Fragile Defences

What does grief feel like?

It feels like an angry sea, held back by fragile defences. It is there, in the background all the time. If you allow yourself to listen, you will hear it churning. It is best not to listen. So you do what you can to keep the defences well maintained.

Every day you do an inspection. You do it as soon as you wake, tentatively feeling along the surface of the wall for cracks.You tell yourself that this way you will be in control. As the day goes on, you feel the sea pushing, surging, hurling itself against the rickety materials you have used to keep it at bay. Sometimes you have to stop what you are doing to rush and fill in any small holes which threaten to let even a trickle of grief through.

Most of the time, the defences hold. You plaster on a decorative smile for good measure, as a distraction. That way no one will notice that the wall is shaking, quivering against the pressure that is mounting behind it.

But the tides of grief are strong. Some days all it takes is one tiny fissure and then the defences are down, the grief breaks through and you are overwhelmed. You gasp as the cold waves clutch at your heart, and memories and emotions and images flood your mind. You struggle to swim to the surface, to take a gulp of air, to stop yourself from being tossed on to the rocks.

You always manage to swim back to shore. Sometimes the journey leaves you exhausted, wrung out, cold and shivering. You feel you will never be able to go through that again; that next time you will surely be dragged down by the undertow into the freezing black depths.

At other times you are able to clamber out, to sit on the sand and recover, looking out at the horizon. At times like this, the sea calms, the sun comes out and the water glistens. You feel the warmth coming back into your limbs, you spot a boat coming into the bay, and you tell yourself: I will survive this. I will be rescued. I will tame this sea of grief.




2 thoughts on “Fragile Defences

  1. Dear Anna, Beyond the beauty and the exactitude of your writing, you have managed to allow me to glance into a room of my being that I have not yet entered. My parents are still alive – we have planned to celebrate my dad’s 80th in Wales this July – but I know the day, the days are coming, and I’m terrified. Reading your experiences is like rehearsing something familiar but not yet experienced. I recognise those ordered jam jars and the hooks. My childhood home has the same ones!
    Just wanted to say thank you. With love and prayers for comfort and healing.


    1. Dear Gwyneth, thank you for your lovely words. I am glad if they can help anyone at all. No one tells you what it is going to be like – probably because it is of course different for each individual, depending on the relationship they had with the deceased. This is my way of honouring Dad’s memory, trying to make sense of things and also letting out some of the grief which remains bottled up in my heart. We know it comes to us all, but we are not prepared. I hope your Dad’s 80th is a joyous occasion for you all. Lots of love. A xx


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