5 Things Which Might Get Your Mind Off Grief

Why Russian Geography Is Good for the Soul

I’m interrupting this interlude to bring you some normal programming.

I had to take a little break there, while I didn’t feel particularly funny (and for some reason became allergic to the internet). That’s not to say that nothing is funny after someone dies. Grief apparently has a sense of humour too. The humour is just very different – and it’s a lot like a sit-com in places.

There was the part of the funeral homily my follically challenged Dad would have appreciated most, when all the women in the congregation were told to stop dyeing their hair. The look on the face of the guy outside the crematorium who had to run after me to tell me he’d broken the coffin plate.

Then there was the man himself, the dearly departed, whose great wit was remembered and recounted at great length throughout the period I like to call the funeral bubble, when it’s kind of all right because everyone’s in it together and swapping stories about the only one who’s missing.

And so, despite the relief in finding that there is indeed comedy in everything, it would have felt seriously weird, just to return to ha-ha-so-jolly-did-ya-hear-the-one-about-the-stereotype-who-walked-into-a-blog jokes, without at least acknowledging what got me through the last 2 months. Especially this week, which particularly sucked, being also the anniversary of my remarkable Mum’s even more untimely passing, so let’s just leave that there.

And so here, therefore, are 5 recommended aids to get a body through the first few months after a loved one dies:

  1. Crime

  2. Filth

  3. Ire

  4. Caterwauling

  5. Leopards


1. Crime

For a lot of grieving people, reading becomes impossible. It’s probably something to do with certain parts of your brain going into Safe Mode. It can be very upsetting, though, not being able to read: it’s not what you need when you’re already trying to figure out what the hell is going on in your head. The answer to this dilemma, apparently, is true crime podcasts. I devoured them for about 4 weeks solid. This has the added bonus of keeping you away from the news, which is depressing even for happy people with functioning brains.

2. Filth

I don’t care who you are or what you do for a living, one of the few things that’s going to make sense to do after someone dies, is cleaning. It’s logical, sensible, immediately satisfying, and you have complete control over it. Think about it: there is dirt on the thing. You remove the dirt. The thing is now clean. Instant, indisputable results, and fairly mindful too.

3. Ire

They say that anger is one of the 5 or 7 stages of grief, depending on whose dodgy roadmap you’re looking at. However, they don’t say anything about the benefit to one’s psychology of being in a space where nobody even questions your right to be angry. Allowing yourself to get mad at eejitry can be oddly comforting, as can being openly dismissive in the case that one might have one or more colleagues or collaborators who must be suffered gladly at other, non-griefy, times of life, no matter how much you want to tell them otherwise.

4. Caterwauling

Some people call this singing, but that wouldn’t look half as cool in a listicle. I sing in a few choirs, and it’s even more mindful than cleaning. It washes a lot of the sad sticky dross from your head, and shakes out the rugs while it’s at it. Of course, this isn’t really an option available to everyone, but there’s nothing stopping you belting out an old showtune while you’re in the shower, or hoovering.

5. Leopards

I got a big leopard named Brendan, and I hug him when I’m sad. There is more to this story, but I won’t ruin it by telling you.


So that’s it. I’ll be back soon with standard messing about. Until then, thanks for checking in on me, and being generally lovely in your comments last time around.

  40 comments for “5 Things Which Might Get Your Mind Off Grief

  1. Will Hahn
    June 16, 2019 at 10:41 am

    This was such a brave thing to do, worthy of admiration even if you had done a poor job instead of this, so truly you. The only part I can touch is having lost my dad as well, though I never once wrote about it. We’ve been less without you around, Ms. Sparling. I put up a post and sometimes hope specific other people might comment, and when they do I hear the slot-machine bells. I’m glad you’re back. I like hitting the jackpot.

