I’ve actively pursued ‘therapy’ on this journey through fear of getting stuck, through fear of being alone, through fear in general. I’ve ‘worked hard’ at it. Therapy isn’t always easy, but it has oiled the wheels of the grief machine and made it go faster I think. The more I’ve had ‘therapy’ the more I’ve come to realise that you can turn anything into a therapy.
Counselling, Reiki, Reflexology, Massage, Crystals, group work, Yoga, time with friends, pissed up conversations, hugs from Holly, hugs from anyone, random kindness, care from family and friends, saying prayers, music, fantasy, stars, the moon, angry outbursts and masturbation, to mention a few. Clearing out, new ideas, symbolism, steps forward, cake and chocolate, smiles from strangers, lunches and dinners with friends, laughter, tears, fears and quietness, flirting with a fantasy man, searching For the answers and finding them when you least expect it, hair doos, shopping, picture hanging, recycling, simplifying spaces, going to work, solving a small problem when it feels like a triumph, dreaming, hoping, crying, smoking, making new, and writing.
i’ll elaborate on some…….
Hugs with Holly
Deeply beautiful and inexplicable, animal and spiritual. Mother and daughter, it’s holy, it’s a world on it’s own. It’s the most deeply understood action for both of us when we can’t find the words. We have a joke about me snotting in her hair when I’ve been sobbing, it’s her special conditioner with added shine. We have a word for it, but it’s our word, and I don’t need to share it here.
Hugs in general
Connection, joy, random love, always accepted, hugs from Ben, close tight and unexpectedly all encompassing. Hugs are good for anyone and are highly recommended for mental and physical health, squeeze tightly. Apparently hugging makes you live longer….
Allows the brain and soul and experience fully the grief and torment, well it does for me, through writing, music, making, cooking and moving, just playing, playing with ideas. Creativity has allowed me to stand outside myself and observe. In that one experience lies my salvation. I thank the universe for the gift of writing.
I am blessed to have a job I adore. Full stop.
Ultimately a release in a physical sense, but also calms the mind, the hormones (ovulation… ovulation) and increases appetite, which is great when you’re on the B Plan diet, and It made me feel quite ‘cocky’ ‘yeah, I got this covered, no need for any outside input (quite literally). Good vibes.
Oh music, redemption songs. Music hits you and you feel no pain, it gives the soundtrack to life, changes your mood, enhances your feelings, lets you cry laugh and feel deeply within, I close my eyes when i dance to really feel it. Thank you Festivals, for feeling it LIVE, thank you Dub Sound Systems (for massaging my soul with your bass) thank you Babble, with your love cabbages and smiley faces, thank you jazz fm, for obliterating the silence of the kitchen first thing in the morning with your sweet and cheesy tunes, thank you Bob Marley, for putting words to my pain, thank you Rich for the gift of your vinyl collection, thank you for the decks and the mixer, thank you for 5000 tracks on itunes, that’s music for life sorted. I have written a ‘Music to Grieve By’ chapter, all in good time…
Rooms, clothes, shoes, colours, windows, habits, haircuts, holiday destinations, cars, beds, mind set, the order of things, direction, ways of seeing. Change is necessary natural and liberating and inevitable. The biggest change was the death of my partner, I’ve tried to roll with it, bend with the wind. “Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride” it’s not all fun though, it’s a big rollercoaster and it’s not like one of those rides where you shout “Again! Again!”. Well it is when it comes to boots and holidays…..but there has to be a grand re-organisation. “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible” Frank Zappa
I kept cardboard boxes for stamping on after my anger broke a few things:
“So I’m so fucking sick of being strong and good that I boxed the fuck out of the sofa. It wasn’t quite enough, I didn’t want to worry anyone by smashing my carboot genie bottles so I kicked the tumble dryer and hurt my big toe, what a waste of today’s Reflexology, now fuck off. I really hit the spot by smashing my favourite glass and smashing holly’s IKEA egg chair, then I swept up a dead bird before doing the washing. The cat is pissed off too. Holly just said to him, “you angry too bill? Do you want to break something? Here you can break a Barbie….the ugly one” =D
Survival pockets have played a big part as one of my coping strategies. They have changed over time, but the stuff in my pockets had to be there, or else I felt at risk of panic, in their own way they were therapeutic to have around my person. In addition to purse, keys, phone, lipgloss and old receipts and coupons from the supermarket, and fluff.
