Grief & Loss - 18 Months On

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Grief is a strange old thing. 18 months ago, when the shock and trauma of losing Blossom first hit us, I remember how it felt totally and utterly insurmountable. Every morning I would wake up feeling suffocated, like I had a huge weight of sadness sitting on my chest and driving the air out of my lungs. I remember being desperate to find the quickest route out of grief. I read books and trawled the internet and listened to podcasts in the hope that I would find some sort of magic solution to make the pain go away. But 18 months on, I’m realising that there is no route out of grief. It changes shape and intensity and appearance, but I accept now that grief is something that we carry with us for life.

I've made peace with that. In fact, now that the intensity has lifted, I actually draw some comfort from the fact that grief is a permanent state. Because while grief brings with it sadness and frustration, it's also the thing that ties us to the person we have lost. Missing them and remembering them is a way of keeping them in our lives, a way of acknowledging how much they still mean to you, no matter how much time passes.

These days, my grief no longer wakes me in the small hours with vivid night terrors that make it impossible to sleep. My heart doesn’t shatter completely every time I speak to my family or see the pain on their faces. I still cry, but it’s not every single evening anymore, and I spend just as much time remembering the happy memories.

What remains is a low level anxiety, a fear that every unexpected phone call from a family member is bearing bad news. It's a churning in my stomach whenever I hear about someone else's tragedy, my mind instantly drawn to the worst days. And it's the heartache of missing Blossom more than ever. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about what she would have been like now, or how life might have been different if she was still here. Every family gathering is marred by her absence, and I would still sell my soul to hear her funny high pitched voice one more time.

We're told that grief gets better with time, and in some ways it does. 18 months on, it doesn't feel as raw or as sharp as it once did. Your brain does start to adapt, and the cloud of sadness does lift slightly. But what nobody tells you is that the more time that passes, the more you miss the person you've lost. All of the firsts are difficult, but the fact that there are no more firsts only serves as a reminder of how long it's been since we last saw her face light up with glee, or heard her singing to her dolly.

The other problem with telling people that "time is a great healer" is that I've never met a bereaved person who wants to be "healed". To be healed implies that you have recovered, that you have returned to the person that you were before you lost someone important to you. And that doesn't happen - sure, you start to come to terms with your new reality, but there will always be a space in your heart that can't be filled.

I look back now at the person I was 18 months ago and I know that I have changed in infinite ways. There's no denying that I'm stronger - dealing with such a tragic loss has turned me from a person who wouldn't say boo to a goose to someone who is confident in standing up for what I believe in. It's brought me closer to my family, who are the most incredible people I know. We're not shy about sharing how much we love each other these days as we all know for certain how short life can be.

But most of all, it's made me a more passionate person. I am more determined than ever to live a life that makes me truly happy, to squeeze the joy out of every single day. Two years ago, I was unsure about what I wanted out of life, constantly comparing myself to everybody else and feeling confused about what to do next. I was chasing so many different ideals of success and never feeling 100% happy.

These days I know without a shadow of a doubt that life isn't about job titles or fancy cars or big houses. It's about the people you have in you life, the hours you get to spend doing the stuff that sets your heart on fire, and the memories that you'll always hold on to. None of us know how much time we've got to spend on this earth, and experiencing that first hand has made me determined to see more, laugh more, feel more, dance more, be more.

It's made me determined to get the very most out of this life, not just for my own happiness, but to honour Blossom's beautiful joie de vivre too.