The rollercoaster of grief





It is a beautiful sunny day today. The sky is blue, the birds are singing. I have started a new job, which I’m really enjoying, and I’m really good at. And yay! It’s Friday - the weekend!


Except.


If he was here, Chris would be suggesting a barbecue because he never cooked inside if he could cook outside!


While sat outside with the BBQ, he would have been able to tell me which birds they were. I could probably look it up but it isn’t the same.


I have a great new job. But when my day is finished, I have nobody to tell about it. I used to have Chris who was my one man cheerleading squad so that even on my worst days he would make me believe it would all be ok, and on days like today he would tell me that he knew that I’d be great at it and it’s only ever me that doubts myself..


And these days I really struggle with weekends.


Let’s not make any bones about it. Being widowed is bloody hard, even 2 years and 9 months in. It’s lonely and it feels wrong, and although I have almost made my peace with my grief and it doesn’t feel like an active process so much as a presence or a part of me, it’s still a challenge to find the positives at times. Anyone who has met me will know that in person I am fairly easy going and optimistic, and I am self deprecating even about my grief. But we all have our Eeyore days, and they’re ok too.


After a bereavement and especially after losing a life partner, everything is changed. Waking up is different, going to bed is different. Cooking dinner is different. Doing the chores is different. Watching tv is different. Weekends are different. The number of text messages you get is different. In the early days of grief, trying to comprehend the fact that someone who was your world is dead… no longer in existence… permanently gone…that they were here, and now they are not…. it can literally take your breath away. Even now if I think about it too hard I feel my throat tighten and it’s harder to breathe!


My go to book when I was first widowed was Megan Devine’s “It’s ok that you’re not ok”. It’s the book I recommend to all newly bereaved people, and it sits by my bed as I often pick it up and graze on the wisdom and recognition that I find in it’s pages.


One of the things that she says at the beginning and the end of the book is that grief can’t be fixed, it can only be carried. In the early days of grief I found comfort in the first half of this. Here was someone who was not telling me I needed to “be fixed”, “get over” or “move on from” my grief and there was a liberation in this. Over the past year I have reflected a lot on how I am learning to live with both halves of this new life - grief and gratitude, sadness and joy, looking back and looking forward - these apparent opposites co-existing rather than cancelling each other out. But this morning as I read those words for the thousandth time, it was the second half that struck me - grief can only be carried.


I think that (for today at least!) I have reached a place of acceptance that Chris is gone, he isn’t coming back, that this is my life . That doesn’t mean that I’m not sad about it - even typing those words has brought a lump to my throat and my eyes are welling up. The difference is that I’m no longer fighting the reality, or the sadness. I’m no longer railing against how unfair it is, or questioning the events leading up to his death. It is what it is, it can’t be changed, it can’t be fixed, it can only be carried. I think I understand that now.


Wherever you are today, whether that’s feeling positive and bouncing around like Tigger, or if you’re having a day when a wave of grief has made you feel like you’re back at square one (don’t worry, I promise that you’re not) or if you’re just feeling overwhelmed by it all and you don’t know how you will get through this- any and all of these emotions are perfectly normal - I sometimes experience them all in the same day! In WAY there will be people who can celebrate the good days with you, or support you through the bad ones.


Learning to carry your grief takes time. It’s taken me nearly three years and I’m still figuring it out! There is no right or wrong way to “do” grief, no magic formula or mantra, there is no finish line and no prizes. The reality is that this hurts, some days more than others. Some days the grief will outweigh everything else, some days it will take a back seat and joy or positivity will bloom. (The first time this happens you might feel a bit guilty about it, but it gets easier). Nobody expects us to dress in black and mourn forever, but equally, nobody expects you to bounce Tigger-like out of bed full of joy every morning. Its ok to have your Eeyore days.


Please don’t judge yourself by how other people are coping with their grief - we are all learning to carry it our own way - some will use their faith, others their mindset and positive thinking, others through activity, or exercise, for me it has been through writing. Some people may have been riding this rollercoaster for longer or for less time than you. And everybody’s grief is as different as our relationships were.


This is going to hurt, maybe for a very long time. Broken hearts just do. The love you knew, the love you dreamed of, the love you grew and created together, that is what will get you through. It’s a vast, wide raft that can’t be broken or depleted. You might forget it’s there sometimes, but you can always come back to it… When there is nothing else to hold on to, hold on to love” (Megan Devine - It's OK that you're not OK)


In grief, it’s ok not to be ok. It’s also ok to feel positive and hopeful. In all likelihood, along the way it will be a little bit of both, or somewhere in between, and that's ok too.