During Rich’s time in Hospital in my bag:
Chewing gum, a clipper lighter, tobacco, papers and tips, tissues, phone and the code for the door to the hospital garden, loose change, magic soap (hand sanitiser), a photo of us kissing, lip balm, bottle of water (which once leaked onto my phone, so had to revert to an antique nokia).
Immediately after his death and for weeks after, in my pocket I kept 3 of Rich’s dreadlocks wrapped around his wedding ring. Which I held in my pocket and occasionally had a sniff of.
For months after his death, In my bag and in addition to the stuff above because I wasn’t able to sort out my bag at that time: Flowers rescue remedy, lavender balm to rub in my temples, tissues, chewing gum and a folded paper bag (for panic and anxiety). Paracetamol and diazepam, Tampons, a biro, mirror compact with Miss Scarlet on the case and a small envelope with a message from Holly that said “I love you”.
Time with friends
This deserves a chapter of it’s own. I’m blessed with special amazing friends, and much love comes from here, friendship is the most wonderful and eternal cruise ship you’ll ever sail on. Weathering storms, staying strong, a powerful crew at the helm.
Having drunken conversations without inhibition, which can be Cathartic and powerful but can be agony afterwards, it’s necessary, it’s good for everyone, because grieving Rich isn’t just my thing, it’s all of us together sharing the grief. I have sometimes been so wrapped up in my own pain that I forgot about the pain of others. The toughest bit is letting yourself do it, without fear, and letting yourself enjoy it too, and laughing about the taboos, thank you Christine, Deb, Rob, Maggie, Emerson, Vicki, Mum, Dad, Bill, Lynda, Rich and Tara, Eleanor and Anona and Moose. The hardest part of that is being on your own with it afterwards, but you know you get a bloody good cry.
Eating with friends is simple and essential, much better than sitting in front of the telly with a jaffa cake (cos you’ve got to eat something), but sharing food, cooking for friends, them cooking for you, family feeding you when you’re starving and adrenalin sick. Lunches, meals out, just sharing eating.
You’d be surprised how much kindness strangers are capable of. At the hospital, In shops, at the supermarket, at the garage, at the dump, at the funeral parlour, on the bus, in a car crash, in the sauna, on holiday, in your home (thank you to the man who put up all my blinds, listened to my story and hung a door for me and fixed my window, too kind). Random kindness from strangers makes you realise you’re never alone. Don’t listen to the media. Human beings are wondrous, generous, caring, kind and funny, give them a chance and accept the helping hand.
And then there’s…….
Channelling and cleansing (you have to have an open mind). Working on the physical, mental and spiritual levels. I’ve received Reiki from 3 practitioners, Anne, Elaine and Margaret. In the beginning I felt it was an opportunity to communicate with Rich, or at least he would see me through the process. Mind-blowing at times and feeding hope. Later on it became a way to relax, it made me feel like that moment when you’re falling asleep and all of the sounds become heightened then quiet and your body and mind lets go, like opening a window. It’s energizing too, having someone focused on you, intently. We had to reign in my aura a few times didn’t we Margaret?
Reflexology and Massage
(back, head and face, facials are good because my face was knackered from being screwed up all the time, and I had a persistent headache too)
Reflexology for me is and was the ultimate relaxation and comfort. I always had a Reflexology ‘hangover’ which tended to be in the form of sadness, anger and anxiety, and lots of weeing. But us women like a bit of relief from the water retention don’t wee?
Massage was painful because of the knots of grief that built in my body, and pain relieving because of the grief knots in my body. It was so cleansing and nourishing and warm. I often felt like I’d had a workout after but felt the benefit more about 2 days after. Just wonderfully soothing and such a treat. It’s about the human touch.
Like Reiki but grounding, making millions of snapshot dreams in my mind. An opening of the shakras. Crystals are ‘chosen’ and placed on your shakras as needed. The aura is cleansed at the end with ‘chosen’ essential oils too. Margaret said my Head Shakra was always open to the universe, but I had to be grounded. Mel White doesn’t always want to put her feet on the ground! Neither does Mel Harper, have you seen her boots? Calming at times but frustrating in others, built resilience and immunity. Soothing and reassuring when I was low and anxious, but when I felt good and energetic it unbalanced me for a few days after, but I know it changed according to my hormonal cycle, and seriously though, with an open mind, it’s been revelationary. Thank you Margaret, thank you Laura Centre.
