Day 43: Before…

I have this theory-  well it’s not just mine, but I wrote and teach about it a lot- that when someone we love dies we split our lives into before and after. 

I’m very good at telling you if something happened before or after 2006, because I can remember if my mum was alive for it or not. 

Grief is trying to live our lives in the before. We yearn for what life looked like before grief came in. We look for the people from our before. Grief is our bodies catching up to realise that we don;t live in the before anymore. We can’t stay in the before though, because time is marching on and the after stretches ahead of us. 

But we can visit the before, that’s what remembering is. Allowing a few moments each day to remember, to grieve and to sit in the shadows of before. That’s what anniversaries and holidays and special seasons are for, trips back to before. When someone recalls a memory, and mentions their name, it’s like a phone call to the before. Visiting graves, or other sacred spaces are thin places where the before and after meet. 

The before is the past, and we don’t live there anymore. There is huge pain in that, as there are people and places that we cannot bring with us, but we are in the after, and here there is life. 

Lex xx

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Day 42: My Promise to you…

I have a Pinterest board of grief things; quotes, pictures, activities and other little things I find interesting related to grief. The picture that sprang to my mind when I read this prompt was the first picture I ever saved to the board, years ago. 

It can be an odd thing to make promises to someone who has died. There is the potential it could hold you in an unhealthy place- bound to something that feels all encompassing. But it can also be something that saves you, a promise that pulls you on, beyond the darkest shadows of your grief. 

I think this quote falls into the latter kids of promise. 

legacy

I have shared this picture before, when I wrote about grief through holy week (an apt time to go and read those if you haven’t before). It is a beautiful quote of defiance in the face of grief. 

And I think that is my aim in my grief, my promise to my mum. That I will be defiant. That I will live. That I will carry on loving.  My promise is that I will survive. 

Lex xx

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Day 41: Do you think your grief will ever end…?

I’ve already blogged about what I think about the nature of grief, how it is cyclical, ebbing and flowing with the passing of time. Because of this, I’m sure you can imagine that my answer to this prompt is, no. 

I do think that my grief will continue to change, as it has over the last 13 years. It will morph, change shape, as my grieving behaviours will continue to cycle around me. I do think that my grief will not always be to the same severity.

But the the truth is that I don’t think my grief will ever end.  And I don’t think I ever want it to, because as long as I am grieving, I am also loving, and remembering, and growing and changing. 

Lex xx

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Day 40: What hope looks or feels like to you…

I often find it hard to recognise hope in the moment. Hindsight is like a spotlight that makes me realise hope retrospectively. 

For me, it is far easier to look back and realise the little bits of healing that have happened over time, than to see them in the moment. For example, it might be that with hindsight you can look back and see that in the last year your hard days and anniversaries have become a little easier, than it is on the day itself to realise you’re doing better than you had been doing. 

So, for me, hope looks like noticing little bits of healing that have already taken place. Hope feels like understanding why it is that I feel a little bit lighter than I had the year before. 

Lex xx

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Day 39: Sacred Spaces…

I think one of the things that grief does to you, is that it pushes you to find sacred spaces. There becomes the need to be in certain places, quiet, beautiful, meaningful places where we can remember or grieve. 

For me beaches, not even specific beaches, are always sacred spaces. For some people it might be a specific spot in the garden. For others mountains are sacred spaces. It could be the graveside, a beautiful church, outside in nature, inside in warmth. There possibilities are endless, because it is so personal to each of us, what will be sacred to us. 

I think this is an interesting concept at the moment, because for those of us who have a faith can’t, currently, meet in our scared spaces. So, just as when we are grieving, it is important, at the moment, for us to find a place that feels sacred- obviously keeping within the regulations at the moment!

A place to be still, a place to be quiet, a place to pray, to meditate, a place to remember and a place to grieve.  

Lex xx

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Day 38: Light and Dark…

I will never stop being obsessed with this idea of light and dark. It’s no accident that my book is titled around the idea of light and shadow. 

I’ve only just come across this quote, and I love it, it sums up perfectly the idea that has been in my head for 10 years now. 

It is because there was and continues to be light in the world and in our lives, that the shadows exists. I know some people who have been bereaved don’t particularly like the idea that grief is the price we pay for love, that grief is simply love with nowhere to go, but it works for me. The idea that the shadowy darkness I feel, comes out of the love and light in my life. 

