August 6, 2020

The Stubbornness of Grief

Provoking the slumbering beast

In Iceland, between the hailstorms

In Iceland, between the hailstorms


More days have rolled on.

I decided to escape the familiar comfort-bubble of Brighton and made the pilgrimage up to rural North Wales for some mountain therapy. Kim and I loved the mountains. The rolling green hills, glassy lakes and occasional rugged coastline offered us a quiet escape from our busy city lives. Being in beautiful places with each other, in complete isolation, was our meditation.

When I’d proposed to Kim in late 2018, I’d made every effort to ensure we’d be as far away from people as possible. Two flights, a ferry and a little motor-boat away, to be exact — up in Arctic Norway. I was devastated when we’d passed a single solitary fisherman on an island that our host had dropped us off at, so I insisted we walk to the opposite end before I considered getting down on one soggy knee.

A moment truly for ourselves.

A photo I took, moments before the proposal

A photo I took, moments before the proposal


The “relative calm” I described in my previous post has not diminished. I’ve been sleeping full, undisturbed nights. My appetite remains. I laugh genuinely at jokes, and I can talk openly about memories of Kim, as I would if she were still here.

Countless of our mutual friends message me frequently, and we talk at length about the overwhelming waves of grief they’ve been experiencing that day, or about how incapable they are of fulfilling even the simplest tasks. And yet I continue, unperturbed.

I try wholeheartedly to connect with my grief. I continue to scroll through the backlog of photos and videos. I listen to our songs. I think about all of the beautiful things we experienced, and yet still, I continue as “normal”. I question my emotional capacity — how on earth could I love someone so absolutely, and now in the imminent weeks following their death, I’m doing OK?

And then, the other night, whilst sat listening to the sombre tones of Michael Kiwanuka, over a nice Welsh ale, a friend asked me a very simple question:

“Do you miss her?”

On face value, this seems like a ridiculous question. Of course, I miss her. How could I not? I know how much I love her. I married her. We were about to start trying for a family. Even practically speaking, her death is hugely inconvenient. I now have an entire mortgage to contend with. Our car to pay off. Our outstanding wedding debt.

Of course, I miss her...

Seeing me looking slightly perplexed, he followed up:

“Sorry, that’s a really stupid question”

But actually, it wasn’t.

It was an obvious question, sure, but all of a sudden, it became clear that this certainly was not a stupid one.

For the first time in weeks, my mind became totally still. The heavy fog lifted, and behind it: Kim, bright as the sun — as vivid as real life. She was sat next to me on the sofa, curled up, laughing and chatting, swigging from her own Welsh ale. How utterly beautiful she looked. How I longed to reach out and stroke her hair, to kiss her on the cheek.

And then came the dreadful realisation. It wasn’t a sudden release of emotion, rather, it started as a low rumble, like an ominous thunderstorm beginning to form on the horizon. And then it began to grow. The distant rumbles drew closer. The storm clouds began to rise, rearing high into the sky, consuming it whole and blotting out the sun. And then came the lashing rain, and the rising tide and the crashing waves. And the terrifying forks of lightning tearing across the sky. And then it was upon me, and at that moment, I began to feel my throat close up, my vision became blurry, my heart was beating like a drum in my chest. In this imaginary world, I suddenly felt completely powerless against the utter devastation of the sadness that was bearing down on me...

And then I snapped back into the room. The storm clouds dissipated into nothingness — the “skies” calm once again. Kim wasn’t there. My friend was looking at me, slightly concerned. I was still holding my beer. And the record was still spinning in the corner.

And then I took a deep breath, and I gathered myself.

And I sat quietly, pondering — in awe of the incomprehensible vastness of my grief that I’d just glimpsed.

Since that moment, I’ve thought long and hard about my perception of grief. In the immediate days following Kim’s death, I found solace when reading an anonymous post on the internet; describing grief as 100ft waves which appear suddenly and without mercy, triggered by a familiar song, or a shared memory, that leave you tumbling in the wreckage of your loved one, clinging on to debris and gasping for air.

I get the impression that this is how a lot of people experience grief. But for me, this does not yet resonate. How can I be caught off guard by a memory of Kim if my mind is consumed by her every minute of the day?

It seems to me that my grief is always present. Almost like the sun. For now, it mostly lies dormant — I seldom reach it, but I know it’s there. I can feel it’s immense gravity pulling me in always, keeping me in its orbit. And occasionally, I get hints of its sheer destructive power, like a solar flare rolling away from the surface and consuming me wholly, briefly, before I continue on my path.


However you attempt to interpret it, for me, there is one thing that’s becoming more clear as time goes on: that grief is stubborn.

It will not behave in a way that you want it to. You can’t just access it on-demand. You can’t rush it.

Instead, I think, you must just continue forwards. Eat food. Exercise. Rest. Be consoled by those moments where you can laugh genuinely — don’t feel guilt.

But when grief does appear in all of it’s paralysing, solemn glory, succumb to it. Embrace it, even. Your mind is done processing the next batch of sadness and is ready to deliver it unapologetically upon you, wherever you may be.

And know that the grief only hurts as much as it does, because the love is so magnificently real.

Powered by Hugo & Kiss.