Feeling a sense of 'smothered pride', goal setting and the other side of positive momentum.
At just over 9 months since losing Lauren to breast cancer I've started be able to answer the question of 'how are you?' with the words "good thanks", as opposed to "not too bad". What will seem like a very small difference is actually huge to someone who has agonised over their response to that question for quite some time. A large reason for my progress there is that aside from generally feeling that I'm coping, I've actually started to rebuild my life after loss, which brings another set of challenges to the fore.
Below is a list of goals that I set myself and shared to my Making Lemonade Instagram page on 01 January 2021 and an update on each, but also why I'm feeling a sense of what I call 'smothered pride'.
1) Start My Marketing Consultancy
This was top of the list, the motivation was to get back to being financially stable and self supportive whilst building work around my life and Molly as opposed to the other way around. It's also the inspiration for today's blog, because as I sit here today not only have I successfully created Whole of the Moon Marketing Ltd, but this week I've secured enough work to see me through the next 6 months and achieve my very simple goal of providing financially whilst picking Molly up from school everyday (ish).
2) Continue to support others through the Making Lemonade blog
When I created this list I'd just started realising how much of a support I could be to people by sharing, talking and listening to others about our experiences with grief, bereavement, mental health challenges and solo parenting. To the point now where I've realised that actually 100% of people will experience a loss and grief of varying degrees throughout their lives, yet the general perception of grief and the support required is still pretty skewed to people thinking it's just the inconsolable sadness you feel immediately after the loss as opposed to other things such as the topic I'm writing about today and as such we are all so ill prepared for when loss occurs (if there can be such a preparation of course). I'm pleased to say that by using our story and my counselling sessions as a vehicle I've been able to take part in conversations on the radio, have interviews with local newspapers and national online news websites and have really found a desire to keep opening these conversations up and influencing the quality of the discussions because ultimately you don't know what you don't know and rather than having to find out when you are in the thick of the early stages of a bereavement if you can hear someone like me sharing my experiences then it may help you to at least know where to turn.
3) Focus on my health and well-being
As I've written about in previous blogs, since Lauren's incurable diagnosis I have been challenged with anxiety attacks and stress related mental health issues, these generally manifested themselves as chest pains and arm pains and initially had me worried that I'd got an issue with my heart. After some tests at the hospital and with the doctors, I was told that these were caused by stress and anxiety. Thankfully over time and with the support of some counselling therapy I've found other outlets for these emotions (like writing this blog) and grounding techniques that help to limit the impact of these on my day to day life. However, I also decided that being nearly 21 stone and with the responsibility of being a solo parent that I needed to sort that out too and am pleased to say that I am making great progress on that front having lost 2 and half stone and counting.
4) Continue being the best Solo Parent I can be
Less measurable than the first 3 goals so far and kind of weaves it's way into all of them, as most of them are driven by creating and rebuilding a life in which I can achieve exactly this goal. But in terms of being a solo dad to Molly, it is probably the area of my life where I want to achieve the most and actually feel as though I'm doing that. I've tried desperately to offer here structure, routine and a sense of security over the last 9 months so as to try and limit the challenges she encounters as part of the journey of being a bereaved child and will continue to do my utmost to educate myself and do my best to develop an understanding of how best to support her through those challenges.
5) Rediscover myself in widowhood and try to find things that bring me happiness
Moving forward and moving on are two completely separate things and as a young widow I am learning that losing Lauren is something that I'll always carry with me and never move on from. But, the art of healing in my opinion is to move forward at what ever pace you can manage (which often varies on a daily basis) and rebuild your life around your grief so that you just don't trip over it as much. When you do it'll still hurt the same, but by rediscovering yourself and trying to fill your life with things for you as opposed to things to fill a gap then there'll be more things to keep you from falling in the black hole. I'm still figuring this one out and am at the moment getting enough from the 4 goals above to keep me occupied whilst I do so.
Probably the most significant point of movement in this area is that many link moving forward to being in new relationships and finding love again. Whilst I don't buy into the fact that this is the only way to move forward, I am now at a stage where I am open to the idea. Being open to the idea is very different to being ready to do it, but where as earlier in my journey it felt that it would never feel right to even consider it, now I am accepting of the fact that I don't necessarily want to live the rest of my life single, there were life goals that Lauren and I shared and whilst the opportunity to achieve them together has gone, that doesn't mean that my life goals have died with her, I just have to find alternative ways.
The most important thing for me here is to approach with care, I want to be at a stage where I bring people into my life for me and not to fill the gaps left behind after losing Lauren, only then will it feel right. That said from an outsiders perspective, the world of dating seems as though it is a bit of a minefield and might be a deterrent in itself!
So what is 'smothered pride'?
As I've found in the past, it's not easy to put labels on the way that being widowed makes you feel. Having laid out my intentions at the start of the year and going through how well I think I'm progressing with all of them, I am (which is new for me) feeling very proud of myself. The personal growth that I'm experiencing, the achievements that I'm making and the way that Molly and I have been adapting to life after loss over the last 9 months has felt like quite some journey on a road that will never finish.
However, I'd trade all of that growth and progress in an instant to have Lauren back and no matter how proud I feel of myself, nor how much positive momentum I build up, it is smothered by the sense of loss an absence. The person that I'd want to share these things with, whose face I'd want to see beam with pride and who was my biggest supporter and advocate isn't here and that's another one of the aspects of grief and bereavement that I don't think people expect, realise or can empathise with.
The positive side of this story is that despite the adversity and challenges I've faced, I'm showing that there is life to be had after loss and that I'm finding ways to move forward. The other side of that, and the bit I suppose I'm really trying to share to help those on the same road normalise their feelings and those lucky enough not to be on this road to understand is that it's about moving forward with your grief and not moving on from it.
For the usual close with a song part of my blogs, this song played on the radio whilst thinking about the content for this blog and how actually healing is a long, gradual process where it sometimes you feel like you're making progress and sometimes you don't but it's really just about being patient with yourself, so I interpreted some* of the lyrics in this song to be a message to myself.
Thanks for reading and being a part of our journey!