“We bring a deeper commitment to our happiness when we fully understand, that our time left is limited and we really need to make it count.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (Life Lessons, 2000)
Recently a friend of mine died. It was sudden, unexpected and most of all, well before his time. He was 45 years old. A keen cyclist; he ate well, looked after himself and believed in perseverance and determination. His heart, it would seem did not agree.
The shock of his death was immense and sought to overwhelm me, sweeping me off my path and threatening to drown me in tidal waves of grief. So powerful was my grief that I lost myself within the darkness and I felt as though I became somebody else for a while. I found myself unable to work, unable to remember the simplest things, unable to relate the others. In fact had it not been for the necessity of being a wife and mother, perhaps I might have taken to the snug warmth of my duvet, never to be seen again.
Sadness, misery, anger, guilt, hatred, love, regret…it seems that there are never enough words to describe the pain of loss; this isolating experience that seeks to separate us from our reality and catapult into a waking nightmare. And yet, this IS our reality.
We all are born and we all will die.
I am not writing this to open wounds or shroud you in darkness but instead to share the reality that whoever and wherever we are in this life, we will encounter loss. In order to survive this inevitable experience, we must be able to find the light within the darkness. By this I mean that we have to live. Not just exist. And we must find ways of feeling alive in order to survive the dark. For me the light came in the tight little hugs of my children, crying and laughing over cups of tea with great friends, long runs and hot showers, reconnections with people who knew him and people who didn’t, eating food I love and sharing a cuddle with a pet. But for others, it might be different things that help light the way. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as there is love and support. When we are grieving we must look after ourselves, and do what we need, if only for a while.
Grief knows no limits and is different for everyone. The relationships we make in our lives are as unique as we are and as such, the way in which we grieve is different too. It is ok to be angry. It is ok to not feel yourself – you are not going to be crazy forever. It will pass. Sometimes it helps to keep a journal of good and bad days. The good helps you to find the light when the darkness creeps upon you. Remembering is important - whether it is photos, playlists, places or experiences, our loved ones remain with us in our hearts and in our memories. Grief shows that there has been love whether it is a member of your family, a friend or a pet. Grief cannot be judged, is not limited by time and is no competition. You don’t get over losing a loved one – you just learn to accept and live with the experience. No one person’s experience is worse than anyone else’s – it all depends on the depth of the relationship. If you have loved deeply, you will feel pain deeply.
And so in order to move on with my life, I have decided to make life count – doing the things that make me feel alive because I need to feel love and so it is inevitable I will also feel pain.
This is the joy of living. And I want to live.
Further help following bereavement can be found at: