A story of grief by a man and a boy
I’ve always loved that moment that goes a bit like this when you get to know someone new:
“When’s your birthday?”
“Mine too. What month?”
“MINE TOO! What date?
“NO WAY! Mine’s 12th.”
“We’ll have to have a joint party.”
Well it doesn’t go like that when someone dies. The feeling of coincidence is still there, but all the joy and excitement is sapped. The beer runs dry. Cocktails are out the window.
I’m slowly getting to know strangers whose husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings or friends died within just a day or two of my wife. Some under strikingly similar circumstances. I guess this may be a helpful thing in the long run because we are able to support each other through our grief with shared stories and experiences.
I’ve been chatting with a woman whose husband was taken tragically the day before my wife. She introduced me to an idea that I now call ‘polite anger’. I’d written about how the anger phase of grief hadn’t really hit me so far, something that I know some people find difficult to comprehend, especially given the circumstance of my wife’s death. But then this new friend, with whom I’ve created a distant bond that I’m sure (in the nicest possible way) neither of us ever actually wanted, said something to me that make me re-think rage.
‘Perhaps we’re not angry in a typical way’, she suggested. ‘We all see anger as shouting and rage. But maybe we are angry that the future we were hoping for has gone. Perhaps we are going through the anger phase after all, albeit in our own mild mannered way.’
She hit the nail on the head.
I realised I’m not not angry, I’m just not angry in a particularly angry way.
But I do get upset when I see a car speeding outside my son’s nursery, I just don’t shout as I stand on the pavement shocked by the driver’s lack of respect for human life.
I get quietly pissed off when people in shops ask me if I’m having a nice day, but I decline to comment rather than furiously telling them to fuck off.
I get frustrated when I drop my son’s breakfast all over the living room floor the morning after his dinner met the same fate, but I just roll my eyes rather than scream because I don’t want to scare the person in the room who’s done nothing wrong.
I get affronted when I get emails that ask nothing more than, ‘How are you doing?’, like I should be able to say something positive by now.
I get displeased that I can’t sleep even though there’s nothing to be awake for as my son snores quietly next to me.
I get irritated when it feels like I can’t seem to get anything to go my way, even though I know that life owes me nothing just because so much has been taken away.
I turn sullen in an instant and the feeling last for days. I understand that this long drawn-out state of mind can be the heavy hangover of just the briefest moment of happiness.
So perhaps I am politely angry after all. Perhaps I’m calmly cross. But just because I’m not enraged, furious, resentful or incensed doesn’t mean I’m not grieving the way I should.
It simply means I’m doing it my way.
And that’s the only way I know how.