My name is Claire and I’m a Customer Experience Manager at Bare Cremation.
Two years ago, my husband was suddenly and traumatically taken from me. This ever-present fixture in my life was suddenly gone. After going through grief myself, I wanted to share my story. So I’ve put together this eight-part series about coping with loss and bereavement based on my personal experiences with grief.
As a society, we’re not great at dealing with death and grief. At Bare, we want to change this.
On May 8, 2018, my best friend – the guy I loved the most in my life, the father of my child – was suddenly and traumatically taken from me. There was no goodbye. There was just this ever-present fixture in my life, suddenly gone.
I’ve always been the kind of person who gets thrown to the ground, stands up, dusts herself off and keeps walking, but I couldn’t do that with this.
I didn’t know what it meant. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I didn’t know how to react. I tried the dusting off approach but it didn’t work and soon the ever-present thing in my life was the realisation that life is so fragile and can change dramatically at any moment. And you are told this – you’re told it all the time when you watch the news and you see heartbroken families after a tragedy, but there’s kind of this misguided belief that it’s not going to happen to you.
It’s been two years now and I can tell you that I am surviving. I could almost say I’m thriving, but I am not the same person. I probably live my life 95% in a space of wanting to keep surviving and the other 5% in pure terror.
I am actually surprised I am still here, because multiple times I felt like my heart was so broken that it was not going to function properly anymore and was just going to fall dead on the floor.
The only person that could care for me well was me
In the months after my husband Garryn died, I became this frozen rigid person. Afraid of mortality, I kept thinking about every single occurrence that could take either myself or my daughter. And you have that, as a parent, when you realise the utter responsibility you have when you’re given a child to look after. But this was worse, like 100 times worse, because now I actually knew what death and loss felt like.
I became this silent stiff person who couldn’t do anything in fear that it would exacerbate my death. Alcohol, sugar, exercise all became something that could kill me straight away. I became afraid of going far away from the nearest hospital. The walks I used to love going on, all of a sudden I would start thinking of how far I am from the ambulance if something were to happen.
But through all of this fear, I kept expanding and then contracting – expanding with hope and trust, and contracting with fear. I began to realise that this thing that had seemingly swallowed me, my grief, was actually an energy helping me to see my life more clearly.
I grew hungry for all the knowledge I could find on grief. I searched the internet and found groups of people working within that field and I reached out to people who felt right to me. I read countless books on grief, death, afterlife, dying well. I studied compassionate bereavement care with the Miss Foundation in Arizona and visited a grief farm. I yearned for someone to care for me holistically, only to discover that the only person that could do that well was me.
Here’s what I’ve learned about grief
While I’m still on my own grief journey, two things are really clear to me:
The first is that everyone grieves differently. There is no book out there, no course, no process that will be the answer for everyone.
The second is that although everyone who goes through grief will go through it differently, the one thing that is innate in us all is the need for human connection. And so, a universally important part of the grieving process is healthy conversation. Those conversations may look different for each of us, but we need to have them.
So, in this eight-part Coping With Grief series, I’m going to share with you what I learnt about having healthy conversations – with yourself, your friends, your kids. I share some advice for those on the other side of grief on how you can be a good friend, a good partner and a good human.
You can read my other articles in the series including 5 Biggest Grief Myths Busted. Look out for the other articles in the series coming soon. We’ve also compiled a list of useful bereavement, grief counselling and other support services across Australia here.
All information provided is general in nature. For additional information relating to advance care planning, please speak to your health professional for advice about your specific circumstances. If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, call 000. For Lifeline’s Crisis Counselling service call 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636.
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