Eight years ago today, we said goodbye to my mam for the very last time.
I find it hard to comprehend that it’s been eight years, yet at the same time it feels like a lifetime ago that I last saw her.
As the years have passed, there’s a lot I’ve learned about grief. I’ve grieved for my mam, for the life she had ahead of her, for the memories we never got to make, for the family of three that became a family of two overnight.
I still have a long way to go in my grieving process, and I know it’s something that’s never going to end. It just takes on different forms and presents itself in different ways. It’s always there; sometimes in the background, sometimes at the forefront of my very being.
I shared a post similar to this last year, but today I thought I’d write another version with more things I’ve learned over the past eight years. Some points are similar to those I’ve shared before, but hopefully they’ll help someone who needs them.
Look after yourself
It may sound harsh, but the truth is that the only person we have to depend on for our entire lives, 24/7, is ourselves. When you lose someone, it’s so easy to forget about yourself and instead focus on everyone else, but looking after yourself is one of the most important things you can do. Try to create a routine that you love, make time for the things and people you love and do what *you* need to do. You have to be a little selfish. It’ll make everything else so much easier.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Similarly, know when you need a helping hand. If there are more bad days than good, know that you deserve a life better than that and do something to change it. Book an appointment to see your doctor, meet up with a friend or reach out to someone you trust – whatever it is you do, don’t go through this alone. Don’t be afraid to say that you’re feeling down or are finding things tough. I’m quite honest with people about how I’m feeling, and it’s honestly such a relief.
People will let you down
I hope that no one is let down to the extent that I was following my mam’s passing, but being let down in some shape or form is inevitable. There may be people that will hurt you, that won’t get in contact again or that will make mistakes. Some will apologise, some will not. Whatever it is you go through, know what you deserve from the people you love – and don’t accept anything less. It’s better to have one person that you can depend on 110% than twenty people you can’t fully trust.
Create your own support group
For some, their support group is their family. For others, it’s their friends. For me, my support group is a mix of both. I’ve built up a network of people that I consider to be my family, although we aren’t related by blood, that I know I can call on for anything. They care about me, look out for me and I can trust them – and I hope that I do the same for them. I suppose what I’m trying to say is: surround yourself with people you love, and people who love you – whether it’s members of your family or not. I truly have no time for people who I can’t trust or depend on, no matter if we’re related by blood. Find your group (or person) and treasure them.
Your past is not your future
No matter what hardship you’ve been through, take comfort in knowing that your past is not your future. Create your own future, create a life you love and know that your life won’t be filled with grief forever, it’ll just be a part of it.
You’ll survive every bad day
Anyone who’s close to me will know that I’ve had more than my fair share of bad days. But I survived every single one of them – and so will you. I’m so incredibly grateful to say that the baddest of my bad days are just a memory now, but there were times when it felt like they’d last forever. They don’t. Time will pass, the sun will rise and set again and the bad day will be in your past. Ride the wave of grief and know that it won’t last forever.
Know that people grieve in different ways
I’ve a box of family photos that I asked my dad to take down from the attic at the start of December. Despite wanting to look through them for weeks, I didn’t do it until last night because I was terrified of the emotions that looking through them would bring. There are family videos that I desperately want to watch, but I don’t because I truly think they’ll be too sad. For some people, however, looking through those things brings great comfort. Don’t feel bad for grieving in your own way. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
Better things are to come
It might feel like you’ll never know happiness again, but you will. New things and new people will bring you more joy than you’ve ever imagined. You’ll laugh, you’ll plan great things, you’ll have days filled with happiness. You’ll make memories, you’ll have the proudest days of your life, you’ll feel like the sun is beaming out of your heart. Enjoy the good days. Savour them. Know that it’s absolutely okay to be happy. Know that you deserve to be happy. And spread that damn happiness everywhere.
I hope these points might help even one person who’s experiencing grief. If you are, I’m sending you all of my love.
Feel free to drop me a message on Instagram or Twitter (both @whatshedoesnow) or mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re going through a tough time, I’ll be an ear to listen if you need one.
To finish this post, here’s one of my favourite quotes: ‘Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.’