Written by Sarah Pridham, mum of Jasper, for Still Aware.
Continuing from my previous blog about the life lessons that I have learnt since the loss of our son, here is Life Lesson #7, which is all about the Grief Journey – I have found that when you experience something so tragic and life altering you really do learn a lesson about grief and the long journey that follows. I am sure that everyone has heard the saying “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the Journey” – well within the last couple of months I have realised that the grief journey following baby loss is a continual and unending journey with no destination in sight. It is a journey that I will continue to walk every day of my life until my last breath and I am sure that I will continue to learn many life lessons along the way.
The thing about grief is that it is a process that is unique to each person – it is as unique as our individual personalities and therefore means that every journey of grief after loss is completely different and unique to everyone that is experiencing or facing it as well. So, this blog is based on what I have personally experienced through my journey so far and what I feel relates to the journey of grief following the loss of a baby. No matter how much time passes in my journey I have realised that I wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left me so tired and exhausted the night before and sometimes it really does feel like groundhog day, but I also realised that this is what bravery looks like – knowing that I will wake up the next day to face those same demons, continue my day and get through my day – despite what I know I will have to work through and face. Anyone that is out there that feels the same way – this is true bravery. To continue to face every day knowing those demons will be right there, staring back at you in every reflection that you come across, these demons are now part of my reflection for the rest of my life.
Over the months that have passed in my journey people always seem to make the comment to me “I don’t know how you do it” – really a funny statement when you think about it, and the only reply that I can give them is “I wasn’t given a choice”. No one in their right mind would choose to walk this never ending journey of grief, to face the same demons everyday – baby loss really is a journey that we are put into without being given a choice and what two options are we then left with, either let the loss defeat us or continue to walk the journey of grief every day that we wake up and get out of bed. Whilst the start of a new day may seem exciting to most people, to me it is just another day that I have to face, another day where I have to try to find some strength to pull me through. When most people would be excited for a day to come to an end (and look forward to a new day dawning) I just go to bed thinking how the dawn of a new day for me is no different to those days that have already come and gone – it is simply another day in mt journey of grief.
The thing that I have found with this long and tiring journey is that grief in general can make us seem very selfish – it can make us focus only on the person that we lost, ignoring our loved ones around us, missing events, parties and get togethers, we seem to stare blankly at people when they speak to us and life feels totally dark and bleak. It isn’t that we don’t care it is simply that we need time to adjust and learn how we can continue to live with such a broken heart and such a broken life – this is something that I wish most people would try to understand a little more than most do. I am still trying to work out my life, my path, still trying to adjust to living with a broken heart and a missing piece of my heart 18 months after my loss. The best advice I can give to anyone out there that is still in this same situation is to be selfish – take your time and do what you need to do, don’t put others before yourself, take the time that you need to adjust to your life the way that you need to and don’t let anyone make you feel selfish or guilty for doing this. The moment that you start putting yourself last you will find that you will set yourself a million steps behind in your grief journey – it will truly leave you breathless and unable to find your feet or place in the world.
“Grief is a nasty game of feeling the weakest that you have ever felt and morphing into the strongest person you will have to become” – Windgate Lane. I fell in love with this quote as soon as I read it, months ago. It really hits home for me because there is so much truth spoken in such a short sentence. The long journey of grief really does make you feel the weakest that you have ever felt, I know that every day that I get through I am left so exhausted, tired and empty knowing that I must face it all again the next day. However, I also know that every day that I continue to get through it is making me a stronger person than I was that morning when I woke up. That’s the thing – when you are faced with literally the worst thing life can throw at you, you have no choice other than to turn into one of the strongest people that walk the earth. Another one of my favourite quotes that also relates to what I am discussing is “The struggle you are in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow” (author unknown). I won’t discuss this quote at all as I really think that it packs a punch (so to speak) and it really speaks for itself.
The grief journey is so many things – it is dark, lonely, tiring, exhausting, numbing, painful, full of love and hate at the same time, cruel, confronting, a rollercoaster ride, emotional, draining and it is full of feeling helpless, guilty, angry, shocked, confused, anxious, feeling physically ill and all in all it is frightening and hard work. It really is the hardest work that we can possibly do in our life. Loss and grief can define for us who we were and who we are now and the journey of grief following the loss then becomes part of our life journey and life story. The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly. The second loneliest moment in someone’s life is the very start of every morning when you wake up and for a second or two you have forgotten what has happened and then it all comes flooding back to you in one swift moment and once again you are faced with having to summon the slightest bit of strength to start the day and so you begin to work through the day one hour at a time.
This journey is really a long path that will morph you into the strongest version of yourself, a path that will show you that no matter what life throws at you, somehow you will still summon enough strength to slowly walk through the journey of grief and loss – a path that will make you the best version of yourself (one that you probably never thought was even possible). It is a journey that will define you and the rest of your life. Your very own personal and individual journey – one that will never be the same as someone else’s. I will finish this blog with another quote that I fell in love with, it is full of optimism and inspiration to continue to walk this lonely, heartbreaking path that will lead to no destination.
“It didn’t seem possible to take the next breath. But I realise today that I am surviving your death. Some days are hard when weakened by sorrow. Remembering you inspires me to face my tomorrow” (author unknown).