“She didn’t anticipate the things she would remember in the days after his death. Like the way his hair glinted in the sun as they played outdoors as children, the blonde locks reflecting enough light to look golden. Or the way he had held her hand when she had been too upset to cry when they stumbled over a dead baby sparrow in the backyard. He’d always known what to do without having to say a word. It had been their special sort of magic: knowing each other so intimately that when one half laughed, the other’s ribcage hurt from the physical exertion.”
Something that has taken ahold of my interests lately is the exploration of grief: how it affects relationships and the every day. How it completely disrupts any sense of normalcy. How it proves nearly impossible to navigate through its muddy, complex waters.
And, how finally, you have to learn how to let it go. Somehow. Alone.
Grief comes in many forms: the loss of a loved one, a break-up, a fall-out between a friend or family member, the realisation that you can’t make certain things come true. The list goes on. There’s no set formula on how to tackle any of these things, no how-to guide on how to handle your life when it feels like it’s falling apart. And no one grieves the same way.
For example, I don’t grieve well. I tend to ignore it until the worst possible moment, the breaking point. The turn in the road when there’s only one option, and that option is to fall brutally to the bottom. From that point, I can start the climb back up. The return to normalcy.
Every time I fall, I forget what it feels like to land. The jarring, cruel smash of bone, of blood against stone. I forget how incredibly lonely it is, because no one else can fall with me. It’s a solitary action. This isn’t to say that I don’t have incredible people in my life to act as a cheer station; I do. And I don’t know where I would be without them. But, there comes a time when it doesn’t matter what people say, you’re going to feel what you feel, even if you know it’s illogical and against reason. You know they’re right, but can’t convince yourself to feel the way you should. That ability doesn’t come for some time. You have to wait, struggling at the bottom.
I grieve in intermittent scenes; moments of gut-wrenching reality hit me at random times, reminding me that I have to, yet again, grieve through something. Because, we don’t just grieve and then get over it. Once we let it go, it’s an issue we’ll have to face again, at a later time, with new experiences and new perceptions under our belt.
I work through my grief through writing. When I can’t figure out what to say, I bring it to life on paper. It brings a sense of ownership with it, along with a sense that I’m finally on the road to figuring out what I need to figure out. So, I’ve gotten used to my grief methods. I’ve categorised the bad bits from the not-so-bad bits. I know the signs when something is about to go wrong. And, with most issues, I can guess how I’ll react. Sort of.
Grief is such an interesting structure, though. As I said before, it differs from person to person. That’s what I love about it: it never wears the same face. It morphs and shifts into different beasts.
So, when I got two rather loud characters stuck in my head, I knew that their story would allow me to explore grief. It would allow me to navigate its terrain in a way outside of myself, in a way that I hadn’t thought possible. It’s been fun thus far. (As much as writing a story centered around grief can be fun, at least.)
Best of all, it makes me reflect on my own grieving methods. It causes me to wonder what roads I might have gone down if I had acted in a different way. This doesn’t mean I regret what happened; it just means that I’ve reached a point where I can critically think about and critique the things I’ve done in my past. There’s a distance now that I didn’t have before. As much as I’m learning about my characters, I’m learning about myself, too.