Year two is done and dusted. Thank goodness.
In all honesty, year two of grieving has been an absolute bastard.
Grieving is a new thing for me, I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life to not have experienced grief before. So I’m not quite sure if this is the cycle of grief, or whether it’s my own individual experience. Either way, this is how it played out for me.
Year one was tough. And I am sure most people, including myself, thought it would be the toughest one. But I spent most of year one in a total state of shock. Year one kind of felt like a game. Not a fun game, but a game nonetheless. Almost like someone had put me in my very own game of Survivor. That it was up to me to me to outwit, outplay and outlast. I love a challenge, so I thought in year one I had done this quite well. Except when year one ticked over, there was no fanfare, no sign of a half million dollar prize and Jonathan LaPaglia was definitely not by my side. Instead, time just ticked over into year two and grief was still there.
But I had high hopes.
I was going to smash year two.
But as time ticked on, it didn’t feel that way, in fact if anything, I was getting punched sideways by life.
This is a little how year two panned out.
I wrote of my car in an accident in Melbourne. It was completely my fault, and thankfully no one was hurt and Heidi was not with me. My banged up Corolla was no more – yet another part of my old life was smashed up right before my very eyes. I have to laugh, because seriously, besides Heidi and my work, I’m not sure what part of my old life still actually exists! On the upside, my new Mazda 3 feels like quite the upgrade. Beep beep!
I began EMDR therapy with my Psychologist to ‘heal’ me from the trauma experienced during Craig’s death. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing and traumatic life experiences. And while I can feel the healing effects now (almost one year later!) at the time it absolutely floored me. In a way I had never felt floored before. Feelings of defeat, anger, deep sadness and heartbreak all surfaced for me and I just felt so lost in it all.
So I took those feelings into Christmas. Naturally you can imagine how ‘fun’ I was! I made the mistake of exerting all my energy on Christmas Eve and then got a little too festive with alcohol that night. You could say I was a little premature with my Christmas spirit. I woke Christmas Day and honestly if I could have just pulled the covers over my head and skipped the day, I would have. Instead I took my ‘fun’ to Christmas. This meant I sat there pretty much mute for the day, took a 3 hour nap and then demanded to be driven home by 5pm – what a barrel of laughs. Sorry family! I’ll try again this year.
There have been multiple health problems in my family. While I won’t go into too much detail it’s yet another reminder of the fragility of life. It’s hard to watch on and has been exhausting and stressful for everyone.
I had a holiday planned for Sri Lanka and two and a half weeks before entering the country, terrorists had other ideas and bombed the country. I spent those three weeks debating whether I should go or not. I barely slept the entire time as I weighed up my decision. I found it so hard not having my usual sounding board (Craig) there to support me in my decision. As I went back and forth and back and forth, I doubted myself a lot. Not even a week out I decided I was going, and had the most incredible time. I was happy I backed myself and had the experience I did.
When July 1st ticked around a wave of anxiety hit me about Craig’s anniversary coming up. Except it was still two WHOLE months away! I spent two months in a state of anxiousness. Which for me means a lack of sleep, lack of appetite, increase of walking the block and some erratic behaviour I can’t even explain. I do often laugh about this side of me, but it’s a long and grueling time to be in that state.
In August I received some sad news about the death of a wonderful young man and past client of mine. It left an incredible young woman in the same situation as me and it broke my heart. It triggered a lot of emotions in me and hit me for six. The silver lining is that I have now connected with this woman and I hope I can offer some support.
Father’s Day, Craig’s two year anniversary and my birthday came and went in a 13 day haze. It was a little harder to manage Father’s Day this year with Heidi being at school. Her grief has evolved and it’s hard to watch on. The anniversary wasn’t as bad as anticipated, but a week later I was hit with a ‘mysterious’ stomach bug the day before my birthday. It was a horrible day and deep down I know it wasn’t a bug, it was just my body and brain saying it had had enough, and for the first time in a long time I just had to write the day off.
Year two I’ve really rolled with some punches. But this is not a woe is me tale, because that’s just life! The good, the bad and the downright ugly.
SO, now I’m on the other side, what have I learned and what did I do to make my way through?
I made sure I leaned on my philosophy that you must always check in with yourself mentally, emotionally and physically and seek help from professionals where required. I’ve had another year of psychology appointments for my mind, kept up with doing Reiki and have seen an Osteopath when required.
I have put strategies in place to help me feel good, when I don’t. I call it my ‘Feel Good Five’. And I go to this when I need a reminder of the things that will nurture me in a hard time. Think walking, eating dumplings or drinking a fancy pot of tea – you know the one with the tea leaves not just a tea bag. And of course my exit strategy for a holiday in Cambodia.
I’ve taken space when I needed it. I know when I have had enough and don’t need the outside world looking in.
Equally I have put myself out there, even on the days when I’ve not wanted to. You can’t hide away forever and human connection can bring great joy.
I have felt every emotion under the sun, but I’ve embraced them all and not tried to gloss over them.
Yes, year two was a bit of a bastard, and initially I felt so disappointed. But having taken some time away to reflect I can see the last year has been a big one of personal growth. And sometimes growth is painful. Simple as that. And with a little space to breathe I feel proud of myself for running the gauntlet (yet again) with a smile on my face and a sense of humour.
So, come at me year three, I know it won’t be perfect, but I’ve got a lot more living, loving and laughing to do.
Want Jo’s guidance on how to help someone that has lost a loved one? Read her post How to help someone who is grieving.