I’m compelled to share some personal news in case someone needs to hear it. In July 2022 I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I’ve since had a successful surgery followed by chemotherapy treatment. It has been gruelling to endure, and my “cancer journey” certainly isn’t over, but I’m now thankfully into the monitoring stage.
However, I’m acutely aware it could have been way worse. If I hadn’t pushed for a colonoscopy the doctors wanted to wait another 2 years. I hate to think of the outcome if I’d accepted that initial discussion. My point is: it’s vital to be your own best health advocate.
Part two of this post. Again, it’s not a checklist, but a list of offerings. Funnily enough, I wrote 95% of this post when I wrote part one. And yet it took over two months to come back and finish it. I was jolted to action after sharing some tips with a good friend (hi) and remembered I had written this whole thing. It’s good to share.
Self-care 102 – cozy self-care. Soft cozy blankets. Nice smelling candles. Incense sticks. Hand cream. Face masks. New socks. A cute toy. Some nice tea. The fancy cookies. Any small nice thing. Treat yourself or allow others to treat you. I have been very lucky and received a lot of thoughtful care packages over the last 2 years. And I haven’t hesitated to buy myself a fancy candle here and there. Now is the time.
Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness and grounding yourself in the present moment can be really helpful. It’s hard because it doesn’t necessarily give an immediate payoff, but doing a little bit when I can has definitely helped me. I try and remind myself at various points throughout the day, particularly in moments of panic or overwhelm, but also in calm too. Finding stillness. Putting one hand on my belly and the other across my heart. Feeling the chair underneath my butt. Placing my hands on my thighs. Sipping something slowly and with intention. Feeling each step as I walk. Noticing the breath. Being in my body and becoming aware of sensations: temperatures, pressure, heaviness, tightness, numbness. Allowing whatever emotion I’ve been holding onto or resisting just to be. Feeling my feelings even though our culture deems them “negative” is the ultimate act of rebellion. Noticing it. Naming it. Allowing it all to be.
I can’t remember who, but one of us, me or Mike accidentally broke this little ceramic bowl. I have a feeling it was Mike, but don’t trust my memory so I can’t say for sure. The grief and trauma have significantly affected my memory which is troubling in several ways, but particularly because I don’t know if I’m remembering our all too short time together correctly. I wish I could remember his exact words in so many moments, but sadly I don’t.
The bowl broke into four clean pieces, and I remember (correctly or incorrectly) telling Mike it was fixable. I told him about kintsugi, the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. The philosophy emphasizes the breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, embracing the flaws.
Mike liked this idea, he embraced flaws in everyone and accepted them as they were – human. He did this to me, and I offered the same to him. We are all flawed.
If you’re not a fellow griefling (yes, we have a cute name for ourselves – don’t @ me) you may be surprised to hear that you can feel very judged in grief. I learned this over the past year from my experience as well as talking to other grievers. I found when I most needed support I was on the receiving end of comments that seem like they should be comforting, but instead I felt judged. It took me a lot of thinking, reading, and processing to understand why everyone was trying to comfort me and theoretically saying nice things and yet I often felt worse.
The first thing I want to say is that your words will likely never provide comfort in the way you wish they could. I hope this liberates you rather than brings you down. It’s not because you’re inadequate, it’s because perhaps the only thing that would bring them true comfort is for their person to still be alive. You can’t take their pain away. All you can do is acknowledge it and perhaps ease their suffering if you can (more on that another day).
Also, I’ve most likely said versions of all of the below in the past, and despite my experience I often have to check my urges to say them now, so I’m not some perfect example. I just know more now and want to share that knowledge in the hope it helps bridge the gap in a society that doesn’t understand grief. I also know that if you’re reading this you want that too and I thank you for that.
Here are a couple of things people (muggles – yes you get a cute name too) commonly say to grieflings and why they feel like judgements.
There is so much loss and grief out there right now. I started trying to recap some of the latest, but then got overwhelmed and scrapped that idea. This isn’t a news site and you probably know it all anyway. So, unlike those recipe blogs that make you scroll as though your life depends on it just to hit that chicken soup recipe, I’ll get right to the point.
I wanted to share this blessing I wrote for other grievers… you can define ‘griever’ for yourself. It could be recent loss or a wound from 30 years ago.
for other grievers
I feel your pain. Your sorrow, your longing, your loss.
You have pain that can’t be fixed or moved on from or gotten over.
“Want to split an orange, Baby?” he’d call out to me from bent over the open fridge. Mike and I always used to share them.
The other day without thinking I cut this orange up into 8 pieces and started eating, by the third slice it was getting harder to swallow as I realized what I was looking at, on the chopping board were Mike’s orange slices. His portion.
“Everything’s always better when you share”. He always said. Of course he was right.
These were Mike’s orange slices. I left them out for a bit because I was too sad to deal with them. I thought maybe I’d eat them later. I didn’t.
I hate wasting food, but I couldn’t eat these orange slices. They were his.
I’m back on my bullshit. That’s what the kids say these days, right?
A new kind of bullshit for sure. I never wanted to be a widow or a grief expert, but here I am, a member of the worst exclusive shitty club.
My husband died on July 31, 2020. More on that later.
For now, I want to say hello again – it’s been over 6 years since my last post. Potentially 10 years since you subscribed to this blog. I’m sure many of you are like what, who, why am I getting this email? Yes, it was a completely different story Before – feel free to hit that unsubscribe (I wish I could).
I arrived in Perth two months ago today. It’s been a great adventure so far (more about that here) and things are going really well overall, but recently I’ve felt twinges and twangs of missing home. While this is totally normal, I’ve observed it seems to be the little things that I miss the most.
Some of the things I’ve been missing:
My nieces. Their little faces, their energy and their love. I hear about them from my family and we’ll sometimes have a chat on the phone so I know what they’re up to, but I miss hanging out with them. It’s the little moments like exchanging tips on how to draw the best fairies, getting hair styling advice and being schooled in how to draw unicorns (“mummy does it better”). I’m also worried they’ll forget who I am – not the twins as they’re five and I think we’re pretty solid, but Little A is only two – how much can a two year old remember? Should I be attaching my face to some My Little Pony’s so I remain top of mind?