Grief

This particular blog entry departs from the norm in not being particularly upbeat. I thought a lot about whether to write it at all, but in the end I decided to on the grounds that it first of all explains the drop off in my writing here, that second, I created this space in the first place in order to write, and third, there are many characteristics to what I am about to relate here that tie in with the theme of exploration and journeying that this blog was set up to engage with.

Recent events in my life have resulted in a total sea change in almost every aspect of it, in a very short space of time. These changes were not chosen by me and are to the negative. Those who know me well will be well aware of them and I needn’t go over them here, but suffice it to say that every major area of my life has been impacted by them.

I have always found a deep catharsis in writing and in the end I believe that every negative experience in life can be used in some way shape or form to help others, and it struck me that it might be worth writing about this experience in part for catharsis and in part for the benefit of anyone else enduring something similar who might stumble across this and find some solace in what I’ve written.

Being engulfed by grief is very akin in a sense, to a sudden and unexpected change for the worse in the weather when out on the trail. Suddenly and in its worst cases without warning, all of your familiar reference points are gone as a thick fog closes in. With grief, the landscape you’re traversing is an interior one, and unlike a hike you have no map or compass on which to rely once the gloom descends. The reference points you relied on are not just gone but shifted from their original positions and orientations altogether, and in order to work out where you now are, you first have to trudge through the murk and rediscover each one, and find out where they now lie, with all that that implies.

One of the peculiar qualities of grief is that it hits with a double blow in that on top of the loss itself, you are also immediately robbed of those qualities (confidence, self-assurance, self-belief, and trust in your own intuition) that you will most need in order to get to the point from which you can recover. Grief is an all consuming emotion in its initial stages and in truth there are some losses that you never really recover from, but merely learn to accommodate. The wound is still there, covered over by a thin scab, like the wafer-thin sheen of ice that forms as a mountain lake first freezes over at the end of autumn. There is a distinct surface in place, but not one that can yet bear any weight.

Over long time you come to an accommodation with (though perhaps never a true acceptance of) the loss, because just as out on the trail, you can no longer stay where you were when the fog first descended; to leave it and get back to some sense of the familiar, you have no choice but to push on. But still, for months afterwards, in the darkness of the long watches of the night it creeps back in unwanted, sullying sleep, and it is always there despite exterior appearances, walking with you as you go about your day.

It’s true of course that grief is a necessary part of life and of human experience. Without it, there could be no true appreciation of joy; it is a malignant counterpoint in life’s melody but also an inevitable one. Most of the old certainties of my former life are gone. What, if anything, will take shape to replace them is completely unknown. As you grow older you come to appreciate that your life has a landscape but that none of the features in it are ever truly permanent. They are all like wind-sculpted sand dunes, wandering on their own paths towards the horizon to be replaced in time by new, equally impermanent features. As you grieve and mourn the loss of those that leave, you hope also to welcome the new with joy.

I don’t have any answers to offer about all of this and I probably never will do. All I have is an experience to share and describe as best I can, and to attempt to learn from. In truth I have barely begun to process all that’s happened over the last few months and the enormous ramifications for my life that the consequences, rippling out one by one from the central shock wave, will have.

There are some moments in life that are so profound that you know that they will permanently affect your future course, whether you want them to or not. This event was one of them. I’m absolutely baffled about the course to take now, but I do know that I want to continue writing and retreating into the hills, and so hopefully, as the fog clears, I’ll be able to start writing here again more regularly.

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