The Thaw

Death is ugly. Death is final. Death is cruel. Death is precious. Death is beautiful. Death has a silver lining.

There is a stillness that settles inside you when the worst thing happens, when death arrives to your world. No one mentions it, at least I have never heard it mentioned, this place of internal hush. Perhaps those stricken, those who bear the brunt of the tragedy, believe that to describe it would be sacrilege, but there is a certain stillness and clarity that comes with the shock of death. Strength too.

When the news came through, I heard a disembodied voice speak clearly: ‘You can do this. You can navigate it.’ It might even have been a voice I knew.

I told the person into whose care I been assigned. I told her the words were spoken softly but firmly. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she told me. ‘You have not been given a test, you have been given a tragedy.’

To feel still at a time of raw desolation can be taken it for madness. It isn’t. It’s the opposite. It is clear sightedness. It is a pure voice that tells you it’s ok, that you can, that you will. It is a voice as real and true as the one you will never again hear.

And then it disappears. Grief, madness, rage, anger, depression, despondency, pity, fear, cowering wretchedness, it all troops in, jostling for space and attention. And it must be attended to – whether you want to or not. I have learned to attend to grief’s tantrum, if not, I will lose that occasional, magical, blessed moment of lucidity.

At the beginning, that moment of stillness consisted of one minute per month when I rose from sleep as clear as the dawn. Then it became five minutes snatched from a week of hopelessness, when, perhaps walking on a cliff, I would feel my heart as free as the soaring fulmars.

The stillness is never far off, it is under the surface, like water under a thin film of ice on a lake in winter. The thing is, though, grief is a long, long winter with ice so hard and thick that the stillness is difficult to access. My relatives in Canada tell me the most dangerous winter weather is a quick thaw followed by a hard freeze, the sort of weather when the pavements are so slick with ice that it is dangerous to walk on them. So it is with grief, there are thaws and freezes, and thaws and freezes, sheets of ice that encase you, almost protectively, until they aren’t needed any more and the grief melts for good.

5 thoughts on “The Thaw

  1. Your way with words, especially dealing with the topic of death, is just the truest, filled with the emotions we who have grieved have felt but couldn’t express, thankyou, xx


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