A Beginner's Guide to Grief.
Ok, so a misleading title, there is no fixed way or determinable path for grieving. It is unpredictable - scary and most of the time you feel you're just seconds from slipping off that precipice into the depths of sorrow and despair forever. Wouldn't it be great if a step-by-step guide existed?! Disappointing and painfully, it does not, and this road is a treacherous one.
However, we do all have our minds and thus our freedom of choice, hence the picture - CHOOSE JOY!
Let me explain...
You have to release and allow the swing of that pendulum of life.
In the beginning days/weeks/months you have to fight hard to seek joy, hold gratitude; it seems an impossibly futile task at times. However, with time, this propels you back in the other direction, the pendulum swing grows fainter. And with the effort to feel joy and feel that smile, so grows with it your strength and ability to cope, because life IS different now, irreparably different, and it will never be the same again.
And sometimes, you will feel ok.
And sometimes you will genuinely feel your smile.
Then the land-sliding onset of guilt for feeling ok, or enjoying that smile... oh and what a confusing cycle it makes for!
With the questions and the ponderings:
"Did it mean that smiling means it takes away from the love I had?""Surely I should never feel happiness again?""Is it a betrayal of the feelings I had for the one I loved?""How can I feel positive emotions once more? Because, let's face it, without that other person by my side in the same capacity anymore, the pull of the weight of that loss holds me down, reminds me of what that person meant to me. Or at least it always did until I felt that smile."
But you have to feel that smile because otherwise the natural pendulum of life will not draw you back to the rhythm of coping. It IS ok to feel that smile. In fact it is vital to your survival that you feel it and allow joy.
No one has ever written a book about coping with brain injury that will be your exact same journey. No one has ever grieved in the same way you will - because each trauma is as unique as the individual experiencing it. That is why, although we can all draw similarities and hope from others, this journey can feel so lonely.
Sometimes it feels lonelier the more people you have around, because it so starkly and crudely highlights the one missing. These times you dig a little deeper, hold on tighter to the gratitude of being surrounded by love and people who care.
The thing is, your grief will always be there, it will define you. BUT it can define you in the most beautifully inspiring way. Having seen what you have seen, felt the horror of emotion that you have felt, you can choose to arise - renewed and stronger, with a depth of compassion and understanding for those around you. Or, you can choose to internalise it and let it drown you. Embittered and beyond repair! This may sound drastic, and I don't want to be overly dramatic! And maybe it's just me?! But I had many an occasion where I had to deliberately choose love, not hate; peace, not bitter resentment - and boy, at times it was hard!
Grief is no easy thing, it is an ongoing, never ending thing. But you will grow and you will learn to live alongside it.
What's it like for me now?
I find for me now, nearly 8 years on, that I am very aware of my need on occasion for quiet times and space; equally, of my need for friends and family and fun and hilarity and business. I need distraction and sometimes just to sit with my grief. I now know who I am as a grieving person, but also how well I live alongside it. I know my grief and myself, they are symbiotically entwined and one allows room for the other when it's needed. Grief and I have a mutually respectful relationship - but this has taken time and effort. I am grateful to it for being the catalyst for my growth as a human and a mum.
Over the next months, I will discuss my coping mechanisms: how I have - and am getting through; how I have, at times, had to 'man up'; and, at other times, just cave in and shut myself (emotionally) away in the 'woe-is-me cupboard'.
I think we can all agree I have rambled enough for now!