Grief is like a blanket: On love and loss.

Updated: Mar 22

E ngā tini aitua kua whetūrangihia, haere, haere, whakangaro atu rā.

Ki a tātou ngā mōrehutanga o rātou, mauri ora ki a tātou katoa.

It's been a little while, and I apologise for my absence. I've been journeying through a season of loss and mourning over the last 2 months, and it's overshadowed all of my prior intentions and plans. But that’s what happens eh.

Unlike many of my friends, I haven't experienced the loss of a very close loved one until now, with my grandma's passing. I do realise this puts me in an incredibly privileged category of people, having known my grandparents into my 30’s and now 40’s.

So grief hit me hard. And to be honest it felt like a new experience. Like discovering a horrible new world that I wished I’d never visited. And that once visited, became all too easy to go back to and hang out in.

When I was learning te reo Māori I went to live with my grandma for a year, as Grandad had just moved into a dementia home. I thought I was doing her a favour, but actually, I was the lucky one.

During that year she became a second mum to me. She whāngai’d (fed/adopted) me literally and metaphorically and wrapped me up in her joy and love.

She taught me numerous lessons, and introduced me to yoga! She taught me to wash and dry every plastic bag, how to breathe deep to control my anxiety, and how important rest was to manage my hectic life.

She listened to all of my relationship dramas without judgement. She taught me what she knew of our whakapapa. And encouraged me to treat each day like it was the best day of my life. She was a very wise woman.

As an adult, I perhaps had more capacity to hear this wisdom from Grandma, even though I know Mum had been saying this stuff my whole life.

We got close, really close. And in my naivety, I never really thought about her not being there one day.

Over the last few years I’ve been able to give back some of the love she showed me. I’ve given her her first massages, and I’ve been able to listen to her struggles when she lost some of her eternal optimism. Our roles reversed somewhat.

It’s hard. I get it now. To all of you who have lost loved ones recently or further back, I feel your pain.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II

One needs to have really opened one’s heart in order to experience such a deep loss. I think I spent the first 25 years of my life cautiously guarding my heart, and the next 15 re-learning how to let people in and love again.

All of those cliches are true.

“Grief is like the ocean. It comes in waves, ebbing and flowing.” Vicky Harrison

It’s funny the things that set you off. A song, a smell, a place, a photo. Even just a special moment with whānau and they are not there.

My partner shared this gem with me the other day, that his uncle shared with him:

“Grief is like a blanket. It can comfort you, but you have to be careful you don’t use it to hide away from the world”

It so resonated with me, and I saw my old depressive tendency to hang out in that melancholic space for a bit too long. The sadness somehow is comfortable and familiar. But can become oppressive when too long is spent there.

So I’m still grieving, and modifying my life to allow time and space for this important process. Healing takes time, another true cliche. But I’m also aware that connecting with others is the way through it.

I’ll be comforted by my blanket of aroha and loss, but not use it to isolate myself from those that I love.

My thoughts go out to all of our community suffering the loss of loved ones at this time. May our shared experiences of loss bond us more closely together in love and compassion.

E rere ana ngā mihi aroha ki a koutou e noho pā pouri ana, e noho ana ki raro i te kapua pōuriuri, mā te aroha tātou e paihere ai, ā, mā te wāhi ngaro koutou e manaaki, e tiaki i ngā wā katoa.

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