Permission to Grieve (Part 2)

Grief is a strange thing, because the idea of loss encompasses so many different things, including the loss of an abstract concept.

I know that an acute grief reaction can occur in women who are expecting to have a well baby, but instead have been told their child has a birth defect – the grief over the diagnosis is just as real as their grief over the well child that existed only in their imagination. In some cases, the pain can even feel as visceral and as violent as if the well child has been murdered.

I once met a lovely and vivacious girl from Australia at a friend’s wedding. The both of us didn’t know anyone else there other than the bride (who was of course busy making her rounds of all her guests), so we just ended up chatting to each other most of the evening. She told me about how she’d worked as a lawyer to please her family, saving up all her earnings in order to pay her way through achieving her dream of becoming a veterinarian. At the time, she was finishing up her final year of veterinary training in Australia. We traded stories about our clinical work. Towards the end of the evening, we got up and danced with the bride and groom, giggling and laughing like old friends. I had to leave the party early, but not before promising that I would drop her a line if I ever headed out to the land of Oz.

It was almost two years later that we were planning a trip to Australia, I remembered my promise and I contacted my good friend (the bride who’d invited us both to the wedding) to ask for her help in connecting the two of us via email.

My friend was completely flabbergasted that I didn’t know what had happened to that beautiful girl. She’d died a few months after the wedding, in a horrific car accident.

I couldn’t believe it. Dead? No way. But it was true. It happened when she was bringing her family back to the Perth airport, after they’d attended her graduation from veterinary school. Her family members all survived with a few injuries, but she was killed instantly.

In telling me the story, my poor dear friend had to relive the devastation and despair that she felt upon receiving the news of the death of her best friend and had been asked to give a eulogy at her funeral. The accident was so terrible and so tragic that it had even been reported in our local newspapers – I’d completely missed it because I’d been pregnant with Little E at the time and had turned into a hermit crab for nine months.

For the rest of that day, I felt utterly miserable but I didn’t quite think that I had a right to feel so upset. So I pushed the feelings away and just tried to carry on with the rest of my day. After the kids were in bed, the Barn Owl asked me why I seemed to be moping around the house, and I just burst into tears.

Debs G: There was a terrible accident and she died!

Barn Owl: That’s bad. Was she your friend from school?

Debs G: No. I didn’t know her at all.

Barn Owl: I don’t understand.

Debs G: I don’t either! I never knew her, and I’m sad about it! And now she is dead and my friend was very sad about it, and I wasn’t there for her! I’m sad about that too!

Finding out about the death of someone you know, even someone you’ve only known very briefly, is always a shock, and it’s important to remember that the right to grieve does not need to be earned. If you feel bereft because death has stolen someone from you, that in itself gives you the right to grieve.

Although I had only known this girl for the space of a few hours, she still left a lasting impression, and that is worth something to me. I’ll always regret not following up on our meeting sooner.

Permission to Grieve (Part 1)

When I was in my first year at University, I met an interesting girl.  Now, this girl was cool.  And I mean cool.  She had an interesting life.  She’d done all these things and seen all these things that I wished I had done and seen.  She was talented – a fantastic artist, singer and dancer.  And I wanted ever so much to be just like her.

We became friends.  And for that first year of University, life was a whirlwind of me trying to impress her with how cool I had become/was becoming.  I did and said a lot of things that I regret now, and did and said more things that I will never regret.

We used to do crazy stuff together – on the weekends, we’d go to Chatswood and busk outside the St George bank.  Not because we were poor or anything, but because it was fun.  And I had a LOT of fun when I was hanging out with her.  With her, I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally have done.

She taught me how to live.  She taught me that if I wanted to do something, that I should go out and do it instead of waiting and fretting until the opportunity passed.

But…

She wasn’t a good friend to me.  Things were said (I only regret some of them).  We had a huge fight (it was horrible) and after that, we stopped being friends.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t the nicest to her after the fight either – I was free to others with my reasons for the friend break-up, as it were, and added a lot to the drama surrounding her life.

So, I didn’t speak to her or see her again for almost 13 years.

Last week, I heard that she’d died.  A car accident.  It was very sudden.

I went to her Facebook memorial and there was a great outpouring of grief.  People left well wishes.  And it seemed that from the time we stopped being friends and the time she died, she’d become a completely different person.

A much better person.

Thing is, though, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole situation.  Her death made me feel my mortality, but that was really about it.  I didn’t have many good memories of our time together and what memories I did have were tainted by the messy end of our friendship.

Sometimes, however, we need to give ourselves permission to grieve, even if it’s over someone we didn’t know well, or whom we didn’t get along with.  They were still part of our lives.

Whether she’d changed or not, though, her death is still sad.  Still sudden and unexpected.  She had a lot of life in her and though she wasn’t my good friend, she had been a good friend to many others.

Her loss will be mourned and it is a tragic waste that she was taken so young.

So, I cried a little, and then I was ready to face the next day.

A Conversation between Siblings (or, Big Brother is Watching You)

We’re sitting around the table, enjoying an ice-cream treat. J is 9 years old, Little E is 6 years old and Thumper is nearly 2 years old.

J: I wish I lived in a Bungalow. Then I could have extra rooms for all my ornaments. Every time I get a new ornament, I’ll put it in a triple locked cupboard. Every week I’ll take out the ornaments and polish them. I’ll have to buy lots of polish. And the front door will be quadruple locked for extra security!

