Every connection, relationship and friendship that you have in your life right now is specific to you in your own context. Think about it. The relationship you have with your parents may be different to the relationship your siblings have with them. Your relationship with friends may be different to how they see each other as friends. Your relationships with family members, it all differs dependant on the two persons involved. All relationships you have in life are personal, contextual and reflect you and that individual. I guess that’s why grief is so complex.
In the span of 3 years, I have grieved 3 very special and influential people in my life, and although it was a loss for us as a family, I felt so alone. When my Tuka (mum’s dad) died, I shut-down completely. It was the first day of my new job, I got home that evening to text messages saying ‘how was your day?’ and once my Mum knew I was home and with Mana, she told me the news. The next day, I told my boss I had to go to Fiji, and flew out the same evening. I cried for hours, didn’t eat, barely spoke and to be honest, it felt like I couldn’t breathe. When my Aunty Oro died, I had just woken up, and again, my phone had text messages asking me to call my Mum. I did, and again, she told me the news. I sat in the dark in silence unsure of what to do. I felt my baby close to me, but I wasn’t there. I heard him cry, but I couldn’t console him. I went numb and into auto-pilot. Drove to my in-laws so they could be with my son, sat outside, cried on and off for a few hours, and then that was it. I watched her body leave the mortuary via Instagram video call. I saw the burial, but nothing, I just felt numb. When my Tutu (dad’s dad) died 3 months ago, I blacked out. My step-mum called me and said to call my Dad in Fiji. He didn’t speak, but I knew, and somehow, part of me just carried on the conversation like it was a normal phone call. ‘Hi Dad, everything okay? Alright. When? Okay. Where’s Bubu? Alright, I’ll speak to you later. Love you. Bye ‘. I turned around to Mana and carried on like nothing happened. Cup of tea? Biscuits? Bed? My husband was confused, and probably slightly worried, but I just went to bed and slept. When I woke up the next morning, then it dawned on me. He’s gone..wait, but has he really?
Two of those funerals I couldn’t attend, and there’s something inside of me that believes part of my ongoing disbelief is due to the fact that I was unable to practice the ritual of ‘sending them off’. When my mum’s dad died, my uncles and I travelled back to Fiji together, we mourned together on that journey, we met my Mum, my grandmother and our family, and we mourned. I saw my Tuka one last time, I walked into his home, saw his clothes, and laid flowers at his grave. Together, as a family, even though it was only for a weekend, we were able to reflect on his life, laugh and be comforted by each others physical presence. I needed that.
Losing my aunt was different. I had my son, the funeral happened quickly and I was unable to go to Fiji. There was no ritual. As a family, we met in the UK, but watching it via live feed, on a flat screen TV, in the middle of an English village just wasn’t the same. We all went back to our home owns after, and since then, I haven’t really spoken about her or what she meant to me. Everyone carried on with life, and some days, I forgot she had gone, but when I remembered, it didn’t seem real.
Confiding in my mum, confiding in my aunt and confiding in my husband – all felt strange. I felt empty, as if I was speaking about her with someone who didn’t understand her or see her the way I did. That’s why I think grief is complex. All of us who mourned her loss, mourned the person she was to us. The friend, the sister, the aunt, the mentor, the prayer warrior. We spoke about her in different ways, and whilst trying to comfort one another for our collective loss, we know that each of our relationships with her was different, and special.
Today marks one year since Aunty Oro died, and tomorrow will mark 3 years since my Tuka died. One year since she has gone and I’m learning that we are all still grieving in our own ways. Grieving who she was to us, as individuals. The jokes, messages of encouragement, reality checks and the prayers. Oh the prayers. That’s what I miss.
We have gathered again as a family, just to be in each other’s company, and have the freedom to speak of her as we remember the woman that she was to each one of us. We will nap, eat, drink, laugh, cry and be together. Until we all leave for own homes again tomorrow. Acknowledging that we all still grieve her loss, and that we will never quite be the same.
Until I find more time for intentional solitude, that’s all for now.