The year 2014: how we all came to understand grief

Posted on April 9, 2014


Oh the strength it gave us.

Death. It took death to make me realise what I have, and how much time is wasted worrying, stressing, internalising, fearing and loathing. Myself mostly.

The finality of it. The seriousness. The tragedy and loss. Grief manifests great strengths and weaknesses, and evidently huge overwhelming waves of love. Or indifference.

First I watched JOSEPH: 89 my grandfather exited in the most profound humane but life long way a human can. Till the bitter end. His mind craved to be understood but his body went before him. When someone’s throat stops being able to swallow, when their kidneys can no longer function and they lose so much weight they are literally skin and bones. Their vulnerability in that moment, the precious appreciation for life – and death – it grabs you. Kicks you in the chest. This is not a movie. This is real. And it’s right in front of you, floating on a morphine cloud.

At the same time, Clare’s sister died. Clare was my fashion police officer in a student TV segment called On The Beat in the uni television show I produced at thirteen years ago. DENNIE: 42 years old. A wonderful person by all accounts; a nurse who travelled the world on cruise ships and left her caring affection in all corners of it.

As if death of a young woman wasn’t enough, Clare bore witness to the awkward passing of her sister, a technical malfunction from the side effects of cancer, disrespectful to describe on here. But it was quick, she said. And thank god for that (her words). The family, grief-stricken, frustrated, mourning but prepared spent the last year ticking off activities and adventures on a bucket list that saw them go to Glastonbury Festival and tour the UK in a camper van.

To celebrate her life, she and her family are going to Africa this summer.. a final tribute to honour a soul who saw it all.

Around the same time, ANNE: 49 passed away suddenly in her bed. Also a sufferer of cancer it was the light that took her not the disease. The mother of Vicki, Caitlin and Callum. Anne was a young mum to Vicki who became one of my dearest friends in 1996/7 when we were both about 15. Her Mum, if I remember rightly, was around 34 at the time – the age we are now strangly. Vicky’s and my common interest: raving. But it went deeper than that. We clicked. Our passion for things more complex than music and piss taking, saw us putting the world to rights with her mum, a sociologist from the university of life, an A Level subject I did a year or two later in college, so inspired was I about social issues and the need for change (and those earlier conversations about things I’d previously known little about).

Vicki, the person with the greatest hardships (her extraordinarily bright but wheelchair bound daughter just one of them) just sent me her speech from a bedroom tax rally in Hyde Park yesterday. The girl who had her first born at 18 and known well for her political frustrations, rants on twitter, and first hand experience of an in-just system – the girl who took on Surrey County Council to fight for right for her daughter to go to the best school for her specific needs; is going into politics. Politics needs a fresh face. Perhaps a woman, 34, mouthy, funny, charismatic, a heart as big as the world wide web, a girl who doesn’t suffer fools gladly (a bit like Anne). VICKI has channelled her grief into the ultimate goal. To fight for injustice. Her inspiration and kick up the backside? The death of her mentor. Her mum.

A few days later, my best friend from school gave birth to the beautiful but premature Lily. They were immensely proud parents, her and husband, and they had a precious half an hour with her before she sadly passed away.

I don’t think you can compare grief or how someone dies as its all relative. It’s all loss. But to have to let go of the hopes and dreams of a new life, unable to fulfil its potential – a little person you will never get to know. Memories you shan’t have. That seems the most unfair of all. But I didnt know Lily or Denny, my grandad was old and I had been expecting it, and my memories of Anne were from the 90s. My grief over those weeks was for my friends mostly, sharing their pain.

JAMES, 29 died two Sunday’s ago.

James I didn’t know very well at all if you count the amount of times we’d met. But if you count the quality of those times, then convention flies out the window. And I thought there would be more ‘times’, given a smattering more serendipity. It seemed almost a given. So I’m ever so grateful for the short time I’d had getting to know him. It’s gotten to me in a most perculiar way. I feel so much for his family and close friends back home, a group of people i’ve never met but have spoken to about some of the deepest, saddest, loveliest things online since. My heart literally breaks for them.

Every day it catches me, James is actually dead.

He meant something to me beyond just a cool guy who was good friends with my brother, who I spent two hours laughing my head off with on his first day in Bangkok.

And now what he’s taught me, is far more precious and dare I say – bodacious – than anything I had already had the pleasure of realising.

Life is short.

I don’t always appreciate what I have.

I procrastinate. Emotionally.

Too much time is spent giving energy to the wrong people. The wrong headspaces.

There is no such thing as destiny. Or fate. Life just is, what it is.

You can’t control (or beat) nature.

Life is cruel. Twisted. Unpredictable.


Life is Magical. It’s a miracle.

Life can feel magical. If we want it to.

I really want it to be.

Posted in: Journal