My Grief Journey.
As I approach my 4-0 birthday, I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on life so far. The last decade has been a mixed bag of profound loss, grief and losing myself. But what has emerged from all this has been better than I ever imagined.
I now know myself better than ever and I’m able to look back on my experiences thoughtfully and with a sense of peace. Of course I still carry grief. But it’s so much lighter than it’s ever been – I’m talking pebbles, not boulders.
My grief now brings something positive to my life which seems like a strange thing to say. But through and beyond my losses, grief has helped me to heal and add meaning to my life. I choose to see this as the greatest gift my parents have ever given me, aside from life itself of course.
Here’s 40 lessons I’ve learnt – mostly after loss:
1. Cherish family and friends. This goes without saying – it’s a simple reminder. As human beings, we all take people for granted from time to time. It’s just a matter of being aware of when we do.
2. Leave nothing left unsaid. I’m talking about the gushy stuff, as well as your truth. Tell your loved ones you love them. When you need to speak your truth, speak it.
3. Go for it. Seriously, what’s stopping you? You don’t need to have it all figured out but at least take the first step.
4. Time is not the enemy. It’s not that you haven’t got enough time or that life is short. Make the time and if need be, reconsider your priorities.
5. Be in the moment as much as you can. Life in the past has already happened. Life in the future isn’t guaranteed. All we have is now. This moment.
6. Listen to your intuition. Get out of your head, be still and listen. Intuition always reveals the answer. Call it your “gut feeling” if you like.
7. Love yourself. The first step to feeling loved starts within. It’s not an ego thing. It’s a self-worth thing.
8. Respect your health and wellbeing. Be proactive as best you can. Know your mind and body enough to understand what it’s telling you before your health and wellbeing takes a hit.
9. Prioritise you. There’s nothing to feel guilty about. It’s so cliché but it’s true – you can’t pour from an empty cup. Period.
10. Never stop learning. Not just from books and courses, but from mistakes, challenges and life itself.
11. Embrace change. There is nothing to fear. It’s happening for you, not to you.
12. Befriending grief is the best way.
13. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. An old Buddhist saying by Haruki Murakami. This is a tough truth to swallow but I’ve realised that we can’t control the pain – pain is actually useful. But we can control the suffering we add to pain though.
14. There are no negative emotions, just emotions. All emotions are helpful. None of them are negative or bad. It’s just that we sometimes find them uncomfortable.
15. There are no bad days, just undesirable moments. Each day, week, month, year is made up of a series of moments – see #5. Some of them may feel “bad” but that doesn’t mean you need to conclude that the whole day, week or whatever is bad. Equally you can’t predict a “bad” day.
16. There’s no need to try. In the famous word of Yoda, there is no try. Just do it or don’t do it for goodness sake. Either way is fine but recognise that you’re constant “trying” is creating unnecessary pressure.
17. Work with the energy and resources you have available. Meet yourself where you’re at – especially in grief. No judgements, no expectations. Know that you’re doing your best.
18. Hippo days are acceptable, staying in the shit is not. We sometimes need to wallow in the shit for a short while – that’s okay. It’s not okay to stay there permanently though. Know when it’s time to do something about it.
19. Death isn’t the opposite of life, it’s part of it. It’s a certainty we’re all facing and talking about death won’t make it happen any sooner. Not talking about it, won’t prevent it from happening either. Be brave and explore your fears around this because finding peace with this makes a huge difference.
20. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Practise it, acknowledge it and actively seek it – even when things feel tough.
21. Acceptance is the key to most things. Accept this statement is true.
22. It’s okay to be vulnerable and show vulnerability. I don’t have my shit together all of the time. My grief sometimes pops up and I struggle. But there’s no need to be stoic in the face of adversity. Ask for help when you need it and let people know when you’re not okay.
23. Happiness is always an inside job. The material things aren’t inherently bad. There is nothing wrong with wanting the things that make our lives easier and more comfortable. But it’s about realising that they don’t ultimately make us happy. If that were the case, there would be no happy homeless people and miserable millionaires. Take a minute to process that.
24. Mindfulness is a super power that anybody can tap into. Don’t believe me, just watch.
25. Let it fucking be. No apologies for the swear. I found out the hard way, after being told over and over, to “let things go” that this is in fact BS. Truly letting go of things will happen naturally when you’re good and ready – we don’t need to control everything. Whatever it is, let it be instead.
26. There is life beyond loss. I’m living proof.
27. It’s totally within our power to be, do, have, whatever we want. I’ve defo realised that limits exist in the mind only. As soon as we recognise this, life becomes limitless.
28. How we respond is a choice. Getting a grip on my emotional response to triggers is a work in progress. But I now know that it’s totally a choice.
29. The Law of Attraction is real. I’ve become proud of my new found woo-woo nature and as far as I’m concerned, this is a thing. Everything is the universe is energy – including money and us. So scientifically speaking, why wouldn’t it be possible to attract the energy we want?
30. We are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around. Just another discovery in my woo-woo ness.
31. There’s always time for silliness. And laughter – even when we’re grieving. Find a smile and go with it.
32. It’s possible to turn shit to fertiliser. This Kute Blackson quote really resonates with me. It takes the whole making lemonade from lemons to a whole new level, don’t you think?
33. I’m never ever lost, just sometimes on a road to an unknown destination. Just a lovely reframe that immediately took away my fear and panic about feeling so lost.
34. It’s all about the reframe. Well I’m a coach, so why wouldn’t I believe this? Reframe your negatives and see what happens.
35. It’s okay to say “no” to the things / people that serve you.
36. It’s okay to say “yes” to the things / people that may help you.
37. It’s the little things that make the greatest impact. You know what I mean, right? The hot bubble bath, the walk out in nature, the delicious cup of coffee. It’s all so much more nurturing and comfort than we acknowledge.
38. Family isn’t defined by DNA, it’s defined by those who bring out the best in you. Losing both my parents, as well as those that did the disappearing act after my loss has forced me to re-examine exactly who my family are. I can tell you that well over 50% aren’t biologically related to me.
39. Your team / tribe / community is important. Surrounding myself with the right people was crucial to my healing journey. For family, see #38. My team continues to include coaches, healers, therapists, mentors and teachers. It’s okay to need support and ask for it.
40. Just do you. Unapologetically, authentically, you. Aka, be yourself.
Above all, I’ve learnt that life is absolutely for living. It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses of things that simply just don’t matter. I often wonder about the final thoughts my parents may have had before they died. This is something I’ll never know the answer to.
However, I can think about my own scenario and one thing’s for sure – I want to know that I’ve lived my life to the fullest and equally know that what I’ve lived is enough. I don’t always need to be chasing the big goal or dream, but I never want to be without them. I think that’s what my parents would have wanted for me too.
If you’re in the midst of grief right now, I hope this has helped to inspire you in some way – or in the least offer reassurance for the future. It will feel easier, as long as you work with your grief and unpack things along the way. Please ask for help.