Please note... I don't hold back in this post and that includes my choice of language. If you are sensitive to harsh words then I apologise, it is not my intention to offend you xo
I have something I really want to get off my chest. It's a question- or series of questions rather- that I have been pondering over for a long long time. Two years in fact!
Over the weekend, we three went along to a classmates birthday party and while there I chatted with another Mum who I see once in a while. She knows my story, as does pretty much everyone in our school community and I have no issues with that. It's a close-nit community and I love that we all look out for one another. So she knows my husband died and she knows my kids don't have a Dad. She's a lovely woman and her interest and concern is always very well meaning. Naturally she asked how I am, how things were going? And I answered her honestly, as I always do. I didn't get into the nitty-gritty (it was after all, a kid's party), but I told her that lately we've all been pretty great. And after she asked about my work, I answered that things were getting very exciting, that Life for me was passing through a 'busy season' and although it's all feeling rather full-throttle, I'm having an absolute ball on this crazy wild ride and am buzzing over where things are heading.
Ignoring all the other details I had just offered, she clung to the word 'busy'!
'Good', she said. 'That's great. Keeping really busy is the way to go isn't it... then you don't have to think about it'.
At this point I got a bit lost for words, I smiled tightly and excused myself. A kid's party was not the place for me to dive into further discussion. But if I had a dollar for each time this or something similar has been said to me over the past two years, I'd be investing in a private cabana somewhere exotic!
You see my friends, that there is the attitude, or more so that seems to be our programmed response to pain, loss and grief. And that is what I am set to change.
Why do we want to run from it?
Why are we so desperate not to feel emotional pain?
Why, in the Western culture, do we not know how to react and respond to grief? Or the most significant trigger for grief, Death?
Now these are HUGE questions and I'm making a sweeping generalisation because of course there are exceptions. But my motivation for asking them comes from a deeper level of understanding, not just the obvious answer of it being our fight or flight response. I get that, I get that we all have the desire and that mechanism within us, to either stand and get really fucking angry, or to turn and run really fucking fast! This is not the side of things I am talking about for we all know grief is inevitable. It is a part of our existence and neither fight nor flight work in this case. Not for the long-term anyway.
I can tell you that I have got down and dirty with grief. I have felt the terror of one of life's nightmares come true. The effect of spinning without any sense of gravity, with no anchor at all, it is a complete abyss. To be alive and breathing without any sense of who you are, but knowing you are responsible for two small children. To have every . single . thing that you know and that is familiar to you in your world, GONE! At the flick of a switch, everything is different and you have no clue what to do and what is going to happen next. THAT my lovely friends, that is real terror and there an't no running that you can do and no fighting to make it go away.
I have three older sisters and when the Sydney dwelling sister arrived on the first flight out after Tuck's accident, she came in and cradled me and I remember looking her in the eyes and saying, 'I'm just so fucking scared!' What I described to you in that previous paragraph is the best way I can relay how I felt for those first couple of days after Tuck was killed. I was 21 years old when we met and had been with him for over 17 years!
I continued to spin for a little while, and I continued to be consumed by the fear. But eventually I stared at that fear, I looked at it point-blank and I said,
Fuck you fear! Let's dance
And guess what? I survived, and the fear was no longer so powerful. But not only that, I came out the other side better, stronger, wiser, empowered and here's the biggest shock of all, happier! It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me either, but then in some ways it does. Grief is hard, it is messy, it is confusing but it is also so . God . Damn . Beautiful!
I don't go skipping through a field of daisies everyday, ha hell no, definitely not. But Life is not meant to be all about daisies. Life and our Human existence is about experiences and our connection to those experiences. It's about our responses; those of our senses and our emotions. It's about feeling those elements through observation and mindfulness and doing our best to not attach our Selves to our reactions. Each and every one of us has been or will get dealt a shitty hand of cards at least once in our lives. Something significant, some great Karmic test from the Universe. I'm pretty clear on what those things have been for me to date (and I'm sure bloody hoping I'm done for this life-time!), but whatever that may be for you, just remember, that thing that has happened cannot be changed, some things are simply out of our control. What is within our control is how we choose to respond. What is the effect that thing has upon our future? How will we allow for it to influence us? Will we choose to be the Eagle, or will we be the Mouse?
Single parenting is hard and most days I flop into bed feeling utterly exhausted. I sleep well, really well! And despite the pace of it all and the juggle of it all, Life is ace. I am happy and I am living each and everyday to the fullest. I am truly at peace with Tuck's death and have my own deeply personal understanding for why it happened, why in the bigger picture and grander scheme of things, it had to be so. I get it and I'm okay with it. There is so much good to be had from it and for that I am mind-blowingly grateful. I have a pretty clear idea of where my immediate future is headed, heck I hope so since I'm the one holding the reins ha ;) But who knows how things will unfold over the many years to come. One thing is certain though, there is sure to be some exciting times ahead.
Those big questions and this conditioned 'doom and gloom' response to death and grief are topics I am opening up for discussion. They are topics I am beginning to speak of more and more, not just here in this space but out there in the real world too. Through conversations, through my published words, and through public speaking. Grief, pain and loss are very individual and our process with them are as unique as we are. There is no right or wrong way and my intention is not to shove whatever methods I have used down others throats. What I'm about is encouraging others and inspiring those to face it, not run from it. Maybe even recognise the beauty within the pain, for it is there to be seen if you choose to acknowledge it. Not a single one of us can avoid grief. No matter the trigger, it is a vital part to our human existence.
I am using my experiences to change our conditioned response. I am open and comfortable with talking about the details of my journey. There really isn't a single question that I wouldn't answer if I thought that answer could benefit another in some way. I'm turning our response to this thing called grief on it's head by creating a positive where there has, in our society, only been the negative.
Dealing with this stuff in a way that is healthy, open, honest and authentic is what builds our wisdom. It strengthens us as individuals and as a collective Being. What do we have to gain by running from it? What benefit to our truest self do the distractions we put in place offer us?
I honestly believe the answer is Nothing! I believe that the more we run from emotional pain, the more likely it will manifest in another way.
Suppression = Depression
Ignoring pain does not make it go away. It does not mean it no longer exists. What it does mean is that it will fester and ooze out of our physical Being in the form of some ugly dis-ease. The longer it is left to fester, the more likely whatever we are using to distract ourselves will become an addiction. Eventually the addiction is no longer an effective mask and we are forced to address the real issue, the real pain, that demon that has been feasting off our fear.
What would you prefer? To face that fear and feel the pain associated with grief through each messy part of the process sooner? Or to delay the inevitable and have it be so much worse down the track?
Believe me, I know. I tried it nearly thirty years ago when my Dad died - I was 12 years old. I finally dealt with my grief eleven years later, when I was 21 years old and started to experience anxiety and a bit of depression. As soon as I address the root cause of these disorders; that being my suppressed pain, I was no longer affected or restrained by their power.
Twenty-nine years later and I was served my next major Life hurdle the night that Tuck died. I'm glad I chose the first option this time around and faced that pain head-on.
If you know of anyone experiencing a hard time; major change, loss, any form of grief..? Feel free to forward them the link to this post, or tag them in on Instagram if that's what led you here. Maybe it might help them a little? Perhaps these words and my experience might offer them courage to feel all the feels and stand in their vulnerability.
Sending lots of love out to you all and wishing you so much happiness in your days xo
** all these images were taken on a recent trip to a friend's property in the South Aussie Outback! If you're on Instagram then you would have seen a few of these already ;)