The Weight of Forever

The Weight of Forever

I just read the 'when a parent dies' section of Julie Samuel's excellent book 'Grief Works'. I'm sure I'll review it once I've managed to tentatively tiptoe to the end, tentatively because this is a somewhat sensitive subject for me. I did fine for the most part, empathising with the three case studies, particularly that of Max who lost his mother at a similar age to me. Then I read the 'supporting bereaved children' chapter which, despite all my father's love and affection, held a magnifying glass up to just how wrongly we dealt with my grief. Yes, wrongly.

Children who intentionally suppress thoughts and feelings relating to grief have been found to be at increased risk of developing psychiatric symptoms, so it is important to intervene for the child's own benefit.  

Neither my family or school did intervene. Oh how nourishing it would have been for any of us to hear those words during the time between my mother's death and the day, sixteen years later, that my concealed grief bubbled over into acid like tears for the first time.

Then again, the same chapter insinuates that a child below the age of eight is incapable of comprehending the permanence of death. I have to disagree. At the age of four and three quarters, exactly, to the day, I fully understood. I felt the weight of forever as soon as my father broke the news of my mother's untimely passing. My family and I survived in the only way we knew how; getting on with things, avoiding the issue.

For a long time, I've been under the illusion that that's been perfectly OK, that I'm grieving now and the ultimate destination will be the same. In fact, I achieved a lot living in the limbo of unresolved anguish - possibly more than I would have had all of this not happened to me. But if I'm honest, as I continue to wade through the remnants of my slow, seeping, sludge like grief I'm jealous of the newfound support and understanding available to newly bereaved children.

Hindsight makes it clear that grief swirled around my insides like a Dementor for far too long; etching its way irreversibly deeper and deeper into my psyche, making a hindered life of survival the only option. But that minimal life of survival isn't enough anymore. I want a do over, I want to go back and do grief the 'right' way - a fantastical impossibility that leaves me with the helpless question: will I ever break free from the debilitating shackles of my loss?

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