I am sad this morning. I have been listening to Bread’s song Make It With You, over the past day or so. In the early morning I have been singing it as I try to clear the silted up channels of body that get a bit clogged with the foods I turn to for comfort, milky coffee and yoghurt and ice cream at night (not much but still enough to affect me). Images of my sister who is dead have been very, very close all morning together with sad feelings of missing her.
I received a text from someone in the Al Anon group I used to attend and had a conflict with to tell me that yesterday they had been to their Sing Australia group near to where my sister lived and they had been celebrating those who had passed. I did not know if this person knew my sister who died two years ago went to Sing Australia and had then been prohibited from attending for some reason. But the text gave me a headache. A few weeks ago this person has asked another person at that meeting to let me know they were offended by me swearing during a share and would like to me not do it in future. In the context of what I shared, I and others did not believe the swearing was offensive. Never the less its the second time this person has made her feelings known. I had tried to tone done any swear words but one slipped out.
I was so upset about it I haven’t been back to the meeting. I felt silenced and strangled and have seen this same thing happen to others in this group, asked to reframe pain and abuse in the light of positivity and forgiveness before they had really worked through all the deeper feelings around parents who hurt them. Having to make this break has been a source of grief to me because apart from therapy there are few places I can go to share about my sister and to cry if I need to . However both my therapist and I felt that the price 0f attendance was, at this stage of my healing, too high to pay.
I later had a conversation with a friend who understood how I felt and during the conversation he was talking about how anger often covers grief. Today I am not angry I am just very, very sad. I miss my sister so much, she was the one person in my family I felt closest to on a consistent basis. We had our conflicts but she always got me and I got her. This loss has been made more obvious as I spent time with my other sister the other day and we just don’t have anything much more than a superficial connection much as we try.
I was outside singing Make It With You, sweeping up the leaves and thinking how my sister didn’t make it through. She loved music so much and often when I would visit her in the care home where she lived we would sing and listen to our favourite old songs.
I was also thinking that all the platitudes in the world others say to us in the midst of loss just don’t cut it and don’t address the fact that once someone is gone they are never coming back. They may live in your heart and you may talk to them in your imagination or even feel them close, but the are physically no longer there and that kind of loss when added to so many other losses can hurt so much and be a source of pain and grief for a long, long time, perhaps all of your remaining life, if you loved that person so deeply.
These days we live in a ‘fix it’ culture. We are taught that if something isn’t working or is broken we can fix it or replace it, everything is disposable and replaceable. Well that just isn’t true when it comes to certain people. People talk about resolving feelings. I remember hearing an interview a while back with the partner of one of those lost in the 9/11 attacks in New York where he was saying “people talk to me all the time about reaching closure around my grief, well as far as the loss of my partner is concerned that idea is just bullshit! I will be grieving for the rest of my life!”
I agree with him. We certainly don’t live in our grief every day (well some of us might, really), and there are times we are free of thinking about it or feeling it, but on other days our loss or losses can rise up like a flood and cover our internal landscape or drown out the present for a time. The loss can bleed through the pores in time present and take us back down to other times.
These days we hear all the time about the need to live in the Now and the Present and there is some truth is this, but the past too, exerts and affects and is with us everyday, like it or not, whether we put our attention on it or not. Can we not just let it be? Can we not insist that others shut up about it, or ‘put it all behind them’, or ‘move on’, or ‘be grateful for the gift of life’ as a substitute for being where they really are at? Certainly there is a deep gratitude that can come upon us in the midst of grief and painful times, but it comes out of feeling the full price and cost of what we loved and lost.
Sensitivity to others who are grieving for all kind of things, whether that be the loss of a partner, parent, sibling, lover or friend, loss of good health through illness, loss of emotional stability as a result of trauma or abuse means allowing them the full range of feelings associated to grief, yes, even anger. Maybe on one level the anger is a defence against deeper feelings of sadness at times, but it is also one of the critical stages in the grieving process, and one of the major affects of long range or short range trauma and loss.
What about allowing those who are angry a place to be angry? What about accepting and loving them where they are at, even if stuck in anger? What about acknowledging that anger will in time give way to grief if permission is given to those who are grieving to grieve for what has been lost or stolen?
The question is this. Can we hold others suffering tenderly? Can we allow the their deep feelings? Can we show them that we care about how they feel and that we understand their anger is a valid response to being silenced, dismissed, repressed or invalidated? Or will we continue to block and defend, speaking platitudes that give them the feeling they in some way should not be thinking or feeling as they do or are not spiritually evolved if they don’t? If we do this, can we acknowledge how much we harm and how much we keep others locked in a prison? For grief and anger need to be expressed, shared, received, acknowledged and heard. Grieving needs an avenue of expression so that it does not hurt the body or become internalised as illness by being compacted, compounded, complicated and internalised.