Being sad and not sad, moving on from grief.

A post from Friday I didn’t post then :

After a tough morning (inside my mind with all kinds of thoughts revolving) I went down to sit in the sun at our local fruit and veggie market and read the final chapter of my novel  This Must Be the Place, by Maggie O’Farrell.  I have been lingering with it for over a month now as I love it the story so much, ending it will be like losing a good friend or heart companion.

The story encompasses all kinds of emotional themes that really resonate for me, and the following excerpt really put into words something I could not fully articulate with my brother last week when he told me Dad’s death was so long ago now it should not be an issue any more.   I share this kind of stuff more for me but since others may struggle in similar ways I hope it speaks to some of you too.

In the novel (spoiler alert, stop reading here if you want to read the book) there is a death that takes place and the threads leading to it are multifaceted and complex.  Guilt is involved, earned or unearned for the central character, Daniel who was the father of Phoebe, Niall was her brother.  Anyway here it is :

“Can Niall come, like last time?” asked Marithe.

“We can ask him.  I’m sure he’ll come if he’s not busy.”  I go over to the sofa and take her by the hand.  “Come on sweetheart.  Time for Bed.  I think.”

Marithe stumbles to standing position, leaning on my arm as we move up the stairs.  “Does Niall still live with you?” She asks.

“Not any more.  He has his own place now.”

“Have I been there”

“No.”

“Can we go?”

“Sure.”

At the bathroom door, she turns to look at me.  “Is he still sad?”  she asks.

I reach out my hand to brush the hair off her face.  “Niall is a lot better.  You musn’t worry about him.  It’s nice that you do but Niall is OK.”

My daughter looks me in the eye and says devastatingly, “Are you still sad?”

I swallow.  “Am I still sad…. about …. Phoebe?”

She frowns, concerned and nods.  And I look at her, this perfect being, her skin so vital, so pale that you can see the life blood coursing beneath it.  I am besest by twin sensations: that I am luck, the luckiest man in the world, to have this daughter, these children, and that I would kill, main, destroy any person who tried to harm them.

“I will always be sad about Phoebe,” I say with an effort to keep my voice even, “and so will Niall.  But what happens is that after a few years, you slowly realise its OK to be happy too.”

She looks at me for a moment longer, as if checking the veracity of this idea.  Then she turns and goes…..

End of extract

Grief is part of us, it seems to me.  Those who find later happiness may have more protection and insulation against being permanently beseiged by the ghosts of lingering grief and loss, something arrives to take the full on agony away a little or provide some kind of relief.  Others of us fall down into a deep well and it takes longer to touch base with our grief and move foward, realising the longing for full engagement in a life left by the loved one .

For some of us being happy again may feel like an abandonment or a betrayal, but really I guess in the end it is a saying that in the end the life we are left with has value and that who ever we have loved and lost still lives on in our hearts, forever.   There may be times we cry, times we are grateful we knew them, we may rue the day, if that ‘someone’ was a someone who hurt us deeply, but maybe even then we learned lessons, and realised after a time we deserved happiness and that that happiness it could co-exist with the sadness, nostalgia or melancholy that we sometimes still feel on the darker days.

2 thoughts on “Being sad and not sad, moving on from grief.

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