It has been seven months since Georgie died.
Seven long and extremely taxing months.
Taxing on our emotions, our mental health, our relationships, our bodies and souls.
Looking back, here are the ten things I have learned from the past seven months:
1. Grief is like a sneaky thief, it shows up uninvited and robs you of any remnant of joy and hope. There are no rules in the grieving game, grief doesn’t stick to any rules. It strikes whenever it pleases and the pain can last for weeks and weeks.
2. Grief affects EVERY aspect of your life. There is no area that has been left untouched by grief.
My body has been affected, I have put on weight because to me, food is a comfort now.
My mind has been severely affected, I have become very forgetful and I have trouble focusing on and staying on plan. My sleep patterns have been altered as well, there is hardly any night I don’t wake up to think and process what has happened to my baby.
My emotions have been majorly affected, I have experienced the vastest array of emotions you can imagine in a relatively short space of time. I have been depressed, lethargic, angry, desperate for an answer, relieved my baby doesn’t suffer anymore, jealous with other people’s happiness, guilty for having wished for this beautiful baby who ended up dying.
My relationships have transformed, changed or stopped existing. I have made new friends, people who have been through loss like us. I have lost many friends, even from the ones who were there in the days preceding and following Georgie’s death. My emotions became too intense, my questions too close to home and they chose the easy way out. I still grieve for losing not only my boy, but also friends and relatives who proved incapable of accepting the pain and the anger that followed Georgie’s death.
3. Grief incapacitates you severely. I have been saying it, time and time again, the constant mental and emotional processing leaves very little energy for living.
I work for a few hours per day, I pick Emma up from school, I make dinner and I look after the house. I sometimes blog but I can’t do it everyday.
I actually need to rest after we get home from the school run. Emma and I, we take an hour to watch something on the iPad or just rest. It is important and I have learned the hard way to give myself permission to do it. If I push myself too hard, if I try to function as a “normal” person, I end up with migraines or bad colds.
4. Grief sharpens your senses. In the immediate months after Georgie died, I felt as if my heart had become an emotional radar. I could have sensed any sort of pain without people having to tell me much. Gracefully, that intensity of emotions has passed now but I still find myself incapable of reading a story and not “feeling” the emotions of the ones involved.
5. Grief changes with the passing of time. I remember feeling physically sick in the weeks after Georgie died every single time I would have caught the sight of a blue babygrow or a baby blankie resembling one of Georgie’s.
Now, seven months on, the pain isn’t as sharp. But it has been replaced by this deep, deep sadness that descends over me every time I am caught unaware by a thought or a sight that triggers memories.
6. You learn to navigate and manage your grief. I found the run up to Christmas and Georgie’s first birthday unbearably painful. I think it was mostly the anticipation of the emotionally high charged days. The fear of the emotional pain. The return of the pain and the fear and the anger.
But somehow, the run-ups have been worse than the days themselves.
I learned from the Christmas one and was more prepared for Georgie’s first birthday. We chose to stay away from people, shut down from Facebook and spent the afternoon remembering our sweet boy, visiting his memory stone in the hospice and just try and create a new normality for our smaller by one family.
7. Grief is an ever present foe you learn to live with
I remember the first time I laughed. Like really, belly laughed after Georgie died. I felt so very guilty.
But now, I have come to accept that pain and joy will forever coexist in my heart until the day I die.
I can laugh now. I can enjoy a meal. I can have a cuddle and a bedtime story with Emma without feeling totally bereft.
But I know that the joy and the laughter will always be followed by this shadow. By this sadness that descends with the silence. In the night. In my dreams.
They live side by side. Friends and enemies. Pain and joy, in the same heart.
8. Grief exacerbates your main personality traits
I have realised that grief makes us turn to coping mechanisms we are familiar and comfortable with.
When the pain is bad, Alex, whose main love language is physical touch, needs me to be there for him physically.
When the pain is bad, I, whose love language is shared time but also respecting one’s personal space, I need people to be there for me but I also need my quiet time and my space to recoup.
Alex’s coping mechanism has always been work. So obviously, he has been working out more than ever before since Georgie died and has been spending every single awake moment he has working.
My coping mechanism is lying low. Saving my energy. Pulling back physically and emotionally so that I can survive.
We haven’t been very good for each other in these seven months. One runs to and the other runs away. One needs reassurance, the other needs space.
But having talked to other couples who have been through grief, we understood this is normal and natural and part of being unique.
But it hasn’t saved on the emotional pain.
Of course it hasn’t.
9. Grief makes you into a new you
I look back at who I was before Georgie’s death and I don’t recognise myself.
To everybody else, I am the same shell but inside, I am someone else.
I have questioned everything I believed in, to the very bone.
I have tossed aside the beliefs that had been passed on but made no sense in the light of what has happened.
I do not care about many things now.
But I am much more secure in who I am.
In Whom I believe.
In what I want and can achieve in myself.
10. Grief puts everything into perspective
Do you know what were my biggest fears before I lost Georgie?
I used to be afraid I would die alone.
I used to be afraid I won’t make it to heaven.
I was afraid of dying as in the passing moment from this world into the next, not entirely sure of what it will be like.
I am not longer afraid.
I have contemplated death by cancer. Death alone. Death by road accident.
And I am no longer afraid of the possible pain that would precede it.
As I know that beyond that threshold we will all have to pass, there will be a smiling boy waiting with open arms for his mama.
And there will be a Saviour ready to welcome me and say:
“This is where life actually starts. Welcome home!”