Just over a year ago I wrote about my father’s death from a few months earlier.
I’d wanted to write about it for a while, but kept running, not knowing what to say.
Why is my loss any greater than anyone else’s?
Writing publicly felt indulgent.
Look at me, poor me, my father has died. Give me sympathy etc.
It felt reminiscent of the Facebook Martyrs who post ‘Oh, some people!” as an invitation for support from their ‘friends’. They then wait for the sychopantic dopamine hit that comes with the replies.
But on this day it felt right. It was right.
I wrote it in 20 mins – far shorter than the usual 2 hours I allow.
Essentially, I just closed my eyes and wrote from my heart. My thoughts seemed to flow in a way that hadn’t been present before.
I was being authentic. I was being real. I wasn’t hiding.
I was honoring him and digging deep. In visiting that place that hurts, I’d also opened up the vessel to healing.
Navigating Hurting and Healing
When we run away from the difficult stuff, we can never run fast enough.
Actually, I think it’s a way better athlete than us. It’s exceptionally good at running – always a few paces ahead, ready to anticipate our thoughts and block us from smashing through the ribbon on the finish line.
But did you know that Loss and its cousins, Pain and Fear are shapeshifters?
When they are not running with us, they take on the form of that blasted and increadibly annoying mosquito, buzzing in the room at night. It never leaves you, but it doesn’t bite you either.
It hovers, just enough to agitate and keep you from peaceful rest.
Writing my blog that day gave me rest.
It’s why I draw the illustrations I do. They too give me rest from those pesky shapeshifters.
Why We Need to Create Emotional Rest
Loss is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss is loss…… (Get the picture?)
Whether your sense of loss comes from a death, a serious injury in which you need time off work, or as a rotational expat saying goodbye to friends every two years, it has an impact.
Furthermore, the trauma stays in the body until it is dealt with.
Even before we have words, trauma leaves its imprint on our physical body. It lies there, not particularly dormant until it is processed – and can lead to complex illness and health problems. For example, we know Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) causes visible changes to the brain, demonstrated too by Ariana Grande after the terrorist attack on her Manchester concert.
10 Ways To Help Navigate the ‘Difficult Stuff’
Firstly, let me say, I am no doctor. I am not trained in mental health, nor am I trauma specialist. I am also NOT offering these 10 tips as medical advice or in anyway suggesting that they replace seeking proper medical help.
This list is purely based on my own experience and the things that have helped me in the past.
ONE: Write down your thoughts
During a family trauma of mine, I used to lie in bed for hours at night – wide awake; my brain not able to switch off. Eventually, I learnt to get up, write it all down and then I would go straight to sleep. Try it.
TWO: Wait until the morning to make decisions
Night time is a strange liminal space. In those years of family trauma, I came up with some of my best ideas and solutions in the middle of the night. That was, until the morning, when the cold light of day exposed their ridiculous truth. Sleep fixed these irrational thoughts and perceptions and I was so pleased I hadn’t acted upon them in the night.
THREE: Seek spiritual support
Before I came to the UK, I had no time for spirituality or religion. I wasn’t just not interested, I actively disliked it. No longer able to ignore the things I was experiencing, I now work as a Shamanic Practitioner. 🙂 It’s all just energy – a life force which goes by many names. It’s that gut reaction to the person we want to keep as arm’s length. It’s our Intuition. It’s God, Allah, El Shaddai, Ik Onkar, Great Spirit to name a few. Shamanic practitioners offer alternative techniques and practices which personally, I have found especially helpful for removing blockages. Email Cath for a confidential chat.
FOUR: Make memories permanent
Memory or Keepsake Boxes store mementos, stories, photos and other objects. They are designed to commemorate special people or events in your life. Creating a memory box as a family can help children (particularly cross cultural and third culture kids) to process the regularity of transition including the friends they’ve had to say goodbye to. Equally, if a parent or sibling is terminally ill, creating the box together whilst they are alive helps the family prepare.
FIVE: Commission an illustration
If you’re missing a loved one who lives elsewhere or you’re anticipating the loss of a friend who’s about to move away, a bespoke illustration can show them how much you love them and miss them. Illustrations creates a permanent celebration of the times you’ve shared and as a keepsake, helps you feel connected from afar. Email Cath if you’d like to order one for family and friends.
SIX: Take up exercise
I’ve become a runner. I can’t quite believe it, but I love it. We’re not all Usain Bolt, but the effect of the exercise is the same. Whether you enjoy a walk or a 5km run, exercise improves mental health and comes with a lot of other benefits. For me it sorts out my emotions, relieves stress, separates work and homelife (I work in a home office), keeps my mental health in check and gives me thinking time. It’s everything to me.
SEVEN: Make a regular coffee date
The old adage, a problem shared is a problem halved is one of my favourites. Talking gives the same benefit as writing something down. You get it off your chest/out of your head. Meeting a trusted friend regularly for a coffee can reduce the intensity of what you’re dealing with. Human connection nourishes our souls. A trusted friend will also offer other perspectives and will not be afraid to be honest and love you when you are finding it hard to love yourself.
EIGHT: Find the Opportunity
I firmly believe that there is a benefit to every situation, even in the most difficult ones. It’s when we feel most uncomfortable that we experience our biggest growth. I have had times in my life which I never want to repeat, but for which I am equally grateful. These are the times I have learnt the most about myself. I know it’s hard but what is the opportunity within your struggle? What are you learning?
NINE: Buy a mosquito swot to smack it
I say this in jest, but also in seriousness. Sometimes all we want is to ignore the problem and for it to go away. And that’s okay. When we’re stressed, our coping strategies are pushed to their limits, but part of coping is self-care. We don’t need to be strong, to fight a brave battle, or whatever other phrases people offer. Sometimes all we need is take off some pressure and look after ourselves. There’s always another day.
TEN: Seek medical help
Yes, there is always another day….
but if you realise that ‘another day’ is becoming every day and you’re aware you’re struggling more than usual, please seek medical help. When I couldn’t get off the sofa to make a coffee without having a panic attack and had no clue how to find myself again in the heavy cloud, I knew it was time to see the doctor. I am forever thankful that I did.