Thursday, the penultimate day of what felt like the longest January in the history of time.
I woke up in tears. I couldn’t stop thinking of the day my little sister called me to break the devastating news that my grandpa, pappou Costas had died and the day afterwards, the day of the funeral I did not attend, as I was stuck in Cambridge doing my CELTA course.
I remember it vividly, in details, colours and feelings, like it was yesterday. Little moments that I’d normally forget if it was any other day I can recall in excruciatingly painful detail, my little sister and mum messaging me first to say that ‘grandpa was ill’ (he had died but they didn’t know how to tell me), the dreaded phone call afterwards, wandering by the stairs on a quiet corner of the corridor, Shalala asking me if I was OK some time later when I could barely speak at our TP feedback session, crying my eyes out that evening whilst planning a lesson for the following day, the following morning Jonny asking me if I was OK and and his reaction when I burst into tears, sitting outside in the sunshine just before I were about to teach about Mongolian horse racing (the same time as the funeral was taking place in Cyprus) looking up in the sky wishing my grandpa farewell, then remembering that ‘teachers are really actors’ and thankfully making it through my lesson.
Naturally, I started thinking of uncle Spyro’s tragic death just two months later. Again I remember every single detail, visiting him at the hospital a week before he died, in excruciating pain not able to say more than a few words at a time but still in good spirits, getting ready to go see him again a week later but receiving the dreaded phone call to inform us that he had passed away, the eulogy I wrote and ended up reading because my sister couldn’t manage through the tears (not that I did much better), the funeral, the burial, the memorial service for both of them a week later.
I wrecked my brain desperately trying to figure out why. Why do I suddenly feel so overwhelmingly sad about it, 4 months later, 6 months later? Perhaps because I wasn’t there when it happened and I never got closure when grandpa died? But I was there when uncle Spyros died…
Am I still grieving?
Then I remembered something a couple whose daughter died of cancer and came to share their story at one of the Touch storytelling events said.
Jon and Chris described grief like a circle, the circle is everything about the loved one you lost. At the beginning, you are in the centre of the circle, you cannot see past the sadness and the chaos. As time goes by, you get out of the circle and it gets smaller, you can see beyond it, but it’s always there. You just learn how to live with it.
And they were right..
They were right. It’s always there and at any given time you are back in the middle of the circle again. It’s always there, like an old scar that sometimes bleeds and hurts as much as the first time. And this one isn’t even that old of a scar.
So, grief never really goes away.
I did not suppress it. I cried throughout the day (exhaustion did not help) and choked every time I tried to hum a farewell song written by one of my favourite Cypriot composers, Costas Kakoyiannis, beautiful lyrics by his partner Pambos Kouzalis, who had just lost his brother to cancer, sang by an incredible 14 year old, Georgia Neokleous, who had sadly lost her mum to cancer too. Life is cruel like that sometimes.
That’s grief. It never goes away, if from time to time the pain comes back and you should never suppress it. There is no specific amount of time that you need or have to ‘overcome grief’. You just learn to manage it, but some days it hurts like hell and that’s OK.
Today is one of those days. I miss grandpa’s laughter and silly little jokes, his smile when all his grandchildren were visiting, running around the house, uncle Spyro’s wit, advice and little remedies he always suggested, his endless kindness and patience. It hurts but it’s OK.
I was lucky enough to have them in my life and that’s worth all the pain of losing them.
This is for you. Mr Kakoyiannis song (I translated the lyrics as they were too beautiful not to share and the composer included them in the description of the video).
You left and I didn’t get even get the chance to bid farewell,
say my last goodbyes.
How could I live without you for so long?
I throw water on your path, so a plane tree can grow.
To protect you from all evil, always keep it away, keep you safe.