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PAM FRAMPTON: Dark river of grief

Fresh grief is like a river coursing through your life. —
Fresh grief is like a river coursing through your life. — 123RF Stock Photo

“The beauty of the world, which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” — Virginia Woolf

Strapped to a raft without oar or paddle, we’re careening down the serpentine River of Grief.

We are bereft. Adrift.

We don’t know where this fast water leads or how to steer a steady course through it.

Waves of fresh emotion break over us at every turn; we scan the shoreline for a familiar face, but she is gone.

People say she is in a better place and it’s meant as a balm of comfort, but I can’t think of any better place for her to be but here, with us.

All of this is by way of saying my sister died four weeks ago today.

I am fortunate to know nothing of the grief of losing a child or a spouse.

What I do know is that losing a sibling feels like one of your limbs has been bluntly amputated; ham-handedly hacked off without benefit of anesthetic. At any rate, there is nothing that can be given to dull this pain for any length of time except time itself.

Losing someone you love is a sharp shock to the senses, even when death is expected and inevitable. Unlike injury or accident, cancer usually gives some notice, though no amount of time is ever enough to say goodbye to someone dearly loved.

A branch has been ripped from our family tree, leaving a painful wound. How can someone be literally here one moment and gone the next? It is hard to absorb.

Harder still is to walk out of a hospital room to re-enter the world of the living, doing mundane tasks like grocery shopping, looking outwardly normal while on the inside you are shattered.

Unlike injury or accident, cancer usually gives some notice, though no amount of time is ever enough to say goodbye to someone dearly loved.

COVID-19 and its protocols and travel restrictions complicated things. Some of us were able to be with her in her last hours, and some of us were not.

How to tell a mother in long-term care that one of her children has died and explain why she could not be at her bedside, nor even at the funeral?

People often refer to this pandemic period as “the new normal.” The old normal may not have been utopia, but it at least allowed friends and family to gather together in their grief.

Thankfully, my sister got to have a funeral — albeit one limited to 20 people — which was what she wanted.

She was modest, humble and sometimes shy, but I think she would have felt a quiet pride at her send-off. In her small town, those who could not attend the church lined the sides of the road, standing next to their vehicles, heads bowed, during the graveside service. The women from her church formed an honour guard in the cemetery, a choir of earthly angels to sing her to her rest.

Once upon a time, my brother and sisters and I lived in a house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I shared a bedroom with my three sisters, our walls plastered with pop star posters. As the youngest, I grieved in my own way as each of them grew up and got married and moved out. What was once four became three and then two, and then me.

This is a different kind of grief.

I get tired of the “journey” analogy, but life really is a voyage into the unknown. You don’t know how long it will last or if will end gently or abruptly, or how long your companions will be with you.

The only thing I know for sure is that as we get older, grief goes from being a minor tributary to a full-fledged river that courses through our lives.

We try our best to keep our heads above water and not be swept away.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com Follow her on Twitter: @Pam_Frampton


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