Sunday, 23 March 2014

Loss and attachment

I've just written about bereavement for one assignment for my counselling MSc, and I'm in the middle of writing about attachment for another. I wrote about bereavements which are losses due to death, but bereavement and grief can apply to other losses, such as losing a job, breaking up with a partner, or giving up a child for adoption. Bereavement and attachment are linked, of course; without attachments to people (complicated or not), we wouldn't feel the losses.

People are familiar with the idea of "stages of grief", but I like J. William Worden's idea of "tasks of grief". It feels less passive and prescriptive, and grief isn't clear cut and linear most of the time. You think you're at the acceptance stage, then bang. You're back to guilt again.

My loss last year wasn't a death, but it was pretty earth-shattering to me. Shock serves a purpose; it allows you to carry on with life without being overcome by misery or yearning. And focusing on rationalising and reasoning, and being pro-active and showing everyone who's worried about you just how resilient you are...that's all very well, but it doesn't last forever. One day, something catches you off-guard: a song you hear when you're out, an innocuous comment that a friend makes, a film that you thought was a "safe" option when you went to the cinema. And then all of these feelings, which you think have no place in the life that you've readjusted to, hit you one by one.

I remember walking out halfway through Before Midnight last summer. I adored the first two films, loved Jesse and Celine, and couldn't wait for the third installment. But sitting in the Barbican, my surprise and irritation with the film and the characters rose until I couldn't bear it anymore. I waited for my friend in the quiet restaurant, but when I tried to eat, I found myself crying instead. When my friend found me an hour later (why couldn't it have been 80 minutes long, like Before Sunset?!), I'd stopped crying, but when asked if I was ok, I didn't know how to answer.

Last year, in that horrible, bitterly cold winter, I tried to force Bridal Crown narcissi indoors, in the hope that they would flower for what was meant to be our wedding in the spring. It didn't work; I had a few shoots and leaves, but that was all. Symbolically or not, the wedding didn't happen either. This year, the mild winter has confused my spring bulbs, which needed a cold spell, and the damp ground has resulted in short stems and fewer flowers. But my Bridal Crown narcissi have flowered.

The Honeymoon tulips, another bulb chosen as much for its name and what it represented as for its beautiful blooms, didn't flower last year. This year it has made a shy appearance.

And forget-me-nots.

Our lovely cake maker was going to incorporate them into the cake design, our jeweller in Birmingham's jewellery quarter had engraved them on my rose gold wedding ring, and I planned to get some from a flower farm we visited to use in the wedding flowers. Last year I made do without, but this year I bought some plants. The tiny flowers first emerged at the start of March, and the baskets are now a mass of bright blue and pink, with dots of yellow. After thinking it over, I started to wear my forget-me-not ring last month. It feels nice; like Worden's fourth task of finding a place for the loss in the present but still moving on with life.

I cut a Bridal Crown narcissi stem for a small vase, and once it opened up, I cut it short and put it with some blue and pink forget-me-nots. It's sad, of course, but there's love and wonder and hope there, so I smile when I think of the story behind them.

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