I wanted to write about the fantastic last 2 weeks I'd had, about the excitement and emotion of finally seeing my daughter. About the day I spent with my friend who I'd bumped into last year for the first time in 25 years and how we had a great day, and he had me laughing until my sides hurt. All of this happened and was amazing but from Friday until Monday it was overcast with sadness.
Easter Sunday would have been my husband's birthday. The fifth one since he passed away, so why did it feel like the first all over again?
I really was the happiest I've been in a long time but waking up on Good Friday I felt as flat as a pancake. It's quite normal for me to feel off, in the build up to an anniversary, but I'd not felt this flat in a long time. I found myself withdrawing. I stopped interacting with my group and stopped responding to friends. I was irritable and also worried my dark depressive period I'd suffered from October till January was returning.
I felt lost and a huge sense of sadness. I couldn't work out why the build up to this particular anniversary was hitting me harder than previously. Last year I was OK for his birthday. I was more than OK. Someone came to stay on that day for the first lockdown, so I was busy sorting and arranging the house. Easter fell later last year so by the time that came around I had company and was distracted. This year the birthday falling on Easter and being relatively alone hit me hard, a 16-year-old boy who is also grieving doesn't want to sit with his sad old mum, he wants to deal with things his way which is OK by me.
All day Friday and Saturday I felt on the brink of tears. I tried everything to lift my mood. I practised the mindfulness that has been working well for me, I tried to read, I certainly didn't want to listen to music as I knew that would start me off crying if certain songs played. I went for walks but all I saw were happy families and couples holding hands, that made me feel even worse. Even when my mental health has been at its worst I can usually fake it and portray to the outside world I'm fine, but I couldn't find the energy to do that.
Sunday came along and it was awful. I woke up crying. How bloody stupid! It's been 5 years since so why was I in this state. The more I cried, the more frustrated I got with myself. I had no motivation to do anything. My son had gone for a walk, he likes to act as if an anniversary is a normal day, so I was conscious of being upset in front of him. I did drag myself into the shower whilst he was out and just slumped to the floor in a ball and sobbed. The floodgates had opened and I couldn't stop. I knew I had to pull myself together for the sake of my son, so I got dried, put on some clothes but really couldn't face anything, so I climbed into bed. I must have cried myself to sleep. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling emotionally exhausted. I'd lost my appetite over the past couple of days and really couldn't stomach a meal. I cooked for my son crying the whole time. I hid away whilst he came down to eat, and when he went back up I came back down.
I've been a member of a group for young widows and widowers for quite a while and know that it is usually a great place to get some support or advice. Sometimes just chatting to someone who has experienced something similar is such a help. I chatted to a lady who was 10 years older than me but who had lost her partner at the same age I had. She got me completely. She said she had found the anniversaries since lockdown particularly difficult even though she's happily remarried for the past 5 years. This helped me to feel 'normal' and to stop beating myself up.
Grief is a peculiar thing. When Andy first passed away I was still trying to process his illness, but I went through the motions. I cried every morning on waking, on and off throughout the day and cried myself to sleep every night. There were many times I wished I wouldn't wake up, so I could be with him but knew I had to carry on as my kids needed me more than ever. Then after a few months I noticed I didn't wake up crying but then may do for another week or so. I laughed and felt guilty for doing so. Then I'd notice I didn't fall asleep crying and so on and so on until I realised it had been a week with no tears, then a month. Laughter comes easily and without guilt. Anniversaries come and go. The first ones are awful. The second ones are bad, the third a sadness. Each one becomes a little easier to live through. For the past 2 years I've been OK for most of the anniversaries except for the anniversary of his death last November when I was at a real low point and of course this weekend just gone.
There is no instruction manual on how to grieve. There is no timescale for how long it will last. Everybody grieves differently there is no right or wrong. Grief for me is like the sea. Like a tide, grief ebbs and flows. You can go months with a calm still sea then suddenly without warning a wave of sadness can hit. It can last moments it can last days but with each wave you know it won't last forever. It will subside until the next storm, or until a pebble causes a ripple effect. For me grief is not like depression, with depression you have no idea when 'normality' will ever return. Depression becomes your normality. Grief is different, it's a process. It is painful at times, but I believe it is healthy to grieve. You can only grieve for something or someone you have loved and lost. People always say time is a great healer. I agree to a certain extent, as time goes on you learn to live without that person. You learn a new way of life. I'm learning that it's OK to still grieve and that some years may be different to others and that too is OK. The strangest of years we've all had combined with the anniversary of a loved one has just been harder than normal to get through but unlike those early days of grieving where you never think you'll smile again you learn that you will and the memories of the past will once again give you pleasure not pain.
