After the amazing and grounding response I got to my last blog post, with several people asking me to write more, I’m back. After addressing the elephant in the room and facing grief head on, I found myself stumped on what to talk about next.
‘My grief and Me’ was written in an informative style and people responded really well to it. So I thought I would do another in a similar style but aiming mainly at people who have been bereaved, especially those new to the whole thing.
I’ve written about what has helped me process my grief over the years.
I also feel it’s important to mention, I’m not grief free, I’m not over it, and whilst I may portray a person who seems to be on top of things, I can assure you that that’s not always the case, I am human too.
I’m trying to show how to manage grief, because there is hope, life does get better, its not better all the time, but it definitely gets better from the moment you first lose a loved one.
It’s really important you have a strong support network. I found this is what kept me going. People you know you can depend on.
For me the majority of my external support (not from my family) came from school. I had 5 teachers in particular that helped through my school days, from the end of year 10, till now even.
The support from my family Is incredible and my mum is super human. But I emphasise external support because it comes from people who aren’t at the centre of your “drama” and can offer different support to those at home and in a selfish way focus on you, one to one.
For me one of the hardest things was losing my “safe place”, home had always been a safe haven, a place free from the outside world, but suddenly that all got turned upside down when my dad died. My normality was ripped from existence in a matter of seconds, without warning. My home, which was once a place that could comfort all discomforts, was no longer.
I found this really hard to deal with.
As soon as I returned to school, school became that “safe” place, though everything back home had changed, school had remained the same. Same faces, same places – it was normal. But it only felt “safe” when my head of year at the time made sure I knew I had his support. He always told me his door was open if I wanted to talk, If I wanted to take a timeout from anything I could do so, he emailed all my others teachers making sure they’d allow me to leave the lesson if I felt I needed to. By doing this he allowed me to take some control back in my life, death leaves you feeling powerless, re-gaining some control was so so so beneficial.
Over the years’ different teachers stepped forward and I always know, if I need I have somewhere to turn, which is very comforting.
The support network I had within school, for me, was the first step to being able to process and deal with my grief and was vital. Without it I dread to think what may have been. Returning to school was incredibly hard, when someone dies it feels as if time has stopped, but it keeps going, returning back into your old routine makes you realise that more than ever. But the support I had made returning just that bit more bearable.
So try and make sure you have people you can turn to, whether it be teachers, a bereavement group, a best friend, anything, just another branch for you to lean on other than your family, even if you don’t use them, knowing they’re there is enough and makes day-to-day life okay, because you’re not alone. Someone will catch you if you fall.
The more time you have to process grief, the more you realise what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not, and sometimes you have to say no to things because it’s actually what’s best for you and that’s okay.
Learning my personal boundaries and when not to push them was very liberating.
I sometimes find life very exhausting and used to find it extremely so when I was at school. The energy required to put a smile on your face when you really don’t feel like smiling Is draining and some days I simply did not have the energy to be happy.
That’s when I’d say to myself is it worth going in to school today? Am I actually going to benefit from going in, or will it wipe me out for the rest of the week? Will I be able to concentrate in my lessons? I’d weigh these up and occasionally I’d decide that staying at home and wallowing in my emotions was actually what was best for me. A day off from the world actually did me a world of good (if you pardon the pun) and by the next day I was re-energised and ready for what life had to throw at me.
But coming to the realisation that its actually okay to give myself a break, was a massive achievement for me and helped me further come to terms with my grief.
This is obviously proportional and you have to be reasonable, you can’t just have every day off, because there will be times when you want to, but like I said time keeps on going and you don’t want to spend your time trying to catch up because that’s even more exhausting.
I may be alone in this, but a big part in what helped and helps me get through my grief, is moments of escape.
This can be found in music, books, film, TV and just days out.
In the early stages I’d lose myself in Netflix television series, allow myself to be in another world for hours at a time (I don’t know whether this was healthy, but it helped!). Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries were my go to programmes.
They provided a break, only temporary, but a break non the less from the overwhelming feeling of loss. Also whilst crying over the loss of my favourite character, in retrospect I was actually crying over my own loss too, but the release of emotions was certainly restorative. When they say you feel better after having a cry and letting it out, they aren’t half wrong, even if you need a programme to help you along!
Music for me has been my saviour. I find it hard to describe the effect it has, as it conjures up every sort of emotion possible.
I’m privileged enough to have to been to several festivals and gigs, they really lightened the darker days and provided a relief for me. The buzz of being in a crowd allowed me to step out from myself and ride the hysteria of the people around me, completely wrapped up in the excitement, I was purely thinking about the there and then. Which was extremely up-lifting.
I find music can take you anywhere: a field in the middle of summer, a dark cobbled street, another world entirely. That’s the the beauty of it.
As well as providing moments of escape, where I am somewhere utterly different, mentally, it also allowed me to confront certain emotions.
Different songs have different attachments, my favourite song will forever be ‘This Charming man’ by The Smiths, it was played at my dad’s funeral. At first when ever I heard it I would bawl my eyes out and my stomach would knot, now it provides pure elation that can’t be replicated by anything else. But I needed to listen to the song first, allow it to upset me, before I could really enjoy the song and all it means to me.
This I find is similar to grief itself, at first it brings you nothing but upset, but overtime the upset becomes less and the happy memories take a forefront. But you have to allow it to upset you first.
‘Why pamper life’s complexities’, when you can just listen to a song?!
I feel its important I mention by mum, because she has been nothing short of amazing. Words cannot describe how unbelievably brilliant, selfless and understanding she has been.
She trusted me, when I said I needed a day off school just to be sad, and allowed me to, without hammering the consequences of missing my education. She drove me to these gigs and I know she will always, always catch me when I fall.
Even if I had no one else but her, I know I’d be okay. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model to show me: determination, courage and strength – thank you.
Finally, I also want to mention, that I couldn’t have made it here alone, the support from my history teachers, form tutor, head of sixth form and head of year, our amazing friends and my incredible family, especially my grandparents, who do anything they can to help us.
My strength now, is due to the strength of the people around me, without them I’d be nowhere.
If you read this far, well done and thank you for persevering to the end! I’m still trialling this blog, trying to work out what works and what doesn’t. If anyone has any feedback at all, I’m all ears. Also if you have any questions, or things that help you manage your grief, I’d love to know, cause like I said, I’m still grieving myself.
You can email me or message privately through social media.
Hope this helps somewhat …. Learn to tame the beast/ grief monster (you’ll understand if you read my last post).