As we head into a new year I can certainly say 2017 is a year I won’t forget and it would be understandable if I were to say it’s been a sh*t year!
Well that’s what the negative voice in my head would get me saying after what we’ve been through, but actually has the whole year been sh*t?
Honestly, No it hasn’t, there have also been many wonderful moments in the year that I will cherish. Sadly the negative voice and even conditioning will all too often get us to focus on what goes wrong and thinking that’s all there is.
I’ve learnt in this last year you can either have sh*t happen (which in life it does) and then wallow in it maybe spread it around a little to slap on others or you can choose to turn that sh*t into fertiliser and use it to grow, maybe even helping others grow in the process from your experiences.
2017 has probably been the toughest I’ve experienced in my life with many lessons, but what valuable research it has been. I can choose to focus on the sadness and pain or I can choose to use it to help me grow.
One thing I know for sure is I’m a very different person at the end of the year to how I started it.
The beginning of the year saw me starting it still as a wife to my darling Shawn and the desperate hope we would make another year together after his diagnosis of stage 4 kidney cancer in the previous year 2016, sadly that wasn’t to be.
I can hardly believe just a little over 6 months on the 9th June whilst holding Shawn’s hand I watched as he gently slipped away from his physical body and took his final breath. I didn’t know how I would get through the next hour, let alone the next day or month and yet here we are heading full speed ahead into 2018 and the months are ticking by.
I remember as I left the hospice that morning feeling like a part of me was missing and had been left behind somewhere, I took a deep breath as the sunlight hit my face and I got into the car placing my hands on the steering wheel I whispered “how do I do this babe?” a robin suddenly appeared straight ahead before me and I smiled, knowing in that moment he was with me, along with other loved ones who had previously passed and the words “one foot in front of the other Kerry and breathe remember to breathe” floated into my mind.
Slowly with the children in the car we drove with family and close friends to our home and as I turned the corner seeing his van parked on the drive it hit me, the most intense pain crushing my heart as I felt like every cell in my body was weeping with sorrow. Never again would he drive that van, never again would I see him walk through my front door, never again would I see his face or hear his voice, never again…
I walked through my door into my home and it felt like sanctuary, a sense of peace, and a sense of calm as even though we had only lived here a short time I could feel him. Everywhere I looked there was some small reminder of him, a photo, something he made or something he owned just something that reminded me of him.
As I reflect and look back now I am amazed at the fact we got our daughter Kiah through her 18th birthday party the very next night!
How did we do that?
Love and choosing would be my answer, with a dash of autopilot. Even in that very moment of complete devastation the skills I had learnt earlier that year came into play when Kiah asked me if we should cancel her party?
No was my immediate answer because Shawn would never have wanted that, He lived for us, seeing our happiness was his main drive in life so I gently said to my daughter here is what I choose to believe.
“Kiah you know how much Shawn loves us and would want you to have your party, I believe on some higher level he’s gone today by his own choice to give you the gift of a guilt free birthday. You see, if he was still here, we would have been at your party on tender hooks anxiously worrying if the phone was going to ring and for me a huge sense of guilt and feeling torn for not being by his side in the hospice. By him going today we can all be together and surround you with love, your party can be a happy memory in amongst a sad time and in years to come you will look back at your 18th with fondness that also has elements of sadness amongst it, because we created memories for you to alter the reality. Or you could cancel and spend the time not celebrating a significant age in your life whilst being in a place of sadness and despair. Which option serves you better Kiah, which option do you think Shawn would want you to choose?”
I’m happy she chose the first option and we celebrated her 18th smiling through our tears and carrying huge amounts of love in our hearts in honour of Shawn.
Next we had her actual birthday just a week later and then the big one his Celebration day. Again autopilot in action here but huge servings of love and choosing went into these days to create a better reality of what we were dealing with. Many people have asked me how we had the strength. In truth I see it as choosing what served us better and sending out positive messages to others on a different option to approach death, along with huge life lessons for my children.
