Artist: @lydwak

What I think I’m learning about grief.

by Charlotte Pearson. Content note: suicide, death, grieving.

I’m a roadmap kind of girl. I like a plan. When I want to change something about myself or my life, I try to take action, step by mostly considered step. Impulsivity is a conscious choice for me. The result of this is that after nearly 30 years, I am someone who is in tune with themselves, and can usually be relied upon to be less than fifteen minutes late. 

My little brother took his life at the end of September, and my balance completely collapsed.

Okay, I thought, you’ve got a plan for this. Remember your ‘five ways to well-being’, eat veg, do a million steps a day, do some yoga, see your pals, keep being kind and in no time you’ll be back on track. The same you, on the same path.

I can hear the people who know grief laughing at me, and the new me, who has purple eyebags and an ache in her shoulders, shakes her head at that woman too. 

The road map is gone, and instead I’m on a boat in the sea and there are some pretty big waves. I’m learning to navigate by the stars, but there’s no manual. All I can do is guess and hope that that really bright one might mean something, that I slowly might be getting to somewhere a little less choppy.

The kindest thing I have learnt is that this is something I have to make peace with. I’m a new person now. Managing all those waves means the temper I spent a long time smoothing, now cracks at poorly worded texts or suspected undertones, and the endless time I used to be able to give to other people is spent bailing out my own little boat so I can keep floating.

If you’re here for some step by step SMART action plan, you will be disappointed. The road map through grief doesn’t exist, because there is no right way to grieve. But I have found a freedom in the realisation that people cannot grieve ‘well’’; I cannot be the best griever, and therefore I allowed myself to settle back into what my body tells me it needs. 

All I have to offer from this are some things I have learned.  
I hope they can help someone else trying to catch their breath: 

Sometimes a shower and a walk can save a day.

You can say their name as much or as little as you need, there is no obligation to hide or to spill and no one should make you feel otherwise.

You will feel SO annoyed with people you love, and you will argue with people you love. This is normal and ok. 

Reading and hearing about other people’s grief is an unexpected balm. Join communities, read articles and seek out local groups (some useful ones listed at the end).

Whatever ritual you need to remember them is yours, don’t try to fit it with ‘conventional’ remembrance. Light a candle. Put up photos. Make a memory box. Look at the sky. Cook their favourite dinner;

But please do it in a way you can manage. You don’t have to remember them every minute to have loved them, your life is for you too. 

Some days I am furious that grief has destroyed what I so carefully built. But others I can see that maybe there is no need to rebuild what I had before. I’m not a cartographer anymore, I’m just existing where I find myself in each day, catching my breath before the next wave and finding out who I will be on days when the sea is calm. 

Some useful spaces:
@sobscharity (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide)
@thetomorrowproject_uk (The Tomorrow Project)

Please contact your GP if you need support with your mental health or well-being following a bereavement. 

Thank you,
Charlotte Pearson @charlottenne

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