Blurring: Grief’s Stages are Personal, Random and Unexpected.

There is an awful lot of black and white thinking when it comes to suffering, the stages of grief, bereavement and more generalised sadness. It is as if, in some people’s minds, there are sharp distinctions between the confusing multiplicity of human emotions, and each stage should be traversed in its proper order and at a specific time.

To me, the subtlety, the individual nature of woe and the personality and life story of the grieving human make for a canvas which is far more pointillist, impressionistic, even blurred, than some might wish to believe. There are no black outlines; the centre is not blinding white or a neat and recognisable shape of primary colour. Instead, green merges with blue (from which, of course, it originally derived – at least in part) and orange snuggles into black.

This weekend, I have been feeling sad. There are many reasons. Part of it is the stage of the virus I have reached – a general draining of joie de vivre, a heaviness of limbs, a catarrhal blockage of sinuses and a disinclination to do much (which I am fighting). Part of it is, I suspect, the stage I am approaching in my weeping and healing, pain and release, aftermath of 2016’s vicissitudes. Part of it is, no doubt, the shock of starting back as a teacher after so long – and the germs picked up as a result of my unready immune system.

But a large slice of the unhappiness pie comes from the parts of my life I do not share on this blog. I am open and honest about my experiences and emotions; I do not lie per se – but there are omissions; there are areas I choose not to visit in public – and other areas which return, from time to time, for a reason and prompted by external stimuli.

I think we are all aware of the power of triggers in our lives – but perhaps we forget how peculiar, almost unconnected, they can be. We assume that time heals (which it does – to some extent) and that the immediacy of a traumatic event will fade eventually.

But, given the unmapped nature of so much of the mind, given our poor understanding of cerebral processes and the true link between body and mind, I am increasingly sure that we are, as often as not, blundering blind in the dark and making assumptions, parroting populist wisdom, about matters as arcane and confusing as the internet would be to our cave-person forebears!

What law is it – do tell me! – that states, unequivocally, that we should get through, and out of, the tunnel of trauma in a certain time scale (and often in order to please someone else)? What process it is that dictates that love is white and hatred black – and never the twain shall meet? What greater mind is so absolutely rock-solid certain of being right that no blurring of the edges, no ambiguity, no human frailty, is allowed?

I would love to be that sure, that black-and-white, that disdainful of life’s essential blurring – and I would hate it too! Because, surely, it is our blurring, our human uncertainty, our willingness to think outside the box, our ability to admit we might be mistaken that fosters empathy, compassion, true humanity and growth (however excruciating). It is our openness to a wide range of possibilities that makes us creative; that stops us from judging others through the narrow prism of a strict set of rules; that allows us to see that grief is infinite in its range, its scope, its duration, that it can ebb and flow, drift off for years and then return as sharp and devastating as ever; that loving someone dearly does not prevent the flashes of loathing – and that moving on physically cannot stop the wheel of necessary sadness, and the feelings of intense loss for that which is gone, from turning and cutting.

An adamantine mind is not automatically a sign of strength; it can reveal a worrying rigidity and inability to back down. A blurred mind does not necessarily indicate inherent weakness; it could equally well show flexibility and willingness to compromise.

I have never been comfortable with thinking in black and white, have always preferred the mysterious, and oddly comforting, blurred and misty realms of the in-between shades: The varieties of colour, the greys.

I have long been sucked into the psycho-babble nonsense that implies a mind like mine is synonymous with weakness – and, for all I know, equates to the most egregious moral turpitude!

It isn’t – and it doesn’t!


10 thoughts on “Blurring: Grief’s Stages are Personal, Random and Unexpected.

  1. Julie

    You are right, our lives and experiences are beset by doubts, contradictions and sometime even some degree of neurosis.
    Life, as a rule, is rarely simple and our emotions change along the path of time. So there are no fixed patterns or even definite answers for much of what we experience in our lives.
    But because life is so complex, so full of grey areas, and because we are almost always in a challenging state of emotional and mental tension, it is important, even crucial I think, to establish some bearings along the way, lest we get lost and never progress… What do I mean by bearings? I mean making a conscious effort to avoid the blurred lines and the grey zones of our inner experiences where we risk getting sucked in. Novelists are masters at describing our grey and blurred inner world, but they often say that they write about them in order to be in control of them!
    Suffering is like an ocean: too large and too deep. If we are to survive, we must find a boat and dry land… Unless we do, everywhere we look is fear and sadness.
    Even Jesus, as aware as he was of the complexity of human suffering, did rely on some solid/clear values and ideas to help people cope with their suffering. And when the suffering was too brutal for words or deeds, he himself fell back on Faith… ( Father, why have you forsaken me?). Faith: the recognition of endless despair but with the strength of an emotional connection in the mist of darkness; the miraculous human creation of a bolt of light in the world’s deepest darkness! Was Jesus arrogant or mislead? You decide.
    In order to help others and help ourselves, we must find a clearer path in a deeply relativistic world as well as in the grey jungle of our feelings. I believe that sharing our experiences and feelings, as diverse and contradictory as they are, help us discover our own path and who we want to become. Without the help of other’s maps ( or books or art or wisdom or simply the comfort of a smile) we cannot progress and work on who we want to become. It is up to us to decide what will help or not.
    Let’s choose wisely…

    P.S: Steve Hewlett ( Radio4) has died this morning… I feel angry, sad and frightened. There you go: feelings have the last word as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you are saying. I just have a different way of saying it: people want to put things in a category. In the box, this one or that one. But life is grey and on the border of this and that. And all of us move through the different paths and experiences to evolve at our own pace. And, if you shoot Freud and the types, life is pretty tolerant.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so hate the professional ‘tick box’ or ‘time frame’. Every one of us is different, we each deal with our life’s traumas in different ways, but at the end of the day (and I so hate that cliche actally) we emerge from the other end, albeit battered, bruised, cynical or angry, but we refuse to be beaten. It took years for me to accept I as on to a loser, being used for what I could do and give, not loved for the person I was. It took a complete breakdown to wake me up, but I turned it round, rebuilt my life and when I was fit, I left. And I left knowing that absolutely nothing I could do, there, then or in the future, would make any difference to how he felt about me. Besides, he was no longer worth the effort or my time, and I was through wasting my life with him.
    Hubby knows me better than anyone, even Bro who I am closest to in my family, but even Hubby doesn’t know everything about that time. His attitude is that our lives started the day we met, and we have built one together since that day. I don’t know everything about him either, but if he wanted to tell me, then he would. It doesn’t affect ‘Us’, that unit of trust that began in a pub on May 10th 1989.

    Liked by 2 people

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