Good grief (19 June 2018)

There is a lot of death around. This has been buzzing in my head for a year or so; and watching the anniversary programmes on TV about the Grenfell Tower fire brought this out strongly for me.

I blame David Bowie: it all seemed to start with him. He was just too young and vibrant do die. My digital radio wasn’t working that day, so I learned of his death via a text from one of my Scottish cousins; she doesn’t often communicate, but this clearly shocked her.

A lot of celebrities and well-known people seem to have died; or is it just my generation? But the people of Grenfell Tower, in their stories told by surviving family and friends, showed death respects no-one; the diversity of age, gender, ethnicity, nationality was incredible. It was very moving. I felt the same about the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, and all the other atrocities around the world.

Until recently, death has kept away from me; or so it seemed, until an old friend from Amnesty days sat down with me and we realised – before we stopped ourselves counting – that over 20 people we knew as colleagues had died, from accidents, AIDS, drugs, alcohol, cancer. An ex-Amnesty colleague has recently committed suicide, too.

My parents are dead, now; but somehow that seemed the natural order. With all the organising of funerals, I only realised how upset I really was when I came to make my speeches at the funerals. Last year, my favourite Scottish Aunt died; she was buried at a rural site near where she lived, just South of Edinburgh. There was a lull before the ceremony, and I walked up an overgrown path to a secluded spot, and spoke to her, aloud; this made me feel a lot more content and at ease – though some of my relatives were a bit aghast…..

People grieve in different ways, and there are recognised stages outlined below, if you need them; other similar models are available on the internet.

But the main thing is: don’t deny your grief, but find a way to cope and be at ease with it, and you will move on as you must; which doesn’t mean you will forget the person who died, but they would want you to live on without them, while still remembering them sometimes

All the best

Graham
 

Stages of grieving:
1. SHOCK & DENIAL: You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
2. PAIN & GUILT: As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
3. ANGER & BARGAINING: Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion. You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never drink again if you just bring him back")
4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION and LONELINESS: Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving. During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
5. THE UPWARD TURN: As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.
6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH: As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE: During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.
 

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