It’s not about getting over it. It’s about learning to live with it.
27th February 2018 was the day that my life changed forever. There will always be a life before and after, who I am now is different to the person I was before- in all of the sad and heartbreaking ways, but also in positive ways. He wasn’t my partner when he died, but he was my very best friend and I will forever love and miss him for the rest of my life on this earth.
Imagine being the tender age of twenty-four, still learning about love and heartbreak, still discovering who you are, and dealing with the most horrific grief that could possibly exist. I have lost people before, but somehow, when there is an underlying health condition or age just isn’t on their side, the loss is still a loss, but the grief is different. You miss them because of your memories with them. When you lose somebody from sudden or tragic circumstances, who was only twenty-six years old, you don’t just miss them because of your memories with them, you miss them for everything that they cannot be here to see or do, you miss them because they should be here.
For a very long time, whenever I was doing something new, I would wish he could be here to experience it too- not to mention all of the first milestones without. This was grief as I had never known before, it was painful for a very long time, to some extent it still is, but what I have learnt along the way is many lessons about life and about the person that I want to be. I was often told by my family and friends just how strong I was and how well I was coping, but it is only two years on that I can say, that actually, yes, I am an extremely strong, young woman who should be proud of how far I have come.
In the initial months that pass by, they do just that, they pass by. Your own world is at a standstill, but the rest of the world has resumed to its normal pace and you are back with just you and your own thoughts. Your family and friends haven’t forgotten about you, but they are getting on with life- life still happens. It can feel a lonely time; you don’t want to talk about it because you can never stop your tears once they start, but you don’t want to talk about anything else- you don’t have much else to say.
I spent many a night sitting up on my own, listening to music, crying and wondering if I would ever feel the same again? The feeling was so overwhelming and so constant, that I felt permanently exhausted. I didn’t switch off at night times, my sleeping pattern was poor and my dreams were upsetting and vivid, I suppose I just became used to it. I was functioning on limited sleep, whilst working full time as a teacher and youth worker- who had to wear a smile to work regardless, working towards new teaching qualifications, as well as trying to stay healthy (in simple terms: over training at the gym and under eating). It was demanding on my physical and mental health.
The anxiety of me losing one of my own brothers really took its toll on me. I was afraid when the phone rang, I can still vividly remember the phone call that I received to tell me that he was dead, and I constantly dreaded getting one of those phone calls in the immediate months that passed by. I was fearful of most aspects of life, my anxiety was high, especially when it came to my loved ones. My emotions ran high for months, I cried every day for over a year and I always felt like this was it for me, I would never meet somebody else who could understand and accept my grief and I would forever feel like a lost soul.
Unknowingly to me, but evident to others around me, I was continuing with my life with more emphasis than I had ever done. I was making more arrangements with my friends for upcoming months, I was visiting people more often, socialising and training at the gym more than I had before he passed away- doing the small things. I felt that I owed it to him, to live my life more than I was, paired with the fact that it was comforting to be around our mutual friends, I didn’t feel as alone. So slowly but surely, the fragments started to fit back together- of course, my grief continued, it just became easier to hide from others; I was learning to live with with my loss.
The saddest part about losing somebody close to you, is that life does go on. You can either be a prisoner of your own loss and succumb, or you can keep moving forward. One thing that I learnt, is that there is no time frame on the grieving process- it takes as long as it takes, it will never not exist, it will always be there. The moment that you realise that life continues to happen can be aggravating- do people not realise what you have lost? Do people not care? Don’t they understand what you are going through? This is a totally normal reaction to have- it takes time, but eventually, you start to come to terms with it… People do care, but supporting somebody who is grieving is easier said than done.
Who I am now, is a much stronger woman. I no longer feel like a victim. It is a part of life that we all will at some point face, death is inevitable- it is the only certainty that we have. I know that I am not the only person to suffer in the hands of grief. I understand what forgiveness actually is and the kind of person that you become if you practice forgiveness. There is enough pain and heartache in the world, without choosing to carry negative energy around with you. Forgiveness is about yourself, not the other person. If you can forgive within your heart, I can almost guarantee that your life moving forward will feel lighter.
Strength comes from within, and the way in which you carry yourself through life, the way that you emphasise with others; it sets you aside from most people who carelessly live life without thinking of others. Strength is recognising that you are hurt, letting yourself feel the emotions that come with it and accepting it for what it is. You are foolish if you think it is a weakness to feel emotions. Strength is acknowledging the person that you have lost and being able to talk about them in the times that they were living- and strength is feeling empowered when you can finally do that. It is also a relief.
The person that I am now, is a far better version of myself. I have learnt countless lessons about life, about people, about love and about heartbreak- I have lost people along the way, but I have also gained new friendships. I view life differently, and think about my actions more consciously. Perhaps this is a process we all go through as we journey through our twenties, but I am more aware of the decisions that I am making for myself, as well as the opportunities that come along. I am more likely to take a chance.
My most significant moment of this whole process, was feeling that my soul had returned. For those who are spiritual people, you may relate to this more than others. There was a period of time where I felt that I was empty, there was no light inside of me anymore- I was completely lost: body, mind and soul. I know that there was a part of me somewhere, frantically searching for what I had lost. So when that light does reappear, and you feel that you are whole again, that you are yourself again, it is a moment to celebrate, it is a moment to be proud of. Granted, this took the longest amount of time, and I am entirely guilty of being completely shut off to people who wanted to love me, who tried to love me during that time; I hold my hands up- but it just wasn’t the right time, or perhaps wasn’t the right connection for me.
So, what about love? I am a firm believer that, what is meant for me, will be. I am still learning lessons about love. I am still learning things about myself each day that I didn’t know before- I am still growing. When it is right for me, it will happen- there is no rush when it comes to love and relationships, I no longer feel the need to search for this…it will find me.
There is life after loss; you either carry it on your shoulders for the rest of your life, or you carry it within your heart.