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Celebrating loves, lives lost

Published: 
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

My mother died at 83, one month before Christmas Day in 2009, my father at 80, six weeks before Christmas Day in 1990.

In 1987, my brother was murdered two months before Christmas and his 35th birthday (December 31); my elder brother died just after his 59th birthday in June 2007, and I have registered many more losses.

Every celebration, each milestone, all accomplishments are marked by the grief of not having those closest to me present to participate, and each time my response is different.

There is no way to know which birthday, death anniversary, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day would shift me into zones of sorrow.

There is no telling how I would respond to whatever betides on those days or on an ordinary day when I reflect on one of my family members gone, never to be seen or heard again.

I cannot explain to anyone how my greatest longing is to hear my mother’s voice one more time—the raucous laugh with the trail hanging on, the quarrelsome tones when her English became impeccable, the disdainful way she pronounced on an offending situation.

I don’t always react openly to my grief but it’s always there and I feel entitled to it.

We all must deal with loss and each do so differently – whether it is death of a loved one, lost jobs, or marriages.

How we deal with it is a private matter. (Notwithstanding, it should include an intervention if one is needed.)

But no one can regulate grief.

For example, I had promised my mother that I would remain stoic during her death and burial—I don’t recommend such a promise be made—but I pledged within a context we shared and I was able to keep my promise.

I never felt like I had cried over losing her, though.

Then on the first anniversary of her death I answered the phone, heard her sister’s voice and cried inconsolably for almost 15 minutes.

It was only then I realised I had walked around with a vice-like grip in my chest for an entire year!

That’s the nature of grief says Lynne Hughes on huffingtonpost.com.

“People who are grieving may feel even more pain in year two because the initial numbness, which often serves as a protective barrier at the onset of loss, has worn off and they begin experiencing the full intensity of their feelings and grief.

This is accompanied by the realisation that life with loss is their ‘new normal’.”

For many for whom living with loss is the new normal, the holidays could be especially brutal and we who surround them should be sensitive to their feelings and experience. We need to respect as well, their right to grieve when and where they want to so do.

Some of us can still celebrate while grieving. I have become one of those who can hold a glass up to the memory of my parents with a deep sense of love and loss, but still celebrate them.

 

My brothers have both died and it’s still confusing that Raphael could have been dead at 34.

That Romany only made it to 59 is still haunting, but I think of how much adversity he (Romany) faced and defied and I am thankful for knowing them both.

You may have seen the Facebook post, which I find helpful in appreciating grief.

It says: “So I would like to remind you that there are people for whatever reason are not looking forward to Christmas. Some people are not surrounded by large wonderful families.”

It goes on to say: “Some of us have problems during the holidays and are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us any longer.

“For many it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one and many others lost loved ones at Christmas.”

And quite apart from personal, private grief, many agree that right now in T&T we should all don sackcloth or whatever fits the religious rites we observe and besiege all that is holy in the universe to intervene to abate the national grief that we feel.

Men, women and children have met violent, unintended deaths on our roads, in their homes, on the streets, in the most-unexpected places, to an alarming number, and worse than that, in frightening manner.

A collective heartache hovers above our intended celebrations demanding that we each become patient with how others choose to grieve.

Hughes writes: “Grief is… an emotional handicap you get up, and live with, every day. It doesn’t mean you can’t lead a happy life, but it is a choice, and takes work.

“Grief will take on different forms in different people. Not everyone cries; others cry all the time. Others talk about it a lot.”

Some remain silent. Whichever way, we are each entitled to our response.

Today, I raise a toast to all loves lost, in life and in death.

 

• Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media practitioner with over 30 years of proficiency. She holds an MA in Mass Communications and is pursuing the MSc in Public Health (MPH) from The UWI. Write to: [email protected]

For many for whom living with loss is the new normal, the holidays could be especially brutal and we who surround them should be sensitive to their feelings and experience. We need to respect as well, their right to grieve when and where they want to so do.

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