For When It's Darkest (Grief)
Morning run. My breathing’s laboured. More than usual.
Maybe it’s the humidity? I forcibly slurp to strain oxygen from the air.
Later, at work, I turn on the air conditioner, mindful of the growling February heat outside. Cool air breathes itself into the clinic. Calmness settles.
I check my watch right before he arrives. The minutes hand has completely detached from the centre pin and is lying in the bottom left-hand corner of the clockface. Spun right off its axis. Odd, I think.
I greet him in reception. When our eyes meet, my throat tightens. His face wears the lines of a hundred sleepless nights.
He’s here, but he’s not.
He stands, unsteady, and I usher him towards my office, feeling like I’m about to do CPR. Death isn’t just a lack of pulse.
Opening lines are exchanged and he works hard to oblige me with a few simple words. I keep it short, and then invite him to speak.
And with that, he breaks: the dam of all he’s been holding violently collapses, and pain from the most tender places of his heart thrashes out of his body in wild sobs and moans.
Because when your only brother takes a rope, fastens it to the ceiling, nooses the other half around his neck and hangs himself, the agony cannot be borne.
They say grief occurs in stages. That makes it sound orderly. Let it be known: grief is anything but orderly.
It’s cinched, aching lungs.
A mind that keeps short circuiting.
Sirens in blood.
Being thinned out.
Coarse, weary eyes.
A north-less compass.
A world spun right off its axis.
He’s an island all hacked up, floating bits of earth disappearing into the sea. Desperate not to lose him, I try to land somewhere. Reach for him with my eyes.
Eyes that hurt with him.
He begins to shake from adrenaline and struggles to breathe. I can’t breathe for him but I can breathe with him and so I do. Small, slow sips. Because there’s life in breath. Even the smallest of inhales.
And together, we ride the tides of it. Huddled inside a pain that he knows and I see.
“The reality of grief is far different from what others see from the outside. There is pain in this world that you can’t be cheered out of. You don’t need solutions. You don’t need to move on from your grief. You need someone to see your grief, to acknowledge it. You need someone to hold your hands while you stand there in blinking horror, staring at the hole that was your life. Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried”. Megan Devine, author of It’s OK That You’re not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand.