What Grows from Grief
Grief is a weird thing. It can strip away all the layers of stuff that we build up over our lives. The identities that we construct: jobs, aspirations, relationships. The trappings: wealth, status, belongings. The habits and the rituals. For me trauma and grief swept almost everything aside other than me. Just me. And I had to look myself right in the eye and decide how to rebuild.
When I first thought about Trevnee, my aim was to find ways to contribute to normalising difficult life experiences. I’d had a few, and they came all at once.
But I got scared about being so vulnerable, about the judgements that people would make about me, about how long my grief has lasted, about how I “ought” to have processed the things that happened.
So I have often shied away from being as open online as I wanted to be. And sometimes, when I’ve been open, other people’s responses have put me off. Nothing mean, but the head cocked on the side, the “aw” kind of expression, the “I’m sorry that happened”. It seems all at once like too much and not enough. As with many things in life I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m looking for empathy and solidarity and understanding. And to share a story that might make other people experiencing similar feel more visible, their pain and suffering more accepted and soothed.
Today, I have the kind of emotional hangover that comes from sobbing about loss. For me right now that feels like sadness and confusion and shame (that I have not yet healed from what happened).
I spoke to my husband yesterday for the first time in a while because we thought that we should chat a bit about ordinary things before getting into the practical conversations about divorce.
I find it so sad. Because my husband and I were together for 23 years. And we were really good pals, we did some tough stuff together, we grew up together, we did our learning together. He bore witness to the whole of my adult life before he suddenly left. And when he suddenly left I was so shocked. And life as I knew it crumbled, changed completely. It was like a death. Except in death there is no explicit rejection. And no unkind words that make you doubt your own perceptions and realities. And the other person isn’t there leaping into relationships as if your own relationship had no meaning, no specialness. Even though you thought it did - and time and memories and your lived experience seemed to suggest it did. But the other person acts like it didn’t.
When I speak to him, we simply get along. It’s easy. We can speak in short-hand. It’s comfortable. That’s one part. The part that made me always believe our relationship was good. The other part is the betrayal. The betrayal of abandonment. The betrayal of not having a chance to break up on an equal footing. The betrayal of having your life changed beyond recognition and having no say. The two things sitting next to each other. Love and fraternity and fear and loss. A lot of the time I want him to explain. But he can’t. Or he won’t. And I know that whatever answers I seek can only come from within me. And I just don’t know. When I speak to him it feels like home. But I wonder if that is a lie and a deception. So the feelings are so complicated and contradictory. Familiarity and distrust.
Things happened after that. Big things. Traumatic things. But they mushed into the milieu of pain. I was in the habit of strength. So I was strong. But over time I’m facing the reality of those things more. Two miscarriages and my step-daughter’s suicide and my grandad’s death (though this felt more natural and in the order of things, even though I miss our weekly chats and his unwavering support), and moving cities, and selling my house, and getting divorced, and stopping teaching, and feeling that there was no choice but to quit my Phd – for my sanity, and the old friends that sidled out of my life with a fizzle not knowing how to talk to me anymore because of all the stuff that happened.
All of this has really informed the way I live. It has given me a different perspective on what matters. But as time passes, I feel more guilty about taking care of myself in the ways that were so necessary in the immediate aftermath of all these events: doing the stuff that keeps us happy and healthy is harder than it seems sometimes. So in my coaching I always aim to support my clients to know what they truly value and to do what they need for themselves. Because ultimately this is what you are left with if all the constructs that surround you fall apart. And this is what holds you up when the scaffolding is removed.
Although starting a new business right before a global pandemic begun has been hard. But I’m grateful to be doing work I believe in: something that motivates me and that I think is worthwhile for me and for the clients I work with. I’m also glad to be learning about myself and what I like outside of my work, and outside of my relationship with other people. Things that I have neglected for many years. Not just the self-soothing/ self-care activities like having a hot bath or going for a country walk. But things like baking bread, singing, roller skating. Daft stuff that I like and that’s just for me.
So if you ever decide to try me out as your coach, you will get a rounded a human: one that has weathered some hefty storms, one that appreciates life in its different facets, and one that encourages you to celebrate your you-ness. Because your you-ness is the most precious and enduring thing that you possess.