Alternative title: I’m in the midst of a grief fueled bawling session right in the middle of the GP’s waiting room … And that’s ok.
I can’t stop it …Trust me I tried, well, kind of … But instead of managing to calm my system down I was merely managing choked sobs, the tears still fell, my body still shook, I wiped my nose on my sleeve (disgusting I know but the tissues were long gone and I was scared to move in case I locked myself in the toilets and missed my appointment while howling at the sanitary bin). One by one my fellow patients stood and moved as far away from me as they could, the men folding their arms and looking at the board detailing symptoms for STI’s as though it was the new “War and Peace“, the women tapping each other on the arms and whispering, possibly debating Brexit or something equally topical (not that I could hear them over my sniffles) … Not wanting to look, but watching all the same.
In the past waiting rooms and I have had a rather turbulent relationship (or rather, waiting rooms and my Anxiety have had a rather turbulent relationship) in which every cell in my body would be telling me to run screaming from the room as though I’d just encountered a hoard of rabid squirrels feasting on the old dear who had arrived for a simple flu jab. But this time, this time was different, there was no Anxiety whittering on in my ear, no visions of rabid squirrels or blue rinse … Just the dull ache in my chest as each beat my heart took added pressure to the broken parts of it, the sound of Heart radio playing music my dad would often be found listening and singing along (badly) to, the feeling of resignation as I sat side by side with my grief.
It didn’t matter that people were watching this vulnerable moment, it didn’t matter that they had scattered rather than attempt to comfort, it didn’t matter that my arse was numb (those seats are far more uncomfortable than I realised), it just didn’t matter.
It didn’t matter, because I had no reservations about just accepting the situation as it was … My counsellor* has been advocating the use of crying when the need to takes over as part of the healing process (be it at the supermarket, in the queue for the bog at Starbucks or in the GP’s crowded waiting room) and while I was originally reticent to allow the floodgates to open at the drop of a hat (or, more specifically, the sight of a particular beanie hat) I went with it.
Instead of bottling up the pain as I usually would have done then placing it alongside the other times I’d bottled up an emotion (I have an emotional brewery to rival even the most entrepreneurial of booze makers), I simply let it happen … I would ugly cry my way through it. And I mean, ugly cry. I ain’t dainty when I’m sobbing let me tell you! I let it all hang out.
Obviously this must be a disconcerting sight for those around me as I can go from dry eyed to blubbering mess within 3 seconds now … Which incidentally would be completely astonishing to the old me who would have searched for the nearest place in which to shy away from people and to cry alone. Hiding the emotions from public view as though they were something to be ashamed of, as though it was something no one should ever see you do. Ewwww, emotions!
But the fact is that grief just hits you … One minute you’re totally fine, pottering about with your badger slippers on, cleaning your ears (though not with cotton buds, dangerous things them) or whatever mundane thing life needs you to do, the next minute you’re sitting on the kitchen floor bawling because you absentmindedly put 2 sugars in your tea (I don’t take sugar in my tea, my dad always took 2). You don’t really get a say in it, it’s not as though you can arrange it one morning as you would do with a dentist appointment (though dentist appointments are about as rare as rocking horse shit nowadays … And no, I still don’t floss, I forget to ok?!), it’s not as though grief will check it’s diary and mutter “wellllll, I suppose I could fit you in for a quick blub during the ad break on Emmerdale” (like you aren’t all glued to that right now? The story lines are pretty darned epic for a change). No, grief is a sneaky turd who will wait until you think you have shit together and then slap you in the face for no reason other than the fact it feels like it.
I keep getting told that it won’t always be like this, eventually it will be a civilized affair in which grief will rock up for a cup of coffee to discuss a memory (be it happy or sad) but won’t throw you into an emotional spiral and end up howling because the pain searing through you feels too much to bear. That eventually the sadness will be there, but it won’t be as raw … It will all take time. And the amount of time will vary from person to person and be dependent on the relationship they had with the person.
When my dad died I stopped listening to music, because a love of music was something we shared. We had the same taste in music, we enjoyed the same bands, we would randomly sing lyrics at each other …. I was the weird kid at school who picked Alice Cooper over Take That because of his influence. He would spend evening upon evening with headphones on listening to music, drinking a glass of whiskey and insisting that we (whoever was nearest to him) have a quick listen to the song he had just found from his youth. It was as though the love I had for music just dissolved the moment he took his last breath.
Slowly though, with my counsellor’s advice of “let him into your life” still ringing in my ears I have been putting on the headphones and listening to a few songs that mean something … I started with the song that was playing as we darted to the hospital on December 31st … I started with “Placebo – Song to say Goodbye” (yeah, I know – it was as though the CD player knew what we were facing that day … Still can’t listen to it without having a cry).
I can’t escape music … And I’m now finding that I don’t want to escape it either.
It is ok, not to be ok.
It is ok to cry.
It’s also ok to ugly cry in the middle of the supermarket over a packet of scotch eggs.
And it’s definitely ok to howl your way through a rendition of “Song to say Goodbye”.
PS – If you (or someone you know) has been (or is being) affected by Cancer, then I can highly recommend Macmillan – they are amazing folks!
*I should point out that I was supposed to be seeing my counsellor (on the advice of a Psych Doc) for OCPD and OCD but things just went supernova while I was on the waiting list, so while I’m not in bereavement counselling as such (as usually they wait 6 mths before referring you for this) we do tend to talk an awful lot about death, grief, the human existence and how you navigate the absence of a lost loved one.
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