This thought came to me as an impromptu one - as today would have been my late Grandmother's 98th Birthday.
In another tragic COVID-19 war story, my Grandma Dyer left the physical world on the 25th November 2020 after a good 9 months of infrequent visitations due to restrictions. And even less by myself, as I live on the other side of Australia. I believe the last time I saw my Grandmother in person was November 2019, without knowing what was to come. Although I was grateful for this visit, and watching her quietly tap and hum away whilst seated in her chair in front of the communal TV - I held her hand and I remember the joy and warmth I felt in doing so. I spent the entirety of COVID-19 lockdown in WA, stating that as soon as the hard border lifted and it was safe to do so, the priority would be to see Grandma first thing if I traveled back to Victoria. But fate had other plans...
I have often thought about the pain I still feel regarding the death of my Grandad and Nanna Goudge in 2018 - particularly the tragedy of my Nan, with whom I spent a fair amount of time whilst I was growing up and still living in Victoria. When anyone thinks of Death, it feels like a heavy fearful thing of brutality - and there is no point dismissing that feeling. The void, the emptiness, and the silence of the spaces left by those that we have the thoughts of... 'I don't know what I would do without them in my life?' is stark. No matter how you prepare for loved ones passing, it is still a swift and brutal blow and no one is ever prepared for the reality and the emotions that you process whilst grieving.
But I believe that time heals wounds, and as time passes, Grief transitions to a place where we Honour the memories of those loved ones we have lost, which looks different to each of us. And it is too, different for each person for whom we Honour. In close family bonds, it appears that you continue to relive the memories and laugh and bond over the good times, whilst the rest of the world forgets or is oblivious to your pain. It is Human tendency to crave simplicity and hound, Dr. Google, for answers to our qualms, like searching for the linear model of the Stages of Grief. Which in turn is true, but illustrates that grief is systematic and passes, however everyone that has experienced Grief in its many forms (as you can grief failed relationships, distancing of friends, and loss of mobility or function) knows that it is a tangled fucked up mess. You teeter and rock back and forth, sometimes managing, sometimes not - akin to that motion of a see-saw, and especially on anniversaries or dates of importance (like today is for me, far more triggers to process). Honour at these points in time are, a familiar smell in the air, songs on the radio, seeing an heirloom item of hers in my home —and in an instant, I am straight back into the deep of the trauma of the moment I found out that she is no longer with us. It reawakens all of the shock that you believed you had begun to process.
The mind with its fleeting thoughts always wants to process, and move on. But the heart-brain never forgets the emotions that are attached to the sensory experiences of the life lost. If we try to swallow the pain here, we restrict and suppress ourselves - it's not useful to tell ourselves that we’re fine, as it's not fine and our body is damn well telling us that it's not. We surge with a variety of feelings depression, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, irritability, anger, as well as physical symptoms from sleeplessness, unusual dreams, headaches, lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating, or an increase in distressing memories. Embrace the feelings, and think of your beloved with Honour instead of pain. Be at peace with the emotions and do something that your loved one used to love, whether it be grounding in the garden, stopping to smell the roses, humming to their favourite tune, or holding onto a piece of their lives that you still have physically present in yours.
There are many other ways to create physical honour for the person including -
1. Plant a tree in their memory and watch it grow
2. Write them a letter
3. Set aside alone time and give yourself some silence
4. Light a candle and immerse yourself in the glow
5. Give the love that you gave them to a pet
6. Wear something that reminds you of them, may it be in their favourite colour?
7. Give a toast to them at mealtime
8. Set up a memorial - of photos and objects of reminder
9. Go for a walk and mindfully take in all of the sensations
10. Use something that they gave to you
Grief is powerful, but so is honour.
A lot of people refer to grief as a single emotion, when in reality it is the blend of feelings on a range of levels - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is such a powerful response that mirrors the impact of the passing of people of powerful importance in our lives. Just remember it is a natural and normal human response to loss, but it need not be negative. Embrace the sheer rawness of the emotional range of grief, you cannot outsmart something as natural as it. And ignoring its presence or pushing it down or aside to focus on a need to distract, avoid or be busy only heightens the pain, and it will find a way through. Accepting the raw and powerful feelings to flow freely through your body can be unbelievably painful and tumultuous. No matter how extreme the emotions are, like life, we are transient beings, and the hard feelings too will always pass.
So Honour and Embrace the lives and memories of your loved ones who are no longer physically present - it is the greatest tribute that you can give to them and to yourself!