Expertise I Didn’t WantBy Emma Pearson
May 28, 2023
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
29 February 2020
It is dawning on me that I am an expert in Grief. My own, for sure. But increasingly, that of some others, too. Not in terms of what they are experiencing, and how it feels inside of them, but in terms of being able to help them:
- Differentiate pain from suffering
- Understand why much grief-support language feels like a slap in the face
- Articulate why they feel like they live in a parallel universe (1Q84 comes to mind)
- Be okay with not planning further than half a day ahead, if that
- Always have an escape route for social engagements involving a group (i.e., two or more people; including self)
- Feel okay about not wanting to live – at least till the pain wears off
I don’t know if it’s the numbers of deaths I’ve had…
I don’t know if it’s the rapid-fire sequence of deaths I’ve experienced…
I don’t know if it’s the type of illnesses I’ve sat alongside…
I don’t know if it’s the number of deaths and funerals I’ve prepared…
I do know that it’s because I am still breathing…
And walking the dog, swimming and cross-country skiing…
Cooking (often) and eating and drinking. Mostly moderately. Mostly. (Mike’s dad, Bruce, liked to say, “Everything in moderation”. Mike liked to say, “Everything in moderation. Including moderation”).
Playing piano well enough and saxophone passably. Still no cello.
And even working and being paid for it.
There is much I still feel I cannot do.
Such as concentrate. E.g., on a book, particularly a professional one. Novels over 300 pages in length daunt me. I read so infrequently that I lose the plot. And anyway, I might be dead before I finish it if it’s too long.
I cannot find the focus or energy to finish up the requirements for my Diploma in Systemic Team Coaching, started when my brother Ed was first diagnosed with Glioblastoma, in 2013.
I couldn’t do a full-on, five-day client/consulting week to save my life.
I wouldn’t mind a corporate salary and benefits, but I know my level of functioning doesn’t warrant one. Freelancing is still the honest route. I am grateful to have that option.
This hard-earned expertise doesn’t have a place on my CV or LinkedIn.
My new expertise doesn’t command an increase in daily fees.
On the contrary, if I am not careful, my new talents pull me further away from the world of being paid for what I do.
But I use this expertise so often.
Compiling lists of resources for newly bereaved people.
Widows. Widowers. Parents. Siblings.
Giving my details to someone who knows someone who has just lost their spouse. Or child. Or a sibling. Even though I know they will never call. People just don’t. They just have to figure it out for themselves.
I should just copy and paste, but I never do. I craft it for each new person based on my ever-evolving learnings.
Checking in on my widbuds. It’s mutual support, for sure, but it takes a lot of time.
Being at a child bereavement support group, and finding that I am probably giving more support than I am getting. It’s an Early Grief support group for people who have lost a child, and while I am definitely Early Grief for Julia (and will be for another few years), I have done Early Grief so many flipping times now, I kind of have a routine. Kind of. At least I know my patterns.
I know how to get help.
I know how to talk to myself, and how not to talk to myself.
And I can offer people up-to-date resources on Grief support that don’t have the hellish word “Stages” in it.
I am indeed an Expert in Grief.
A Grief Expert.
I wish it sounded more cool.
Like a “Sexpert” sounds cool.
Yes, I am one of those. An Expert in Life Support.
At least my own. And sometimes the lives of others too.
Perhaps that will make it onto my CV.
Expertise I didn’t want.
Expertise and credentials that I wish were not so brutally earned.
Expertise that doesn’t give me new letters after my name.
Expertise that does not come from courses.
Just from life.
And dying. (At least inside).
Going on with life after death.
Choosing to live and breathe when myriad loved ones have died.
Being mostly okay with the deep, relentless pain. And being okay with the ongoing joy.
It’s expertise I am glad I have.
I’d have gone under without my LifeSpert.