Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Finding Happiness again series, I hope you’ve been enjoying reading it so far. Imogen’s spotlight on bullying proved helpful to many of you thanks for sharing your views via the comments as well. This week is a personal one for me, I’ve been toing and froing about writing this post as I’m a very private person. But the strength my guest bloggers have shown over the last couple of weeks has given me the courage to share with you how I’ve been feeling. This week’s post is all about coping with grief and tragedy.
My blog is primarily an outlet for travel, food and lifestyle inspiration, but this series came about from my love of helping other people. Which in this ego-tist world is something I’m sure you’ll agree is rare. Before I start I want you to understand I am not writing this post for sympathy or attention it’s just to help other people find their happiness again and to explain its ok to not feel ok.
“If I told you the things I’ve experienced over the last four months you’d probably think I was over exaggerating or watching too many soap operas. You’d find it hard to believe me. It’s still find it hard to believe everything my family has gone through over the last couple of months myself.”
Truthfully though the last couple of months have been a challenge physically and emotionally to say the least but I want to cast a spotlight on Grief & Tragedy as its a sad fact of life that we all have to experience at some stage…
My experience with Grief & Tragedy
Many of you may have already read my guest blog for Jay called ‘Time to be #StrongElle’ a nickname my blogging friends gave to me and so are aware of what I’ve been going through. For anyone who hasn’t or can’t really understand why for four months I was very un-Elle like here’s a brief summary of my experiences.
Since June 2018 I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. My mum struggled with a fractured pelvis and couldn’t get upstairs to sleep, for a while she couldn’t even walk so we took on a lot of household chores to help her out and have since created a little rota between the three of us (I still currently live with my parents). Then I lost my Grandad very suddenly and yes he was nearly 90 as many of my friends unhelpfully pointed out, I was aware of this but it didn’t make it any more shocking or sad. When I’d last been texting him he was talking about driving to the shops and discussing the tennis with me. Five days later he was gone and it just didn’t seem real.
As I battled to deal with my grief (losing my Grandad had brought back a lot of feelings from the death of my two other grandparents) my Grandma was rushed into hospital by ambulance. I was devastated and overwhelmed, I couldn’t bare losing them both in the space of a month. She is fighting through her illness although it has been very up and down six weeks – she has dementia so to say seeing her suffer has been hard would be an understatement. During all of this my beloved seven month old burmese Kitten Murray passed away from a illness which we are still awaiting the results for.
I told you it was crazy. But sadly It’s all true. I do feel like I’m in a sick reality show or never ending nightmare and at the beginning it was really hard to even get out of bed, to sleep through the night without crying. But I’m on the path to finding happiness again and I wan’t to share with you how I’ve been coping with grief & tragedy.
What is grief like?
“For anyone who hasn’t experienced grief all I can say is it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, one day you’ll be smiling and the next in tears”
Everyone always tells you that grief goes in a cycle. Yeah right you nod don’t tell me how to feel or quote some inspirational rubbish at me. Honestly though it does it may not always follow in the same order but you will feel anger, sadness and experience shock and denial before you finally learn to accept.
Sure, this isn’t the first time I’ve lost a loved one, my maternal grandad died when I was only 9, my paternal Granny when I was 16 and I’ve lost many pets along the way. And I’m not standing here screaming for attention or calling myself a pity party, people across the world experience tragedy and grief throughout their life. Grief is a long process one I’m still working through and here are some of the feelings I’ve experienced:
Shock for me the shock came first. An overwhelming feeling that felt like someone had knocked the wind from beneath your feet. Then denial, a blur, a never-ending nightmare that you wish you could wake up from. For weeks I stumbled around feeling bizarre, feeling numb it didn’t seem real… did it actually happen?
“Sadness, at times that was overwhelming and challenging. So many things had happened in such a short space of time it was hard to deal. I would be quiet, unusually quiet as my boyfriend put it but I couldn’t help it.”
I’d wake up in the middle of the night crying. I felt exhausted and physically drained, but I tried to keep going and for a while I buried my feelings deep down. There is one occasion that vividly comes to mind – I was due to drive up to a festival, one that had been planned for months. I was going to go to support my boyfriend Chris – it would have been fun. But at the very last minute I sat by myself for a while and I thought – do you know what I’m not alright. I’m really just not ok. I need to stop pretending that this hasn’t happened. That weekend I sat in bed and cried, and it was just what I needed, I finally had a sense of release and realisation that everything I’d gone through was horrific and it would take me a while to heal again. When you grief you do need to realise that It’s ok to feel sad sometimes.
Then the anger I’ll admit it was frustrating feeling so full of hatred and resentful. Firstly other people’s treatment of me (disclaimer: people have been supportive of me in their own way and granted not everyone knows how to help support others). But I know many of the people around me got frustrated, “you’ll get over it” “it’s not like you died” and “people die all the time that’s life especially if they were old” “What’s wrong with you, you should be ok by now”. Genuinely some people actually said these things to me. Seems I was surrounded by people who were trying their best to shake me back to reality, wanting me to be the life and soul of the party again. I was angry that it had happened. And that these things kept happening to me.
