Losing someone who's still here.
Today, our newsletter column comes from me, Annabelle Lee. These past few weeks have left me feeling uncharacteristically content. Since starting in an exciting new role as Shameless' Community Manager, I've been stupidly smiley. Most of the time, anyway. See, it's in the high moments that you tend to remember what - or who - you've lost. Who you wish you were celebrating with. And as it usually goes when the feelings hit hard, I wrote it all down...
Grief is a complicated thing. It simmers to the surface in unpredictable ways, at the most inconvenient of moments – last week being one of them.
For me, it’s an overwhelming number of feelings at once, and simultaneously an absence of feeling altogether; all the best ones stripped from the soul while the worst ones linger.
It took me until only recently to realise the feeling that pervaded my darkest moments was the torturous one named grief. Such a conclusion was a lengthy one to draw because, thankfully, no family member or friend of mine had ever passed away.
But there was a hollowness I struggled to shake. I couldn’t label it, nor could I even let myself acknowledge it.
When I was around eight, my mum was first diagnosed with Psychosis. Then Schizophrenia, followed by Delusional Disorder. No, she didn’t have all three, rather, her distrust in strangers meant a definite diagnosis was difficult to pinpoint by professionals. That same distrust led to medication flushed down the toilet, a marriage breakdown, and a super sunny adolescence! (Also, a deep-rooted tendency to express sarcasm during the worst of times. Try not to psychoanalyse me.)
As the years progressed, I lost the parts of my mum I loved the most: Her comforting words of encouragement, her melodic laughter, her maternal warmth. And eventually, I lost her trust, too. It was slow and agonising; an amalgamation of the heaviest pain, shame, and helplessness I’d ever felt.
For so long, I struggled with what exactly this was. In the moments I longed for the security of home, it felt like the woman who used to so confidently define the very concept of family was gone. Or just tauntingly out of reach enough for it to hurt.
I never wanted to take the word ‘grief’ away from those who had endured the more tangible forms of loss, so instead, I avoided feelings altogether. I labeled myself as naturally independent. As someone who just didn’t need to rely on a mother figure. Or address her emotions. Or tell anyone about her mum’s ongoing mental illness. I persuaded myself that life was as cheerful as my facade was.
As you may have guessed, reality was not so shiny. All I wanted was to wind back the clock and ask my mum pre-mental illness how to help me navigate this feeling without her. However aggressively I tried to convince myself I was fine, I so desperately wanted help. Yet it was the help and advice from my mum that I craved.
That right there? That yearning defined grief for me. No matter who or why or how someone leaves, their presence is gone, nonetheless.
I don’t have an answer or a magic cure for grief. There’s no way to truly compensate for a loss – living or gone – and there’s definitely no method to rid the aching feeling. But admitting it exists is a start. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, even try talking about it.
Grief hits at any moment, and when it does, I’ve learnt to simply sit with it. I no longer strike it down or shove it in the bottle that lives deep within. Instead, I pull it up by my side, nurturing it as I would a wound. And unfortunately, however much this wound heals up, there will always be a scar.