THE LIFESTYLE EDITION: NAVIGATING GRIEF

‘Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go’.

 

It was really hard to title this post. Yes, it’s about grief and how we deal with that. I say navigate because calling this something like ‘a way out of grief’ just sounds so wrong. There is no way out. It sticks to you like glue. It never really goes away, ever.

I decided to write this post today, on a day that the sun is shining, in the month of February. To others it feels odd, just another strange climate change coming our way, but to me, when the warmth of the sun falls on my skin, I feel and think of my Nan. We lost my Nan at Christmas. Naturally, it still feels really raw for our family and something that we very much still talk about, just like she is still here. I have kept an embroidery handkerchief in my drawer, taken with me to the funeral, it’s unused. I haven’t really properly cried for her yet. After experiencing so many losses within my family, I guess I have become almost immune to it, as sad as that sounds. An emotional block. I just couldn’t cry for this anymore, these awful things that keep happening to us. I’ve become really hard on myself and dismissive of any feelings that feel like grief. ‘Okay, right, well this has happened and we’ll deal with it and then we’ll move on’. Yet, it’s something that I would never advise friends or family to feel or block or hide from today. It’s like I literally can’t take my own advice on this one. It’s different for me. To cope, I had to keep moving on. For my Mum, grieving for her own Mum, I had to be the stronger one.

They say that grief comes in waves, and it’s true. Sometimes just a gentle and slow pace, it’s continuous, and other times hard and crashing and unexpected. Today is hard and crashing but it isn’t unexpected. Recently, we had a little browse through my lovely Nanny’s jewellery collection. She was the queen of pearls and beautiful broaches. My Granddad always spoilt her rotten with gifts. She waited over ten years to be with him again, and when I picture them together, it makes me feel so much love and warmth inside. It’s a happy thought out of a inevitable but unthinkable situation. It was a long time coming for their reunion. I think my Nan battled through the years for my Mum. Having already lost her Sister and then her Father, a Mother’s love was very much needed. For me and my brother, our childhood always revolved around my grandparents. Summer caravan holidays, card games, birthday cakes, long and adventurous dog walks. They were always there and appear in my most fondest memories. Our family unit shaped the way I grew up from a little girl into a young woman. I truly believe that their endless love helped me mold into a kind and passionate person. There is more I could say, but those memories are to my cherished in my mind, the love you feel for your grandparents is honestly like no other.

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Every single one of us manages grief in a different way. As I said before, it sticks to you like glue and it never really goes away on any day. You always have those firsts and I imagine, well I know, that they are the hardest. The first Birthday without them, the first Christmas with them not at the table pulling crackers and then it creeps up, the first anniversary, a day full of complete haze and unfair feelings. When I lost my cousin, really unexpectedly, that is exactly how I felt, just simply how unfair that was for us all to deal with, how unfair on him. As our family gets much smaller, my love for everyone gets bigger. I think that’s a natural path through grief. It’s cliche but that familiar ‘life’s too short’ saying starts to ring so true. Grief comes with a wake up call, that life is precious, and hard and complicated and surprising. Taking the good alongside the bad is a lesson to be learnt, something to become accustomed too. It’s not easy. There is absolutely no right or wrong way to manage these feelings. Taking care of yourself is one of the bravest things to do when dealing with grief. It’s so much easier not to eat, lie awake at night wondering, emptying the wine cupboard and taking it out on others. All of these things are still okay but so is looking after yourself. Living with grief and loss doesn’t mean you live a life without love. Ironically, on the day my Nan passed, my now boyfriend asked me to be his girlfriend. Not out of pity but because the moment felt right. It was a moment for us and it took me out of my thoughts for that day. Something I desperately needed with such immense pressures to make the festivities a positive one, easier said than done when you’re broken and mourning for a loved one, mourning for your families broken hearts too.

I’m sure that time does heal. We make our own decisions and traditions for how we remember and celebrate our love for our lost family members. I don’t think it ever gets easier. It’s not a heartbreak that heals, the cracks are still there although they don’t always show but one thing I do know is that our hearts become kinder, so much softer and we cherish what love we do have left to give to those that are thankfully still by our side. Life is horrible, harsh, unknown, testing, rewarding and magical. It’s not to be lived lightly.

So, I will take the advice that I have been struggling to give myself for the past few months. Today I will just breathe, take a big hard deep breathe, take it all in, enjoy the sunshine, pop on a lovely little broach that I keep by my bedside and go and grab myself some daffodils to fill my life with a little bit of colour. Just for today, that’s what I’ll do.  Nothing exhausting or emotionally challenging. Tomorrow is another day, full of another batch of brand new feelings.

If you are struggling with managing your own feelings and grief feels to much for you, then please reach out to the following charities which offer bereavement counselling. Mind and Marie Curie both offer endless support.
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