    Liked by 4 people

    • June 16, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      Will, that’s lovely. Thanks a lot. It’s Father’s Day in Ireland so a big day and a big week – I’ve missed you guys, your comments and friendship. So thank you. Muchly. 🤗

      Liked by 2 people

    • July 21, 2019 at 8:18 pm

      What a gem is your take on dealing with grief when it’s so raw and new. It’s liberating. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. June 16, 2019 at 10:45 am

    No.3 came as a surprise when it happened to me. It was surprising to have a freeing experience whilst grieving.
    Good to see you, Tara.

    Liked by 3 people

    • June 16, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      Always good to know there are common experiences which are actually common!! Thank you Scarlet. Always appreciate your stopping by. X

      Liked by 2 people

  3. June 16, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Tara it’s wonderful to read your wit and humour again albeit you are sharing your incredibly difficult & personal journey with us all. You’re a powerful & inspiring lady Tara and I for one salute you and your Dad. His memory will live on through you and with you Tara. I know from my own experience that these are tough & surreal months. Take care Tara. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 16, 2019 at 2:11 pm

      You’re very kind, Mairead, but I hope you know I knew that already. Guess what – even while struggling with reading, The Binding was the first book I managed to finish in the last 2 months so I was very gratefully praising your name afterwards for giving it to me 🤗. Looking forward to seeing you soon I hope. Thanks again. Xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  4. June 16, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Having Brendan is always good. I have Harry from the Hendersons. He’s always smiling.

    Liked by 3 people

    • June 16, 2019 at 10:00 pm

      He has a lovely face, Stanley. I can’t help but concur. 🙂


  5. June 16, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    My father died 18 years ago, one month before my wedding. We had been looking forward to him being there. It was a renaissance themed wedding (I wore pumpkin pants and carried a sword) and I was looking forward to getting a costume for dad. A piece of my heart has been missing, but in time you learn to deal with the loss.

    and I’ll note just one omission from your post: Brendan – no picture? Seriously? You going to fix that, right?

    Liked by 3 people

    • June 16, 2019 at 10:05 pm

      I’m afraid not, Andrew. His agent won’t allow it. We offered money, but apparently he isn’t young, and he doesn’t need it.

      Sorry to hear about your pre-wedding loss. I actually went through the same thing with my Mum just before I got married. It’s just one of those things you learn to accept, I suppose.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. June 16, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    So sorry, today especially, for your loss. My road map to survive these past few weeks has been.
    Embrace the sniper who hits you out of the blue with raw grief… esp if grocery shopping.
    Gather every photo ever taken with your loved one in it and lose hours sharing them with siblings.
    Relive every text and WhatsApp conversation you’ve had with them.
    And finally spend all day knowing they are gone but searching for signs they haven’t left you.

    Much love to you Tara at this sad time. X

    Liked by 4 people

    • June 16, 2019 at 10:08 pm

      Every way that gets us there, Tric. May the road rise to meet you (and me), and our beloved departed, and may our destination be worth it, eh? xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. June 16, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Good to hear from you again, Tara… Even under such sad circumstances. Thinking of you…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. June 16, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. June 17, 2019 at 12:03 am

    I thought about you the other day, realized you’d been quiet for a bit, figured it was the reason it was and had a big old surge of empathy. Touching/funny piece, exactly what I’d expect from your first one back. Having lost my own dad years ago, I know the drill… though I can’t say a leopard was any part of my healing journey, but whatever works, right? 🙂 Glad to have you back. xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 17, 2019 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks, Lorraine. I hope to be back on a regular basis soon too but if there’s one thing I’ve learned lately it’s not to put undue pressure on anyone or anything, including myself!


  10. June 17, 2019 at 2:48 am

    This has been going on since the first humans, and it is still I gigantic shock; yet most of us will eventually weather it.

    The process isn’t pretty all the time, but it IS necessary – because we loved them so much.

    One foot after another – he would want you to. And I can say that without irony (so many people try that one and get it all selfish and wrong).

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 17, 2019 at 9:21 pm

      Thank you Alicia. I agree, everything will be weathered. Sometimes it’s nice to know if there’s an umbrella along the way, though!


