With the release of Collateral Beauty coming to cinemas on the 30th December which is a story around a successful advertising executive Howard (Will Smith) struggles to deal with a family death, his friends draw up a unique plan to help him recover and confront his grief. He writes letters to love, time and death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses he begins to understand how they interlock and how to progress with his life. Just watching the trailer made me think about how I’ve dealt with grief. This year has been quite an emotional roller coaster in our family. We have lost 2 people in two different ways. The first was sudden and unexpected the second was slow and expected. This brought out different reactions and different ways of dealing with my grief.
I shall start with the most recent one. The cruel cancer one. My Uncle was diagnosed last year I think with cancer which started in the bowel and moved quickly round the body. Cancer is something in my family that has affected a lot of us. Multiple members of my family have had cancer some survived and unfortunately some didn’t. In my uncle’s case, it wasn’t a very nice form of cancer. We had the hope that with treatment he would be able to have a few more years but this was not to be. The cancer got the better of him earlier this month. As awful as it sounds cancer is a time giver. It gives you the time to say goodbye, the time to see them and the time to deal with what is going to happen. My Mum found an article a while back and associated making these special moments like a necklace and every time you make a memory you add another bead to your necklace. This is what we tried to do with my uncle. Throughout my childhood, I had never been that close with him but in the last few years I could see the relationship between him and my Dad growing as the got older and found more in common with each other than when they were younger. We travelled up to wales where my uncle lived to visit him and my family would go on different trips up there as its quite a stretch from Gloucestershire. One trip my Dad and I did we ended up on our way home driving up a mountain, standing at the top and shouting at the top of our lungs. Letting some of the pain of seeing family suffering out helped a lot. When we found out my Uncle had finally passed it strangely felt comforting yet upsetting. Knowing that they weren’t in pain any longer and how peaceful slipping away into whatever comes next. Obviously, any death is upsetting and loosing people you love is emotional but in the end the grief wasn’t too bad as you can prepare yourself a little for the sudden space you’ll be left with. What was most painful was seeing my Dad lose his brother.
The other death this year was a heart wrenching, out of the blue, shocking moment that I shall never ever forget. Back in may my beloved Auntie was taken from us suddenly on a family picnic. The sudden shock and disbelief has been hard to deal with and the destruction it left behind in the family. 7 months down the line grief can still bite me hard with my aunties death. A certain song on the radio, a particular memory of her, the heart wrenching moment you send a Christmas card and don’t include her name. It slaps you round the face like a brick and leaves you feeling empty. My Aunt had a sudden cardiac arrest on the day of a family picnic and despite our best efforts and the efforts of the emergency response and hospital staff she died 2 days later when her immediate family were advised to turn her life support off. Ever since that day it’s been hard to comprehend how and why it all happened. She was fit, lively, caring woman who was loved by many; so how on earth could something like this happen? The results never showed anything wrong with her and still to this day we don’t know why it happened. This is one of the hardest things purely because when some event in your life happens you always want an answer as to why. I’m a very inquisitive person I need answers to thing whether it’s something important or unimportant. We all need answers and still I want to know why it happened. The common quote ‘life’s not fair’ is most certainly true when it come to this. When I heard the news that the life support had been turned off the wave of emotion came and this time it was not a small wave it was a tsunami. It was an all-encompassing suffocating wave that left me drowning and not knowing which way was up. Then after that upset came the anger. Now I’m not an angry person, I’m quite patient of course I can get grumpy and pissed off like any other person on earth but this was sheer anger. I was shaking with frustration whilst sat on my parent’s sofa. I wanted to shout and blame someone for what had happened. I couldn’t get past the anger until I smashed a table to pieces with a hammer. (please understand it wasn’t a nice table it was one that was going to be made into fire wood). I went into the garden and the table was destroyed releasing the pent-up anger inside me. Obviously, I know this wouldn’t have any other than to relieve my rage. Over the next few days I went into shut down mode. I could barely speak, making conversation was hard, I could only really communicate through nodding my head in response or texting. Actually having to speak and let words come out was impossible. Slowly slipping out of that I began to talk and started slowly to become myself again. It’s still a process if I’m honest. The other week I had another panic attack whilst listening to a song I associated with her. There are days where I’m ok and I think I’m lucky to of had her in my life and try to focus on positives and tell loved ones how much I love them and other days I go through every step of that tragic afternoon looking for answers, sign and clues as to why it happened and try to comprehend how we can go on.
Grief I didn’t realise could be so different depending on the people, the way it happened, how strong you feel that day and little odd things that happen. I found writing throughout the death of my Aunt helpful. I have a diary I write in every single day and have done since 2011 so writing what had happened for both my aunt and uncle helped clarify how I felt and what had happened. This blog post is another way of dealing with it and taking another step towards finding my feet again and growing from these experiences. Psychologists have come up with a theory called the grief cycle which I think is very accurate. It shows clearly the stages we go though. As we are all individuals we all will move through this grief cycle in different ways. For example, my sister wasn’t in the anger stage for very long at all.
My advice to any of you who are dealing with grief is to listen to what your emotions are telling you to do, if that’s writing a letter to the universe to ask why, smashing a table, screaming on top of a mountain go for it. I decided to raise money for the British Heart Foundation by running 10k and hopefully in the new year I will raise money for a cancer charity. You are the one who has to look after yourself. Also, just remember the people who are around you and wanting to support you will be there because they love you, don’t push them away because you hurt.