Those are probably two of my favourite words; I love them more than ‘I love you’ or ‘Please eat’ or ‘Welcome’ or ‘I’ve been thinking about you’. Those are all lovely words, in those specific combinations, but ‘I’m alright’ means that you’re alright. You’re okay. You’re around.
I open my eyes in the cold, dark, still water, and my arms fly out from my sides as the weights in my chest expand and balloon; I tread water as I look around, frantic, turning this way and that, struggling to understand why, where, what, how, when, who. I open my mouth to suck the air in; black water flows into my lungs.
This feels like drowning.
On election day, in the middle of an early morning filled with grim updates on the television, I watched the US election poll results being called in growing disbelief when my doorbell clanged. I opened it to find the little girl next door informing me that she was staying home from school, sick, and wanted to come in and hang out with me. I let her in and she gleefully went to pick up my little black cat, whom she is inordinately attached to. I returned to the living room and focused on the news again, and on Twitter, until I turned around and realised she’d joined me. I instantly became more aware of how appropriate the language was, considering some of the shocking things that have been said by the Republican candidate this election cycle, when she suddenly piped up with: Why does America hate girls?
There’s nothing straightforward about grief. There’s no set rule for you to follow. Past experiences are useless, because each loss is different. Pain is unique, and it is a million times worse when you don’t understand why you have to experience it.
Grief is a many-feathered thing.