Dealing with death (and other wonderful thoughts)

I gave the title a little colour, but this really is a post about dealing with death. Recently I have had reason to think a lot about death, though it has never really been far from my mind in recent years.

When I was about 12 one of my favourite uncles died, then my best friends father (my basketball coach) during my final year of high school. There was a break then, for 6 longs years until I lost 2 of my friends from high school in just 2 years, both of them best friends, both of them to suicide. Around the same time my grandfather, after receiving a lung transplant and living an extra year and then some, succumbed to emphysema.

These deaths all register as major events in my life and all came with various degrees of grief and resulting personality shifts. But the impact of those was dwarfed by what I experienced when my 19 year old cousin Jessica Rose Joss was taken away from us in a car accident. That one is still hard to even talk about. She was so young and full of energy and life and for that to be extinguished is heartbreaking.

And I guess that’s what I am getting at here. Dealing with death is heartbreaking. Everyone has a different way of dealing with it and none of them are particularly pretty.

With my own brother’s death, I have had to seek solace in trying to reconnect with his life which had been disconnected from my own for too long. I have been trying my best to ease things for his partner, who also lost her son at the same time. And for my father too I have been trying to make this easier. But what about me?

I guess this is my coping mechanism. I do what I can to pay my respects. I help the people left behind. I cry on my own time and sometimes when I really don’t want too (like on a crowded train or at work). But there’s not really much else I can do.

I don’t really believe my brother is “just around the corner” and I will “see him in no time” like Christian priests at funeral services and Jehovah’s Witness neighbours seem keen to make me believe.

Firstly, I don’t plan to die in “no time”. I want to live a long healthy life. I worry this kind of talk may make suicide attractive to people weakened by loss, making them think their loved one is ‘perfectly fine’ and is waiting for them ‘just around the corner’.

It seriously annoyed me to even be told this.

Kind of felt like a dismissal of my grief. Oh it’s fine. Just give in to our god and you will feel relaxed about life and wont care your loved one is no longer alive. Yeah fucking right.

It hurts. It’s going to hurt. If it didn’t hurt I’d think there was something fucking wrong with myself, OK? So stop telling me your god will make this all go away, I don’t want it to go away, I just want to live with it and try to live better for it.

Now that’s out of the way, here’s a few bits of advice for people dealing with other people, who are going through grief:

Say yes if we ask you for a favour or invite you to visit.

Distractions can be very good, but we also need to make time to grieve.

Don’t tell me it will ‘all be OK’. If that’s what you are going with your better off being silent. Not to be rude, but that’s what we really need, someone to just be there.

We will want to have deep and meaningful conversations which you may feel out of your depth in. That’s fine. Your job is just to tread water while we swim around this pool of emotion, even if you don’t quite get it.

Ask if we are OK.

Keep asking, because it could be 3-4 months until the finality of loss really kicks in. By this time those less-close to the deceased have long moved on with their lives. It’s important some REAL friends step up and stick by their grieving friends side through this. It may not be easy but it will be worth it.

For those of you going through grief yourself… I salute you. 

There’s not really much advice I can give you. Remember life goes on and there are people in this world who still love you. Your loved one would not want your life to stop just because theirs has. Remember to look after yourself and make sure you have good people around you, to help deal with the bullshit you will go through.

When you feel physically sick and can’t work, don’t force yourself to. Your job giving you hassle? Fuck them. Find a better one. It’s not the end of the world. You deserve better than that. Your mental health is far more important in the long run.

Other than that, make sure you stay healthy. Keep eating. Keep exercising. Grief very quickly ruined my appetite and it only made the physical symptoms of grief worse.

You may get the shakes. You may feel so disoriented that you can’t perform basic tasks. You may struggle to drive a car. These things are normal with grief, so please, if they do occur don’t get angry with or punish yourself over something you can’t control.

And if you are feeling alone, well, you can always email me if you just want to talk to someone who actually cares.

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