As time marches onward, I am realising increasingly that the experience of suddenly losing a young, much loved man from all of our lives has far reaching consequences that I could not have predicted. Not just for myself and the girls, who are at the epicentre of the 'earthquake', but also for our immediate family, close friends, and for more distant connections. The aftershocks keep being felt, even as we approach 2 years after the catastrophic event. New realisations of the deep and long lasting effects of "out of order" loss keep being revealed. Even when the intensity of crippling grief can be packaged in a more manageable way, life has been forever altered. Family events and relationships that need to form new and strange shapes because of the person who is always missing, sleep that is still elusive, many questions about faith and the fragility of life that are left unanswered, and a sense of security that the world is a safe place stolen. It unveils a new facet of grief - not only for the loss of a beautiful soul whose presence we miss deeply, but for the many layers of loss – loss of the life and sense of understanding that once was held. The last couple of weeks I have struggled with some intense emotions that eventually revealed themselves as fear. The gnawing unrelenting nausea in my gut that stopped me from eating slowly revealed a state of being that had been elusive to name. Anxiety. Sudden, out of order loss had stolen the person who for 21 years had been my rock, my cheerleader, my fall back, my security, and left me alone. Alone in what was now a big, wide, scary, unpredictable life. When Nathan died and his belongings were returned to me a few days later, I charged up his phone and started checking his messages. Nathan had been responsible for receiving most of the household bills, and when I opened his emails I found a gas bill sitting and waiting. My heart started racing and I almost lost the contents of my stomach. I was in the midst of a panic attack, overwhelmed in that moment with the realisation that I was 100% responsible for all of the details of running a house, managing a budget, raising our kids...and not even being sure at that point if I was going to need to sell our house to survive financially. Thankfully a family member discovered me hiding in my bedroom in a state of disarray, and took the phone out of my hands and dealt with the bill (I am beyond grateful for the family and friends who surrounded me those first few weeks and took over when my brain went offline). I have managed this anxiety since then by over thinking, over predicting, over planning and over analysing every detail of my life up until now. Even to the degree that as I try to sleep, I am imagining every possible outcome of a simple conversation that I'm having the next day. Hypervigilance is a very common side effect of trauma and sudden loss, especially when that loss vaporises the very solidarity and sense of security of life. My brain rarely rests, and meditation and Yoga have been such an important tool to help find moments of peace from these intense thoughts. Almost 2 years on, as the fog of suffocating and acute grief changes and I'm slowly being able to re-emerge and re-engage with the world around me, intense fear found its way to me again. A knowing that it is time to start tentatively living again. Stepping out, making decisions, stretching my new wings, taking risks - all things which need vulnerability, and which may lead to more loss and pain. And knowing that this journey, now, is just with me. Me, myself, and I. No safety net. No one else to share mistakes with. Just me. It's new, for this women who lived life from the age of 19 with a person who shared the load of life. Or, truth be told, took more than 50% of the load...I was well loved and cared for. So, I realised recently that I had unconsciously decided it would be safer to stop hoping for brighter days, for peace, for joy, for love, for dreams to be realised. Then I would save myself from the pain of more loss and disappointment when these new hopes don't eventuate. As I was talking to a friend about this, he spoke these words- "just let the future come to you on it's own, don't write it off just yet - it hasn't happened". A light switched on inside my soul. Another reminder, not to live in the future - where all the 'what ifs' lie, trying to predict every eventuality so that I stay safe. But to live in the present- in the today. To take the steps I need to take today to shape the life that I desire, that aligns with my values. To relish the laughs and smiles of my kids. To hold gratitude for close soul friends who bring love, and meaning, and a different sense of security, care, and belonging to my life. To hold the future loosely, while embracing fully who I am today and the life that I am slowly building. I may look to be the same women as I was in 2018 before the title 'widow' was mine to own. But I am not. There are now deep undercurrents of emotion and growth and revelation. Beliefs that have and are changing. Values being transformed. I am discovering a new me, an emerging individual who I am still getting to know. Life experiences change us, and if we allow, these experiences can take us on a journey of transformation. Understanding this means that we can more easily have open hearts and minds to lean into not only our own, but also another person's lived experience, rather than presume to know them based on who we ‘think’ they are. I know that I am not alone in facing fear and anxiety. Our human experience is unique, and deep, and changeable. Fear is a common experience for many, especially when chaos unexpectedly arrives in your world. I am in the middle of this journey and do not have all of the answers to this just yet...I am learning, talking, seeking resources, having my perspective and internal stories challenged, and putting more tools into my toolkit. But I do know this. My feelings are real and valid. And so are yours. They do not need to be hidden, shamed, validated, or 'talked around' with positivity. Do they provide us with an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, about life, about the reality of being human? Yes!! Do they also give us an opportunity to grow, to choose our perspective, to change? Yes!! While our feelings are valid, we do not need to be slaves to them or give them the total power of how we make choices. We are given the opportunity every day to choose how we want to shape the story of our lives, and I'm choosing to embrace that opportunity, rather than run from it. I hope you do too. Much richness can be found there.
Much love and light, Skye xxx