Geeks Vs Loneliness: grief, the final frontier
Grief doesn’t just disappear after a set period of mourning, but life and new memories can be built around it...
This article contains spoilers for Lucifer.
When I first came to Geeks Vs Loneliness as a reader I was in a precarious place. Up to my waist in the quicksand of grief. I might not have realised it at the time – but I was floundering.
The day my dad died was the worst day of my life. I suspect it’s the same for most of us who have lost parents. Our culture tells us to be stoic, to carry on, to observe the short ritual commemorating someone’s life and then to close all their accounts – both physical and mental – and carry on as normal.
I couldn’t carry on as normal. I tried, I really did – but the legs had been taken out from under me. As well as grief I was struggling with monumental guilt at being the person who decided that life support should be terminated. And terminate is a hard word – but it’s the right one. My dad’s life was terminated – and I gave permission for that to happen.
This was four years ago. I had cause to reflect on that this week when in my role outside of geekdom I met someone whose internalised grief had caused them to act out, to mask what they felt by pushing everyone away until all control was stripped from them and they crashed. That day was the first time they admitted their feelings. There was no lower place for them to go, they opened up. Thankfully compassion and help could on this occasion be offered (and was taken).
What struck me about this was that person was could so easily have been me at that same point in the grief process. How easy it is to keep saying everything is okay when it isn’t but you’re being stoic even as you begin to drown.
How hard it is to ask for help.
I know how hard it is. I know how grief and guilt can untether you from the everyday, from routine, from reasoned decision making. There was a period after my dad died when I walked away from a stable job that I’d given so much of myself to. I couldn’t do it any more, couldn’t put on the mask of normality required of me to get through the day. I was deep in that emotional quicksand, stripped bare of the face of civility.
As I binged on Lucifer last month I realised how much of that show is based on the fear of loss, and loss itself. Beneath the quips, the campness, the multiple eye rolling and improbability of the Devil as a detective there lies a real sense of vulnerability. When Lucifer loves he becomes vulnerable – and for a time his Devil mask is stripped away as his angelic nature seeks to reassert itself despite the self-mutilation of his wings.
The theme of loss is carried throughout – Mazikeen’s actions when she fears she will lose Linda, everyone’s grief at the loss of Charlotte in season three. Lucifer’s fear at losing Chloe makes him drop all masks, flex his wings – bloodied, bowed but at the core still the angelic protector he sought to subvert into his role as Hell’s punisher in chief. And in his anger he wears no mask but that terrible vision of vengeance, laid bare for Chloe to see after years of trying to protect her from his devil face.
I’m no angel. The past four years have seen me muddling through life, a geek without a clue. But this past month I’ve had cause to reflect on where this period of my life started, that awful day four years ago. How I can think of my dad now with a smile, without that twinge of remorse. How I can listen to Song Sung Blue by Neil Diamond on the radio again without immediately reaching for the off switch. How my grief seems to be reaching its final frontier.
I came out of the quicksand. I was given multiple hands to hold, kind words to help. I was given a voice – right here, in this series – to openly talk about the day my dad died for the very first time. I made choices based on instinct rather than reason which led me to a Scottish hill where the Northern Lights dance. I sang Meatloaf to a mandolin in a story telling circle and heard Helen Lederer talk colonic irrigation. I rediscovered my joy in writing, in playing with words which had been buried beneath the work/study responsibilities I’d carried for so long.
I was lucky enough to be cared for by the wonderful man who holds my heart.
Not all of those choices were the right ones, the safe ones, the sensible option. But they came from the heart and led me to see the world in a different light – and I realised it’s okay to make mistakes. I was fortunate. I found a way out.
I see the final edge of my grief now, and how far I’ve come. Other people are just starting their own way through it, their own pilgrim’s progress. If you are one of them know there is no right or wrong way to deal with it, no time limit on what you feel. Those two weeks from work might cover the basic admin of death. It comes nowhere close to damming the emotional rivers that threaten to overflow their banks. And maybe we should open the floodgates when we need to.
There is future grief down river. I know this. To live is to love and to lose, as Lucifer finds out to his cost – but also to his enrichment. In writing this I hope people feel they can talk about their own grief, acknowledge their own sadness and the isolation it causes. Grief is universal – yet it is also so individual. Whatever stage of that journey you are at, how you find your life changed and whatever decisions you chose to make I wish you nothing but the best.
Take care. And if you need to, take the helping hand.
Cruse Bereavement Care can be contacted on 0808 808 1677 or at www.cruse.org.uk in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for further support when dealing with the death of a loved one. In Scotland they can be found at www.crusescotland.org.uk or called on 0845 600 2227.