Learning to live after loss is a slow process. It is easy for an outsider to see a grieving person months later, to see them laughing and smiling and be thankful that they look like they are in a happier place. But I can assure you, we haven’t moved on.
We are just learning to live.
I think , in a way, we never really move on after grief. We adjust. We re-evaluate. We learn to live our lives in a new way and we will evidently feel better for it. But we will never be without our scars.
I am not the same person I was since losing Evalyn. My husband is not the same person he was since losing Evalyn. We have changed so much that sometimes I find myself questioning who we even were before. There is a phrase I have heard many times as a loss parent.
Be gentle with yourself.
It is by this phrase that I now live and I have found that in the past seven months, I have made my life much simpler because of it. Losing Evalyn stripped me bare of the person I was before and I felt that the only way I could at least try to heal was to do the same with how I lived my life.
I have been gentle with myself.
I have been in no rush to get back to work and instead, have used my maternity leave to focus on myself and my family. I have enjoyed being there to drop off and pick Ieuan up from school. I have enjoyed the lack of rush in the evenings because I have managed to get the house jobs done that day. I have enjoyed having time. The time to think, the time to do, the time to just be and the time to discover myself again.
I have had the time to go back to the things I used to love doing, photography being one of them. I always told myself that one day, I would follow my passion and become the photographer I have always wanted to be and now I have the time to do that. I have also had the time to concentrate on my writing, something that I have been doing from a very young age. Poetry, stories, journals, songs on my ukulele – I have found my writing has been an amazing self therapy for me . . .
If I feel I need a day to do nothing, then I will do nothing. Grief has a nasty way of forming a cloud above your head when you think the storm has passed over. On these days, I don’t run from it. Instead, I let it in. Every time I fall, I know that I will have to build myself up again and that is sometimes the hardest part. But I also know that each time, I am building myself up one step further from the bottom. On these occasions, I make sure that I make plans for myself the following day and that I stick to them. It is so easy for the darkness to consume you. To give yourself a day of grief but then find you can’t swim to the surface again. Having a concrete plan for the following day ensures that I do get dressed. That i do pick myself back up again and leave the house. Even if it’s just a food shop – it’s living.
I have learnt to say ‘no’. I have a personality that hates to let people down. When we lost Evalyn, my own sadness of living without her was heightened by the fact I felt that I had let so many people down; Nick, who had to say Goodbye to his daughter, Grandparents who had been looking forward to their first Granddaugter, friends who now had to deal with the impact stillbirth would have on their own lives. But most of all, I felt that I had let Evalyn down. It’s taken a long time to accept the fact that it wasn’t my fault. . . .
In being gentle towards myself, I have learnt that I have to sometimes say ‘no’. It is a big change in the way I live, but I have realised that it makes living easier for me at the moment. I know that life brings with it many things to celebrate – birthdays, anniversaries – but when you live your life with an undercurrent of grief running through it, it can sometimes be hard to fix a smile on your face and get up and party. I have had to say ‘no’ many times to friends and family.
I have probably missed a few birthdays and occasions when Evalyn’s grip over me has become too much to bear again and facing the world was a harder task than usual. I have even had to say ‘no’ to buying gifts for friends with newborns because walking into a shop and buying baby-related items was too much. Luckily I have very understanding friends and although I don’t need to explain myself, just know that the many “no’s” you have heard over the months is not through a lack of love I have for you all. . . .
I have also found myself saying ‘no’ to myself. I said ‘no’ to celebrating Mother’s Day this year. Nick decided he didn’t want to celebrate Father’s Day either and I was more than happy to go along with his decision. We instead decided to escape for the day with Ieuan with no mention of Father’s Day and our hearts felt lighter for it. I think I will also say ‘no’ to my birthday this year too. I am more than happy to acknowledge it (I know that a certain nearly-five-year-old of mine will want to celebrate) but I am happy for the day to pass by quietly.
Celebrating any occasion seems to be something that I have to spend days preparing my mind for. I have questioned this and the only explanation I can come up with is that celebrating brings with it a certain amount of guilt. For how can I celebrate and be happy when Evalyn is not here to celebrate with us? I am sure this is something that will become easier in time. Trying to find happiness after loss sometimes feels like trying to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. . . . .
Just don’t give up on trying to find it.
Be gentle with yourself whilst grieving.
Spend time finding something you enjoy doing and when you find it, lose yourself in it. Learn to say ‘no’ and don’t worry about letting yourself or others down. Look around and take in all of the good that is still in your life. It is so easy to feel that there is nothing, but you will easily see that is not always true. Do not be afraid of hitting rock bottom. I guarantee it will hurt like hell but my God, it will make you stronger. Falling back down the snake to square one is not failure. You can still build yourself up from the very beginning.
Just be gentle with yourself.
And when you can, smile. Laugh . . . .
Like grief, happiness also comes in waves. They are the little rocks in a turbulent sea and when you reach them, hold onto them for as long as you can. . . . .
They lead to an island that’s waiting just for you.