Life after death: the concept of time after losing someone

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A cup of tea on a pink table with decorative pink and white flowers

We absolutely love this post from Madeleine, which talks about the weird concept of time after a bereavement, and how you can be doing so much, and yet doing nothing at all. Read on for some serious wisdom for an amazing grieving person who we are so proud to know! 

When I think back to the ‘early days’, the days seem to slide into one another. Thinking back, there is not much distinction between ‘night’ or ‘day’. Dawn and dusk look and feel the same. Weekdays and weekends are interchangeable. There is no distinction between morning or afternoon or evening.

I was definitely doing a lot of stuff. Funeral plans, photograph hunting, shouting at Starbucks baristas. There was a lot of movement. Train stations, bus stops and relatives’ cars. I was doing anything and everything. And nothing at all too:

  • Sugary teas made by kind others, because they proved that even in this new version of reality, other people were still alive.
  • Disney films, because they took me back to the pristine confines of childhood, and held me close to past comforts
  • Peep Show, because it’s bloody hilarious.

Innocently asking about dad

There was the stunned silence from people on the peripherals. The vet who treated the cat, after she’d shown a little bit too much of an interest in the lilies sent from well-meaning others: “I won’t let this cat die on you too”. The dentist who innocently asked how my dad was getting on these days.

There was the deafening roar of the grief itself which howled into me, bellowing ear-to-ear at bass frequencies, coursing through my veins and vibrating through my bones. Nowadays it sounds more like a hymn, most of the time, like a quiet hum knocking around. It sometimes upgrades to an anthem, particularly on birthdays, death-days, Christmas days. But it can transcend from gentle melody to full-scale harmonic orchestra at the slightest reminder:

  • A bird soaring through the sky
  • A news story about a flight disaster
  • A father reaching for his daughter’s hand

There was the unwavering, flawless support from a few close companions. They came with me to some of the darkest of places I’d ever seen, with unflinching compassion. If my grief was a dark room into which I retreated and slammed the door closed behind me, they were the patient bystander at the other side, gently pushing food, and water, and love, through the crack between the door and the floor. Until the crack became wide enough for me to open it again.

Allegations of time

Two years has allegedly passed since I lost my dad. The concept of time in grief still fascinates me. I think when someone close to you transcends the constraints of the time as most people experience it, you in some ways do too.

I now experience weekdays, and weekends, like a ‘normal’ person. My body follows the concept of day-times and night-times in a similar way to before my dad died. I observe my birthdays, nowadays with more gratitude than guilt, at having had another year. I celebrate his birthday with a Guinness. I talk of him with unapologetic and uninhibited abandon. He comes with me through every day, and we face it together.

I’ve come to see that as much as I’d love to stop the clock and turn it back, I can’t. But I’ve come to believe he no longer experiences time in the same way as before, so I don’t either. It could be 2 minutes, 2 years or 2 centuries – he is my dad and I am his daughter, and that is that.

Madeleine B

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