My story is simple but oh so complicated.
My mental health hasn’t been great on and off for years. In part, this was because I was a carer to my husband but also because of a constant background concern about our older son who had had serious mental health problems since his teens.
My husband died on 10th October 2019. We’d been together nearly 40 years but our relationship was complicated. His very complex health needs were a constant in our lives over the years and like lots of carers I put my life and needs on the back burner .
Our older son was found dead less than two weeks after his dad died. I was already at rock bottom before the police came to my door to tell me this terrible news. I was in shock for months and then had to deal with a coroner’s enquiry and the inquest . It was not suicide but misadventure through OD’ing.
In the middle of all this covid started. I have had to shield on and off since March 2020. I live by myself now and I have felt alone, lonely and in despair. I have raged and wept and felt that my pain was so unbearable that I couldn’t go on .
So how am I still here? Brilliant bereavement support via the Ripple Effect (a community bereavement support project which has now lost its funding). A few good friends who could stand to be alongside me at the darkest points, even though they couldn’t be with me in person. Knowing that I couldn’t exit this life because of our other son, even though that felt like a shackle at times. Phoning the Samaritans regularly when I was in the depths. Medication.
The other big thing for me has been my meditation practice (I like to say I’m a swearing, smoking, drinking Buddhist so actually I’m not that observant). At some of the worst moments of my life I have had to say to myself, “Just breathe in and breathe out. What I feel in this moment is not how I will feel forever.” I use a self-compassion mantra, which is basically acknowledging that I am suffering, that it hurts, and that it’s the pain of loss that we all suffer in our lives.
For me, facing this pain has been part of my journey – not pretending I’m OK, weeping and howling and raging at both of them for dying. I just do walking meditation around my local cemetery, a good place if I’m weeping. The other thing is writing every day (to my husband, mainly). But I can see that over the year things have shifted. Everybody I know feels wrung out by the last lockdown and some of my family and friends have not been in touch as much as before. I guess they’re struggling too.
I know this isn’t the end of my grief journey. How can it be? This time last year I didn’t notice the changing seasons but this year I can see new buds in the garden and I have an embryonic sense of hope.