Thursday 10 November 2016, will be the second anniversary of my husbands funeral. I am not OK, my body is here but I am just a ghost. ‘I’ am still at the hospital; replaying it all every which way, to make it end differently. I am not ready to ‘move on‘ to ‘get on with this ‘new’ life’ like its some shiny new wonderful thing I asked for. No one asks for this. Today’s post is going to discuss things NOT to say to me or others like me who are bereaved, especially those of us who lost someone to sudden or unexpected death. But I’ll also share some things I’ve found helpful in my journey, so I hope you’ll keep reading till the end.
Please grab a brew and a biscuit, its a long post today 😉
How Are You?
WRONG never, never ask me this question and here’s why.
- Do you actually want to know?
- Are you actually interested?
- Are you actually listening or is this just filling air and a reflex question for you?
- Even if you feel you can honestly say ‘yes’ to the first three, if you will feel compelled to offer advice from a place of non experience then please, as Megan Devine would say ‘Just stop right there.’
Are we are sitting down together? Do you have a little time? Do you care and actually want to know, without judgement, or suggestions and please know, I can see this in your eyes coz post bereavement, believe me the BS detector gets the mother of all upgrades and I can detect BS from a mile away. If you can see the pain, exhaustion and fear in my eyes and can offer to be witness to all this, let me talk about what I need to, hold my hand. Maybe make me tea, wrap me in a blanket and hold me. Or just pass me tissues and let me be with this. Go ahead….ask.
This ‘How are you?’ might be a throw away question for you but for me it is like a minefield. I panic like a cat caught in headlights, how should I answer? I check your eyes, are you looking at me? Do you look like you might listen, might care? Or have you noticed the pause, while I’m trying to decide if I need to lie to make you feel OK and the fear is now in your eyes, that I might actually tell you. But I am super sensitive to emotions and signals and your panicked expression triggers the only response I can manage without either outright lying which I don’t want to do or have the energy to do, so I go with ‘Oh you know, breathing in and out’. At best you dismiss this quickly enough without noticing the energy or effort this took.
If all this was too much for you, then please just go with; ‘Has your day been kind?’ That way I don’t have to lie and you don’t have to hear my pain, and since I can’t hack it, with 2 years into my most recent experience of it, I guess it would be a stretch to expect you to have a try at it too. Megan Devine sums it up very well in this video
I am not OK
So, here I am, not coping with my grief, what now? Well I got through the first year in shock n shut down. This second year has been a mixture of reality checks, disbelief, anger, a lot of confusion, did I mention anger? When the blessed numb wears off a whole raft of other stuff washes in. I’ve been on the floor crying my soul out a lot, there has not been a lot of sleep, there has been a lot of primal noises; there are plenty of times when sounds are the only way to express what you cannot in words. I had a few months counseling with a lovely lady from Cruse Bereavement care in 2015 and here I am on the second anniversary and I’m still trying desperately to find a gentle way to process all that happened. Evolution takes time, not your time, ITS time.
When I could actually focus enough to read I have read me a library of books not just on grief but also on Buddhism, Mindfulness etc. Some have helped, some have been useful companions, but what I learnt sadly was as I reached the end of each of them, they didn’t have THE answer, the holy grail, the fix, the phrase that would make all this feel better, make it OK, make it softer. Back to the floor n the tissue box.
Along with more books, this year I’ve been getting a bit more metaphysical with things and have found GREAT comfort in crystals, firstly their beautiful colours but they do all have unique energy and holding them does make me feel different. So I have a growing crystal
habit collection which is shifting the energy around.
Meditation is helping, just finding ways to be still. The whole tuning into a quiet space within me, this wouldn’t have worked in the early days, everything was a turmoil so I guess the fact that now and then there is a still space within me is progress right?
Journalling has been a healing companion, confidant and helps me let out some of the pain, I cannot put into words out-loud. When my time with Cruse ended, I was still having a lot of flashbacks to the events of the night my husband passed. It’s your brain trying to process it all, but I found writing about it, what happened, in the journal, allowed my head to gradually settle, like I didn’t have to keep going over it to remember it all, because it was written down. I used to write more than I do now. but these things evolve, no rules, just what I need when I need it.
