It has been on my mind to post a blog for sometime but I have not quite been in the right space so to speak. The other day I found myself listening to Billy Monger, a 21year old racing car driver who lost both his legs below the knee in a racing accident. He was being interviewed by Simon Mundie on BBC radio in a podcast called Don’t tell me the Score. The podcast started with life is like a sport. I love that analogy but I would add life is more like a run. We need energy, nutrition, stamina and endurance to keep going but we also need to rest and replenish otherwise we could end up running on an empty tank. The tank includes, our physical, spiritual and emotional energy. Without this we cannot be on our best form and sometimes, quite out of the blue we find ourselves in a place we never imagined we would be in.
Billy lost both his legs at the age of 17 yet he is such a role model in the way he has kept going through this huge personal adversity. We all have our fair share of joy and pain. How we rise much depends on us. Billy talked of self acceptance but crucially he denied being famous which he certainly is in the eyes of an ordinary person like me but to hear such humility from such a young person was a salutary reminder to me that we are ordinary yet we have a power within us to be a force for good.
Since my book came out I have found myself interviewed on the radio and on the T.V., nothing major but in my city. However, it still gave me an insight on what we as one individual can potentially do. The feedback from the producers of the shows was that many people rang in to say they could relate to what I was talking about. They had their own stories to tell but some had not been able to say. Perhaps if we hear others talk then it gives us the validation and voice to say, yes, I know what you mean and yes, I feel that too.
None of us can take away each other’s heartache but we can share and be there for one another.
Imagine for one moment we are watching our own movie and we are the star of this film. We are also the producer, editor, cameraman, make up artist and the storywriter. We can choose how to play our role. We can choose to take it in the direction we want. Sometimes we may get it wrong and sometimes we may find ourselves pleasantly surprised.
With this pandemic we have all been affected in some shape or form. Our emotional wellbeing is taking a bashing as we cannot escape what is happening around us. The other day I did a video for my local hospice as they are putting together a training course for those who train those who give bereavement support. I had three questions to address. What helped me in the early days, what did not help me and how were my spiritual, cultural and communication needs met. I am of course 7 years into my journey since my father’s passing so I had to remind myself of the early days.
What helped me were simple things such as advice to walk and accept I was in the slow lane of life. I found solace and comfort from perfect strangers who often just acknowledged my journey with little or no words, you kind of get a sense when you know that the other person too has been through what you are going through, you almost feel a sense of affinity that you both perhaps belong to the same club of the bereaved. There were so many acts of kindness to help me through but most of all, I had to help myself by giving me permission to grieve.
We can be unhappy if we choose to be unhappy. That really does not help us to be honest so I find it is always better to be grateful for where I am and for all the blessings in my life. For example, my friends and my colleagues, our beautiful home, the plants in the conservatory and the garden, the birds, the list is endless.. Sometimes it is simply not possible to be ‘happy’ but try we must. My Dad had this innate ability to always see a silver lining in the cloud no matter how hard things were. Most of the time my self talk is the glass is full, not half full nor half empty though self pity might want to knock on the door.
As to what did not help me in the early days there were classic comments like, oh your dad had a good innings. He lived a good long life, you were the best daughter etc. Why should his longevity negate my sense of being an orphan. I even had comments like ‘you are free now, you can travel the world..’ I know these comments were well meant but it does show how hard it is for those who have not walked this journey to understand what it is like to be on the road of grief. Some do get it but some don’t however, forgiveness and self belief helps us rise.
On the question of how my spiritual and communication needs were met, I had to think hard about this. Hindu priests do not do pastoral support or certainly that is not what I felt. I did however, receive a huge deal of comfort reading verses from the holy book like the Bhagvad Gita and the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. I found comfort sitting in the chapel in my local hospice, from books and I found comfort walking in nature. My communication needs were met by my outpouring of words on paper, my blogs and by talking to my closest friends.
As for cultural needs, I belong to two cultures, the east and the west and I found grief was an uncomfortable subject to acknowledge in both. The idea that life should get back to normal the day after the funeral (I know this may sound like an exaggeration but even compassionate leave from work does not usually extend to more than few days) is indicative of how society sees death as a minor blip which it is not. For someone who talks for a living, I found I could not easily open up and pour my heart out as I felt I would be judged. My perception perhaps but I was very weary of talking to just anyone.
I can look back on my early days and though life is different now, it does give me a sense of how so many others who are grieving their own loss due this pandemic may feel. There is no comparison of course as our grief is a unique as our DNA but I can imagine, many out there will be bottling up how they feel and will be going through their own journey feeling so desperately alone. Grief is not limited to the loss of a much loved one, grief can be felt from the loss of a relationship, loss of livelihood, even loss of not being able to go to the gym and more crucially, from the loss of not being able to see one’s parent in a care home for a whole year. We have to reach out to all those who are suffering and not treat their suffering as slight. We have to acknowledge this hurt. If we don’t know what to do or to say then the very least we can do is to say I see you and I hear you.
So I come back to where I began, I am still here as is my dad, nobody can see him but I feel his presence in my heart. He will always be with me and his presence sustains me. I say to all those who are on their own journey of grief, you are not alone. Nobody can take away what you feel but you may find it helpful to know that time is not a healer but you will become your own healer. We acknowledge your hurt and your journey.
And I will end this post with some advice to myself. Until now I have been counting the days since my father’s passing but I will now follow what Richard Bach says in his book ILLUSIONS, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. This book was a gift to me from my wonderful friend and I will always be grateful to him for this timely and perfect gift to make me realise what if indeed life is an illusion. (More on this in my future post as that is a subject in itself..)
So the advice from Richard Bach …
“Stop counting days, months and years but start counting by the things I have learned, the talks we had, by the miracles that happened now and then along the way…”
If you are hurting here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished.
IF YOU ARE ALIVE
IT ISN’T... (Richard Bach).
Peace be with you.
2nd March 2021