I've been thinking about doing a 'follow up' post to the Grief For Newbies for quite some time. Frequently I'll be standing doing the dishes and an entire post argues itself into my head and then I sit on the sofa and watch Frasier for the umpteenth time and forget it all.
This time I'm going to grasp the nettle and go for it, as I have decided a recurring and un-ignorable fact of grief, is the 'collateral damage'.
When a loss occurs, the collateral damage is something that nothing can prepare you for. If we somehow set aside the actual loss (sounds crazy doesn't it - but bear with me my story might get interesting).
Firstly I would remind you all I am speaking from my personal experience, and that everyone, everyone, experiences loss in a different way, and that their way is the only way they know how, so therefore there is no right or wrong way. Just your way.
But anyway, when this loss occurs like it did when our dear daughter Maeve died, you disappear into a bubble. At this point you are completely unaware of anything around you really, you function on a totally different level, you speak at the funeral, and everybody says "How did you do that?!", well you don't even think about it. Auto pilot, really.
As the minutes, hours, days, weeks trudge past in a haze, you start to notice something. A change.
People who used to be in your life, just haven't shown their faces for a while. We were in the middle of marriage counselling when Maeve died, and our counsellor warned us of this but we didn't believe her. "Our friends won't desert us, they were so supportive through Maeves life. They're good, forward thinking Christian folk."
Well shock no.1 was that despite being Christians, and therefore setting themselves to a higher standard of compassion, our church congregation let us down. Hugely. Massively. Completely. To be honest that is for another post all on its own, that subject. But to round it up, in short, I think there was something of the unclean about us. "don't come near us with your dead daughter virus". Now with nearly 3 years hindsight and extreme anger, I realise that people are people, and some of them just cannot deal with it. Trouble is as I said in my previous 'grief' post, you are using up every ounce of your own energy keeping going, so you don't have time for understanding, to explain to them 'this is how to behave'. So - collateral damage No.1 is "You will lose a LOT of friends (no really, sorry, you will)". There will ones that you were SURE would always be there for you that disappear, one that you hardly knew step up for a while, but ultimately after about 6-9 weeks, they all fuck off. And as a matter of fact, christians left with my christianity too, and I'm the happier for it I might add (but once again, thats for another post entirely). **I feel I should add however, that we had some friends that were utterly extraordinary, utterly selfless, and really placed themselves right in the middle of it all. And for them, we are eternally grateful for their love and true support.**
So, this leads on to the fact that I have discovered that collateral damage no.2 is that you lose the person you were. Up until the day Maeve died I had put all my trust into the god that I believed in. After this, understandably, I was pretty angry with god (ps. don't fucking tell it was the work of satan - come at me with some human words instead of a spiritual get out clause). Anyway, as time passed I realized that my faith was finished, I got no comfort from knowing that Maeve is 'with Jesus'. She should be with her parents. But anyway, this has lead to the only 'positive' thing to emerge from the debris. I have finally, at last, aged 43, become the person i wanted to be. Albeit with a good few flaws (floors? - to continue the debris metaphor) still intact.
I think that this neatly leads to collateral damage no.3. The third and final. The process of becoming a different person, the biggest and worst manifestation of this has been, t-shirts. You are totally allowed to guffaw by the way. I'm not sure what started it, but it became quite obsessive for quite a while, and unfortunately pretty destructive to Becca and mine's finances. But the t-shirt thing became my new identity, became the thing that defined me, the thing i grabbed for when the waves of pain and tears and crying hit me. "Buy a new t-shirt that no-one else in the UK probably got."
It doesn't fix anything, spending literally £1000s on t-shirts folks. (plus a minor predilection for CDs - but that was always there). All it did was foster huge resentment toward me in Becca, and a money issue that will be with us for about another 3 years.
I've lost my way a bit with this but I guess I'm saying, if you know someone who is experiencing grief / pain / loss, it doesn't happen with a Snow Patrol song, then fade out and stop at the end credits with a Maroon 5 song. It's there forever, so unless you want to be part of CD.no.1 - stick with your friends, say something stupid instead of nothing at all. Cry with them, but stay there. Let them tell you to FUCK OFF!! and then go back next week for more. Its worth it, and they will not forget it.
Love is the only answer. Lifelong unconditional love. But its fucking difficult.