Normal people


‘Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything’

Sally Rooney, Normal People

Last year I lost 2 close friends within the space of 2 weeks. They lost their lives to anorexia. Last year I started a journey of grief that I haven’t experienced before.

  • Normal people – the incredible book (and now, the TV series)
  • Anything David Attenborough
  • Dobby (from Harry Potter)
  • A certain type of sandals
  • Black coffee
  • Cottage cheese
  • Chewing gum (spearmint flavour)
  • Cafes in Sainsburys
  • John Lewis’ perfume counter
  • Painting someone else’s nails
  • Plaiting someone else’s hair
  • Cashew nuts
  • The word ‘superstar’

A small list of the hundreds of seemingly tiny every day things that will trigger my grief.

I didn’t expect this. This isn’t how I expected grief to pan out. I’ve never experienced this before. This grief doesn’t end. This grief could potentially be triggered at any single moment. I could be laughing so much my stomach hurts, whilst simultaneously wiping the tears streaming down my cheeks, because I’ve been reminded of something hilarious that Lis said, or Sarah did. Everyone around me has told me I’m strong.

I don’t feel strong.

I think people believe that strength in the face of overwhelming emotion means being resistant, I know I certainly did. Like a soldier standing on a battle field, they pay no attention to their thoughts and fears.

But most of us are not soldiers; we’re just vulnerable people. If we’re resisting distressing thoughts and feelings, it’s because we’re avoiding them. We’re running away from them, day in and day out – and running away seems far less courageous. 

I’m learning that strength in the context of grief is much different than most accepted definitions. It IS being brave, but it feels like the opposite. It feels like intentionally allowing yourself to be wounded and weakened by facing painful thoughts, emotions, and memories continuously and then, instead of trying to defeat them, saying, ‘this is a part of me now… you’re a part of me now.

Feeling and dealing with the struggle is where the strength comes in, and not everyone can see that. Moments of strength in grief are personal, and quite often they’re private. You show strength through the small and humble acts of bravery you take on every day.

Strength is opening that box of memories, even though you know it will make you cry. Strength is saying their name out loud in public for the first time casually in conversation. Strength in grief is acknowledging, feeling, and expressing emotion. 

So, I’ve written this because today has been a difficult day. But, I have accepted that it is a difficult day. It is okay to grieve. And maybe, maybe this is me being strong.

My strength is for you Lis, and for you Sarah.

I hope I can make you proud.

Love E x

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