“some days it took all my strength to plaster a smile on my face “
Some days I’d be so angry, angry at people. It seemed like it was so easy for everyone else to just carry on whilst I was drowning and overwhelmed by everything that was going on. And the worse thing was I felt like people had stopped caring. But the truth was I needed to stop putting my life on hold and learn to LIVE AGAIN. It seems harsh doesn’t it but life carries on and you have to just focus on the positive memories rather than holding onto anger and pain and regret.
I’ve always been strong and determined it’s just who I am, so I allowed myself time to feel – to grieve and then I threw myself into my writing, my blogging and being creative. To be honest with you I’m still grieving I don’t think there’s a time limit on it…
But I knew It was time to look after myself as a priority and refocus on living in the presence. The key things that helped me find happiness again were;
- Spending time with loved ones
- Scrapbooking to capture memories from my adventures with my boyfriend
- Remembering memories with positivity
I started by allocating one night a week to bubble baths and reading, one night for blogging and another for freelance work. Writing was a great outlet for me and a healing process for sure.
I set aside time to socialise with the people who truly mattered. I’d learnt that life was short and you never really know how long you have left with your loved ones. I am in fact living in the moment and not worrying about the little things. I also learnt who the true people are and who the ones to lean on for support could be.
I laughed, I went to the cinema – I watched Mamma Mia 2 and the Incredibles 2, and I laughed so much I felt liberated. I listened to podcasts and I accepted that it was ok to feel how I was feeling, yes, I was quieter than normal and not as upbeat, but I was human and I just needed time to process things.
“humans aren’t robots and grief teaches you that. You feel a whirlwind of all kinds of emotions in a short space of time and it enables you to find coping mechanisms for each of them”
Friends and my boyfriend gave me flowers that was appreciated a lot, messages and hugs but as time goes on you need to learn that can’t be sustained and everyone has their own lives to live. With more awareness about just how quickly life can end I knew I needed to embrace every moment, travel and make memories. If I can say one thing that you take away it’s that You really should focus on the happy memories and life your life to the full.
“Don’t take people for granted as you never know how many moments you have left to share together. “
Not only have I learnt a LOT about myself through the challenging four months, I’ve also learnt a lot about other people. It’s a very valuable insight into people’s characteristics and coping mechanisms.
Grief is an inevitable part of life and something everyone has to experience but I know many people just don’t know how to deal with it. I wanted to give a few tips for any of you who know someone who is grieving.
Helping others coping with grief and tragedy
For anyone who is struggling to help someone through grief I’ve put together a little checklist that you can use:
- Be affectionate – this is the time to increase the cuddles, the kisses, the smiles.
- Be present – I know it might be uncomfortable to watch your partner, parent or friend in pain but this is one of the times they need you most whether that be lots of phone calls or some kind words.
- Be understanding – they might shout at you or sit there in silence and its likely they will find it hard to be happy and supportive of your achievements at times, but don’t take it personally grief is a consuming emotion and it knocks you for six. They might not be the person you fell in love with or value as a friend but that person is still there they are just hurting at the moment, give them time.
- Be patient – it could be six months later, and they’ve seemed fine for weeks yet all of a sudden, they are overwhelmed with emotion.
- Talk to them – what do they need? What can you do to help them. Yes Say ‘I’m here if you need me’ BUT follow it up with actions.
- Keep communicating and showing you care – the moment you stop is the time they step back and think does this person support me enough.
- Encourage them to reach out for professional help if they need it.
My grief was something I couldn’t skip or fast forward and it’s still something I’m dealing with every day.
I had the strength to stand up and speak at my grandad’s funeral and I’m proud that I managed to do that, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
I’ve continued to stay strong and fight through the hard days, I don’t know what’s around the corner, things are still very hard at the moment but I’m getting stronger each day. The days I cry are less frequent now, I started singing and laughing again and I’m feeling much more like my normal self then I was before.
I know that more sadness is around the corner but inevitably it is for all of us. All I know is that time is a great healer and you need to focus on making the most out of every moment that you have. I’ve decided to stay happy, live my life to the fullest and make the most of every moment. I have sad days when I get back from hospital after visiting my Grandma but I just think she’d want me to make the most of my life and be happy.
Your grief will be unique and it’s hard, whether its your parent, grandparent or pet if you are struggling please do reach out to someone and try to find hobbies that keep you busy and happy. You can make it through to find your happiness again.
I really hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you are grieving or going through a traumatic time please do take time to reach out and talk to someone. Often those around you can’t truly identify with how you are feeling. But you are never alone. Next week my Guest blogger Lee has a emotional post to share with you so keep posted for that!