      • June 17, 2019 at 10:30 pm

        Friends are umbrellas. Institutions can be, if you belong to one which supports you formally (the Catholic church is big on that for me). Knowing, because he said so, that my dad wanted to read my book, was an umbrella.

        I hope you have lots of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. carolannwrites
    June 17, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Oh, Tara… this made me cry for you and me and all of us, then laugh and splutter (why do I read your blogs at breakfast? So messy). Not too many people could write about their grief. But you my dear are an amazing writer. Big hugs from all my family. Keep writing it out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 17, 2019 at 9:27 pm

      I may well do that Carolann… or maybe I’ll go back to the podcasts 😉


  12. June 17, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Tara, your writing is brave, honest and real (and funny too). Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 17, 2019 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks so much, Catherine – apologies too if you thought your comment didn’t get through originally. The security’s tighter around here since I outed my anger strategy 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. June 17, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Hi Tara, your writing is always so honest, brave and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. June 17, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    Kübler-Ross’s “stages” were meant to describe the process that dying persons go through, so they don’t adequately address the feelings of the living who are bereaved. Worden’s “Four Tasks of Grief” describe how survivors actually mourn a loss:

    To Accept the Reality of the Loss
    To Work through the Pain of Grief
    To Adjust to an Environment in Which the Deceased is Missing
    To Emotionally Relocate the Deceased and Move on with Life

    Like other tasks of living, these recur (rather than exist as separate stages that are completed sequentially), so people who are mourning move back and forth between the tasks while they’re getting the jobs done. It’s possible to have “complicated grief,” in which a bereaved person gets “stuck” and can’t seem to arrive at cognitive-emotional-behavioral resolution, but most grieving people gradually achieve psychological balance and find a new normal way to live.

    Looked at in terms of Worden’s tasks, you’re functioning – in your unique way – as would be expected.

    Please accept my sincere condolences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 17, 2019 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Christine, thanks for that, but I was being flippant in my reference to the stages, purely to set up a gag, really! There are so many well-known studies and theories on how people deal with trauma, and we might say that mine is to poke fun at conventional wisdom…

      Thanks so much for your kind words also.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. June 17, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    If grief is a process then you are clearly beginning to come through it. It’s not the end, nor is it to quote dear Winston Churchill, the beginning of the end but it is the end of the beginning. What I find refreshing about your post is that it avoids all the trite advice you hear so much – like not making any big decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 18, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      That’s nice to hear… I like it – the end of the beginning. I guess that means I have to be a grown-up now! Does that mean I have to start giving trite advice I wonder…😜


  16. Sue Featherstone
    June 18, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    So sorry for your loss. x

    Liked by 1 person

  17. June 19, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Humour: my mother died suddenly (heart attack) when my two children were small. The three year old and I stayed with my dad for several weeks. Her views on life – and death – brought us some rare laughs, though I was always relieved my dad didn’t quite hear when she enumerated the deaths in her life, one goldfish, one hamster, one granny! Reading: in my twenties my boyfriend was drowned. I read all night for weeks and weeks – all sorts of stuff often non-fiction and I can still remember some of the books. Caterwauling: if anyone sings anywhere in earshot in those first months, I blub non-stop! Ire: missed that one. Leopards: essential grief kit. Keep hanging on to that leopard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 23, 2019 at 10:48 pm

      I will, Hilary. Great memories there I’m sure, even if some of them are painful. Hope all is well with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. June 21, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Tara, so sorry to hear about your Dad. Thanks for writing this beautiful piece. I have been through a different type of grief lately and have been using all of the above, the caterwauling in particular is my favourite, and podcasts, I’m off to buy a leopard now. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 23, 2019 at 10:49 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear of your own troubles. Isn’t caterwauling the best?? I hope you’re coming out of it all now, with all the metaphorical lights at the end of the tunnel. Let me know how the leopard goes……………….


  19. June 25, 2019 at 2:00 am

    I’m very sorry to read of your loss, Tara


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