In August this year my whole life was turned upside down. What was supposed to be a relaxing family holiday turned into a nightmare, and devastatingly we returned home from our trip without my little cousin Blossom, who tragically passed away following an accident.
The past three months have been incredibly hard for myself and my family and we have all learned so many hard lessons. Today though, I wanted to write about what I have learnt about grief.
I feel like grief is a bit of a taboo subject and I certainly haven’t found much to read about it online. Which is strange really, seeing as it’s something we’ll all inevitably experience in our lifetimes. So I wanted to type something honest and open in the hope that it might help someone else experiencing grief feel a little bit less lonely.
1) It’s hard to separate grief from other mental health issues
One thing I’ve really struggled with over the past few months is trying to understand what is a natural symptom of grief and what could be an expression of other mental health issues. As someone who has suffered with low moods and anxiety for my whole life, it has been difficult to try and classify what is a healthy reaction to our loss and what could be a sign that there are deeper issues to deal with.
I have found that talking to friends, family and my GP has really helped me to process my thoughts around this and as with many things, a little bit of time has helped to bring more clarity.
2) Self care is more important than ever
What I didn’t realised about grief was just how much it would take out of me. Mourning a loss is draining, both physically and mentally, and as a result looking after yourself is more important than ever.
The key here is not to put extra pressure on yourself – if you don’t feel up to that social event then don’t go; if cooking feels far too strenuous then don’t beat yourself up about getting a takeaway. Try to get as much sleep as you can manage and find time for things that help to distract your mind (I’ve found that reading is a great escape).
3) It doesn’t always feel how you expect it to
I think most of us expect to feel incredibly sad when we are grieving for someone, but what I wasn’t expecting was the whole wealth of other emotions that I have experienced. Anger, fear, gratitude, hope, numbness – mourning and coming to terms with a loss is about a lot more than just being sad.
The other thing is that when you might experience these emotions is totally out of your control – you can be feeling fine one minute and have the wind knocked out of your sails the next. Trying to accept that can be difficult and frustrating, but it really does help.
4) Other people’s kindness will mean more than you could imagine
I have been totally overwhelmed by how many people have done kind, thoughtful, wonderful things for myself and my family over the past couple of months – it has honestly blown me away. On days when it has felt difficult to cope, the kindness of others has kept us going and made life that little bit easier.
Never underestimate how much even the smallest act could mean to someone who is struggling – send the message, buy them a coffee, pop a card in the post. It will mean the world to them, I promise.
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