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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Awareness and Acceptance

There are times when to surrender is the only way forward. Sometimes there comes a point when neither 'fight' or 'flight' are viable options any longer. A few weeks ago I felt like I had come to the end of my resources and all I could do was to surrender. I was not succumbing to an attitude of defeat and I was most certainly not giving up. I was simply acknowledging the truth of where I was. This was a very dark place.... I couldn't change it, I couldn't escape from it, and to fight against it was futile and exhausting. In some ways it was like crashing into a brick wall, but, with hindsight, it was also a significant milestone.
Unable to fight my situation and my emotional response to it, I found myself becoming increasingly aware of my feelings in a more passive way. I was able to acknowledge the sadness, despair, depression, anxiety, and much more, and simply allow them to be there. No matter how unbearably awful these emotions are, I've found that it's possible to acknowledge their existence whilst resisting the instinct to respond. I accept that this is the way it is for now. I don't like it, but I can't change it, so I choose not to waste my energy trying to fight it. 
Obviously I miss Suzie as much as ever. I cherish every precious memory of her and of the life we shared. But I have to accept that it is now in the past. The life we loved so much is now a memory. For a long time it felt rather disrespectful to even want to accept that Suzie is no longer here, and it seemed like I was diminishing her significance by accepting that she's gone. But wishing that she was still here isn't going to change anything. My world is a very different and unfamiliar place now, but it is what it is, and I have to believe that it will be ok.
Each morning I still awake with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and panic, but that, too, is something I have learnt to accept. I take some slow, deep breaths and sit up in bed quietly acknowledging everything I have to be thankful for. I take each day as it comes, focussing only on what actually matters for that day. During recent weeks I have become aware of things that trigger a sense of personal well being. Sometimes I may not feel like I want to go out, meet with people, tend the garden, go for a walk, or whatever.... but I am aware that such activities have a positive effect on my state of mind. My daughter very wisely advised me to see such things as medicine.... It may not taste great at the time, but it's worth taking because I know it will make me feel better. 
During the last couple of weeks two of my dear friends have also lost their loved ones. My heart goes out to them. I have shared their sense of loss, and I feel humbled to be able to reach out to them, knowing something of what they are experiencing. Re-living that initial rawness of grief and desolation through their loss has also made me realise that my own experience has moved on. Take courage my friends (you know who you are). 
I also have exchanged messages with two other friends, one of whom has just passed the first anniversary of his wife's death, and another who is approaching the first anniversary of her husband's. Both of you are a great sense of support and inspiration to me. Again, you know who you are. 
So.... Life goes on. This isn't the life I would have chosen, but it is the life God has chosen for me. My faith remains steadfast and I know that, in His will, there is fullness of joy, and life in all its abundance. I may not feel particularly joyful right now, but what I do feel is a tremendous sense of peace and hope. I thank God for precious friends and family who share love and practical support with me. May God bless you all.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

An Uncomfortable Plateau....

Looking back over my last few blog posts I realise that they don't even come close to expressing what it's really been like to live through these past weeks and months. The sheer enormity of this experience just doesn't seem to be reflected in the inadequate words on the page. Throughout these recent entries I notice some degree of repetition, as familiar feelings and thought patterns recur from one post to the next, and yet there are other aspects of this journey that have been missed, or brushed over, without any recognition of their significance. There are only so many adjectives one can use to try to describe such a profound sense of utter desolation and the roller coaster of emotions that goes with it. My world has been shattered into a million pieces, and I feel like I'm sitting among the rubble, not knowing how I can ever find a way to put it back together.
During the weeks that have passed I have made every effort possible to keep going.... to take each new day as it comes and to try to bring normal activities back into my life. I've engaged in some social contact, I've achieved the occasional brief trip to the local grocery shop, I've kept the garden tidy, and I'm gradually sorting through things in the house. All this time I've been driven by the realisation that 'everyday life' is now down to me.... Suzie is no longer here to give me motivation, encouragement, or even a purpose for doing any of these things, so I either get on with life for myself or I go under.
A couple of weeks ago I even dared to believe all this was getting easier. I was getting used to the unpredictable rhythm of emotions and I'd learnt to accept the low days, knowing that I could 'try again tomorrow'. Suddenly, though, I feel like I've come to a grinding halt, and I just don't have the strength to carry on. I'm so physically and mentally exhausted that, some mornings, it takes every ounce of energy I can muster just to get out of bed. I heave myself through the day like I'm wading through treacle, feeling constantly tired and drained, unwell and in pain. My appetite also seems to have deserted me, taking with it any motivation or previous good intentions to cook a 'proper meal' each day. For those of you who've never had to do it, trust me.... there's no pleasure at all in cooking a meal for one and staring at the wall while you eat it alone.
These last few weeks and months have been like climbing a mountain in a storm. At times I've made progress, other times I've lost my footing and slipped backwards, often I've been knocked off my feet by an unexpected side wind, but all the time I've tried hard to keep climbing. Right now I've simply run out of energy. I've slipped down onto an uncomfortable ledge, from which and I have neither the strength nor the will to get back up again. 
So, what now? My body is quite blatantly crying out for rest, and I have no choice but to give in to it, however lazy that might feel. Despite my constant exhaustion I seem to wake up ridiculously early each morning.... much too tired to get up but usually unable to go back to sleep either. So I drink coffee in bed whilst looking through the window at the various birds outside on the feeder, and I read the morning news on my iPad. I check my emails and any recent Facebook activity, as if to grasp hold of some degree of connection with the outside world. Eventually, sometimes two or three hours later, I find the strength to begin my day, to get up and face the void that awaits me, and to endure the increasing realisation that this is the way it is now. In the blink of an eye the last 20 years have gone forever, and any previously familiar structure or purpose has disintegrated around me. This is my new 'normal', and it's not a comfortable place to be. I feel inadequate, scared, lonely and unhappy, and I miss Suzie more each day. 
One might ask where God is in all this? I'm sure He is as close as ever, but I will admit that many of my prayers consist of gazing at Suzie's photo, whilst repeatedly saying to God in a bewildered whisper, "I just don't get it''. Other prayers take the form of a more desperate "Please help me God. I can't do this any more". I cling on to my faith though, and, each morning, even before I open my eyes, I bring to mind some of the many things I have to be thankful for. I just couldn't face the day at all if I didn't. I know I will come through this awful time, and, with the benefit of hindsight, maybe I will have a better understanding of it, but for now I just surrender.