Growing Around Grief

So I haven’t written anything for a really long time. Pretty much because there’s nothing to report…well nothing major. And not a lot has happened. Well a lot has, but just everyday stuff. In a way that is what I have been focusing on; my new everyday.

I’ve heard a number of horror stories from some of my ‘grief friends’ (yes, you make them!) of people saying ‘aren’t you over it yet?’ or ‘shouldn’t you be passed this now?’

Well, no!

There is no ‘over’ or ‘passed’, just ‘through’ and ‘with’. Grief is not a thing that can be exorcised, or conquered or quashed, but something that must be navigated, situated and adapted to – that is the real quest.

Dr Lois Tonkin uses the model of ‘growing around grief’. That the monster appears as something which consumes us and one which we think we must strive, with all of our might, to minimize and diminish; recovery will be achieved once the grief is considerably smaller than it was before. But the truth of the matter is, is that the grief does not shrink; the pain and loss of a significant person will never reduce – and why would it? You still miss them, you’d still prefer for them to be here, you still wish with all of your heart that you can tell them about your day and that they can hold you tightly when the world feels like too big of a place – that longing does not go away. You, however grow around it – you learn how to not let its treacherous tentacles seep their grasp into every corner of your being. It can’t get smaller so you have to get bigger – you have to grow. You adapt, you create space, you establish ways of carrying it with you. Sometimes you choose to acknowledge its existence and other times you turn your back on it and wait for it to catch you off guard. 

It is not all of you, just an awful accessory – like a hideous satchel that your auntie bought you one christmas that you have to wear – there is a purpose to it, but you’d rather not have it. Sometimes you forget it’s even on you, other times it gets totally in the way and is a massive chore to carry, or you manage to take it off, leave it somewhere and then a few days later it is returned to you and you begrudgingly put it on again. The satchel is vile, but it does not mean that the rest of your outfit cannot be fabulous! Get what I mean?


I’ve been opening and closing productions, finishing terms, planning new projects, going for days away, catching up with friends, planning an amazing holiday with my hubby, talking through my dad’s retirement and watching my sister dreaming and achieving. I’ve also been wanting to call my mam, get her advice, catch up with her, make plans with her and I’ve also been thinking about what she would have said or done for other people. Maybe this is the process of ‘growing’?

I get lots of comments, on here and in real life, about how ‘amazingly I’m coping’ (and maybe I am), but I know there are a number of people who are going through similar experiences who read this, so it’s only fair I tell you of a recent time when the grief did fully consume me.

I’d had a busy couple of weeks; head down and plough through, and then I got flu. My body was already exhausted, my asthma flared up and I took to my bed. In that moment of feeling really fragile, every crippling thought of losing my mam flooded my body. I cried every day, the reality of my new life sent pangs of panic to my chest and I could not breathe, It had enveloped every ounce of me that I could not even articulate my feelings to others. I was a mess. And as the week went on, the safer I felt in my bed, away from the rest of the world. Was this it? Was this the moment I’d been fearing?

Thanks to the unfaltering love and attention from my hubby, the flu began to lift and one morning I found my appetite was back to normal and I needed breakfast. I could have stayed in my pjs, safe in the cocoon of my living room, but as I looked at the picture of my Mam on our bookshelf, I knew what I wanted to do.

I got showered, dressed and took myself to one of my Mam’s favourite breakfast spots. One thing I’ve been fearing , since the alien first came, is what would I do if I was by myself and involuntarily started to cry?! Well as my pancakes and latte arrived, tears just rolled out of my eyes; I wasn’t even crying, it was just like two full basins overflowing. So I put my sunglasses on (yep, indoors) put my earphones in and tucked in!! I finished, paid and left – I got through it. I breathed a massive sigh of relief and automatically felt lighter. I think that bit might have been the growing, not the other stuff.

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, looking forward to what this means going forward, but I think I now know what to expect and roughly how this grief thing is going to be…or more importantly, how I am going to have to be around it.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Janet Wilson says:

    When Mam died and as u I was trying to get my head round how it could have happened and how I was ever going to get through her never being there anymore I read about grief being like a wave. Some days it crashes down on u and knocks u for six and other days it’s just there in the background minding it’s own business and letting u get on with things. What I read was so true and I often read the passage.


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