Exercise has been helping me move through my grief. Apart from the obvious health benefits, playing tennis has been therapeutic for my mind. It allows me to focus on something other than my grief.
I have been playing tennis over the past few weeks with a friend who is an exceptionally good player. I typically lose each game (but it’s the taking part that counts, right?) and he kindly offered to give me a handicap to place us on an even keel. In my competitive state, I flatly refused his offer on the basis that if and when I finally win, it will be that much more rewarding.
And this week it happened. Without the handicap, I got my reward. I got my victory. It may have been one win out of many loses but it FELT SO GOOD. So good that I even did a little victory dance at the end (and properly embarrassed myself).
Since returning from Amsterdam, I have been on an almighty low. The conference allowed us to focus solely on Eddie and on our grief. We were immersed in 4 days worth of conversations dedicated to research and supporting bereaved parents.
As ridiculous as this may sound, a part of me felt that the conference would help me search for answers and bring back Eddie. As if we could get Eddie back in return for attending. Yet here we are, back at home. And despite encouraging advances in medical research, we have still lost our baby boy. Our lives are still broken.
But since returning home, I have found some comfort in being outdoors. Without sounding like a tree hugging hippie, I have found it therapeutic to be outdoors, to take deep breaths and inhale the fresh air. On Monday, a friend of mine took me to a ‘pick your own farm’ in Surrey. It was rewarding to focus on the task in hand, to mindfully pick the apples from the tree and the potatoes from the ground. I also felt a little bit self-righteous that evening when cooking for my sister and brother-in-law.
In search of more country air, I drove to Marlow today to visit an old friend. I have written about connecting with other bereaved parents since Eddie died but I am also grateful for re-connecting with old friends and friends from my childhood. They remind me of my life before Eddie and stir up good feelings of nostalgia. It had been a while since we last saw each other but it was as if we had just spoken yesterday. It was a true testament to an old friendship.
A cup of tea, some food and a good ol’ catch up was just what I needed. That, and a breath of fresh country air.
When you lose a child, a part of the self is cut off. In his book, The Spiritual Lives of Bereaved Parents, Dennis Klass talks about the metaphors that parents use to describe how they are feeling. This extract really struck a chord with me:
Many parents find the metaphor of amputation useful. In a meeting, a father said, “It is like I lost my right arm, but I’m learning to live as a one-armed man”. Like amputation, parental bereavement is a permanent condition. The hopes, dreams, and expectations incarnate in the child are now gone…For the amputee, the raw bleeding stump heals and the physical pain does go away. But he lives with the pain in his heart knowing his limb will not grown back. He has to learn to live without it. He rebuilds his life around his loss…
We bereaved parents must do the same
In the aftermath of losing Eddie, I have reached out to the community of other bereaved mothers from far and wide. What amazes me the most from reading their blogs, is the sheer emotional rawness we all share in our writing. There are striking similarities in the vocabulary we use, the experiences we have all been through, the daily battle, the never ending questions and those moments of light overshadowed by our tragedy. I feel a virtual bond, despite not knowing who those mothers are.
And there is a sad reassurance when reading those blogs. Their words validate my feelings. They remind me that despite my loneliness, I am not alone.
The process of grief is one that is complex and multifaceted. Like a light switch, I flick from one emotion to the next.
I wrote this post and read it back to myself before hitting the publish button. It was filled with anger and bitterness and I didn’t like it one bit. I then became angry at the person who wrote this and upset at the person I have become. It reminded me that I all I want is my old life back and the old me…
So I deleted it.
A childhood friend of mine emailed me the other day. We hadn’t spoken for years but we have connected again in the saddest of circumstances.
She was the daughter of my mother’s best friend who died of cancer when we were 14 years old. It was a battle she fought bravely but was tragically taken too early, too young and too soon.
I am grateful she has come back into my life again, despite the reasons why. And I wanted to share a poem, which she shared with me, by her mother’s favourite poet Merritt Malloy. It’s taken from her book ‘The People Who Didn’t Say Goodbye’
Something You Can Count On
I want to tell you
in a few words
what I could not tell you
in too many
I want you to know
that it will be hard
to live without you
You will always be the one
I’m thinking about
when somebody asks me
who I’m thinking
Eddie, wherever you are, this is something you can always count on.