Saturday, 20 August 2011

Good Grief!

I've been drunk for a month. This is mainly due to being with other people for a month. Other people are an excellent distraction from the horror of life (as well as being the main cause of most of it!) and I have been surrounded by some of the nicest. But I thought I needed to grieve. I thought I needed some time out to be just incredibly sad, to feel hollowed out, to communicate with myself on a physical, visceral level exactly what it is I've lost. Because it's everything. I can't stress the enormous, meteor-hits-earth-and-kills-all-the-dinosaurs impact Kelly had on my life. She changed me when I couldn't. I thought I had calcified at 18 and was slowly eroding from that point, becoming slightly less each year: older, slower, uglier, less funny, more desperate. That sort of thinking leaves you hopeless, helpless and venal. I thought my life was over and then suddenly it wasn't. It was an actual renaissance. I started to breathe again, I could straighten up. I walked tall (with a tall limp). My deepest fear is that I go back. That I become first-life John again, without her guiding influence, her moral stabilisers. Her transforming love.

I also worry that I'm not grieving properly. I don't know how you do it. I can get by very well around other people, laughing and joking, smiling fondly at all the stories people have of her (you would, they're good stories!). I've asked people to send me them, people who knew her years before me, people who knew Kellys that I never did. I love these things.

But alone I can let it in. I can feel the loss, the enormous, head-in-chest pressure of her absence; like a dinghy inflating on top of me, clobbering me to the ground, pushing the air out of me as surely as it draws it into itself. All it takes is the pulled toggle of a thought. Is this the right way to do it? Should I be doing this? Cathartic pain seems intuitive but, as Q.I. has consistently shown me, everything I know is wrong. Surely everything I feel must be wrong as well.

The Kubler-Ross Model (or the "the five stages of grief" as it's popularly known) is largely bollocks as far as I'm concerned. Even its own literature describes no real set order to the stages and that you may experience several at the same time. i.e. Like any other emotional responses to anything that might happen to you. It can be sophisticated, contradictory and not easily attributable. And in any case the model was intended for people with terminal illnesses coming to terms with their own mortality, not for those that they left behind. More interesting is George Bonnano's "Four trajectories of grief" which I shall now nick whole-sale from Wikipedia:

Resilience: "The ability of adults in otherwise normal circumstances who are exposed to an isolated and potentially highly disruptive event, such as the death of a close relation or a violent or life-threatening situation, to maintain relatively stable, healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning" as well as "the capacity for generative experiences and positive emotions."

Recovery: When "normal functioning temporarily gives way to threshold or sub-threshold psychopathology (e.g., symptoms of depression or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)), usually for a period of at least several months, and then gradually returns to pre-event levels."

Chronic dysfunction: Prolonged suffering and inability to function, usually lasting several years or longer.

Delayed grief or trauma: When adjustment seems normal but then distress and symptoms increase months later. Researchers have not found evidence of delayed grief, but delayed trauma appears to be a genuine phenomenon"

Seems to me that you do not want either of the last two! Sleeper grief coming and nudging you in five years time with a "Wake up! Time to cry" seems almost unbearably cruel.

I don't know what my emotional life has in store for me. And it seems that nobody else does either. I'll just have to get on with it.


  1. Going with the flow, whatever that flow is, from day to day, seems the right thing...

  2. I'd assume that just as there are many ways to live, there must be many ways to live with a death. That's what I've seen and none of them the right way or wrong way. I suppose it's good if you can occasionally get pleasure from something now and then.