Not to be a Debby Downer, but this post is about death and grief. It may be a trigger for some, so please consider this the warning label.
I listened to a podcast recently which has lingered. It was one of the most profound, insightful interviews I’ve ever listened to. Richard Fidler of ABC’s Conversations interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love and City of Girls author. They talked about love, addiction, but mostly grief and what that looks like. (You can listen to that podcast episode here.) It was thought provoking to say the least and it made me really think about grief and what that meant to me. But also, the affect it has had on my life. That was when I realised a few confounding things.
Grief is something that has ultimately guided my life.
This is something I’ve been aware of, for a while now. And I get it. It may sound a little twisted. My husband referred to it recently as my ‘death wish’ although not in the way you may think.
Let me explain:
My mother was in her early fifties when renal cancer came nudging her back. In 2001, she passed away at fifty-six, only months after receiving the official diagnoses.
Turns out, my mother was a woman who had a lot of secret desires, and a lot of unspoken goals. There were things she wanted to do with her life. Places she wanted to explore. Items she wanted to create. (Hell, she died with a quilt half made!) I found beautiful, heart-wrenching poetry she had written, hidden in a filing cabinet, after her death. She wrote beautiful, raw, expressive words, but she never published.
Without acknowledging it back then, I made a vow with myself. I would not go out that way. I would not die without accomplishing my goals, without creating what I wanted, seeing the places I wanted to explore.
That was almost twenty years ago. I’m happy to say, I’m on track.
You’ll notice I said ‘without acknowledging it at the time’, because it took me a long time to see then and then longer to course-correct my life. But I did. And that vow has guided me in accomplishing a lot so far. Now, I’m fifty-one. My internal deadline ticks away. This is where the ‘death wish’ comment comes in. My deadline to get all this done is when I turn fifty-six. Because that’s when my mother died.
Grief is something that’s difficult to explain to someone who has never been through it.
It is not only the result of a death. It can result from the loss of a relationship. The loss of a lifestyle. The loss of a deep connection to a place or person. It’s taken me a while to realise that while I still mourn my mother, I have felt grief in other forms too.
Most people see grief as this dark, grim, all-encompassing thing. Sure. Grief, at its worst, can cause you to make horrendous decisions. It can put you into a pit of despair so deep you may never recover. It can cause you to say horrible things to people. It can make you question life itself. It can take addictions to the next level. It can make you so angry that it can consume your life.
But, on the flip side, it can steer you. It can inspire you. It can push you to take impossibly frightening risks. It can grant you freedom like you’ve never felt before. It can give you the gumption to pursue things you only ever dreamed of. It can guide you to live your life with purpose.
In my book, Camino Wandering, I weave grief intricately through the characters. But interestingly, it wasn’t until I completed the book, that I recognised how many forms of grief were throughout the book. Evidently, I felt compelled to write about it.
That’s not to say that my book is a depressing read through thick, emotional mud. As I said, grief can be a positive thing. It can bond people deeper than they imagined. It can inspire people to pursue the life they’ve only imagined. And, it can bring you immense joy on the other side.
Just as grief, unbeknownst to me, inspired me to write this book.
If you want a great podcast to listen to, Conversations is my favourite. They interview both famous and non-famous people and cover a variety of topics. You can ALWAYS find something great to listen to. I am not an affiliate for ABC Radio, but a longtime fan. Here are a few of my favourites: Paula Constant, Part 1 and Part 2 (for more on Paula Constant, click here); and The life of an Antarctic icebreaker Aurora Australis.
I’m sure I’ll add to this list as I find true gems.
WARNING: Some of the links on this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small referral payment if you choose to purchase the product or service. I never recommend products or services that I haven’t used myself. If I recommend a product or service, it’s because I honestly feel that you would benefit from it. Using an affiliate link does not impact the quality/price of the service you purchase. You will pay the same amount to the service provider whether using an affiliate link or not.