Yesterday I saw the A-Team movie (and admitting to it). It’s not exactly an intellectual challenge, but taken for what it is was a decent way to distract me for a couple of hours. The body count was not huge by Hollywood standards, but a couple of the bad guys met with some spectacularly violent ends.
I know in real life people die every day, go to any date in wikipedia and you’ll see a list of people that died in that year or on that day. It’s not personal, it’s just a name and date. We can click on a link, perhaps dive a little deeper and find out a little more, but quickly we turn the page.
Occasionally it’s personal; maybe it’s a parent, a close friend, acquaintance or lover. It’s surreal, it’s an unchangeable fact and the ripples will be felt through the years on both special occasions and random days. Birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s day and days that mean something to only you.
Many years ago a very close friend Steve was killed in a car accident. Steve and I shared an office, we shared a room when traveling, competed again each other and were incredibly close. Over a couple of year period we spent a lot of time on the road for work and I spent more nights sharing a room with Steve than his wife did (which is an awful lot less George Michael than it sounds).
Steve’s death was as sudden as it was tragic. His wife was three months pregnant with their first child and I lost my closest friend and colleague. Every year at the end of May I spend a few minutes thinking about Steve, it’s the anniversary of his death and I remember.
At the time I acted as though nothing strange was happening, after all, the world was still turning. I busied myself in the office, stopped sharing a room while on the road for a while and pretended everything was normal. All this was done in a pointless attempt to blunt the pain. Even though that was 17 years ago now, I find it sad that I’m never going to get another Christmas card or his daughter Amy will ever know her father.
Grief is a strange thing. I find that it makes an appearance at odd times, little reminders cause it’s to catch me by surprise. I’ve said before when I call my parents house and dad answers he phone rather than mum. There are many others and while the immediacy of the grief goes away over time, it still makes it’s presence felt occasionally.
I remember the cards and flowers arriving at my parent’s house when mum passed, dad would spend a few minutes every day examining the cards. He liked, actually we all liked, being reminded that mum was missed by others and how we were in peoples thoughts.
We were continuously asked if we were OK, this rhetorical question typically follows the “I’m so sorry” statement. Sometimes it was asked all by itself. I’ve never had any idea how to answer, Yes, No or Maybe? I typically tried for quiet dignity, some kind of affirmative I’m doing OK, and a thank you. Reality was “I am not okay, but I’d rather you did not ask”.
I’m not sure if it’s just part of being British and actually living the stiff-upper-lip stereotype, but it seems to be very difficult to admit admitting we are not doing well. I am not okay, but I’d rather you did not ask.
So when does it all start getting better, when does it all end? In my experience it doesn’t ever get better. It slowly gets more bearable and incrementally the bizarre feelings become somewhat normal. It’s never really over, but we learn to deal.
Everyone goes through it at some time and everyone deals with it differently. Afterwards life is never quite the same, but the world is still turning.
I have found that some gestures were incredibly meaningful on a personal level, it was less about how I felt, more about what I need or most importantly providing a distraction, that hopefully involved great beer or good wine. Here are some things that people have said to me that actually did help:
What do you need?
What can I do?
Here is food.
Here is wine.
Forget that, it’s taken care of.
We should go to the bookstore
The 3P’s has some good beer on nitro, lets go.
Wanna watch Star Wars
Come by the office; we’ll go for lunch.
Here is candy.
Why don’t you write about it?