A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
I often speculate that the immediate pain a person feels from loss, sudden or otherwise, might be a bit like childbirth. Not in the way that one might feel anything like the same physical pain (I for one have different bits to girls anyway), but rather in that the pain might be forgotten just enough to convince women to continue to reproduce. Perhaps if labour remained so vivid long term there might be more families with just one child.
I find it hard to recall some of the horrifying episodes I went through when my wife was first killed. That might have little to do with the natural chemicals in my brain and more to do with the ones I threw down my throat to numb myself, but I still find it interesting that I have difficulty recalling some of the intensity.
For me the funeral is a bit of a blur. Valium and rum probably had something to do with that but I actually think adrenalin rushes did too. Organising and orchestrating an event that I never wanted to attend but that I still wanted to be perfect must have taken its toll. I’d written pretty much every word that was spoken in the church and planned every piece of music so nothing took me by surprise. Yet the overwhelming experience of being there makes it a little hazy now.
But all of a sudden I’ve been thinking a lot about those early days. I didn’t start writing until two months after my wife died so this week I’ve started to wonder if there are things from that time that I should cover.
One really significant moment just popped into my head. But it’s not significant in a grand or dramatic sense. In fact the whole story is built around just one word. But this one word has had more impact on me than any other I can remember.
I was at lunch with a bilingual friend. He’s lived in both the UK and France and we’d struck up a conversation about the topic responsible for me starting this blog – the fact that when someone close to us dies we are so often told to ‘be strong’. I’ve written many things about this in previous posts.
My good friend speculated that maybe it’s the English language that makes us say things that we perhaps don’t actually mean. He wondered if the word ‘courage’ used in the French way (same word, slightly different connotations) might be more apt.
I loved this. I love words. I love the way they can be used, considered, interpreted, recycled and reworked. I love listening to teenagers on buses creating words without any consideration for the vocabulary committee who think that they own our language. I love the way they use the word ‘bare’ to cover a thousand different things, leaving anyone over 25 perplexed as to what they hell they are talking about.
For the older readers ‘bare’ means a lot of; very; an exclamation used in disbelief. It basically means anything. It means bare shit and that’s not a typo for the sort poo that Winnie might do.
So courage. The reason this really struck a chord for me is that, much like bare you can do what you want with it, whereas being told to be strong is really quite directional.
Being strong means hiding your feelings. It’s shorthand for ‘be a man’. It means keep a stiff upper lip and be stoic. For me it means ‘don’t grieve’.
I’m not interested in being or practicing any of those things. I’m learning to speak Grief with a Frenglish accent. I’m going to approach it with courage and not strength.
That courage will allow me to cry when I want to, scream when I want to, laugh when I want to and be brave enough to just be.
And that’s why I also love words.
Sometimes you only need one to completely change your life.