Life and Death
August 6, 2014 5:59 PM   Subscribe

On July 2, 2014, Hannah Richell's husband Matt was killed in a surfing accident at Bronte beach.

"Like the kids, I am learning new skills, too. I am the incredible skin woman – empty – hollow – nothing real or warm left inside. I am a sham, pretending at life. I am master of the silent scream; a Munch-esque response to the quietness of the house in the evenings, when the children have fallen still and I find myself alone with my thoughts.

"When I feel like this, I try to draw upon the mantra my grief counsellor has given me: This is a moment of pain. Pain is a part of life. I wish myself peace.
posted by chris88 (16 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Grief is like acid, etching our souls. But it's worse not to grieve.
posted by djeo at 6:12 PM on August 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

I guess sometimes it can be good to hyperventilate from a sudden burst of sorrow tempered with appreciation that someone can take this point of view on their grief. Thank you for posting it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:21 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

At the moment, I can't read anything about grief without thinking about the three little Maslin children who died in the MH17 attack. They lived only a couple of suburbs away, and my friend's son was in the same class as 8-year-old Otis.

At their memorial service last week, their father said "The only thing worse than the hell beyond hell we are going through is the horrific thought that our family may have never existed.”

I can't imagine how you learn to live with that: joy that your loved ones ever existed, and unbearable, howl-at-the-sky grief at losing them.

The strength that these parents mustered to talk publicly about their loss is utterly astonishing to me. This article struck me the same way.

posted by Salamander at 6:43 PM on August 6, 2014 [14 favorites]

Wow that hurts.
posted by zpousman at 6:44 PM on August 6, 2014

A dear friend of mine worked with Matthew.. by all accounts he was a great boss, a loving father and an all round good guy. It's left a terrible void in the publishing industry here- and an even more horrendous void in the loved ones left behind. My thoughts are with his family and his colleagues- I can't imagine the grief and agony they must be going through, to lose such a great man at the dispassionately cruel whim of the universe.

posted by Philby at 7:06 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

The immortal jellyfish touches a nerve.
posted by bq at 7:11 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

djeo: “Grief is like acid, etching our souls. But it's worse not to grieve.”
Truer words were never spoken. I was the only one even remotely coherent enough to speak after we said our goodbyes to Mom, so I forced myself to shut it down right there in the hospital. I've paid for that choice every day since.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:34 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

That is one of the most poignant and courageous things I have ever read. So much to think about and realize.

Thank you for posting it.
posted by Uncle Grumpy at 7:37 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

You never really lose the grief that you bear when you lose a loved one. I still remember the colour of the sky the day my grandfather died, the sound of my father singing to my grandmother as she passed. The tears come easily years after, but the memories are what keep them alive in our hearts.

Such a brave piece of writing, I wish her and her family peace and love.
posted by arcticseal at 7:58 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been asking myself in recent days how long this pain will last, but standing up there on the bench, I was struck by the sudden realisation that this pain isn’t going anywhere.

I wish someone had told me that back when I didn't know it- that'd be almost 3 decades ago. Maybe they did and I didn't hear them. Instead I had a bunch of ideas about "getting over it" and "moving on." Which I could not do, and did not do.

I mean I moved on in the sense that I am older now and I've gotten over it to the extent that that can happen. But I wish I'd known, because then I wouldn't have been so blindsided every time the sense of loss came rushing back.

You mourn because you still love her, which is beautiful, and hurts. You're mad at her for leaving (though you can't stay mad at her for being gone) and you are mad at yourself for feeling that, and for being here to feel it.

She would not approve of that, so I try to stop, which makes it worse and better. Just as the grief makes you older right away and somehow keeps you from growing up. It's made me more compassionate and unreachable. I believe that love is the best thing you can do and that it's barely worth it because I also believe it's tragic. Given the choice I don't know what I'd do but I never was, so here I am.

I've told this story often enough but I don't talk about it much because I've no idea what to say- people look at you with what seems like a mixture of pity and admiration, I have no idea what that means but that's alright. Just as I know that this might sound pretentious and/or trite and it's also true.

Undoubtedly I do it wrong, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I know that other people seem to get over things, and move along, and I cant keep myself from envying and despising them. But no amount of feeling about them, or thinking about this, seems to change the process, only time does. But it barely does.

It's fine, most days, most weeks, I never think about it. And when I do it's mostly all alright. It's fine, I know it'll never be fine, and that's fine too.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:04 PM on August 6, 2014 [30 favorites]

I dread being the one left behind, so this is hard to read. I have lost enough people that I do occasionally think about death in an abstract way: "I'd do this; I'd need to be sure to do that." but I know none of that will be important in any way when/if the real thing shows up. Not for someone close to me, like a child or spouse.

I don't think any words are really adequate to death, and that's why we don't talk about it. Talking about it doesn't make it bearable. You just keep living, and life demands your attention, so you push back against the awareness of death so that you can do that. But it doesn't ever stop seeming wrong that someone is gone. I'm not sure that even "expected" deaths ever feel right. Does it really hurt less if you lose someone at 99 instead of 19? Or is it just a different type of hurt? I haven't figured that out.
posted by emjaybee at 9:15 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you have gone over your quota (I have) at the SMH, here is the original, with more about Matt Richell. Have your tissues handy.
posted by unliteral at 10:39 PM on August 6, 2014

I was in my 20s when my friends started dying. AIDS. It was the 80s. Then cancer picked off a few more. My closest friend made it to 30. Not long after another close friend developed schizophrenia, then died of a treatable medical condition. Then my father died, in front of me, during a fire.

I spent a lot of time in the woods trying to figure all this out. I dug holes and screamed into them, trying to bury my grief. I raged at my friends for leaving me behind.

Now, I try to live mindfully. When I enjoy some delicious morsel, it is with awareness that I will not do so forever. A passing, lovely scent; kids laughing; my bare feet in grass. These things are infinitely sweet and beyond price. Yes, this understanding has come at great cost... I cannot reckon the numbers without weeping.

The only thing we can do in the face of death is live.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:02 AM on August 7, 2014 [25 favorites]

It never goes away.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:41 AM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

That stuff about the little girl dressing up in her Dad's clothes broke my heart. I lost a parent when I was young and I have enormous compassion for them.
posted by thelonius at 9:52 AM on August 7, 2014

That was heartbreaking but also very moving and beautiful. Thanks for posting.
posted by bakery at 4:53 PM on August 7, 2014

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