unaffected and if I am being honest sometimes it still feels a bit like that. It also felt like they were judging me (maybe they were maybe they weren’t) for being so emotional about it, for being so broken and vulnerable.
It has been one of the hardest lessons for me but I have come to a place were I have learnt to accept that we are all different and just because a person doesn’t react or say things the way I would it doesn’t mean they do not care. I can now see clearly, now I am out the other side that they showed they cared in so many other ways. My ways are not the only ways, they are my ways and that is ok and people have to accept me for who I am and their ways are their ways and I have to accept them and actually as alien as it was for me to not express those feelings and emotions, it was totally alien to them to express them.
I know those people were deeply and profoundly affected by John’s death because every now and again a small comment will show just how it impacted them and continues to impact them.
When the tough times hit massive amounts of grace, patience and forgiveness are needed and I am thankful that people showed me all those and much more in abundance.
It has taught me to try and stop before I react and not blow up or judge but to think that most of the time a person’s reaction is not personal to me or my situation, sometimes it is to do with their character/their make up, or the things they have experienced in life which become part of their framework for dealing and responding to things and the same with my reactions. It has been a painful lesson in tolerance, in grace and in forgiveness. It has also made me realise that sometimes I cannot stream roller in with the feelings and the emotions, I have to think about what would help that particular person, what would make them feel most comfortable.
In my family I can see as the years have gone by that we have tried to find a middle ground, not always successfully, but I think we are getting there. Whilst some people may not be comfortable with the “john” subject they try to talk about him, and I try not to talk about him too much and somehow that middle, compromising ground feels like the best place.
I have also realised that actually those differences are to be celebrated and enjoyed- if everyone was like me it would be a flipping nightmare we would drown in emotions and tears! My family members are practical at getting on with things and so many times that has been my saving grace!!