I’m beginning to discover that dealing with grief is a constant compromise that happens within yourself. This is as important as compromise with anyone that you truly want to get along with.
I always thought I knew how I would grieve when I lost someone important to me, informed by popular media. There would be months or years of utter despair, and then after that you are all better and you move on. Instead I laughed days after my father’s death, and still have days where I sob like he passed yesterday.
Getting a hold on loss like that is difficult, and something I’ve been trying to figure out without the benefit of therapy or any kind of spiritual faith. Instead I’ve spent a lot of time in my own head, examining and re-examining how I feel. The reality of our situation is that often we can’t give the time we need to properly mourn, because life bafflingly moves on. While the days and weeks after you lose someone very close to you it feels like everything should stop, it doesn’t.
People still call for your bill payments and you still have to go to work; the world around you just simply moves on. So how do you properly grieve and still have any real life? It has taken me nearly four months to understand how to do this myself, but it is all about compromise with your grief.
If you haven’t watched The Babadook on Netflix you might be surprised to find that the show isn’t quite the horror show the trailer might make it out to be, instead it is a poignant and revealing look at grief. I didn’t know watching it that it would provide me a valuable tool or that I would constantly think back to the movie during the process. I’ll be discussing this movie and will spoil it significantly, but I found it to be an awesome flick, so maybe check it out and come back and finish reading.
Spoilers for Babadook Ahead. You have been warned.
Babadook is a movie about a woman who has lost her husband and it begins in a horribly somber setting. The house that the movie is primarily filmed in is grey and oppressive in a lot of ways, filmed in such a way that feels stifling. It feels more morgue or tomb than home, and it informs the beginning elements of the film. The boy within the home is young and doesn’t know his father, but he also has a lot of behavioral issues and sometimes makes his mother’s life difficult in this sense.
The mother however is drowning in her grief and so can’t fully comprehend how to help the boy, all of it being too much for her at the moment. As the movie continues the boy finds a book called The Babadook that introduces the supernatural portion of the film, and not long after this creature begins appearing within the home. The boy builds traps for it, terrified of closets and dark spaces, knowing the Babadook is coming for him.
Eventually the movie culminates in the family confronting the monster, but they don’t defeat it and send it away. Instead the mother keeps the Babadook in the basement, and once a day she goes down to feed it worms they find in the garden. The muted grey of the home is gone and the boy seems happier, but the enemy is not truly defeated.
The Babadook is a direct allegory for grief, and the ending shows that you cannot banish it from yourself. You don’t simply get better and move on, instead it is a part of your everyday life and there will be moments you have to give into it.
Sometimes I find the best way to do that is set aside time when you can be sad about the situation, maybe listen to sad songs and cry: simply miss the individual. Will it make sure that you will never be sad outside of that? Not at all. I spent some time Thanksgiving morning crying in a grocery aisle because I saw a bag of stuffing my father always made that day. There will always be surprise remembrances that take your breath away, suddenly making you feel as if it was the day you lost them.
However, by allowing grief the time and attention it needs it can lessen the impact of these situations and can allow you to move on and live a more healthy lifestyle. It is when we refuse to acknowledge grief or treat it, shoving it deep down inside and denying it, that eventually we will break.
Just like a relationship if only one side is allowed to be expressed eventually it will end badly. You have to compromise with yourself, let yourself feel the loss, but let yourself smile also.
Try and take control of your grief by not trying to banish or defeat it, but giving the Babadook its own space.