What does grief feel like?

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In 2004 the crime writer and anti-fascist journalist Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack aged 50. His lifelong partner Eva Gabrielsson has written a book about him.

“It’s about what it’s like to lose someone like that, someone you’ve loved for so long. Everyone will encounter this [the shock of losing someone] sooner or later. I want to show what a hell it is. But also I want to say: don’t be afraid. Embrace it, and you’ll get through it. You become somebody else. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you are in total distrust of the world. But this is the way it is supposed to be. There is something in our genetic code, something primitive, that takes us over because our rational self cannot deal with the reality. You’re an animal now. But the more of an animal you are, the safer you are: it protects you. It’s there to help you survive.”

How long did the worst of it last? “For two months I was in very bad shape. There was no time to prepare. The world changes in an instant. Swedish women are supposed to be capable. We’re not prone to ask for help. But I had to ask for help. I thought that was against my nature.” So she turned to friends? “Yes, and they turned to me, that very same day. They just came. They left work early, and they came to our home. Have you eaten? they said. I don’t know, I said. They brought wine, and cookies. The kitchen table was rather full. Everyone was just there, putting food on my plate, filling up my glass. This went on until 3am. Look. If you don’t know what to say, that’s OK. Just be there. A bereaved person needs to see other animals when they’re in this state. You think: if they exist, maybe I exist, too.”

Read the whole piece in the Observer here.


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