Today, apart from feeling unwell as a reaction to my COVID-19 jab 12 days ago, I'm OK. I have a temperature, ache all over, but the sadness has lifted (my lateral flow test was thankfully negative). I'm also prepared that future anniversaries will come and go without any sadness, but there could be that one in the future where it is difficult to get through and that is allowed. Grief is a perfectly normal part of life that I have to accept. I cannot control it. I just need to ride the waves when they appear and remember it does get easier again.
A year ago I could never have imagined living as we have done. It still seems so surreal. I have to pinch myself that what has occurred really did happen. My life has changed so much in 12 months and not just because of a global pandemic. I have had some incredibly low points and some amazing highs.
The past week has been a week full of learning. Not just in an academic sense but learning more about myself and others. My appetite to learn and experience new things is bigger now than it has been in years. I started my short psychology course and whilst it is interesting it is not challenging enough. I've always regretted not completing my A Levels and the course has sparked an interest into further learning. I am not ready to commit to 2 years of study alongside my current work and other projects I have on the go, I do however want to push my learning capabilities further.
The therapy I have been having has made a huge impact in my life, my only regret is not doing it sooner. My confidence seems to be growing day by day in all aspects of my life. I've found a new confidence in standing up for myself and putting my needs first. For too long I have put others' feelings above my own. I became a bit of a doormat and as long as everyone else was happy, cared for and had what they needed that was what mattered. Often this was at the detriment to myself. I wouldn't necessarily say how I felt as I'd be too worried it may hurt someone's feelings, so instead I would hold it in, bottle it up until it broke out in an emotional response that would only end up making me feel ten times worse. I have spent quite a bit of time on me this past week.
Apart from nurturing my brain I have been a little indulgent in my personal time. Instead of just jumping in and out of the shower for hygiene purposes I took time to feel the water on my skin. To look at the patterns the water made. Whilst making a coffee I took time to watch how the granules fell into the cup, how the steam rose up from the kettle then disappeared, how the water acted when poured. When I drank my coffee I held it in my mouth a little longer to appreciate and savour the aroma and taste. I told my friend what I had done, and she thought I had gone mad. I encouraged her to try it. She did and phoned me to say it was great. Those couple of extra minutes with the most simplest of tasks made me aware of all of my senses, something we often take for granted. What may seem stupid to some has made me feel more alert and alive than I would ever have thought.
The group I created at the end of last year continues to grow with 550 members now. I would never have thought three months ago that some daft writing I did has developed into what it has. The group and page gave me so much during a particularly tough time. The group has developed into a community of people to have fun, network, share and support one another. One of the members mentioned she used to sing but hadn't for a very long time. I encouraged her to post a video up. She did and it was amazing. She did a piano version of Radiohead's Creep and the many comments she got were fantastic. It really is such a good feeling to be a part of that.
Some years ago I did a personality traits test. I retook the test at the weekend. The test focuses on five personality aspects Mind, Energy, Nature, Tactics and Identity. Together they make up the sixteen personalities of the NERIS Type Explorer Test that I took, which was inspired by Carl Jung and mother-daughter, Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Meyers. My result has not changed. I am ENFP-T a Campaigner. It describes my personality pretty damn accurately. The website I have used has a host of tools for personal growth. It identifies my strengths and weaknesses. My weaknesses I have always been able to identify with but struggled with my strengths. The tools help you to understand your traits and how to leverage them to grow as a person. I shared the link on my group and many took part and all said how like them the trait was. It really is insightful.
Evenings are becoming lighter, spring is not far off and life is improving by the day. I'm excited at the prospect of finally being able to spend time with my daughter at the end of the month and I am looking forward to life gradually returning to some sort of normality.
If anyone is interested in the personality traits test here is the link.