Sometimes

Sometimes there aren’t words to cover things. Sometimes things are too much.

One of those is the Grenfell Tower fire. So many people dead, some of whom may never be identified.

So they’re not just dead, they’re depersonalised in death; only there in the hearts and lives of those who remember them. Remember them.

Not being sure is even harder than losing someone and burying them. If someone you love died and has been found and named, you know where they are. You can bury them, visit their grave, mourn them, talk to them, know that the fire happened to them and they’re dead.

But being missing’s a whole different thing. Objectively, you know they were there, and they didn’t escape, but in your heart you can’t quite bring yourself to be sure, because the concept of a world without them, those you love so much, is monstrously hard. You’ll do almost anything to escape it. And it’s really hard to be sure. There’s always just a tiny chance that they did get away, that they were hit on the head, lost their memory, wanted (why?!) to escape and have a new life. And that adds months, years, sometimes a lifetime to the grieving process.

And then there’s the whys. People lose themselves in the whys, spend a life starting charities, campaigning so this never happens again, submerging their lives into that one event, that one person. And that’s not bad, it’s different. It means you’ve given up your life for the person you love, or maybe found a purpose for your own life you were lacking until this appalling thing happened. (Death is appalling; even if you’re expecting it, it’s a tremendous shock. The person you’ve lived with, loved, played with, brought up, hung out with is now somewhere else, without you. They’re been translated into somewhere else, and you can’t get hold of them. They’re in a different dimension. They’re no longer alive.)

Then there’s the whole thing of who’s responsible. The fact that their death was almost certainly avoidable; that it probably happened because of neglect, a lack of care, possible negligence, because their lives and the risk to them may have been less important than profit and policy. And that makes you angry, and it can lead to despair.

So how do you deal with it? Slowly. Gradually. Sometimes you can’t and you push it away; sometimes all you can do is think of it. Sometimes all you can do is feel. It’s always at the back of your mind. You become a half person, reacting with only the surface part of your mind because the rest is occupied exclusively with That. That thing that happened. The fact that they’re not here. It consumes you. And gradually, very gradually fades. You learn to live round it. The happy memories come back. The lovely, laughy, joyful times and the niggly, irritating, infuriating times. All the bits of them, good, bad, middling. All the bits that made them themselves, and made you friends, or enemies, or just people-who-passed-in-the-street-but-there-was-something. The link. You still grieve – you have times when grief is all there is. Those episodes get further apart, until there’s more interval than grief. Then you start to recover.

So remember when you can, when you can cope with remembering. Remember every bit of them; don’t turn them into the Sainted Departed. They weren’t. They were all round human beings and their quirks and preferences made them the people they were. You loved them and they’re gone, and that will shape your life forever. Try and grieve like a child – be happy when you’re happy, be sad when you’re sad. Scream, cry, shout, smile. Feel the catapult of feelings. Know they’ll change. Know you don’t need to grasp them, because who your person was will never change, and your love will always last. You’ll never lose the memory of them, even though they’re not there. Be comforted. Be angry. Be sad. Turn into you again. It takes time.

Meanwhile, remember joy happens. It will come again.