Grief never leaves you. Whether lapping gently at your feet or lifting you up and dumping you hard on the rocks, the waves of grief become a constant in a frighteningly inconstant world.
Sometimes I run from them, investing heavily in life in a bid to drown out the roar of death in my ears.
Sometimes I seek them out, obsessively reading about the grief of others, hoping to find the pieces of my broken heart in the words of strangers.
Sometimes they leap out at me from inside what seemed like a safe and lighthearted distraction.
There’s a lot going on in my life right now, and I am… somewhat vulnerable. So I took refuge in some timeout with William McInnes’ sweet and quirky new book, ‘Holidays’. Which was an excellent move right up until the last four pages, which picked me up and slammed me onto the rocks of grief before I knew they were even there. And then they hugged me, smoothed down my ruffled feathers and placed me gently back into my seat, where I sat, slightly stunned, with tears pouring down my cheeks.
In hindsight they were tears that have been hovering for weeks now. Tears of grief, of fear, of stress. Tears of love, of laughter, and of exhaustion. I knew they were there, but I wasn’t planning to let them out.
Caged tears, though, are as corrosive as flowing tears are cathartic. Far better to have a devious author sneak inside my heart and break open the cage without my consent than to keep trying to pretend the cage wasn’t even there.
There is a kind of camaraderie among the grieving. In McInnes’ book an acquaintance saw his grief and hugged him. I imagine it’s quite likely that this acquaintance has griefs of his own. He knew what he was seeing.
Once, when comforting friends in desperate grief, a fellow comforter looked into my eyes and said “this isn’t new to you, is it?” Grief marks you. It’s a club you never wanted to belong to but can’t possibly leave. But there’s an obscure comfort in knowing, once you’re in it, that it’s not a club of one. That others have been there, are there, and can recognise and even console your haunted heart.
I don’t know how to contact William McInnes, which is a shame, because I would like to be able to thank him. There will be other tears, and other cages, but his book spoke to me today, and they were words I needed to hear.