Grief caught up with me this week.
I knew it was there. I thought I had honoured and stepped through much of it. Even with all my tools at my disposal it still bit me on the backside!
Our beautiful cat Bernard died.
Meaning ‘Strong Bear’ and named so because he was like a teddy bear, Bernard was a British Shorthair and more dog than cat.
We were often shouted at if we were not up in the mornings or if he needed something – he knew how to vocalise his demands! He was an absolute nutter that loved life. Seldom a lap cat but he did require picking up and cuddling until he told you he had got what he needed. He loved face kisses. Would adventure so hard in the night that once he checked in with you in the morning he slept so soundly it was hard to wake him up (cats normally sleep lightly). Often found at the top of the stairs and like his predecessor only rested once everyone was in their beds at night. He was my Hubster’s best friend.
He was such a foody that bread had to be put away, anything that needed defrosting had to be hidden in the microwave. The kids lost their packed lunch sandwiches a good few times if left unguarded in the mornings. He would try and eat whatever you had and even paw a plate towards him from your hands (shouting at you for lack of compliance).
At a mere 2 years old, Bernard was put to sleep – his face kissed for the whole duration and beyond as he passed. The base of his back and tail had a clear break that was clearly moved away from where it should be. Nerve damage was thought to be extensive and possible neurological damage. He was in so much pain. A few claws were roughly worn down, one side of his whiskers the same and bloody inside one ear. The vet believes it was a car. He could have only made it back to our garden on adrenalin with his injuries. We live in a cul-de-sac down a quiet close so car risk was minimal but sadly not impossible.
This picture of him is on my office chair, larger than life. He was pure joy bottled in a cat. I can bury my face no longer in his deep chocolate fur. We are a family member down and the house feels wrong for it. His presence is truly missed.
We are over the initial shock and are coming to terms with it, but we haven’t brought ourselves to bury his ashes just yet. Joy has left the household for a while.
“His face was kissed for the whole duration and beyond as he passed.”
My darling friend Heather passed away 2 years ago.
I had known H since I was 16 in my first ever full time job so our friendship spanned over more than 30 years. She had such a kind heart and was very fun to have in life with a fab chuckle. We had mini adventures together including getting our tattoo’s together and she was the first friend I told about my now Hubster whilst we were away at Champneys.
On the first anniversary of her death many of her friends gathered. This year there was a Hike for Heather but unfortunately I couldn’t go as I’ve had some intermittent problems with my leg. On the anniversary day itself we all communicated in our Whatsapp group. We’ve become quite a community as many of us knew OF each other when H was alive, but didn’t all know each other that well. So even in her death she has brought people together. The sunflower being our symbol for H. She was a real gift and a blessing to have known, I have some wonderful memories.
“How truly amazing it is to stumble upon a soul that wants nothing but smiles and sunshine for you”
Whilst it is a universal experience, our own journeys with grief are incredibly personal. There is no straight line/path to take, I don’t think.
And the child in me has stomped her feet at the injustice of these recent losses.
What has shocked me is the anger; as I look distrustingly at my neighbours wondering which one of them knocked my cat with a car and yet failed to look me out and let me know. How long the poor boy must have been in pain. I despise them and yet don’t know who they are.
My head knows accidents happen but my heart and gut are not aligned yet with my head.
We know there are stages to grief (see the infographic below), and I am clearly jumping around these currently.
I am not arrogant enough to believe I have it nailed down how to cope but I do have much experience in processing grief unfortunately.
Here are the strategies I am currently undertaking in case you want to cherry pick something you have not considered trying before:
At every opportunity I am filling my lungs to capacity. Soothing my nervous system.
Oh I have been messaging some people and just speaking out loud to the universe. We know gratitude rewires the brain positively.
Expressing the Grief
Honestly this has been mainly tears. Writing this also is part of this.
I felt like doing nothing last weekend. My husband and daughter were at the Grand Prix at Silverstone. My son and I went Axe throwing – very therapeutic! Then shopped for food treats and watched Guardians of the Galaxy 3 together. It was a bit of magic for me, that time with him.
The Whatsapp group with the other friends of H already mentioned.
Small Realistic Goals
I already have lots of goals but I did decide to habit stack a few more.
I meditate during the day but from this week I have also switched my morning up. At 6am I go downstairs and get a warm mug of my ginger and lemon tonic and go outside and simply sit barefoot. I take my notebook so after 20 minutes I journal any thoughts. Then I listen to an audio book for 20 minutes. At 7am I head back inside to shower and get dressed then meet Hubster for a coffee in the lounge and a chat at 7.30am. It has just built extra space in before I see anyone and for anything to come up in those moments of solitude.
Healthy Eating & Hydration
Basic but fundamental!
Food is simply fuel to me and I often get way past hungry. I am ensuring I eat regularly and nutritious food where possible. No point in adding being ‘Hangry’ to my schedule!
My sleep hygiene is generally good.
I leave my mobile phone in my office at night, my alarm is always set for 6am and I try to be in bed between 10-10.30pm. A banana before bed this week appears to be ensuring a deeper sleep since my nutritionist suggested that waking up in the night may be early stages of hunger and it seems to be working a treat.
If I can’t get out for a walk I have been bouncing on my mini-trampoline or gardening.
The ‘sitting out’ practice in the morning at 6am, connecting with nature, allowing thoughts to come and go. Then a further seated session indoors later in the day.
Tapping through the anger and emotion.
“Expressing the grief has been mainly tears. Writing this also is part of this.”
A Safe Space
These various practices all have a hand in helping the mind, body, and soul connect – and allowing my nervous system to adjust while I create a safe space in my body and spirit to experience and process things as necessary.
A little distraction can be good, but creating a safe space for yourself is absolutely vital for processing trauma. Giving yourself permission to feel how you feel and practicing self-compassion is key.
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away….” Terry Pratchett
Where there is grief, there is great love……… the ripples continue.