Lex xx 

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Day 37: Books…

I often get asked for my book recommendations for grief and bereavement, and I am always very keen to pass on my favourites. 

  • Always and Forever – A really good picture book for very young children. Beautiful illustrations, lovely story, really touching and doesn’t shy away from difficult stuff. 
  • A Monster Calls – A book I can not recommend enough, for both teenagers and adults. To understand teenage grief, this is the book (or film) to go to.  
  • Still Here with me – For adults who are desperately trying to understand what it is like to experience significant bereavement as a child or young person. Letters written by real children and young people. 
  • God on Mute – If you’re a Christian and a part of grief is struggling with the concept of unanswered prayer, this book is phenomenal. I have read my copy until it has fallen apart. 
  • Grief is the thing with Feathers – If you fancy something a little bit arty, weird and poetic, this might be for you! 
  • Once More we Saw stars – A book I’ve not actually read, but is the next grief book on the list. I’ve heard the author speak on a podcast about grief and his story and this book are heart breaking but incredible.

I hope that someone finds a book that they fall in love with from that list, or even just one that might be useful. 

Lex xx

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Day 36: If death is a natural process of life, why do you think so many people are uncomfortable talking about it and the various aspects of grief…?

It was either Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain who first said “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”– it’s been attributed to both of them and I can never get a solid answer. 

I mentioned in an earlier blog, the idea that as humans there is only one thing we are made to do, and that’s die. Our bodies are not programmed to last indefinitely. And so it is natural that death is a part of life, and with that grief as well. 

But with developments in medicine and science, we push death further and further away from us. As a modern society we have become unaccustomed to our own mortality- we believe, falsely, that we and all those whom we love are invincible. It’s good that more people than ever before survive things that, even 10 years ago would have killed them, but it just means that everyday we get a little bit worse at talking about death and grief.

This prompt is the exact question I ask as an icebreaker when I am teaching a bereavement lesson. I ask people to come up with all of the reasons that people would be uncomfortable and not want to talk about grief- and then we do it any way. 

Because that’s the thing, there are hundreds of valid and genuine reasons why we want to keep death and grief at arms lengths- acknowledging their existence in life goes against the most innate instincts in our caveman brains- survival. But just because something is uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean we just don’t do it- because then it stays awkward. 

Have the difficult discussion. Break the ice. Explore the shadows. Let’s make it not awkward again. 

Lex xx

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Day 35: Reflect on Isaiah 41: 8-10…

I couldn’t not choose this prompt to write about at some point, considering I have Isaiah 41:10 tattooed on my arm, it being a really important verse for me. 

Isaiah 41: 8-10 reads…

But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10 do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

I never cease to be left in awe by these words. While Isaiah is speaking comfort to the nation of Israel who are in exile, these words, his promises are true for us today too. We are called God’s friends; we are told that God has chosen us, called us from the ends of the earth and will not cast us of nor forget us. How incredible is that? That we get to be called friends of God, in the midst of exile, confusion and grief we have the best friend. 

And not only that, but a friend who makes even more powerful promises to us. We are told that in our grief, in times of exile, we need not be afraid or fearful, because God is with us. We are told we will be helped and strengthened. God will hold us in his hand. 

Again, God doesn’t promise that all the bad things will disappear. He doesn’t say, I’ll whistle and you won’t be in exile or pain anymore. God promises to be our friend and to be with us in the pain. 

An intimate friend to hold our hand when we are grieving, these are the promises we can depend on in our grief. 

Lex xx

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Day 34: When you’re having a particularly hard day or week, what do you wish others would understand…?

I wish more people understood grief ambushes. I wish people knew that I am as blindsided by my reaction to something or sudden change in mood as they are, if not more. 

I wish people understood that I know when I am making it difficult to live with me or love me. Knowing it and being able to change it are two very different things. 

I wish people understood that, yes, I’m still grieving and it still hurts.

I wish that people would understand that mentioning my mum isn’t going to “upset me more”, that isn’t a thing. 

I wish people would understand that sometimes I just want people to come and walk in the shadows with me. 

That’s part of the reasons that I wrote my book, that I’m still writing these blogs, because we could all do with a bit more understanding of each other’s grief. 

Lex xx

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