Grief, resurrected

My grief is heavy.

It’s heavy every day from the minute I wake up to the second I drift off again. It sits on my shoulders always, but from time to time it’s quiet and I’ll forget for a bit, then out of nowhere I’ll be reminded of the space that exists, the space they left behind, and it’ll hit me like a tonne of nasty, sharp, never ending, projectile knives.

And one of the most painful things grief does is take a moment in your life, a moment where you feel pure joy at some good news or an event you’re excited about, maybe a significant birthday party or, like me, something amazing that’s unexpected,and pisses all over it with a salty, make-up ruining, flood of your own tears.

Yesterday, I found myself trying (and failing) to fend off those horribly sharp and unrelenting, endless knives in a moment where anyone who is unburdened by grief would have just smiled. Maybe a tear of joy or disbelief would fall. A normal reaction to something wonderful should be a smile, NOT tears of sadness.

But here we are.

I’m on a journey now, a journey into my own pain, into the mind of a woman who is struggling every day, and into the mind of my child who watches on while it happens, not knowing why how or what to do. And what I’m trying to do, the aim of all of this, is to make it easier for others, especially the children, who don’t understand grief (not that we do either) and who are even more surprised and misunderstanding of it’s pain than we are. I want to try to help them make sense of it all. I’m learning as I go, both with you guys (my lovely visitors) and with my own family. I translate the reality into a story or an interesting comment and post it here.

And behind the scenes there are things happening that are helping my crusade. People making contact with me, offering me help, asking for my input, congratulating my success (what success??). They think I have a shot at being part of the change. That my experience, life-story, life as a mum and mum who grieves a child, my tears and tantrums, my honesty, my life…it could help someone.

It was a message like that, a message of pure love, appreciation and positivity, that I received yesterday evening at 7.20pm. I sat right here, as usual, on the edge of the bed after reading our daughter her bedtime story. The story was about unicorns living in clouds and it’s one of her favourites. However, I find when I’m reading it I focus on the clouds and the people that, in my head, now reside on them. And after reading the book I realise now that I was already emotional. It’s been a hard week, it’s been a personally draining and impossible week actually, and my emotions are resting on a surface smaller than the tip of a pin. They are likely to topple, with catastrophic consequences, at any moment.

But there is a hidden truth that also lurks behind the scenes, a truth I’m holding back all day every day, a truth that my struggle to manage grief continues to be exactly that…a struggle. I have to hold back though, I have to try and keep it together so I can talk on here and to other people about what I want to achieve and why I’m doing this. But when the day is over, and we’ve put out the fires that ignited with no warning, I’m spent. I’m exhausted. I’m stressed. My heart is fragile and pounding ferociously. I’m afraid it’ll shatter at any moment. That I’m going to fall deep in to a pit that I can’t climb out of again.

I’ve experienced several moments in the last two months where I’ve been forced by my own brain to try and fight an impending sense of doom.

And at 7.20pm yesterday, that was my state of mind. That was the fragility of thoughts. Consequently my tear ducts were already on amber lights, ready to start marching down my face creating streaks in my foundation that would make a barcode proud the second they turned green. And a lovely, talented, busy, kind lady, another author, took the time to send me an email that punctured that fragile moment. She’d seen my work, she’d seen my drawings and my story, and she told me I was talented. She told me she wanted to help in some way and gave me so much information and guidance that the amber lights instantly turned green, and a tsunami followed.

Then something new happened…

I have a picture of my mum by the bed. It sounds a bit weird I guess because most people wouldn’t dream of having a photograph of a parent in the room they get frisky, but remember my agoraphobia and the fact that I live constantly within the space I’m typing from – my side of the bed. So from time-to-time I want to see her picture and the only place I’ll be is here. So for me, this weirdness makes sence.

At 7.21pm I looked at that picture, with the tears now fully cascading and I shouted. I shouted as loud and as strong as I could, out of frustration, anger and disbelief. I shouted a question to her, a question that I wish I didn’t have to ask…


Sadly for my partner returning from an already wet dog walk, my side of the bed became a stream, carrying with it a flow of constant fury.

As the stream went dry and my fury calmed down I realised that the irony is, if she hadn’t died I wouldn’t be here anyway. I wouldn’t be writing about grief, I wouldn’t be grappling with poor mental health, I wouldn’t be sad, I wouldn’t be isolated.

Her death gave me this chance.

Then later, a wonderful lady reminded me this is me moving to the next stage of grief (stages I will talk about later). I’m angry. I’m pissed off. I’m INFURIATED.

It’s taken me years to dip my toe in the anger-pond over the death of my mum. 12 years actually. That feels ludicrous as a truth, but it is.

So when you think about grief (which I assume you may be already because you’re here), don’t get bogged down in timescales for the stages, don’t worry about what each stage means or how you can get there quicker. Don’t even think about the order of the stages, because I don’t think it’s a rule that any of us comply to.

And after experiencing that new anger, the satisfaction of letting out my previously supressed roars of fury and the puddle stain on the carpet on my side of the bed, I have a small piece of advice. Try your best, if not now then later, to find a way of turning their departure into a possibility project. While remembering them and thinking about their life come up with a project that’s fun, a story, a picture, a shared memory, a get-together, read one of their favourite books, watch their most hated film, write about their dreams. Maybe you could do lots of things, something fast, a long term project, or all of those things. Maybe you’d do just one when you feel you need to. Maybe you have your own ideas.

My point is this…

Grief is a terrible emotion with no hard and fast rules. But if we must go through the pain of goodbyes, funerals, sadness, losses and memories, at least let it be for something. Anything.

But for me there is one rule…

To be CERTAIN if they really are on a cloud watching over our decisions and moments, that we make them smile too. That their attitude to your ‘possibility project’ would result in pride, laughter or maybe a tear of happiness.

As always, on to the (vague) reason for the accompanying picture. Goodness this is a loose connection, but I always give you a reason why I made the choice, so here it is.

Grief is impossible to draw. The obvious images are too sombre and morose, so I instantly knew I needed an idea, another eureka! moment. If there is one feeling I can apply to grief it’s fragility because the way that it can burst emotions with no warning, at any moment, can leave grievers on edge, constantly waiting for the amber lights to turn green.

I couldn’t think of a single fragile thing I can draw. A vase, no. Stonehenge, no. My emotions, no. But playing with my daughter gave me the answer I couldn’t find and after she’d spilt the bubble juice all over our carpet and we finished trying desperately to remove the resulting stain, The eureka came. Bubbles!

One of my favourites so far. The most fun to create and spend time trying to work out the reflections and shading. My daughters favourite picture I’ve drawn and my partner said it was “like a photograph”. I can confirm (as I confirmed with my partner) that the many sleepless hours put in to this drawing are conclusive proof this is another drawing by me, from my own hand, with no tracing, mirroring or other cheats.

For these reasons alone, the picture made it to this post.

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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