Why am I grieving if nobody has died?
Grief. The word conjures up an image of the grieving widow sobbing over her beloved late husbands casket. A veil covers her mascara stained face.
OK, maybe that's a bit dramatic but what a lot of people don't realise is that grief doesn't just follow a death. It can be the result of any kind of loss.
Understanding this is the first step to moving on and processing the information, but it wasn't until it was pointed out to me by a professional that I realised I was grieving. I just, like most people would, thought I was a bit down.
It isn't just one area of my life either. I never really got over losing my Dad at a fairly young age. He was ill for many years before his death. The only comfort was that he was no longer suffering, however, I still grieve the loss of him and the fact he never lived to see our family grow. I grieve him and the fact that those years were taken from us.
Dealing with grief over death is one thing, but grief comes in many forms. The last few years, for me, have been awful. In 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, the physical side was treatable, but as anyone who has survived cancer will tell you, you live the rest of your life with the fear of it coming back. Maggie Keswick Jencks, the founder of Maggie's Centre famously said 'Do not lose the joy of living in the fear of dying' and that is so true, you can't let it control your life, however it does change your life and you tend to view life pre and post cancer. I only realised recently that I am grieving the pre cancer days, when that dark cloud wasn't constantly hanging over me, waiting to envelope me in it's fog yet again. The days before every ache or ailment immediately makes me think it's back.
Coming out the other side of cancer treatment, I began to piece my life back together, only for it to then fall apart again. My husband left me. We had grown distant before the cancer but my brush with mortality enforced my dreams of how I wanted to live my life and they didn't match his. I knew life is was too short, I needed my own interests, he wanted us to be together all the time. I wanted him to support my dreams. We couldn't agree and he found someone else. We had been together for 16 years. That's a big chunk of anyone's life. When we got married I thought we'd be together forever, I guess every couple does, but in hindsight we were different. I think people have to change and grow together. We didn't. I grieve my marriage, the bond we once had and the fact that it's over. It takes time to get over that.
I didn't want another relationship. I wanted time on my own to find myself again. Be myself and do all the things I had wanted to do during the marriage that I couldn't. For a time I did. I enjoyed my own company. Not having to explain where I was going or why. Going to bed when I wanted - getting up when I wanted. Having my own home - something I'd never actually done after moving straight from my Mum's into my first home with my ex. But I fell for my friend. Nothing wrong with that, however, rather than being able to take it slowly, shortly after we began seeing each other he suffered a massive stroke, Paralysed down one side he needed care. I was on my own, I had the space. As a friend I couldn't see him go into a home, never mind a partner, and so just before Christmas 2017 he was released from the hospital and moved in with me.
I'm not saying that eventually that wouldn't have happened but we were robbed of all those experiences couples go through, talking about moving in, the big day when you do it. We were robbed of the excitement of dates, holidays, making memories - all the things that couples do together. Again, it wasn't until it was pointed out to me, that I'm grieving the loss of those things.
In essence what I, you and anyone else in these situations have to do is acknowledge our loss, don't beat ourselves up about the way we feel and realise that we are in fact grieving. Be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves time. Time we need to adjust, time our mental health needs to process the information and importantly, Time to grieve