Learning To Own My Day
It’s not easy to feel motivated to do much at all when the world has just come crashing down around you; grief savagely, almost greedily, saps just about every bit of life that is left. The small tasks become mammoth; the big tasks inconceivable - the need, the purpose, it all gets snatched away.
Life simply gets left in a cold, soulless, emptiness state. And there I was, questioning it all; a whole new all-encompassing meaning to ‘what’s the point?’. In anything.
I can remember the moment I first met my counsellor; she applauded my achievement at managing to be up and dressed and just to be sitting there with her on my sofa. Was that really what things were like now? It was as if I’d regressed into life as a toddler who was being applauded for putting on her shoes the right way. But I also remember feeling oddly proud of myself too. I guess that’s how vulnerable the tragedy and sheer heartbreak can make us.
And even though I was technically dressed, for the first time in my life I didn’t really give a shit what I looked like. Didn’t care who saw me crying, bawling. Was that liberating? Maybe in an odd way it was. I still give far less of a shit about most things than I ever did - before that worst ever day. But what grief demonstrated to me most of all was how self-care gets wiped from life as our heads become consumed with loss and pain.
It was the much the same with food. When I was little my Mum used to make me hot soup if I was unwell; the perfect soothing comfort to a poorly child. Yet here I was again, 44 years old, gently being coaxed with small spoonfuls. I was praised for managing half a bowl; praised even more if I managed some bread too. Such was the desperation of those who loved me to see me thriving; to see me wanting to still be me. Be kind to yourself they kept saying. But devastation really kept bringing out my inner-child and grief was allowing each day to dominate and own me. I was putty in its ever tightening grip. Grief possessed me - and my day owned me.
So how on earth do we find that point? How do we make ourselves get out of bed instead of cowering from life, deep under the covers? How to we start finding that drive to face life head on?
I personally believe that grief in its entirety is too huge for anyone to really take on. Kept whole, it can suffocate - it’s just too big and daunting. But what I believe we can do is undermine in; carefully, purposefully - taking little bite sized chunks; smaller battles fought; with bravery, one by one, step by step. We take away its power; and we re-empower ourselves.
So I had to have a word with grieving Sam and tell her it wasn’t helping to lie in bed a minute longer - just waiting for time to pass and giving grief the time and space to expertly torment my mind; instead I had to get up, make the bed, accomplish task one; take ownership of that time; MY time. Take ownership of that start to the day. Let it guide me into the next part of my day.
I can. So I did. And I am..
I also had to persuade myself to go down and make myself a cup of tea in the morning; not let grieving Sam be squashed by the thought of Michael not coming downstairs too. I had to text my friends and make plans; not sit and let grief tell me I’m not worth it, or that my friends wouldn’t want to see me now that I’m so sad and different. I had to start eating food; not let grief tell me I didn’t deserve to enjoy it anymore. And I had to make myself get outside; walk my dog even if I did bump into people, and even if they did talk about Michael; better that than hide inside and let grief be the one to remind us both of our loneliness now that Michael had gone.
I guess it’s all about challenging perspective and self doubt but In very, very small, more manageable pieces.
A friend visited a couple of months after Michael died and talked to me about how she coped when her husband died five years previously. Her advice was to pretty much say yes to anything for a whole year; push through the fog, break through the boundaries and make new discoveries. And within reason, I’m trying to do just that. The first dinner party I went to was almost unbearably hard - I literally wanted to run away - but I got through it. I sat with other couples. I did a short taxi ride home alone. I got into bed. I cried. Big fat sobbing tears. But I did it. And that gave me a little bit of courage for the next time. And the next time was just that little bit easier.
Of course I feel like saying no sometimes, and sometimes I do. And sometimes my grief mind can still be a really noisy and controlling, especially when I do more passive things like trying to watch TV or listen to music, or interestingly when I’m in a busy place, like a shopping centre or a pub - that can still feel really overwhelming - but overall, by challenging my negative instinct, new avenues and indeed new and wonderful friends have also come my way. And I love that.
All this brain training has also helped how I now look at the love Michael and I shared. I try so hard now to see what his living ‘gave’ instead of what his death has taken away. I try to see the positive. By thinking like this it allows my love for him to continue inspiring me each day and I take great comfort in that. You see, Michael just ‘got’ me. Like no other. He made life easy. Calming. Safe. Positive. A great place to be. Without it I felt I would be a nothing. But by taking ownership of my thoughts my day is becoming mine again. Grief isn’t owning or defining me all the time. Life does have a point again and things are becoming worth it - which I believe is exactly as Michael would want it.
The Even Keel Foundation is not a crisis response servilce but there are many people you can talk to. Please visit www.theevenkeelfoundation.com/helplines for a list of organisations that are there to listen and help in confidence to any worries you might have. Or you can call the Samaritans 24 hour helpline on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d feel more comfortable texting someone then you can text SHOUT to 85258