grief, you are a strange privilege


Oh, June. Just six days ago you were a dream, a bit of a yucky one, and I was thinking about you, dwelling on your arrival. And then, June, I did the stupidest thing, I challenged you. Threw down my rusty gauntlet, come and get me June, I’m here.

Sunday, I spent the afternoon trying to help Darren.

Monday morning Darren calls, it’s seven and time to get up anyway. He’s crying so much I can hardly understand him. Can I ring his work and tell them he can’t make it? I say of course, and I’ll see you soon. Then Stephen King Junior is attacked at school. Day two and June is leaving its mark.

Tuesday, take Darren to his psychiatrist.

Wednesday, can’t remember. No idea. Something about worrying.

Thursday, be with Darren with his caseworker comes around.

Friday, that’s today, right?

Oh, June. I’m sorry. You come along and I’ll keep my mouth shut.

Except, I can’t because I’ve gotta be an advocate.

Darren is an old-fashioned kind of bloke, he’s a man’s man, and he likes to keep his problems to himself. Under his roof and under his hat.

On the way to his psych appointment on Tuesday he told me he wouldn’t mention the suicide attempt of the weekend. He was scared that if he told them he’d be banged up in the Unit.

This is one of those situations where you’re torn between getting a person the care they need and respecting them as an individual with rights. I didn’t love it but I agreed we’d leave it out (maybe I was hoping to get it across in mime).

So Darren sat in the doctor’s office and told him that apart from the Tenth of June, he was okay. He said he was sad, but largely he was okay, but could have more support from the clinic, like nightly visits. The doctor didn’t think home visits were appropriate. That Darren needs grief counseling. I’m thinking, yes, Darren needs grief counseling but he will be dead before he gets it if something solid isn’t done. When Darren was telling the doctor about his life, and meds, and mood, and how okay he was, he seemed to believe himself.

I had to stop him.

‘Darren, what are you doing? Are you going to get to the point because you are snowing your doctor.’

There I was taking over and trying to get across – in code – how desperate Darren was.

‘He’s a mess, he doesn’t sleep, he can’t eat, he cries all the time, can’t work, he’s doesn’t tell his family everything, he’s very, very, vulnerable.’

Vulnerable means he’s going to freaking top himself, doctor!

We left the office and stood in the hallway just outside his doctor’s door. Darren cried having not got what he needed. I put my arms around him and said, ‘do you see how if you tell them everything that can’t help you?’

All of my clothes smell like Darren’s aftershave. 

I got him home, settled him in, left a message with his brother, and agreed to call him the next day.

On Thursday Darren dad his case-worker around. I was hoping to leave him to it, I was tired and all this psych stuff was taking me to places with Libby in my memory that I’d rather not go. It’s all so sad and familiar. And I have to be the strong one when I feel like I’m moments away from losing my shit.

Call it a hunch, but I didn’t think he’d fess up to his case-worker either. So I went to the appointment. Darren had no sleep, he cried half the night, his blotchy face was testament to that, and he was what he and Libby used to describe as ‘edgy’. I’m on the edge of edgy and it’s not a good look. Poor bastard.

This time I didn’t mess around.

I told his caseworker about Saturday night in the bald words we all understood (I whispered to Darren that I wanted to tell and he said that was that okay).

Then we spent half an hour in the semantics of what’s suicidal and what’s unsafe. It is eye rollingly boring to sit with a a health professional and try to get across that not feeling ‘safe’ is the freaking same as ‘I might top myself.’


It brings out the cynic. Are we discussing this because it’s going to cost money to make sure Darren is looked after?

His caseworker couldn’t say that Darren would get home visits. She had to check. Fair enough, that’s her job. She left, Darren did more crying, I can’t cry when I’m in Nicki-saves-the-World mode, but I held him and rubbed his head, told I loved him and that he isn’t a burden.

We decided that I would call him in the every night, early evening, if the home visits don’t happen at least he’d have me. Then I forgot to call and that is pathetic. But frankly, I’m about as loose and emotional as Darren is.

He did get his home visits.

It worked.

When I called tonight – I remembered – I had to be quick because the clinic was going to call before sending someone around.


Darren is getting the help he needs to stay alive until this hard-action phase passes and he has been booked in for grief counseling.

I asked him what he found so difficult about getting grief counselling, he’s been offered it several times and batted it away. He said he was a tough guy. He said he was meant to be a tough guy.

‘Are you afraid to cry, Darren?’

‘Yes,’ he said.

‘Matey, I said, ‘we’re all afraid to cry. It hurts but it’s good. And we’re crying because we loved her.’ And then I said what I say to myself when tears threaten, ‘think of how bloody funny Libby was.’


the tenth of june last year

One thought on “grief, you are a strange privilege

  1. yes. sometimes being around someone else’s version of grief and despair and having to be the strong and ‘separate’ one is mind-blowingly tough.
    love ya, nick.

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