“Before” – how time is marked when we grieve

A walking reflection on the demarcation of time as we grieve – written as it happened… But first, a recap from an earlier post:

Journeying through grief involves managing our expectations. What we expected from life might not be within our reach. What we still want from life may elude us. The biggest part of our life might be over in units of time. The most important person(s) we would like to speak with, see and spend time with may be gone. Losing someone central to our life means our present is changed and our future is changed too. I will never be the mother I was; I will never the grandmother I had hoped to be.

Can you start again after loss? In some respects, no, but in other ways you can.

There are some things we can do for ourselves as we live the life we have now. We can learn a new skill, reach out for new friendships, develop new interests. Something new can be as simple as changing a hairstyle or where we do our weekly shop. Or it could be bigger and more meaningful, like explore our faith or developing spiritually in new ways. A young parent may decide to try for another baby.  Someone who has lost a partner might consider starting a relationship with someone new. If this is something they want, why not?

Journeying through grief is a balancing act. We balance our grief with our daily living; we balance our identity as a grieving parent or partner or friend with our identity as a teacher, artist, retiree, fisherman, or whatever else is part of our life.

We cherish and honour our loved ones, continuing a relationship through memory, but at the same time we keep learning, growing and embracing the new.

This is the journey of living with loss, one step at a time.

A personal walking reflection

I am visiting the Craft Fair at Trentham Gardens and afterwards I go for a walk around the Lake. Although this lovely spot is not far from home, we haven’t been for years. About 12 years to be precise – before they started charging a not inexpensive fee for entrance.

After the Craft fair, John goes to sit down for a coffee while I take a brisk walk around the Lake. There are squirrels, black swans and all manner of other birds. Magnificent trees just on the verge of changing colour.

And my thoughts. The last time I was here is before.

Before Catherine died.

Before I had cataract surgery, a total knee replacement and kidney cancer. The walk is physically much easier now than it was then. My damaged knee had crunched painfully on the little slopes.

Before we moved into our home.

Before my mother and brother died.

Before I even dreamed of the course of my present life, the Living with Loss project included.

Before I learnt to drive – which was not possible before the eye surgery.

Before anyone dreamed that 2020 would be a life changing year for almost the entire planet as we adjust to living with a pandemic.

Before Catherine died. I wrote that already but of all that has changed, for me this is the most significant. Her death is the demarcation of before and after.

I’m glad I did not know what was coming. I would not have imagined that I would survive, but I have.

Do your measure your life now with a before and after? Perhaps you too have suffered a profound bereavement. If these are the early days of after, please take heart. There is still life to be lived, paths to walk and joys to experience.

There is before

But there is also after.

Fanciful sculptures at Trentham Lake Gardens. These are new. They’re part of the ‘after’ for me.

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