Delaying Grief by Khanyi Mthimunye
Build walls, to keep the pain out.
It seeps through the cracks of a rushed job.
So I build trenches in my brain,
Fill them with water to drown memories.
I can hear the clock ticking away,
As blood rushes across to send signals.
Prepare! An explosion is imminent.
The muscles and organs are on standby.
No tears now, just anguish at the news,
Yet it’s not time to cry, there will be more.
Falling apart is not an option
Back to coping, being busy, keep smiling…
Attend the distant, virtual goodbye
For a friend you once sat across,
Laughed with, cried and held in your arms.
Now they are no more.
Many of us have experienced one loss after another over the last year and a half – loss of freedoms, loss of physical social contact, loss of income, for some of us loss of jobs, previous roles we regularly had responsibility for, and as covid-19 has come closer, the loss of a future with dear friends as they have succumbed.
It is tempting to bottle it all up, to postpone our grief to some distant destination where we will all be able again to hug and hold each other through the flood of feelings we will let loose. But grief does not really work that way. If we decide to temporarily bury our grief until a more convenient time, it does not mean that it will stay politely private until we decide to exhume what remains. Buried grief does not dissolve and disintegrate. It tends to feed on new pain, and increase the paralysing power of the consolidated combination. It can express itself in physical pains and complaints. It can affect our health.
So, what can we do when we are faced with loss upon loss?
We can begin with acknowledging where we are. This grief is real. It is our grief. We can bravely list all our losses, and decide to grieve one at a time. It is probably best to start with the easiest one, the one that has affected us least.
We can set aside some time each day to acknowledge and express our grief in some way. People are different – some of us will want to cry, scream, shout, punch a pillow, others will want to quietly listen to music, look at photos, write a letter or journal. Let us experiment with various ways to give our grief some air.
We can also seek out others who have gone through the same loss and decide on a ritual we will do together, we do not have to do this on our own.
We recognise that grieving is a difficult journey. We have mentioned some other ideas on an upcoming podcast – keep a lookout for it at https://anchor.fm/thinkthru-talkthru. We also intend to give grief some space on our upcoming Stress Management course. Buried grief adds to our stress levels. We have a choice in how we respond.
Khanyi & Vera