Matt Marshall

2 Posts with Tag death (All tags)

So I'm grieving right now

Hi folks, if you're reading this then either you're a close friend/colleague, or one of the few random strangers on the web who read my blog occasionally. This post is intended for the former group.

Basically; my father sadly died this weekend just gone (2021-02-27) after a struggle with COVID-19. He put up a hell of a fight and for a while things were looking like he'd get a little better but sadly he took a rapid turn and deteriorated very quickly. At the end he went quickly and quietly, with his children around him. As you might expect; I am incredibly sad/upset and about to go through my first really heavy grieving process.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a very amazing group of friends, colleagues, and comrades who all effectively make up my surrogate family. The chances are if you're reading this then you're one of them; and if you're one of them then you're so wonderful you've probably got yourself all worked up about how you can help me through this. The motivation for this post is to sketch out exactly how you can help this and what my needs are at the moment.

The rest of this post is presented as an FAQ to help you understand how you can help atm.

How are you feeling?

I looked up grieving and it seems I've got the standard package tbh: I'm still feeling that it's a little surreal and I get occasional bouts of deep upset and sadness where I'll realise what's going on, and have a cry. I feel deeply regretful for a lot of unsaid things, and a lot of things that were said. I get angry at myself. I get angry at the gods. I mostly get angry at our government for letting this happen. It happened to my dad and it's happened to ~123,000 others and it was entirely preventable.

Mostly I'm very sad.

Are you seeking any professional grief counselling?

It's only been a few days as of writing. I tend to deal with death pretty calmly, and while this one is admittedly a bit of a doozy I've already started processing and accepting things. I am a relatively reflective person (sometimes to my detriment when combined with my tendency to overthink); so I will be trying to keep on top of it and seek professional grief counselling when I feel I need it or if I'm not better after a little while.

As my loved ones (this covers all of you btw) you can support me by keeping an eye on me over time. You know me, and you know how I behave at work and in social settings. This thing will obviously change me in some way (giving me a new perspective etc), but if I'm fundamentally still not well after a longer period of time then I ask you to please gently let me know that I should seek help if I haven't done so already.

What do you need right now?

The bottom line is that I require a cocktail of needing to know life goes on, and also needing to know people understand that I'm grieving and care for me.

What I would like right now is for people to message me as they normally would, about normal things, but also be a little patient with me in terms of replies. You might catch me on a bad day/hour. I might miss a reply. If I do that, please don't stop messaging! Just leave it an appropriate amount of time based on how often we talk and just ping something else my way in due course.

Please don't worry about me trying to "distract myself"; this isn't that. I'm thinking and reflecting a lot, and processing as much as I can healthily. But I will need something to be there afterwards. Providing a scaffolding of 'normal' interactions will give me something to hook onto once the initial stages of very-explicit-grieving start to wane away. I don't want to come out of this with nothing on the other side.

OK, but can I check in on how you're feeling?

Yes please! But as mentioned I'm very lucky and you are part of a fantastic squad of people. I get overwhelmed easily at the best of times and if I'm asked to repeat stuff to people a lot I might get a bit stressed out. That said if nobody checks in that'd be worse tbh.

Right now I’d like it if you could spare the time to check in on how I’m feeling every few weeks. That way I’ll know you’re still there and caring but I’m not overwhelmed by keeping people updated all at once.

Can I help? ("If there's anything you need")

You can absolutely help. I'm not going to have a lot of headspace over the coming weeks and, awkwardly, I've got a house move happening at the same time. If you want to help then please do the following:

  • instead of asking "If there's anything you need just ask" (or similar) please just ask me if there's something I specifically need help with now or in the near future
  • do a quick think about practical things you would be comfortable doing to help and ask me about them specifically, framed as a one-time offer of support
  • just keeping offering various things on a regular basis for as long as you're comfortable

This does a few things for me. It shows me that you're there and you care. This also means I don't need to ask for help which is very important to me right now; as I don't do this at the best of times! By thinking of something you can do ahead of time it means I don't feel that I'm a burden or putting you out. Some examples:

  • "Hey, I know you've got a lot on at the moment. Can I pick something up from Gumtree/Freecycle for you for your new house?"
  • "Hey are you eating ok? I've got leftovers and can bring them round so you don't need to cook tomorrow"
  • "Yo, doing a snack run do you want comfort food?"
  • "Do you need some company? I'm going for a walk and can swing by if you want to join?"
  • "Doing a big shop, anything on your list you need?"

You'll notice that the above examples deal with mundane bits of everyday life that can become overwhelming during periods of stress; headspace to cook/get shopping in, and then a bit of social comfort thrown in.

Will these needs change?

Possibly. But if they do you won't need to play catch up. These are my needs right now and one thing I've realised is the importance of communication of my needs to people. If they shift then it's likely I'll either be in a position where I need professional support which is absolutely not your duty to perform; or I'll be on the mend thanks to you. In which case thank you so much.

Love you all,

Matt

life death feels family covid-19 grief

Memento Mori

Remember that you will die. I've been thinking a little bit about death lately, and specifically; my death. I've never particularly thought about it before. When beginning this exercise, I thought that the notion of my own death would terrify me. I thought that the realisation that the sum of all of my neurons firing will someday be extinguished unceremoniously in the grand scheme of the universe.

I'm not particularly nihilistic, and to this date my life has been entwined in certain purposes or the other -- mostly boiling down to the desire to spend quality time with or away from other members of my species. The notion of death doesn't make me want to leave a legacy, or climb the highest mountains, or sail the longest oceans. Contrary to my biological programming, it doesn't particularly make me want to have offspring, or seek to make the world a better place on a macro level. I suppose that's quite selfish.

Maybe it's because I'm still entrenched in academia; but death just kinda feels like a deadline. Don't get me wrong -- I don't want to die by any means. I generally find a lot of joy in my everyday existence, and if possible I'd want that to continue forever until it becomes actively terrible. I just kind know that I get some time, it flies by, and then it ends.

I dunno, this was quite a strained and hollow prompt to follow. Reflecting on death is important and people should do it; as a culture the British are terrible at discussing the concept comfortably and resort to euphemisms in order to avoid confronting mortality. That sounds deep enough to end a blog post on, so we'll go with that.

reflection journalling challenge death life,