Debs G: Okay.

J: SECURITY!!!

Debs G: I feel sorry for your wife.

J: Why?

Debs G: Because she’ll have to spend all her time polishing your ornaments.

J: No no no no no. She’s not allowed to touch the ornaments, because they are MY ornaments. She’s only allowed to look at them while I polish them.

Little E: I don’t want to live in a bungalow. I’m going to live in a farmhouse. I’m going to have a cat and a dog to keep me company. And I’m going to marry my friend Ben.

J: WHAT?! Who is this “Ben”? You’ve never talked about him before. Who is he?

Little E: He’s the one who gave me a kiss on the cheek last week.

Thumper: (waving his spoon) NO NO!

J: (enraged) He did WHAT?! Why didn’t you kick him?!

Little E: He asked me nicely if he could give me a kiss and I said ok.

Thumper: (pointing his spoon at Little E) NO NO!

J: You can’t just go around letting weirdos give you a kiss! If he tries to pull this stunt again, you should give him a kick! A BIG KICK!

Little E: He’s not a weirdo! He’s my friend!

Thumper: (frowning) NO NO! NO NO!

J: Well, we haven’t met him, so he’s must be a weirdo or you would have introduced him to us first before letting him give you a kiss! This is nonsense! He’s not worthy of marrying my sister! If I see him, I’m going to kick him!

Little E: That’s why I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to freak out!

J: WHY WOULD I FREAK OUT?! I’m not freaking out at all. I am totally normal!

Debs G: Little E, the next time somebody in your class asks to give you a kiss or asks you for a kiss, you should tell them that you need to ask your mummy and daddy first, okay?

Little E: Okay, Mummy.

J: And then I will find him and give him a kick.

udders-ice-cream

Enjoying ice-cream at Udders Cafe

Dying of Depression

The following post has been placed behind a cut because of its frank discussion of depression and suicide, which may upset some readers.  Owls Well Blogs urges its readers to seek help if they are suffering or know someone who is suffering from depression.  Beyond Blue and the Black Dog Institute have very useful online resources to help with dealing with depression, whether you’re suffering from it or know someone who is.

If you have been thinking about suicide, please seek immediate help.  In Australia, you can call Lifeline at 13 11 14.  In Singapore, call the Samaritans of Singapore at 1800 221 4444.  You do not have to suffer alone.

Continue reading

Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us by Melanie Lee (An E-book Review)

Written by Melanie Lee and illustrated by Sheryl Khor

Written by Melanie Lee and illustrated by Sheryl Khor

Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us is a cheeky A to Z compilation of short stories written by local writer Melanie Lee, and illustrated by Sheryl Khor.

If these names look familiar, you’ve probably seen them both online before. Melanie is also known in Internet Land as Tea Lady Mel, and Sheryl is a freelance writer and owner of the online fashion store, Bricolage Boutique. But, to me, they are both dear friends from my childhood and I am so proud to be able to review their published work!

The 26 fables are inspired by memories from Sheryl and Melanie’s primary school days together, when they used to make-believe that their water-bottles had names [1] and went on magical adventures. I can even see one of the games that Sheryl and I used to play using stationery and pencil boxes [2] in the story ‘E is for Elly Eraser‘.

Despite the cuddly cover and whimsical full-colour cartoon illustrations, Imaginary Friends is a highly irreverent and impudent little book written for grown-up-children like myself. The stories are full of sardonic wit, interspersed with the occasional tender moment. I especially like the life lesson at the end of each tale (because all fables must come with a pithy moral or you will learn nothing, NOTHING, I say) which can be surprisingly meaningful and relevant in our modern society.

Although there were a few little stories that seemed to end rather abruptly, I still think that it’s a superfun e-book to read, and would make very good company during the daily commute! If you liked other children’s books for grownups like Avery Monsen’s All My Friends Are Dead or Adam Mansbach’s Go the F*** to Sleep, you will definitely enjoy Imaginary Friends!  Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us is priced at a mere US$4.99 (a real bargain!) and is available in a range of e-reader formats on AmazonKindle, Kobo and MPH Online.

Debs G rates Imaginary Friends: 8 out of 10 stars! 

If you’re still not convinced of the brilliance of this book, you can listen to excerpts from the book here:

Imaginary Friends – B is for Bertie Butterfly

Imaginary Friends – K is for Kip the Kingfisher read by Sheryl Khor

Or you can watch this little cute music video here:

ebook-smspaces-1aBy the way, this is Melanie’s second anthology of short stories written in the A-Z format, the first one being Small Spaces: An A-Z Story Squeeze, which is 26 stories about the thoughts and responses of people who live in constricting circumstances. This book is available on iBook and Kobo at the embarassingly low price of USD$0.99 so it’s worth checking out too!


1.I remember Melanie had a water-bottle with a cute cover that had a Little Twin Star print on it that was the height of fashion at the time. It called Janet. I only remember this because I was terribly envious of Janet, which I felt was a particularly imaginative name for a water-bottle. My water-bottle was called ‘Ellie’. No prizes for guessing what my water-bottle cover looked like.

2. The hardcore kind with multiple layers and buttons for secret compartments.

Related Articles