Grief is something most people experience at some point in their lives. For most of us, our first encounter with it is the loss of a pet or a grandparent. For me, it was my grandad when I was 11. I still remember being the one who picked up the phone that day to hear my dad at the other end of the line telling me the news.
The events two weeks ago will stay with me forever, but so will my experience of grief itself. It's like riding a wave, where the ups are tremendous and peppered with joyful memories from the past along with renewed zest for life, but the downs are low, low, and painful. And embarrassing (who wants their colleagues and peers to see their faces blotched and tear stained?). When you're riding the wave with other people on the same wave, that's fine. Crying and laughing in quick succession becomes strangely natural. The challenge is when those around you are not on the wave, because the event is not something that has affected them. What does one say? What does one say during either the ups or the downs? 'Keep your chin up' (How very British). 'Work today was the worst thing ever' (hmmm. Perhaps choose your audience when making such comments). 'I'd feel better by being there for you' (this is ok but not if you're making me feel worse in the process). Maybe I'm being harsh....
Those who know me will know these last couple of weeks have been more challenging than I could ever imagine thanks to the recent deaths of, and serious injuries to, some of my closest friends ('Tier one', one might say). The only comfort was that at least I had annual leave that week to be with my friends, to laugh and cry together, and to be able to do things like go on a hospital visit and attend funerals.
But then, all falls silent.
The rota waits for no-one, and I was back at work this week. One email I received this week congratulated me on 'feeling ready to return to work'. Hmmm. Was I ready? Well, my lovely friends wouldn't thank me for sitting on my bum sobbing away, and the good thing about being a doctor is that going to work at least seems to be a useful thing to do. Work keeps you busy, but it is merely a shield. The weekend comes. You go to church. The first hymn is Be Thou My Vision. Cue - total meltdown.
|For my wonderful friends, Una Finnegan and Rachel Majumdar, and my other beautiful friend still in hospital. xxx|
But what has been AMAZING is the love and support from so, so, so many people. Random messages and emails from people who knew them, who didn't know them, who had a suspicion that I knew them, and every message so kind. I know it sounds silly but it was genuinely so helpful to know that people were supporting us. Friends' families opened their doors and gave us somewhere to stay, food, hugs, a cheesy film to watch and transport PRN. It has been a tremendously warming experience amidst the sadness of it all. I can only hope my friends' parents and families have felt this warmth also.
So I may not know much about grief, but I'll tell you, it's unpredictable and unbearable. But what joy to know how much you can love someone, and love those around you. So I'm going to keep loving people, and should the time ever come that someone needs me like I need my friends right now, they are going to feel so loved they won't know what to do.