30 December 2012


Until a few years ago, I had been lucky enough not to experience a close family death. At least not at an age where I could understand what was happening. 

G is for Grief

Then one night my sister called telling me my grandfather had fallen down the stairs and was in a bad way. I was concerned, but my grandps had always been so strong willed that I expected him to outlive everyone else. Early the next morning I had the call to say he'd passed away. But I just couldn't believe it. It was like he'd gone away and might come back at any time. Being told he was gone wasn't enough for it to fully sink into my brain. Rather than something I could grasp onto, death was the absence of something. Or someone.

The days running up to the funeral blurred into one, filled with endless tasks of cooking, cleaning and sitting around my nan's kitchen table. Anything to pass the time and forget for a short while. During those grey rainy days, whilst I tried to come to terms with what had happened, I also felt a horrible sense of guilt that I wasn't grieving properly. Was I sad enough? Why couldn't I cry? Unlike my other family members who were outwardly expressing their grief, I hadn't seen my grandpy fall, or seen him at the hospital afterwards. I had nothing concrete to attach to the idea that he was gone. I couldn't express something that wasn't real for me. It was only at his funeral as we buried the coffin that things really hit home for me.

Even now, years later, I still miss my gramps. The man who was the life and soul of any party. And who put up with me at age 7 telling him to get changed out of his paint splattered clothes when a 'boyfriend' was coming to visit. The hole that is his absense hasn't gone. It's merely covered over. Like a booby trapped hole in the woods, hidden under a fragile layer of leaves and twigs. You can't see it, but one day when you least expect it, you'll fall in.

In The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Kvothe describes four doors to cope with bereavement, which I think we can all relate to in some small way: sleep, forgetting, madness and death.
After my family was killed, I wandered deep into the forest and slept. My body demanded it, and my mind used the first door to dull the pain. The wound was covered until the proper time for healing could come. In self-defense, a good portion of my mind simply stopped working - went to sleep, if you will.
While my mind slept, many painful parts of the previous day were ushered through the second door. Not completely. I did not forget what had happened, but the memory was dulled, as if seen through thick gauze. If I wanted to, I could have brought to memory the faces of the dead, the memories of the man with the black eyes. But I did not want to remember. I pushed those thoughts away and let them gather dust in a seldom-used corner of my mind.
I dreamed, not of blood, glassy eyes, and the smell of burning hair, but of gentler things. And slowly the wound began to grow numb... 

Writing about the death of a loved one, even if fictionalised, can be difficult. And as a reader, the death of a character in a book can also be a big deal. So much so that you can feel some of the grief of losing them. But regardless of how the other characters grieve for the one they've lost - whether they cry, scream or merely carry on like normal - that expression of grief will be as individual as the character and their story. 

Have there been any books that have moved you?


Book Angel Emma said...

Thank you for sharing such a personal thing. My Mum passed away about 6 years ago and until then I don't think death had been a personal experience for me as I wasn't close to the older relatives. It does leave a hole in your life that is ever present but out memories of them keep them alive in a way <3

Hannah Mariska said...

<3 thank you too