Bringing colour back into life as we grieve
I wrote some thoughts down the morning before coming together with my friends for the memorial service for a close friend who we lost to suicide last year. As you may read, I have not felt like opening up to the world recently.
Darragh’s family, my close friends and I have all been processing the tragic death of Darragh in different ways. And it is a process. When we heard the news the world seemed to darken, and grieving has been hard. Lots of ups and downs for us, and indescribable sorrow for his family.
There have also been beautiful friends of mine bravely processing their beloved dad passing. The past months have felt incredibly hard, confusing, scary.
After reading the poem Grey Evening by DH Lawrence the other day, I felt myself ready to share again and begin imagining how colour will come back into our lives. I think the poem is about losing a lover, but for me it resonates loss generally; it depicts powerful images of grief, emptiness and a sense of being left behind.
I am sharing these thoughts below to mark the spring that is to come, the openings and new beginnings that will come even after such loss, such darkness, greyness. I trust colour will return to life as we continue to grieve.
These images and ideas made what happened more tangible and understandable as the news then was still so fresh. However, since returning to England I have felt some days subsumed by the futility of life and I myself have withdrawn. I have not felt the sense of purpose that I have been blessed to feel often in life. This is grief, this is grey, and this is me trying to process the loss of a friend.
In trying to get my head around my friend’s choice to leave the living world, I have also found myself looking around at the state of things with a darker view. Some parts of politics are disgusting, our systems are inherently discriminatory, and many events are simply sad. I feel prominently that the ‘the wounds of our ancestors, [those who perpetrated them and those which suffered at their hands], are bleeding through us’ (Bird without Wings, Louis de Berniers).
I feel ashamed, uncomfortable – as though I don’t fit in the world that is our system in Britain and the ‘West’.
Here, we live in a paradox. People generally need jobs to survive yet it feels strange to be propping up a system so crippling of the majority it’s supposed to serve and close to crippling itself. For example, read ‘The Secret Barrister’ books and ask why the criminal justice system is often unable to deliver justice despite the tough job its workforce face daily.
It’s sad that our system is set up so that people will not be paid well for doing important, social, decentralised, creative work. In another way, good work is priceless, it means more than money.
I try to reconcile with some of these big paradoxes, questions – my joie-de-vivre is in searching for meaning and knowledge. We may never find an answer, and if we do it might change again over time… but isn’t that the point?! The mothers, the gods, the universe made all living things imperfect so that we would always have something to work out and strive for, live for.
Think of a river – if its course runs straight directly from source to mouth, then it has already succeeded on its course, what does it have to live for? Its purpose is binary. But water naturally moves with a helical flow (around in circles, and not straight): it carves new paths, is inquisitive, and therefore exists with purpose, of searching for its preferred way through the land.
The river, trees, birds, us, whatever it is, we all exist – we have no choice in this matter, but we are built to wonder and wander why, until we don’t, and we die…
Not sure what else to say, but I think I need to cut myself some slack!”
And now I bring it back –
It’s Wednesday January 11th, 2023, and colour is coming back into life.
My world is looking vibrant again – I am feeling ready for life and inspired. We have entered a new year and a new stage of the grieving process. There is so much to be grateful for these past months, lots of love, kindness and care experienced. Lots of new skills put into practice and shared with friends and family. Lots of walking and exploring the Kent countryside and preparing for journeys to come. Lots of self-learning and un-learning.
Because for me, ‘revolution starts in the home’. So, we should feel safe and rejuvenated by those close to us and we should give those people the space to open up too. By sharing knowledge and love for each other we will inevitably challenge the bigger societal and environmental crises, paradoxes going on because we’ll hopefully feel safe in doing so and have more energy to help others where we can.
Over the next 6 months I am taking ‘home’ with me. Me, my partner and our bikes, we are hitting the road south and are setting off on a 5000km cycle from Europe à the Middle East. We are doing this in memory of Darragh… in memory of others who have been lost to suicide or other causes, to those left behind who need support, and to hopefully help save future lives from suicide and grief!
If you are looking for ways you can support, we are raising money and awareness for Papyrus and S.O.B.S. UK which are fantastic suicide prevention and victim support charities. Their work is invaluable in helping people who are facing dark thoughts see brightness in their lives again by offering telephone support services, early prevention training for institutions and much more. To donate please click the button to link to justgiving.com:
Another way you can support those grieving is by reading this article and reaching out to them https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jan/07/ways-to-talk-to-people-grieving-cariad-lloyd-griefcast. Please continue to offer our ears, arms and smiles to those in shock and grief from losing a loved one.
On our 5000km cycle we are going to be voice recording stories as we travel through new places and face new challenges. We will post the recordings un-edited on the EarthRights podcast and platform – do watch this space!
I wish you light and colour for the year to come. Keep in touch