Tsunamis and Grief

Actor Richard E Grant, having recently lost his wife, said, “Grief hits us like tsunamis as we try and put one foot in front of the other”. 

As our community was struck by grief earlier this term, I was compelled to write down my experience with grief, not for pity, but to help those who are grieving and those around them. 

I read the piece about Richard E Grant’s loss during a week when I, too, seemed to be drowning in grief. Not for a sudden loss, but for my mother, who died 23 years ago. Grief has been a part of my life for so long but continues to baffle me and creep up on me when I least expect it. 

I was 19 at the time and had nursed my mum through the highs and lows of cancer for fifteen years. It was not sudden. Death was always there waiting in the wings, so I should have been ready, prepared, fine….. 

I have reflected on this time, asked myself so many questions; ‘Did I embrace it? Was I supported? Did I cry? Did I ask questions? Did I get answers?’ 

The answer is yes to all these questions. On reflection, I could have done more of these things: asked more questions, sought more support, cried unapologetically. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we have no choice but to move forward. 

I always tried to ‘keep busy and crack on’. I had my father to support and look after (let’s not go there!), my younger brother to continue to ‘mother’ and my eldest siblings to support. This was my way of coping and getting through. Yes, I cried, yes my closest friends were there for me at any hour of the day – however, none of them had suffered grief at that stage of their lives. I am afraid that something I can tell you is there are very few people, if any, that you will meet that will completely understand and appreciate what you have been through and how you feel. If you do – that is a gift to treasure.

This does not mean that other people don’t care, but they can never, nor would you want them to, fully understand and appreciate YOUR feelings and what YOU are going through. 

At the immediate time of a loss, there are people everywhere, at the funeral/memorial etc. cooking, cleaning, writing, texting. It is afterwards that the need becomes greater, in my opinion. When life for everyone else seems to go back to normal, your own life is not normal anymore. How dare they go back to their normal lives, celebrate special occasions, go on holiday, laugh and be happy? These are, I believe, the hardest of times. 

You never get over your loss. Grief is like an endless wave you surf. Every time you get to the crest, it is a different experience and display of emotions to embrace and deal with. Your emotions manifest in a multitude of ways: anger, sorrow, blame, jealousy, confusion. The list is endless and complex. There is no rhyme or reason. You may find that picking up a packet of the person’s favourite sweets has a more profound effect than looking at photographs. 

It seems that everywhere we turn at the moment, someone is experiencing grief: grieving for a loved one overseas, grieving family separation, grieving for lost time and opportunities. So we just need to be conscious of embracing our loss and/or being there for others – the most minor and seemingly insignificant actions can be the most significant and worthy. 


“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.”

— Helen Keller

Mrs C. Duncan | Head of Marketing and Communications

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