I wasn’t sure if I would write a blog post about this. But sitting here in Lorne (one of my favourite places), looking out onto the ocean, and remembering all of the wonderful things that is Jake, it felt right to write. I choose to take a few days away by myself for the ‘year since’. Self-reflection for me is so important, and in truth I couldn’t face being around people this weekend. It is so interesting because you never think tragedy will happy to you, and you can never predict how you will deal with it when it does.
For me this last year has been a learning curve I never expected or wanted. I won’t dwell too much on the past year, apart from noting that perhaps one of the oddest feelings is not being able to remember the end of August through to January last year (apart from a few small memories). I went in to autopilot and my brain cushioned me from the grief by not letting me remember, which I am thankful for. However, the fact that I can’t remember four months of my life has given me even more inspiration to live in the present. I want to remember the big things, the tiny things, and everything in between.
I also honestly wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the people around me. “it takes a community to get here” so they say, and that couldn’t be more truthful. My close family and friends who have been with me all the way, the people who check in from time to time, the people who I have met since who remind me that what happened to me hasn’t defined me, and even just the people who have reached out through this blog and Instagram. All of you. I will never be able to put my gratitude into words.
And the other big thing for me during this past year was realising that I am wearing layers of grief since the accident. It took me a really long time to realise it. And it is not until something happens (travelling, laughter, time spent with loved ones) and the layers slowly start to shed a little, that I realised just how much heaviness is in the layers.
So getting back to now, it is weird that humans have this obsession with dates- birthdays, celebrations, anniversaries. We gravitate towards them and I think our bodies can be in tune with them before our minds are. This past week has been difficult. I started feeling anxious again, feeling so exhausted (I have been sleeping 10-12 hours a night), and I have cried so much. I am actually so grateful for the tears, because in the last few months when I felt like crying I wasn’t able to cry- as if perhaps we have a finite amount of tears and I used all mine up. So crying for me, has been a relief.
Above all though, despite the immense sadness, anger, and grief I have felt this year, I am determined to celebrate who Jake was and see the good that still exists in the world, and this past week I have really reflected on what I have learnt during these unspeakably shitty times….
Fresh air does wonders- I have always been an advocate of the benefits of nature (being a conservation psychologist and all). However, when I have got out into fresh air (I’m talking really fresh- rain forests, salty ocean, snow capped mountains), during this past year, I could honestly feel those layers of grief slightly peel away.
Music helps- Cliché I know, but listening to music honestly soothed me. Whether it be sad songs, happy songs, grief related songs, whatever. It helps. Mainly because by other people singing about hard times you realise you are not alone in what you feel.
Travel took me off auto-pilot mode- I think the first night I slept properly since the accident was the night I arrived in Scotland, the combination of 24+ travelling, being in a new country, and feeling free was exactly what I needed. I have wrote previously about how travel helped me (read here), and I honestly don’t know who I would be right now if I didn’t take that trip.
March to the beat of your own drum, but know the percussions impact others- Everyone deals with grief differently and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ guidebook. I quickly became aware that I had to do what felt right for me. But I also knew that there are many, many other people suffering during this time, so despite your own bullshit, be aware of other people’s feelings too and help when you can (it actually makes you feel better!).
You probably do care what others think- I wish I could truthfully say “I don’t care what others think about me”, but in truth I cared a lot, I even cared about people who don’t really know me. I thought that because I wasn’t a person who dealt with their grief by crying in front of others or locking myself in a house, that people would think I didn’t care. When in actual fact I cared so much that the only way I could deal was in private. I soon however realised (with the help of people who matter), that you will be judged by people for whatever you do in any situation, and there is no point loosing sleep over it (especially when there are so many other things to loose sleep over!).
Don’t sweat the small stuff- For me, having such a horrible thing happen has made me realise I don’t need to stress over the small things. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a saint, I still stress over work, or over analyse a conversation I have (I am human). But I try hard to not stress when there is a traffic jam on the way to work, or when I have to wait 20 minutes to speak to a manager when buying a new phone, or when I burn the toast.
You are your whole entity- Perhaps the most important lesson I have learnt is that I am me, and that I can rely on me. Despite the bullshit that life throws at us, we have to be self-sufficient and whole. For me, this is about reminding myself that the grief and sadness is a part of me, but it does not define me. I am the combination of my past experiences, of the people I love, of the places I’ve been. All those things have and will continue to keep me whole (I am actually booked in to get a tattoo to symbolise and remind me of this verrrry soon!).