Living in the Bottom of a Well
By Sheri N Hall

You look up, you see a small circle of light- no it is not ‘Gods light’ but it is the way out. It is seemingly far away but closer than you think. It is very small; sometimes non-existent sometimes you cannot see it because you don’t want to look up. You look around you –at the hard stone walls that surround you, most would feel claustrophobic but not you, you revel in your small, dark enclosure. Here is where you can be you. Here is where you can feel sad, look sad, be sad without those around you being uncomfortable. The ones that see you down there might stop and yell. ‘Are you ok?’ Or ‘how are you?’ But they usually don’t want to hear the answer- so you tell them what they want to hear- ‘I’m ok’ or I’m fine’ and they go on their way. Some bring you flowers and place them nicely in a circle around your well, this cheers them up, this makes them feel like they are ‘being sympathetic’ or showing they care. Why flowers? Is it my birthday? Are we celebrating something? Oh, - no. They look nice and now when you walk by my well, with me hiding in the bottom curled in a ball, not daring to look up. You feel not so sad when you see my well because you see all the beautiful flowers people have placed there- ‘wow look how many people care!’ – That makes them feel better- those flowers do not cheer me up, I am not celebrating my child’s death and when the flowers die too and I must throw them away, it is a task I cannot do nor do I want to do.
I look around at my hole I have been thrown down, it is a cold and heartless place but I have come to love it and I do not want to climb out, here I am comforted by my pain, here I am not pretending. Here I am me.
No one wants to go down a well; it is essentially a long black tunnel to nowhere which you may not be able to get out of. But when you lose a child, when you hold a person in your arms as they die, you start to slide down that well, it is not your choice and at some point when you wake up -after the funeral -after the visits you did not ask for of people crying so much that you have to console them. After you wake up and realize what has happened, it may be weeks, months or days, but it hits you like a brick, you are stuck at the bottom of this deep dark well. It echoes your cries, as well as your tears that fall to the cement floor like bombs. You re-live the most painful of memories down there and you want every one to stay out! This is not usually a problem since no one ever wants to join you down in the well, no one wants to see that pain, and no one wants to watch you hurt because they cannot help. People tend to look at grief and tragedy as though- ‘What if that happened to me?’ and that is usually why they are inconsolable for a moment when you first see them after a tragedy, they are not thinking of you or your pain. They want to cheer you up- as if that will make it better, they want to cook for you- which is very nice, but hard when you do not taste anything let alone want to eat. You shove the food in your freezer, you say thank you, they feel better and go about their day. You go back down the well and sit there. It’s nice down here. People would say things like-‘oh- I didn’t want to upset you’ as though not mentioning it means you are not thinking about it. I have come to realize this society doesn’t cope well with death, everyone wants to acknowledge it once and then for it to go away, some do not say anything at all to pretend like nothing happened, those are the selfish people. I have seen how I have become invisible to some, it’s as though they cannot see me anymore- or perhaps they don’t want to see me? Because they do not want to think about what happened to me. Some people think negativity breeds negativity- that could not be farther from the truth. Yes negative people are not fun to be around, but ‘negative’ or more accurately -a tragedy is not caused by anything. It is life. Life is full of suffering, we all suffer at different times in life and how we deal with other people suffering really shows our true character. Some use the excuse ‘well I don’t know what to say?’ Sometimes just saying ‘I’m sorry’ is all that is necessary. The best is to ask a person that is grieving about the person that died, because they do want to talk about them, and they want you not to feel uncomfortable when they are being sad- because it is ok to be sad. But unfortunately we live in a world that prefers fake realities and big smiles over having to deal with or accept our feelings and hurts. So we simply do not talk about it. We do not acknowledge it. We cheer you up and bring you flowers. And that is why I –even though I did not choose to dwell in a well, I did not chose to have to hold my dying daughter, I do prefer my solitary hole than walking around in this fake world, with fake smiles where the realization of life and death is taboo. If we were able to grieve without being concerned of making others uncomfortable with our sadness then maybe we would not feel like we are stuck in the bottom of a well, but for now, for me I am ok in my well and one day I will climb out and face the world. That day when I walk past someone else stuck in a well I will join them, and help them cry because it is ok to be sad.

Author's Bio: 

Sheri N Hall studied English and History at Kwantlen University in British Columbia. Worked for ten years as a restaurant manager and now is a stay at home mother of three expecting her fourth next spring. Her third child, her daughter died at two months of age after many complications. She also lost her maternal and paternal grandmothers in the weeks following her daughters death. Sheri attends many self help workshops as well as a regular bereavement group at Canucks place.