Over the weeks and months we faced more firsts and gallantly survived them, yes survive is what you do taking each day one at a time and allowing the process to happen releasing emotions as and when they arrive. Grief is unique and individual a journey to be undertaken solely by you, others may walk similar paths but no two are the same.
I’ve learnt many lessons as we’ve travelled along, the biggest being around all the myths of grief and how people try to say and do things thinking it’s helpful but actually it’s not, such as “time is a healer”, “Be strong”, “at least he is not suffering now” along with the various different stages of grief which are decreed upon you to expect.
There are no stages of grief only your experience and these statements; well they are intellectually true but emotionally baron. Time is not a healer it’s what you do within that time the actions you take which do the healing, Time is merely a space between then and now.
Grief is many things, all of which you experience are perfectly natural for you. I do find myself wondering at how we attach this overwhelming sense of milestones to everything? What is it within us that almost treats it like a new-born declaring with so much focus the significant spaces of time like 1 month, 3 months, 6 months a year along with all its firsts. It’s almost like we give it life, nurturing each step it takes as we carry it through. I wonder if actually grief becomes our anchor a strange kind of friend, whom we learn to accept and love, as it’s a way energetically of keeping something alive.
Pain is what causes our grief to harm us, as it is that which takes our breath away and debilitates us, along with the loneliness and isolation. It’s the lack of incompleteness all the unspoken words and actions the loss of hopes and dreams of how life should have been. In every situation of loss there are always moments in time we wish had been different, better or more of… this is what causes the pain.
Sadness is completely different to pain, sadness is the aching in your heart of a loss and it causes you to look back on memories with a mixture of sorrow and fondness, this is natural grief and will be experienced often and more than likely for eternity but this you can live with, this you can move forward with, Pain keeps you stuck. I’ve learnt to accept my sadness and to start taking actions to deal with the pain through methods and knowledge I have gained along the way. Each person must find their way, if they wish to move forward.
As we headed towards Christmas and the end of the year I knew in my heart I would choose to move forward, it’s not moving on that is different, for moving on to me implies a sense of finale, a getting over it. I will never get over the loss of Shawn but with love in my heart I will move forward and slowly rebuild my life differently, feeling ever grateful to have had him by my side for the years I have and knowing he will always be there guiding me forever more.
The last few months have not been easy there have been many a challenging time when I’ve had to push myself and test the boundaries of my mind on many occasions. I’m sure I will continue to do so as I head further down this path, all the time keeping in mind the whispered words of advice from above on that first day “One step at a time Kerry and remember to breathe”
So with that in mind as many people will be reflecting on their year and making plans setting goals for the new one ahead I have a few thoughts I’d like to share from my lessons in this last year.
We can get very caught up in running around being busy and missing so many precious moments because we are not looking for them and our thoughts are on working endless hours getting the money in to have and do nice things, don’t get me wrong it’s perfectly acceptable to desire nice things because you are worth it but please, please don’t attach happiness to it, as I can assure you that I can honestly say when Shawn was in the hospice those last few days not once did we say I wish we worked more, I wished we gained more money, I wish we’d got a bigger house, I wish we had more material things in our life – No what we wished for was more time, more being in the moment making memories, more love to share, more conversations enabling us to have the opportunity of words not said and a wish of more actions having being taken on the things that our hearts had desired like travelling this big wide world to explore new experiences.
We became more open to the little things in life and looking for gratitude in our days of the things we have instead of yearning for what we do not in the distorted notion it would bring happiness because we discovered the treasure of knowing it’s already within.
Friendships took on new meaning as we really saw with clear eyes who were the ones standing by our sides saying “we’ve got you, we are here and you don’t have to do this alone.”
We’ve seen both extreme highs and extreme lows this year that has also shown us a courage we never knew we had. Yes there’s been times it’s brought me to my knees but back up Ive got and today here I still stand with a heart full of love and hope for 2018.
I enter this new year with anticipation and a little fear of what it will bring but I look that fear right in the eye as I know In my heart I’m exactly where I’m meant to be in this ever evolving life.
I say to the Universe I’m here ready and open, thank you for all the teachings past and future, let’s go do this one step at a time.
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