Letters help too, I write myself letters for the following year, when I discover something that worked so I can tell myself about it for when the pain hits at the most difficult times. I have letters for birthdays, his and mine, anniversary’s, and also the dreaded December 25th. I have not made peace with December the 25th, it is referred to by date or in the American version, ‘the holidays’.
Given the help I have found in journalling, in the summer I took; ‘The Sacred Alone’ e-course by Susanna Conway. It was amazing, it really helped shift some energy around my fear of being alone and I now have a daily practice of meditation, the crystals and I’m enjoying her Daily Guidance e-course on Oracle and Tarot.
I adore my Oracle cards, picked carefully after watching a flip through of the decks on You Tube to be sure I liked the images. The cards are like best friends might be, each brings their own personality of art and words. I can pick cards any time of day and night and find encouraging words to uplift me, hold me and guide me in ways I need. I’ve put Susannah’s details in at the end of this post, see links below.
October to January are the worst for me, so many birthdays of those I’ve lost and anniversary’s relating to them.Self love September, has continued a bit and I’ve stockpiled some books, decks and treats to help me have things to look forward too. Yes I know shadow comforts, but its the page I’m on! Rebecca Campbell’s books are holding me together right now, she is AMAZING do check her out in the links at the end of this post.
I have just signed up for Megan Devine’s e-course ‘Writing your Grief’, a daily email prompt to help me journal how it all feels, it is time to speak my truth about grief, if only to a journal. You can find out about this course on her website Refuge In Grief. See links at end of this blog post. Heads up, the next class starts 21st November 2016 places are limited so sign up now if you can.
I already have a grief journal where I write to my husband, telling him stuff, how it feels but for the class above I have treated myself to a Peter Pauper Press Journal, a real stunner, look.
This journal I intend to write to me, for me. Since my letters have been so helpful perhaps this will be too. Do I think I’ll want to read back all my pain, I don’t know, maybe it might help one day maybe not, I will be writing this whilst honoring my journey, speaking my truth in a way I cannot to those around me. Society does not want to discuss death, it wants to pretend it doesn’t happen, you may talk about sex but not death. Well this is the journal where I can tell it how it is, how it feels, what works to soothe my grief and what doesn’t. Since I’m likely to be in the depths of my pain as I do this, a beautiful journal to honor my words seemed right.
Did you make it to the end of the page? I am really grateful if you did, either you care, you are trying to find ways of supporting someone else through the pain of grief or you too have found yourself on Planet Grief as Helen Bailey calls it. And it sure as heck feels like a different planet. I am changed, at a molecular level by my loss, nothing feels the same, I am not the same person I was before this happened. I still feel like a pile of ash, not ready to do the phoenix thing, but at least I’m starting to try to gather what I can from the scattered shattered pieces surrounding me. Time does strange things when you are in grief, so maybe you are reading this at silly o’clock at night coz sleep is a distant memory. I get that, I hear you. If you are on that page, please do check out the tab at the top of the blog called Healing, as I have a tab for bereavement and lots of links to books or websites to save you having to search the whole internet for more support in your own journey.
This is the point in the post where in the past I apologize for its length. Not today, this is what my soul needed to say. I hope it will find those who need to hear it and help them in their own journeys. The road is hard enough, we all need someone to pass us a torch, offer a little food, or point us at a few options for a path they tried. This is me ignoring my advice on not offering advice, what can I say, I have an over active helping gene. But in my early days of grief any offers of a path worth trying from those who are on the same page as me, was welcome.
Here are some links to places that may be of interest to you. Each of these people has made a big difference to my grief journey, they are bright lights of hope in the darkness.
- Bereavement. This is where I have gathered things I found helpful, save you a big search.
- Refuge in Grief This is Megan Devine’s home page, you can find her e-course here too, Writing Your Grief
- Susannah Conway A wonderful lady who has been through this too and has some really great e-courses. Her newsletters called ‘Love letters’ are really kind too. Do Sign up
- Rebecca Campbell Author of Light is the New Black and Rise Sister Rise.
- Helen Bailey, Helen was my total mentor in my early days, her blog tells it how it is. Sadly she too has now passed. but her blog is wonderful and has a lot of helpful links there too.
Sending you all peace, love, light, hope, gratitude and compassion