I posted back in March that my father in law had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. after seven months of a fairly good quality of life he went downhill rapidly in the last few weeks. it has been a difficult time for our family. we were sad but relieved yesterday to hear of his death. as I think I’ve said here before, I wasn’t personally close to my father in law, so I am not experiencing a significant feeling of loss. its impact on me personally is more in how I help support my husband and his family at this raw and emotional time.
I am conscious however that I am feeling spread very thin, and need to be careful of how I look after myself too. so blogging is one way of doing that.
re-reading what I have written here, it seems very formal and detached. I know that I am coping by doing certain things on auto pilot, in finding comfort in routine and structure. for me, sometimes a shiny sink can give reassurance way out of proportion of its actual value. the semblance of order giving us something to cling onto in a fragile and messy world.
C. S. Lewis wrote: ‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.’ and this hits home to me. we are conscious of the vulnerability of those we love and of our own mortality. we fear the changes that may come into our lives, un-invited and un-welcomed.
the image at the top of this post is one I chose because I thought it symbolised well the tangle of feelings which we experience in grief. grief is not a linear path, but one which repeats and twines back on itself. I watch my husband, who is exhausted and unable to settle to anything, and my heart hurts for him. we are careful with one another and with our wider family, so as not to say or do anything which could be misconstrued at this fragile time.
grief doesn’t begin at a death. there is a great article here on anticipatory grief, which I have found very helpful in the last few weeks. I have also found that each episode re-opens memories of previous losses, which I have then needed to process again. in the almost four years since I got sober, I have lost my father, my mother in law, and now my father in law. I am so very tired of grief and its after-tremors. it is familiar and yet hurts afresh each time.
earlier this week my husband went away for a few days to see his father. between 8pm and 10pm on the evening he was away, I needed to separately help each of my teenagers with a different urgent and important issue. I was so profoundly grateful that I was sober and present and able to do so.
there have been no urges whatsoever to drink. the opposite in fact – like an anti-craving – thoughts have come into my head of how glad I am to be sober and on a more stable emotional keel so that I am better able to be with the feelings and let them flow through me and on. some of those feelings are angry ones, and that is ok, too.
one last resource to pass on: the book ‘Grief Works’ by Julia Samuel. in that book she recommends a grief techniques ‘package’ which I thought might also work well for handling the overwhelming feelings of early sobriety. she says:
‘A package of techniques can work well if practised regularly. The following takes about an hour to complete:
- ten minutes writing in a journal about everything swirling around inside you
- twenty minutes running (I would say a brisk walk would do just as well!)
- ten minutes meditating (you could try Headspace or the Calm app)
- twenty minutes reading or watching something funny.’
my final thought is that any adverse circumstance, such as a loss, can help us to see our own life in its true perspective. I want to cling onto that clarity and use it to see further into what I want to make of my own future and that of my family.