Grief is the Thing With Feathers

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“Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush.

Max Porter ‘Grief is the Thing With Feathers’

Crappy grief week but please no pity. The light and the dark co-exist and I think I do a good job of sharing both, but some weeks are just worse than others. I have become better at accepting the kindness and help of people both online and offline but at the end of the day my grief, my girls grief and solo parenting is my reality to bear and there is no point in me feeling sorry for myself. All my energy goes into doing the very best I can for the three of us and being an advocate for my girls and what is the right thing for them.

Grief is one of those things that you just keep circling back around to and this week the girls have been particularly grief stricken, raging (at me) then full of tears, burrowing into my body at night and just generally miserable. In fact, school just rang, The Tween wants to come home (I said no – because I’m kind of a bit tough like that). Even the dog seems grief stricken this week – I woke up Monday with his huge face close to mine and his big brown eyes looking at me like ‘where is he?’. I also woke up one morning with my phone IN MY FACE and I yelled and whacked the phone out of my face. It was ChickPea – trying to download a game by activating face ID with my sleeping face. See? My life is ridiculous.

My friend Mel tried to call me this morning and I missed the call because I was walking the dog and listening to an audio book. I’ve had very little sleep this week and the last thing I wanted to do was go for a walk but when I don’t sleep I have to physically exhaust my body in the hope that I’ll  sleep the following night. When I texted back and said I was listening to my grief book as I walked, she replied ‘you and your grief books’. She knows me well.

I am completely enamoured with grief literature –  grief lit. Is that a term? We talk about kid lit and chick lit so can we have grief lit? I find it incredibly soothing listening to the words of those far more articulate than myself talking about the exquisite pain of loss, grief and agonising loneliness.  Far from being depressing, I find books which deal with grief incredibly hopeful; they acknowledge and articulate my own feelings and they help me to navigate my way through the loss of my brother, my aunt and my husband.

As a family we have had way too much loss and far too much trauma. And yet we function exceptionally well as a family. We laugh a lot, genuinely enjoy each others company, we are healthily competitive about work (competitive about everything really), we yell to be heard over the top of each other and we occasionally fight. We also eat a lot of wood fired pizza cooked in my dads pizza oven and I would like to make it known that I am still cranky that the rotters didn’t save me any last week when we had a family dinner. I was late for dinner as I was WORKING. I thought about the delicious thin and lightly charred pizza on the drive to my parents and when I arrived, they looked at me and said ‘oh dear. We ate it all’. In fact, my brother had to lay down and groan, he was that full of pizza.

I digress. So I am walking the dog and listening to my grief book this morning. The book is called ‘Grief is the Thing With Feathers’ by Max Porter and I was given it in print form by my friends Thomas and Daniel, who live in Copenhagen. Whenever these boys are in Australia I love having lunch with them and discussing children’s books, adult books and what we are all reading. They know I indulge in a bit of grief lit and Daniel was a little shocked I had not come across this particular book so off they went to Avid Reader to get me a copy. It’s a thin little volume and I’ve now read it several times over. It’s part memoir, part prose, part poetry and the narration shifts from father to sons to crow – all of them exploring and untangling the unbearable sadness of the sudden death of a mother.

“And the boys were behind me, a tide-wall of laughter and yelling, hugging my legs, tripping and grabbing, leaping, spinning, stumbling, roaring, shrieking and the boys shouted I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU and their voice was the life and song of their mother. Unfinished. Beautiful. Everything.”

Max Porter, ‘Grief is the Thing With Feathers’

This morning I needed to be pretty much inside that book so I downloaded it as audio and took the anxious dog for a long a walk before I gave him his daily anti-depressant. As I was walking and listening to the crow talk, an actual crow swooped then took off again, leaving two feathers in my way. I’m not into ‘signs’ – I am firmly in the reality camp and I have no tolerance or time for ‘signs’ in the world. But even I was like ‘yep…okay world, even I have to admit that’s a bit spooky’. I picked up the crow feathers and walked home with the them and after I gave the dog his anti-depressant I put them in a vase and I’ll just keep them because I like the crow in ‘Grief is the Thing With Feathers’. The crow is a sentimental soul, drawn to this grieving father and his motherless sons. He becomes part babysitter and part healer but is also caustic and funny and he stays until the family no longer need him. Sound like a strange tale? It truly is. It is strange and wonderful and warm and a book that I will return to time and time again.

Does anyone else do the audio/print run-around? I love audio books and listen to them almost daily. But I switch between print and audio all the time – which is ridiculous because I end up paying for both forms but I cannot help myself. Another of my favourite grief lit reads of the past month is ‘Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me’ by Bill Hayes. I listened to it as audio first and I had to keep sitting in the car after I had arrived places – I was so transfixed by the story. The second I finished the audio I rang Avid Reader Bookshop and asked if they had it in store. I think it was Jen I spoke to, and as soon as I said the title she said, ‘oh it’s soooo great isn’t it? Okay you have to own the hardback edition of it as it’s such a lovely edition…and…hang on…yes we have it’. Darn it local independent bookstores are the best aren’t they?

“I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting life.”

Bill Hayes,‘Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me’

Next week will be fine. Because grief is like that – always there – some weeks it is super close and like a dark velvet cloak that is heavy on your skin and other weeks it is just drifting lightly (and quite beautifully) above you. Grief doesn’t end, because love doesn’t end. And if love is beautiful, then so too is grief.

All my other fav grieflit is here and my ramblings on grief are scattered throughout the blog – you can search ‘grief’ as a heading if you are so inclined.

“I missed her so much that I wanted to build a hundred-foot memorial to her with my bare hands. I wanted to see her sitting in a vast stone chair in Hyde Park, enjoying her view. Everybody passing could comprehend how much I miss her. How physical missing her is. I miss her so much it is a vast golden prince, a concert hall, a thousand trees, a lake, nine thousand buses, a million cars, twenty million birds and more. The whole city is my missing her.”

Max Porter, ‘Grief is the Thing With Feathers’

PS – hello Justine and Mel (my CBD staff). Yes I know I’m meant to be writing my e-course. But I’m having a griefy week. And now I think I’ll have to go pick up The Tween. So there goes my day of writing and recording video content. Opps…deal with it next week?


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6 Comments

  1. Denyse Whelan on Feb 21, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    Oh Megan, I hear you on the audio book and then wanting the actual book…because you heard something you don’t want to forget. I order the physical book after the audio. My bookshelf is a mix of never read but definitely heard. Sending love…

    Denyse xx

    ps I also found comfort (?) in Augusten Burroughs ‘How’. Listened for the second time recently and heard new stuff. Have the book.

    • Megan Daley on Mar 6, 2020 at 11:52 am

      Thank you for the recommendation of ‘How’ – I downloaded it this week!

  2. Connie on Mar 6, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Megan, watching from afar, but I reckon you’re doing a mighty fine job of handling grief. Your writings clearly illustrate the topsy-turvy-ness that permeate our lives when grieving, and your courage and honesty in expressing your feelings give hope and quiet to others.

    • Megan Daley on Mar 6, 2020 at 11:52 am

      Thank you so much Connie…x

  3. Megan Forward on Jul 31, 2020 at 8:41 am

    Gosh you write well Megan. I’m really moved by your writings on grief. I totally resonate with the ‘I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting Life’ quote. But your honest, ‘light and dark’ , almost ordinary every day expressions of deep things are beautiful. A few more books there in you I think. X Megan

    • Megan Daley on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      That is VERY kind Miss Megan! I mostly just ramble away. xxx

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