The loose end

Posted on 28 February 2011


One of the hardest things about losing someone is not knowing what to do with yourself.

Sure, there are things to do right after someone dies: breaking the news to others, sorting out leases and mortgages and utility bills, cancelling their mobile phone, closing their bank accounts, organising the funeral.

These logistical tasks are not sufficient to keep you busy enough to distract you from the weird thoughts that make you feel like a freak, the shocks of guilt that accompany any accidental smiles, bone-crushing sorrow that disallows sleep, creating more hours to fill.

You are surrounded by grieving people. You don’t know what to do for them and they feel the same. There’s a lot of communal sitting and staring.

The most pressing activity is accepting that the person is gone and that’s not so much an activity as a process to be endured. In between being pounded by waves of realisation you need things to keep busy with and there is surprisingly little to do.

So I consider myself lucky that in my family I get the job of writing eulogies. I have always processed things by putting them into words, even if no one ever sees them. Something about penning a simple, precise description gives me such satisfaction it is healing. With a eulogy it’s also the act of sorting through someone’s life and recording it, of talking to other people who loved them, of describing who they were and all the things they meant to the world. It helps to explain my grief to me.

No one in my immediate family has passed away yet and sometimes I’m not certain I’ll be able to do it for them, if I’m still around to do so.

Until I remember the sheer boredom of acute loss and I am as sure as one can ever be of the future that I will welcome the relief of a to do list.

Image credit: ‘Come waste your time with me‘ by Bex Finch. Used with permission from the author.