Waking up

What is your first thought when you wake? I was talking with a volunteer at a cancer information help centre yesterday, and he commented that it’s been 10 years since he had cancer, but still the first thing he thinks about on waking is cancer. Has it come back, will it come back…

For us bereaved, it’s not surprising that our loved ones are often our first thoughts.
The first few months after Catherine died, I woke up feeling that it couldn’t be true. It wasn’t real. We have a mirror in our bedroom and I’d covered with a scarf, because I didn’t want to see myself. And I’d wake, and peek out towards the mirror, and there was the scarf, and then I knew the nightmare was real.

The reality sank in, as it does. And then when I woke I’d think about Catherine and Pax too, and it became the norm, as it is now, except now I will often greet them with “good morning.” The emotions are mixed – frustrated that they’re dead, heartbroken, sometimes angry with life, sometimes more accepting. It’s not such a happy way to start the day.

If I’ve got something planned for the day, it’s much easier. Being occupied seems to work better for me than sitting around. I do sit and read the news or a book or something more uplifting, but having something to look forward to in the day seems the most helpful. It could be gardening, doing the washing, or shopping. It could be working on one of my endless unfinished computer projects, or working on something for one of the charities with which I’m involved. It could be a craft project. It could be a walk or visiting a friend. It doesn’t seem to matter what, but most important is that I’ve thought ahead the evening before, so that when I wake up I have a sense of where the day is heading. I don’t always stick to it – and unfortunately my health is such that some days it really can’t happen – but it helps to have a sense that I’m going somewhere and not into nothingness.

So that’s my little tip for anyone reading this who is in the less acute but more longterm phase of your grief – ie most of your life – try to make a little plan for each day, so that on waking you have something to look forward to. Be kind to yourself. If you’re getting up and going to work, at least plan something nice for lunch or when you get home.

Taking it a day at a time maybe the only survival strategy when you’re in such pain of loss.

And so I sit now, in my little garden summerhouse, wondering how well I’m going to practice what I preach, so to speak…

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