At the age of 18, I had lost both my parents in the space of a year to cancer, I had been to more funerals than I had weddings, and for the next ten or so years, I went on to endure what I could only describe was quite a shit journey. (I hate the word journey, sounds a bit cringe… but stay with me)
Since my parents died, I studied for a degree, travelled the world, and met some amazing people, yet at the same time, I carried my grief round in my knapsack, it became heavier and often burdened me. For years I suffered with numerous bouts of anxiety and depression, I didn’t understand what the fuck was going on in my head and I struggled in all my relationships. At the same time I rarely spoke about my loss, or my experience.
I look back now and see from a young age, death and loss was something that we never spoke about. I was often hidden from it, I wouldn’t ever attend family funerals, every time ‘Sammy’ my pet goldfish died he was swiftly replaced with a lookalike, and death was only something I witnessed in a film or via the media, something that never happened to me. But then… when it did happen to me, it was as if no one knew what to say. My mates at the time didn’t have a clue how to bring it up, it was just easier to get drunk and pretend everything was okay. My teachers at school felt it was best to announce the news in a whole school assembly, casting me out as someone who was abnormal, creating a divide between me and everyone else. Members of my family would cross the road to walk on the other side to avoid speaking to me. Our society at the time didn’t know how to handle my loss and I was made to feel like an outcast.
In return I buried my feelings deep within my knapsack and carried it around with me everywhere, sometimes I would feel daring and decide to share my thoughts, but by the terrifying looks in people’s eyes, as I swung from a wine bottle and shared some of my intimate feelings, I can see that people didn’t know how to react. So I buried them.
Ten years on and only now do I feel comfortable with my knapsack of grief, I have learnt to live with it, to even become friends with it, and in turn it has become less heavy. As I unpack it, I am able to reflect that actually most of my thoughts and feelings that I had buried and were often so ashamed of, were in fact okay, probably even normal. Hence why I have decided to start this blog now, as it gives me a chance to share some of my own stuff, with the hope that sharing my experience may reach out to others, whilst at the same time placing the topic of death into the public forum with the hope that my art, my words and this blog can be an instigator for a conversation, that it may challenge peoples own views around death and loss and perhaps shape our tools that help us to relate to others who have experienced something similar..
So please.. come along for the ride.. as I start to unpack my knapsack of grief