How Grief Distorts Time

Losing your love throws the earth off its axis. It fundamentally shifts your entire universe. Your whole world is ripped apart, the ground beneath your feet shaken so hard that you don’t even know how to stand anymore. Losing your love so early in life is beyond words… your past, present and future has vanished in the blink of an eye. There’s a seismic shift so beyond words that even time itself is reconfigured. It’s not only the earth that’s out of sync, you fall out of sync.

Time doesn’t move and flow in the same way after loss. We are used to time being linear but death rips time and space apart at the seams. You’re stuck in the moment it happened yet it feels like it was an entire lifetime ago… yesterday, yet five years. It’s so raw yet you’re sometimes unsure if it really happened at all. Two seconds ago, yet you’re frozen in time. A discrepancy starts to appear in the fabric of time for you… how does it feel like it just happened yet so long ago?

Grief lives in the everyday. It lives within us… becomes a part of our DNA. Grief isn’t a one-time event where we feel sad and recover, it’s not an anniversary or a funeral, it’s a whole-body experience and we carry it everywhere we go. Grief lives in the day-to-day missing of them, the vacuum their loss has created in our lives… so maybe this surreal feeling of time being changed grows out of that; the space between living grief every day and realising it has been years that you’ve been living with it. Grief lives in the moment their food is no longer in the fridge, the moment when we can’t text them at work, when their toothbrush is missing. Time and time again. Day after day. Grief is fluid, it moves and changes with us throughout life… it is so much more than the initial shock, it reverberates through every part of life, nothing is left untouched… even time itself.

You fall out of sync, out of time, out of belonging. When something as fundamental as time itself shifts… it’s hard to find your footing again in life. When my love died, I was 26. I’m now 31 and yet a lot of me still feels frozen in time, stuck at the age of 26. My life stood still for such a long time that even though the universe keeps moving, keeps unfolding at rapid pace… I’m stuck in the middle of the haze. You try to steady your feet, to find an equilibrium, but the fact is your life has changed, the core of your entire universe has altered. Grief even changes your basic senses. You won’t eat the same again, sleep the same again, breathe the same again. Your life becomes divided between before and after loss. You will regain a lot, as time moves forward your grief will too and it becomes intertwined within you but very much a part of you. We rebuild. We search for new foundations… but we also have to acknowledge that the foundations that grief destroyed weren’t just our home. Just like René Magritte’s painting… it was the universe that was thrown off its axis. We have to rebuild the sky, the clouds, the very stability that our world was built on.

I write this in the hope to not only speak to those who have lost their partner so you know you’re not alone… but for those close to us too. Many of our friends think we’re rebuilding a house, a home that was bulldozed.  We’re rebuilding the whole sky… from scratch.

(Picture – The Universe Unmasked, René Magritte)


Grief looks like me

I was the picture of grief in the earliest days, when the shock left me unable to walk and breathing ached. Grief looked like me when I’d burst out crying in public or when my mum had to desperately force feed me. Today is 2 years 9 months since my Marky died and today grief looks like me. I carry it with me always. Grief looks like me when I do my eyeliner perfectly and my hair is shiny. Grief looks like me when I talk to friends and laugh with my whole body. My grief is ongoing just as my love is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a comment that actress Holly Matthews made in an interview about losing her husband… ‘Grief looks like me’. Grief looks like anything you can possible imagine. Sometimes you might look like a depressed wailing heap on the floor (and trust me I have been there and I am the Queen of crying on public transport!) but sometimes you put your makeup on and go to work and smile, interact with the world seamlessly and no one knows how much you’re battling to survive. I always liked that quote… Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Today marks 1005 days of grieving. 1005 since my love died and these days people look at me slightly oddly when I say I am grieving or have had a bad grief day, as if the act of grieving was a static place in time and I should be past that now. I know many widows who wish for the Victoria era of black mourning clothes so we can tell the world that we feel fragile, yet so far along in this journey I would be looked at quite oddly even in Victorian times for still wearing my black veil. I believe grief is something you carry with you for life… it gets easier to handle and feels lighter at times, a huge dull weight at others and sometimes you learn a new way of carrying it. It changes shape constantly and fluctuates but you carry it with you always… ‘Some things in life cannot be fixed, they can only be carried’ writes Megan Divine. My love died utterly suddenly and unexpectedly. Within one minute his life stopped and my entire universe changed and I will always carry this with me as I love him, it matters, it hurts. He was magical and he was beautiful and our lives will forever be deeply intertwined. Yet in our culture when the supposed time for grieving has passed, people don’t understand why or how you are still grieving or how much it effects every part of your life. It is not something to be scared of but to embrace. If you have a friend who has lost someone, ask them how they are today, mention their loves name because it will help. Death is such a natural part of life yet we run scared of it rather than embracing the pain. Sometimes we need to embrace the pain. We want to say their names and tell their stories. We want to smile at those memories but we also want to cry when it stabs us unexpectedly. We want to share it with you on the bad days and the good, but we’re stuck in a culture that tries to shut down pain.

Today you will have passed strangers in the street who have just lost someone, friends who lost their parent a few years back, colleagues who lost their best friend 10 years ago and for no reason at all, today their grief might have hurt just that little bit more… whether on day 1 or 1005. Grief looks like us all because grief is a natural part of life, we need to stop running from it and open ourselves up to the idea that grief lives with us, not opposite.

On Fear

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I am terrified of the outside world. My senses are heightened… I have formed a fragility towards the world. I feel completely cut off from the living world and when it comes too near I panic. Death permeates all I can feel… grief is my home, grief is my only comfort and I want to cocoon myself in it and never leave this place where time does not move forward. The pain kills my brain cells, renders me unable to move, removes my ability to feel anything other than the all-consuming nature of this. Yet the opposite is so unimaginable that I would rather stay in the darkness where my grief connects me to my love. It is impossible to explain the terror of a world that so suddenly became so unstable, so lost, so opposite of everything I ever held in my heart and soul as truth. Suddenly my life line is missing. I am missing. The ground crumbled beneath me, leaving me unable to breathe, leaving me bare. I have no fear of death because I want to die… I have a fear of the living world around me, constantly buzzing with a pulse that wants to devour everything I ever trusted and wants to rush this new existence into formation. I reject it. Grief is love, I caress the pain and call it my home.

I have never been someone who sought peaceful places… I like noise, hearing trains and busy city centres. I always have music playing. It is only since this happened that I have wanted peace and quiet. I finally felt some sort of sense of relief when I wondered round my home cemetery. I will go to my loves grave whenever I am in the country, but I found it could be any cemetery that allows me to breathe. I need peace, a place away from the outside world… a place that understands death and where the whole ground is made for mourning.

“I see what grief does, how it strips you bare, shows you all the things you don’t want to know. That loss doesn’t end, that there isn’t a moment where you are done, when you can neatly put it away and move on.”
– Elizabeth Scott, Heartbeat