After Terry died, my GP referred me to a bereavement charity called Cruse for some bereavement counseling. As it’s a volunteer-run charity, the waiting list in Oxfordshire was long, and when I moved to Northamptonshire the waiting list was even longer. In May I began attending weekly counselling sessions on Monday afternoons with a wonderful counselor who I found myself easily opening up to. Over the past two months we have discussed a lot of things and I have received a lot of comfort from our sessions together, although they are often emotionally painful and difficult. When my six allocated sessions ended, my counselor asked if I would like to attend a seventh, as she said that my grief felt very ‘profound.’ And so last Monday I had my seventh and last session of bereavement counselling through Cruse. Last weekend was really difficult and it was made slightly more so knowing that today I couldn’t talk it over with my counsellor, as I have become accustomed to doing.
Mondays have been, for the past seven weeks, the day that I really open up about my grief and talk about the myriad of things involving my relationship with Terry and his death that I push aside during my normal week because they are too difficult and painful to deal with. Mondays are the days when I dedicate part of my day to my grief, grieving actively rather than passively. Mondays are difficult, but have been a big part of my healing process as I attempt to build a new life for myself in this new town. As I left my last session I felt a mix of emotions, but overall I am so very pleased with the bereavement counseling I have received and am sad to see it end. I have spent the past few days reflecting over my time with my bereavement counselling and thinking about what I have learned in such a few, short weeks.
I have learned that everything that I feel is normal. This might seem obvious to you, but being widowed can be very socially isolating. Since Terry died I have thought about things that I had never in my darkest days considered and my emotions have been very different to how I felt with Terry, which has made me feel broken. Although new to me and sometimes frightening and confusing, all of these feelings are normal and okay for me to feel.
I have learned that my grief is proportionate to the love I have for my husband. Just as I loved Terry with everything I had, so I grieve him with every ounce of what’s left of me. The pain is unbearable on the bad days, but it is only because I loved him so very much.
I have learned that by focusing on work and building a new life for myself here in Northampton, I am taking the first steps into my new unwanted life. Just as toddlers fall as they are learning to walk, so will I stumble as I try to figure out what’s next. But what’s important is that I pick myself up and keep going.
I have learned that I need to be kind to myself. Widows tell me this all the time, but my counsellor really emphasized that it was important that I have nice things lined up for the bad days, because there are many more bad days waiting for me yet. For me, I like to buy myself a cup of coffee from Starbucks or, if I’m too miserable to leave the house, I like to make a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Lots of marshmallows. I work on a cross-stitching project if I need to take my mind off of something particularly difficult and occasionally I play with Ninja, or cuddle up with him if I can’t get out of bed.
I have learned that there is nothing wrong with throwing my duvet over my head and not getting out of bed for the day. It is not defeat, it is simply acknowledging that today is rubbish and I will pick myself up again tomorrow and give it another go. If this means calling out of work, that is acceptable and nothing to feel bad about.
I have learned that there is joy to be found in little things. It took months after Terry died for me to feel even the slightest glimmer of happiness shining through the dark cloud of grief in which I had taken up residence. I remember that first glimmer of happiness clearly: it felt so normal for a split-second, and then I thought that I shouldn’t be feeling any happiness at all so soon after Terry died. I could practically hear Terry telling me that was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard and I allowed myself the smallest of smiles, which felt fake and forced on my newly bereaved face. Since then, the moments of joy and happiness have begun to present themselves to me and I find myself eager to grab onto them and hold them close, for so long as they last. This week, my My Little Box arrived and had the most beautiful blue nail polish, that I used immediately. And it made me happy. Not permanently so, but for a moment, and for that I am grateful.
I have learned that Mondays are my thinking days. My bereavement counseling has now come to an end, but I have found myself thinking my grief through and reflecting upon it today the same as if it hadn’t. Sure, I’m talking to myself in the car or in my bedroom, but I am talking and thinking about my grief rather than pushing it aside for another time. Mondays are my thinking days, my grieving days and I hope to continue my thoughtful Mondays in the near future.