Grief is the familiar monster friend that’s on your back. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe until someone is graduated into it when their beloved dies. You never want anyone to experience it, but you appreciate those who have done because it’s the silent nods, the tacit awareness that they get it. They get why some days you’re good, and something as mundane as seeing a packet of biscuits, takes your breath away. They also know that the short and long end of it is grief fucking sucks.
The fear of loss, and experiencing it, is something that shifted my outlook on life. That’s what I mean by ‘my little grief manifesto’ – the version of me and my code of conduct after Nani died. Grief is why:
1// We are unmarried to suffering.
I’m on a mission to get laughing lines. It’s not everyday “be serious” – it’s more doing something every day that makes my heart beam. It’s not even doing something bold and dramatic, but just something that makes me happy. Oh and I take way too many pictures than I used to, I’m that friend who does candids and forces everyone into a group photo before we leave.
2// We find peace in seeking joy.
Not every day trauma or trauma bonding. The content I consumed changed. I haven’t picked up watching The Handsmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead since. Rewatching sitcoms I loved felt like wearing comfy slippers that you should really bin but you adore. I can’t watch a lot of traumatic stuff in my personal time, it’s why I’ve gravitated towards the silliness.
3// We have boundaries.
I have this both professionally and personally too. After quitting a very traumatising organisation, I adopted this punk ass attitude that “I’m not gonna come and die for my job.” So boundaries are important. It also made me direct with people. I’ve stepped into my power.
4// We hate the Tories more.
When I was processing my grief, I realised that I wasn’t just thinking about the person I love, but processing all the people along the way, who added unnecessary stress when caring for my beloved. You can’t ever unsee inequalities in accessing care, especially palliative care. And in the arts, you can see how austerity has conditioned some of you to be total knobs. I can understand why but shit situations don’t entitle you to be a dickhead to others.
5// We consistently check in.
When people get busy, they don’t do that. This is especially in a work setting – things get really transactional and it’s quite dehumanising. Grief is why I don’t start any conversation without saying “how are you?” I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know for sure that this is my non-negotiable.
6// We say what you have to with your WHOLE chest.
I say what I have to say because life is too short to be indirect, and to hope that people pick up subtle hints. I hate to be emotionally constipated and wouldn’t want to deny myself joy. Grief has made me so much more expressive.
7// We loudly love our chosen family.
Oh God, I have definitely become more of a melt. And I’m so loud about it too. I love love. I give people their flowers. I’m not waiting for the Grim Reaper to come along for me to tell people how much I love them and why. You’ll know where you stand with me.
Two years on, grief feels like it’s something that you work with. It’s plastic and malleable in that way. I actually started writing this thing a few weeks ago because I was pottering around, and realised that it would be Nani’s death anniversary soon. And that a month afterwards, it would be my birthday, and two months after, her’s. Time goes by that quickly. That gravestone marker on my calendar made me reflect – as it would do for anyone. It brought seasons 1-5 versions of me to the red table 😂
It’s bittersweet. I don’t know if pre-grief and grief changed my personality, or just enhanced or surfaced what was already there. My life and work situation had changed since Nani’s passing. I know that Alhamdulillah, I am lucky and grateful to be where I am now, and I wake up knowing that I am loved and held by others. But what I also know is that I miss Nani. I wish they were still here. I wish she got to see this version of me.