The Process of Grief
Finding out someone you love is no longer living is a hard process to explain and I can only enter into expressing how it was for me. Because grief isn’t just a one-step two-step chronology of events like it’s made out to be – it’s a spiral of back and forth wind-whirls of emotions. I guess what I’m trying to make clear is that this is how I found out, how I reacted and it may not necessarily be the same as anybody else and maybe it might seem “wrong” or not right but I can only be honest in my recountment.
It had been a long while since I’d last spoke to my sister. Karis and I had become distant over the years and never really had the kind of relationship you’d expect to have with a sister. All I knew was what I read online or what I heard from our parents. They’d tell me if Karis had been sectioned, or if she’d tried to commit suicide and this amounted to hearing this several times over a span of years of which it had just become normal to hear. It’s sad but I’d become numb to the attempts she made on her life because of their frequency. That’s not to mean that I didn’t care because I still did – it was a case of it being so frequent that I never expected for it to truly happen past an attempt. I know.. it’s stupid and one of the things I could add to my list of “Grief Guilts” – of which I have many – but I truly believed that she didn’t want to die.
I think you’ll understand now that I wasn’t expecting to hear the news I was given that day. I’d gone out for a meal, it was the 24th September 2018 and for me it was a normal day. I had sat down from the buffet with a plate full of food when my dad called. I wasn’t expecting a call but it wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to call me. He tells me he is not far away and asks if he can come and speak to me, at this moment I became slightly more concerned however it wasn’t unusual for him to make last minute plans so I told him where I was and waited for him to call. We met outside the restaurant and I invited him inside where he sat next to me and in all honestly I could not reiterate what was said next. Truly this was the only movie-esque moment of my entire process of grief. You know how in movies when someone gives someone bad news and the whole world just kinda halts and everything that’s said just becomes a mellow-tone rather than a string of words? That’s kind of the only way I can explain those few seconds. I couldn’t tell you what happened or what was said just that my initial thought once the words had processed in my mind was that it wasn’t true. I’d become so normalised to the string of events from Karis attempting suicide, to her going to hospital, to her being released and repeat that the indication of anything otherwise wasn’t right. Surely not my sister, surely not my Karis, it had to be somebody else – not her. Not Karis, she tried – she attempted so many times but it would never actually happen. Or not. I’d kid myself for so long that all it took to keep Karis alive was some shimmer of hope, a glimpse of realisation that she didn’t really want to die at all. I’d grasped at straws hoping that it’d keep her alive and it was a stupid, dumbfounded thing to grasp to. I think. I think. I think. I try to think hard back to the last time we had a conversation, to the last time we spent time together. I can’t think, I can’t remember, can’t recall the last time we even spoke. I get up, leave the restaurant. I don’t want to cry in public and I definitely don’t want people to ask me whats wrong. My heads racing and all of a sudden I think to our mum. “I need to text mum” is my next train of thought so I do just that. I want her to know I’m here if she needs me. The rest of the night is a mishmash of emotions, still in disbelief I let it sink in overnight.
I wake up the next day intending on going into work with the hope that disbelief and the sheer distraction of work will help me to not feel shit for a while. Instead I end up sitting on the pavement outside in tears debating whether or not to go home. Being at home felt just like wallowing in grief and all I really wanted was to be around the people I loved. The idea of the fragility of people from then on would be my biggest fear, the idea that other people I care for and love could get hurt would frighten me. For a while my mind would reinforce this with intrusive thoughts and dreams of which I can’t retell even just to give an example.
Some days I would feel guilt – the famous “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve”s which plague those who take blame in their loss. Every moment I had spent – or more so – HADN’T spent with Karis was dissected and considered. Every alternative ending replayed like a Create Your Own Adventure book. Maybe I could have done something that might have altered what happened, maybe I should have been more prevalent in her life.
Other days my anger consumed me, I felt a copious rage towards the hospital who’d sectioned her hours before for trying to walk in front of a train and let her go, alone, mere hours later under the impression that she wouldn’t do so again. They knew her history, they knew her routine, they knew her ability to lie her way out of the hospital but yet they let her go anyway. The so-called “supportive” housing for not being remotely supportive. They threatened to make her homeless if she hurt herself, and did they care to make sure she was taking her meds? Of course not, that’s why we found some partially digested hidden under her bed as we went through her room.
But most days I was just engrossed in sadness. Soon after it became my prerogative to raise money for the funeral and most days I let this envelop me. It was a struggle to get out of bed, partially because it was where I found myself able to contribute the most to raising funds and past that nothing was important, but partially because my dreams kept me awake some nights. I’d have vivid dreams where Karis would still be alive, some of them would just be of us together, some would be of her trying to commit suicide. I don’t know which was more painful – sometimes I would wake up and have to acclimatise to the idea that my dream wasn’t real and that she was still gone, other times I’d witness her kill herself in my dreams and those were more like nightmares.
A few days after the day Karis had committed suicide my dad asked me to visit him and of course I jumped at the opportunity to be around someone I loved, I didn’t want to be alone. I’d lost a lot of sense of worth since it had happened and some of the thoughts I began to have were frightening. I’m being honest and forefront here because although I have never admitted this on my blog previously I need to now however, to get across the purpose of this post.
I wanted to die. I really did want to die.
What was the point anymore? If Karis wasn’t alive, then why should I be? Why should I be waking up, breathing if my sister no longer is? Why should I experience joy and love and laughter and happiness when my sister experienced so much pain?
What stopped me was the idea of the people I love experiencing the same grief for me. I remember my mum saying at one point that she wouldn’t be able to bear losing me as well. I couldn’t put my parents through that pain again and the only thing that kept me willing to carry on was surrounding myself with the people who I was living for. My brother, my sister – they are 13 and 4 years old and we share such a close bond. I couldn’t leave them, I need to be here for them. And that’s why I went to see my dad that day, that’s what brought me to the decision to not allow myself to be alone.
Without hesitation I got on a train to go and see him. I realised as soon as I’d sat down that I hadn’t thought this through. I sat by the window as I always do and glanced down at the tracks.
How much pain must you have been in to have been standing on those tracks? It was as though seeing the tracks triggered me to replay what happened in my head over and over again despite the fact I hadn’t been there, trying to make sense of what happened. I was standing on the train platform, witnessing as she steps onto the tracks and the train coincides with her. I couldn’t move, it was just as though I was just another person on the platform. I would sit there as the train moved imagining what would happen upon impact to a body hit by a train, I know that it’s grotesque. I didn’t want to imagine these things, I didn’t want to picture it but I couldn’t help it.
In a way by now I just wanted to have the funeral over and done with. I didn’t want to forget Karis and I didn’t believe that once it was over all the pain experience would diminish but I’d hoped it would bring me some closure. Past pain, trauma, sadness, anger and whatever other emotions I’d experienced during coping with my loss at the forefront was guilt. I feel a lot of guilt for not being a part of Karis’ life for a long while before she died and in turn felt a lot of guilt for her death. I know, I know, I heard it a lot – that I shouldn’t feel guilty and that it wasn’t my fault – and I’m thankful to those people who were trying to be comforting but it wasn’t going to make me feel any less of what I already felt. The distance that had built over years between us meant some days I found it hard to believe she was really gone. It wasn’t like we had a routine, we wouldn’t talk everyday or see each other every week so I had no grasp that she was or wasn’t gone. I thought finally attending her funeral might bring me some kind of closure and then I would finally be able to deal with my guilt over time.
I might end it here now. Like I said in my previous post I am pursuing this in sections for a variety of reasons and I’ll go on to make a post about the funeral.
Again, thank you for reading. x