Dealing with grief

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It’s been a tough old time.

I feel as though there are two distinct ways we can end up existing day to day. There’s the quotidian, ticking-along version – which isn’t without its troubles and frustrations – but is safe in its nondescript, kinda boring nature.

And then there’s a red alert survival mode we enter into when shit really hits the fan. Our memory deserts us, we forget to eat, social interaction feels a burden. If someone sends you a sniffy email or a shop assistant’s a bit rude, it tips you over the edge. But somehow, after taking a day at a time, for some time, we arrive somewhere clearer and brighter.

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks in the latter life mode, with an overloaded plate of work and worry and sadness. Not to say everything is going terribly.

Moving house recently went very smoothly, mainly thanks to an awesome Addison Lee driver. And I think living out of the centre of London will only do good things for my brain.

I now have new housemates, a new room to decorate, a new cycle route to get to know like the back of my hand; new pubs, parks and charity shops to discover.

Work is going fine – much busier now and I feel like I’m in much deeper with more responsibility than a few months ago. Gone are the days where I always took an hour for lunch and consistently left bang on 5:30.

But it’s meant that my new bedroom’s walls have remained bare, boxes over spilling with clothes have been abandoned in corners and the surface of my chest of drawers has become the home to an eclectic array of spices, cleaning products and makeup. Because I’m totally time poor.

A few Mondays ago I was feeling well and truly ‘meh’, having returned early from a glorious trip to Portugal for a wedding.

I was sad to have left my boyfriend, Jamie, sad not to be joining the fun of the next nights out in Lisbon and tired from my day of solo travel back home the day before. We’d spent our anniversary on a beach, and I’d felt totally tranquil staring out at the horizon.

We’d chatted and sunbathed and only interrupted things with food or drinks or ice creams. The contrast between this and my Monday morning felt a little hard to swallow. Oh, and I was due on my period.

Then, as I was finishing my pre-work faff routine, I got a call from a friend and heard that a family friend had taken his own life. A lovely, intelligent and hilarious friend who used to babysit me and my brother. A friend who, as a successful journalist, helped me out with many a job application.

I’ve never been so shocked. I told work and headed in late after scrambling around putting holiday clothes in the wash, doing the dishes while my mind buzzed. What followed were three tough weeks. A mix of outwardly seeming a-okay, and waves of sadness and disbelief.

Today, the day after the funeral, I took the day off work – and the relief was enormous. I stayed in bed all morning, before heading out for the day’s big excursion to a Thai massage place on Holloway road recommended by a friend to get my nails done.

I’m exhausted and definitely not much good company. I’ve been sustaining myself through ready meals and Gü desserts, from seeing good friends and semi-successfully carrying on with things.

I don’t think the energy that coping with tragedy takes out of us can be underestimated. It’s utterly shit, and we carry its heavy weight with us wherever we go.

In the red alert survival mode – as overwhelming and awful as it is – I do think something powerful happens, because I look back and have no idea how I held it together.

Some days I arrived home from work and had a real feeling of being carried through it. The days and weeks pass – on that Monday morning alarm the week feels scary, but all of a sudden it’s Thursday, you feel a little lighter and you trust that you can make it to the weekend.


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