I said to a friend the other day that it didn’t feel like much happened in my life in 2019. After the shock and despair of 2018 there was certainly nothing so dramatic (I am, of course, grateful for no such lows). She countered and said I’d had an eventful year of travel, which is true. I also see 2019 as a period of healing.
I had therapy and made a point of seeking out things that soothed my mind, soul and body. I’m not saying I feel healed or that I am no longer grieving. That is most certainly not the case. I have come to realise that mine is a type of loss that you never completely heal from. More so, you learn how to live with it and how you need to live your life for it to mostly be OK. I feel that I have gone quite far down the road in working out what I need to do to get to that place. And, hugely importantly for me, what I need to do to get the kids to that place.
2019 in Review
I’m going to do a separate 2019 Travel post otherwise it would take over this post. We went away for every school holiday last year and more. We started 2019 on a road trip to Bath then onto to Newquay. Then to Manchester visiting friends and family in February. Easter took us to Disneyland Paris for a blow out of 5 days Mickey-style. The anniversary of Andy’s death fell in the May half-term holiday. We went to Norfolk that week and scattered his ashes. In the summer we had two camping weekends with different friends. We don’t tend to venture too far for camping trips, the first one was in Hertfordshire and the second one was to Mersea Island in Essex.
We also had a week in the beautiful Lake District with friends then headed off on a trip to Croatia organised by the ‘Single Parents on Holiday’ company. In October we went on a residential trip to a PGL site with the Grief Encounter charity. In the half-term we had another Eurostar adventure, this time to Amsterdam. We had a night at the Legoland Hotel in Windsor followed by a day at Lapland UK in November. 2019 ended like it began, on a road trip in the south west. We visited Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
It was escape, it was exciting, something to look forward to and life affirming. And expensive. I am reigning in our travel plans this year but we still have a few awesome things to look forward to.
Therapy & Support
I had 8 sessions of 1-1 therapy with an NHS counsellor. I also had a couple of other sessions with a private counsellor whilst I was on the NHS waiting list. The private counsellor was not nearly such good a fit for me as the NHS one. The sessions were fundamental in helping me come to terms with my loss and build my strength for my life as it is now.
We’ve also been to several workshops and a residential with the amazing Grief Encounter charity. The charity supports bereaved children and their families. The three of us find comfort in spending time with others in our situation.
Health & Fitness
I’ve been working out with a Personal Trainer since May. He’s great, he knows how to push me and make the experience as fun as possible. We often end the session with boxing which is just the best thing for getting anger out. I still love walking and being outside though don’t get to do this as often. I’ve also been having regular aromatherapy massages for my super tense shoulders, practising meditation and trying to chill and get enough sleep.
My sleep patterns are still all over the place and I often have two periods of sleep with a period of around two hours awake in the middle. This is when the random internet shopping occurs. I know it’s bad to be looking at my phone so I’m trying to read instead. I have no idea whether this is age, learned behaviour (Imogen always gets up in the night), hormones, grief or what.
Art & Culture
This has been a key part of my healing strategy. I probably did as many gallery and museum visits last year than in the last five years put together. Every other week or so I escape into London for day, hit up an exhibition, do a bit of shopping, meet a friend for lunch then come home in time for the end of the school day. It’s so nice to get out of surburbia and into the city. I take a lot of comfort from art. I find that artists have often suffered themselves in some way and are trying to find ways to represent big feelings such as loss or trauma or uncertainty or hope or love.
Parenting is hard anyway. Being a bereaved mum trying to do the work of two parents to bereaved children is a tough gig. You know the “fit your own mask before helping others” rule on plane? I focus on getting myself stronger is so I can be the best parent I can possibly be. Sure, I get things wrong (don’t we all) and I’m always learning.
Aside from the emotional side of losing their dad, the girls have struggled with the practical side of being a parent down. That we have to do everything together instead of one being able to stay at home whilst I take the other out. That I can only help one with their homework at a time. That I have to get babysitters if I got out in the evening. Balancing is hard and we often trip up.
In a spoiler to my 2020 plans, we are renovating our house this year. That work has been in the planning since December 2018 and took up a chunk of focus last year. I’m pleased to now be thinking about tiles and paint and not copings and steel beams. The photo is from the last renovation project we did in 2017, our bathroom. Soon to become the kids’ bathroom!
On that note, I’ve been on it with setting 2020 goals in a way I haven’t been for years. I feel optimistic and excited and a bit scared about 2020. More on that soon …
(Cover photo from Croatia, sunset over the Adriatic)