Before I start this I really want to make something clear – I’m not looking for sympathy in writing this but merely trying to put across my own personal experience in a bid to try and help others. I’ve wanted to write this blog for a while, but haven’t quite had the courage to do it, so please bear with me.
Grief, like depression, is sometimes not talked about and is still a relatively taboo subject, but I hope the more people that do open up about it, the easier it will be for others to follow suit and cope with it in whatever way they see fit.
Grief is like being KO’d by Mike Tyson; it literally leaves you on the floor, not knowing where the hell you are or how you are going to get back up. When you lose someone close to you, however it may happen, the feeling of loss and pain is quite frankly a bitch.
Easter Sunday, April 20th 2014, a day that will forever be etched into my brain, as it is the day my family’s life and mine changed forever. I’d been on an early shift at SSN. I’d been up at 3.30am so by lunchtime I was vegging on the sofa half asleep. Then a Facebook message from someone I don’t know pops up on my phone. I opened it without any thought and there before me was a message from my brother’s friend, Matt, telling me that my brother and a group of his friends had been on a bus travelling from Malaysia back to Singapore and their bus had been involved in an accident. It was raining, the bus was travelling too fast and hit the central reservation, flipping and ended up down a ravine.
I couldn’t breathe. The room was spinning. I remember staring at my phone in utter disbelief. Was this some kind of sick joke? I called Matt and then it was confirmed. My worst nightmare, Harry was dead.
After several disjointed calls with Malaysian Police, I then had to tell my parents the news. I’ll leave it there with the rest of the details as even now writing this it brings back memories that I am still not ready to revisit, but I think you get the gist.
I was lost. Days afterwards I was living in a thick fog of nothingness. Nothing made sense. That’s the thing about grief, it envelops your whole being and even though I have always used exercise as not only a way to keep fit physically but also mentally strong; I couldn’t bring myself to put one front in front of the other.
They say putting your trainers on is the hardest thing to do, never had this been so true! Even armed with the knowledge that getting some fresh air and going for a little run would help, I couldn’t.
I’m not a big talker, I know that sounds mad considering I do just that for a living, but when it comes to my emotions I am a closed book.
I was recommended so many books and articles to read on grief that it was almost overwhelming. I constantly questioned whether what I was feeling was ‘normal’ which when I think about it now is nuts.
Losing a loved one isn’t ever normal so why would your grieving processes be so? Grief is a very personal journey only you yourself can find out what really works in helping you deal, cope and come to terms with what has happened.
One of the hardest things was going back to work but there was a part of me that craved some normality, routine back in my life.
I remember that as soon as my car pulled into the car park at work, I put a smile on my face and wore it almost as a mask. It wasn’t that I didn’t want anyone talking about what happened, but I am very aware that people didn’t know how to talk to me; they didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want sympathy; I guess I just wanted to carry on as normal, or whatever normal was/is in a bid to avoid feeling the way I was feeling. Also, who wants to turn their TV on and see someone sad?!
In a way being back at work helped, I was busy, but what I wasn’t being true to was how I was really feeling. I needed to find other outlets. I tried grief and trauma counseling but really the only thing I found helpful was exercise.
I’ve always loved sport and exercise but never more so as it had a deeper meaning than just purely keeping in shape. Harry, like me, was a sport nut and loved the outdoors. That in itself helped me push myself to put my trainers back on and get out in the fresh air. I still go for runs today and talk to him, more often than not if I’m running behind someone I hear him say “Go on Anna, you can overtake him” which I make myself do. It’s little things like that that work for me.
Exercise really is a marvelous medicine, it isn’t just good for our bodies but also our minds. Even something as small as going for a brisk walk around the block can help clear your mind. I often use running or cycling as my outlet to think, process and clear my mind. On the flip side, I have found boxing to be great for the complete opposite reason. I can’t think about anything when I’m boxing, as I’m too concerned with combinations and not being punched so it actually helps to switch my mind off.
I think that what I’m trying to say is that it is so important you find whatever works for you and whatever that is, it is OK. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. For me, exercise has played a huge role in this and that’s why I feel so passionately about it.
They say time is a great healer, which is true to an extent. I still have days when I can be walking around and suddenly it hits me that I’ll never see Harry again and it is unbearable. There is definitely life before Harry and after. I have good and bad days, I think that’s just how it is and probably always will be. You never get over losing someone you love, but you do learn to live with it.
All I/we can try to do is put our best foot (trainer) forward.