I’ve had waking dreams, like visions during crystals sessions, like an opening up, like colour flooding in. I had this one dream vision which was more ‘complete’ than the others, it had a start middle an end, not just fleeting images, a story. It stays with me really clearly. I was on a walk, a tour if you like, around the places I’ve lived in this city, starting from a flat I lived in on my own, where I was living when I met Rich. The flat was bare and I was walking through the rooms, just looking at spaces where stuff used to be, it was empty just how id left it in 1996. I locked the door and went through Highfields to the flat I’d shared with Ben and Alistair, it was just empty, just how we left it in 1997. Then to the first flat I lived in with Rich and then the house on Cedar Road, empty, just like we’d left in 2003. I walked back through Highfields down the London road and into town, past the train station onto Granby Street, glancing at the chippy, looking through Northampton Street to where the Spread Eagle used to be, all empty. I carried on down into Gallowtree Gate and up to the Clock Tower, where I stopped, (everyone meets at the clock tower) there as a gathering there.
At first I recognised some of the mums from school, so I went over to talk to them, and in the midst of the chattering the gathering started to grow. I was turning around on the spot slowly, and as I did more groups of people appeared, first work colleagues, then my close friends, and my old friends, then family, and even aquaintainces, doctors and therapists and my yoga buddies. The gathering became a large circle with me in the middle, everyone was smiling at me, I continued to turn around, on the spot round and round, and suddenly Ben was in the middle of the circle with me laughing his head off and wearing a silly sort of Christmas tree hat, he made me laugh with him. Beyond him there was a gap in the circle, beyond the gap stood Rich looking at me, with his suitcase. He gestured to me as if to say “see, everything will be ok, you are surrounded by people and friends, can I go now?”
Absolutely the most exhausting. The Laura Centre. The Laura Centre is a charity that supports children who have lost parents and vice versa. Specifically that, it’s a very special place. I felt so lucky to have this place close by. I slept for 13 hours after my first session, and 12 the next. I made friends, kept friends, shared something wonderful, painful and deep. It’s very intense, the listening as well as the talking, it’s hard work, and it’s public (so to speak, there weren’t any spectators). I also did group work with Holly, that was amazing for the both us, not just grieving individuals, but grieving families, that sense of Why Me? being shared and destroyed. Also the lighter events, like ‘christmas at home’ collectively remembering our departed, leaving messages on the Christmas tree, all being together in the experience. Just amazingly helpful and unique.
A space to say it all, how it is, spewing all out over the floor, no holds barred, objective, plenty of tissues, safe and confidential. My counsellor was simply brilliant and gave me practical advice not just ‘what do you think’ answers. She reorganised my mess of thoughts and explained away the dark thoughts and fears. Counselling was my most proactive therapy. Thank you Anita, and thank you work for organising it for me.
Consistently rewarding and cleansing, and strengthening, and confidence building and graceful. Calming anxieties with breathing and flowing movements, stretching out those tight bereft muscles and bringing energy in exhaustion. Mind clarifying, meditative, personal and shared. A gift that keeps on giving. Where other therapies are now and again, or for short courses, yoga will be lifelong for me. I have a wonderful teacher. A lifetime’s therapy here. Physically challenging, freedom giving, life giving, and once I even had the gift of orgasm in headstand. (it’s true, glad no one else realised, I was up there for a long time, just couldn’t stop, ok it might have been the opening of the kundilini shakra in conjunction with synthetic yoga pants, who knows).
“I’m going to the Laura Centre tomorrow and seeing Anita my counsellor next week. Feel it’s time for some therapy, oh and a massage next week too. These are the ways and part of the support systems I have and I cherish, it’s time to hug my anxious self, hug my inner child and take her by the hand, soothe my inner teenager in her dark nights and love her. She is not my enemy, she is me, my soul, my friend. The profound loss of my husband so young, so sudden is part and parcel of me now and always. No more fighting, no more battling, just continued acceptance and of course occasional Diazepam.”
it’s all ferrapy innit!