Life has taught me, and continues to teach me enormous amounts in the past 10 months. That’s right it’s been 10 months. Life has changed. Life has stayed the same.
It’s been a while. I’ve been out there in the world getting on with things. As in The Grief Spiral (which I highly recommend) there is very much a practical aspect to grief where you get to a place where you can put yourself out in the world, you react to this, uncover new learnings and feelings and come back inside to process it. Then you do it all again.
What stays the same?
In many ways nothing changes. The world keeps turning, as it should. With grief you get off the roundabout and it keeps spinning – you look at it and wonder how you are going to get back on, and you do. It’s a jolt, you almost fly off. You hang on tight and eventually things start to steady down a bit. “A bit” being emphasized. Over time the ‘bit’ gets bigger.
The universal truths stay the same, sometimes these will seem new to us, or we see them in different ways. Love, loss, life, meaning, the pursuit of happiness, living in the moment, relationships. I feel that I’ve grown more sensitive and caring of all people, certainly those who are grieving but also, far beyond that.
The mortgage still needs to get paid, the kids fed and cleaned and clothed. This has been a source of comfort and stability – I’ve written about how the children provide a constant rock of emotional stability (having my youngest cling to my leg and say “I love you Daddy” is enough in itself to help me make it through the worst days. Additionally the fact that they need caring for is, simply put, a forcing function to keep forward motion.
Forward motion is so important. Even if you come back again. Go forth, engage with the world and life, return, convalesce, process, understand. Move forwards again.
How life has changed…
Then there is the fact that sometimes it feels like nothing has stayed the same. My outlook on life has changed, my relationship with my sisters has changed (we are all simply having to deal with so much). Then there is the recognition of how brief all of this is – our brief time in the sun.
“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.” – Richard Dawkins
Things that evoked certain feelings continue. The affect of seeing old people, hearing certain songs, all ripe for emotional triggers. I’ll find myself feeling intensely connected to my mum when I’m gardening. In particular when I’m weeding the strawberry patch that she planted at our home.
The simple act of seeing seasons turn, or the buds appearing on trees.
Then there is my job. I quit Microsoft in February. Not only was it time for change but add to the new found awareness of the brevity of all of this I knew it was time to take my next step. I am now working with an amazing team at Emphatic Thinking. We are an agile digital marketing agency. Of course not being able to fill Mum and Dad in on this change brings enormous waves of emotion. “I really feel like sharing that with Mum, Dad or them both…” a thought, a feeling, an experience I have often.
The loss continues to haunt me, not least of which is how they were robbed of seeing their grandchildren grow up. They really and truly were the best Grandparents in the world. They saw my children multiple times a year despite the distance and were deeply involved with my sisters children back in England.
We have lost all the things we want to do with them – the plans that are never going to happen, from the big to the small. All of it cuts very, very deep.
I often feel empty. Very empty. At other times I feel very full – I’m very lucky to have my wife and children – they keep me sane. The new job provides a creative and productive outlet that I was craving. I met many amazing people at Microsoft and had a wonderful time and learnt many things there – but it was just time for a change. What I’m doing now is a great fit, a great challenge and a great way to leverage all those years in the corporate world at Microsoft and Intel – and by extension all the amazing companies I got to work with because of them (not least of which my time working with Lotus F1 Team, now Renault Sport F1 – I loved that).
Life, existence, just feels different now. Early on in this experience I talked about how I would just stop in my tracks and be totally derailed and no even know why. More common now is that I will be engaged in something and just have an overpowering sense of the size and scope of the universe and the relative small size we are. I find myself embedded in the moment and appreciating things so much more – the smell of fresh sea air, the sky, petals swimming on the wind.
Existence is fragile, we are all fragile and I’d like to think that I have a deeper level of appreciation for that now.
One of the most fragile things of all is the moment. For the longest time I’ve conceptually “got” the idea of living in the moment. The past 10 months have really taught me what it means to be in the moment. When you realize that the moment is all you really have there is a certain freedom afforded to you, a certain calm, a peace that washes over you.
Don’t get me wrong with two little kids running around it’s not always possible to feel that wash of the universal moment. One can always aspire and the world really has done its best to teach me that. Through all pain there is a silver lining – one of those universal truths.
We find ourselves again with the realization that love is all that matters. Fueled by family; my children, wife, siblings, aunts uncles, cousins and yes my paternal grandmother who is luckily still alive.
I bumped into an old friend recently, who said “in grief we must learn to lean in to each other, lean into those we love”. We have strived to do that and keep doing it – if you know someone who is grieving then being open to and supportive of them leaning into you is one of the most important things you can do. Next to just being there for them, listening, or stepping up and doing things for them. We are lucky enough to have some amazing friends who have literally crossed oceans to do this for us.
As you move forwards in this crazy life what have you learned from grief? From appreciating the moment? Love to hear from you in the comments