The Grief Recovery Handbook Saved My Life
Posted on 15th May 2018 at 11:03
In 2006 my husband Kevin died aged 41 from the most curable form of cancer. When his life ended so did my world. When people said (trying to be helpful) 'he’s out of pain', I’d look at them in dumb shock. On a bad moment I’d reply “lucky him, mine has just got unbearable.”
How I could still be alive and in so much pain? I wouldn’t let myself think of continuing to live with this pain and without him, I started to exist from moment to moment, these were the darkest days of my life. I remember sitting on the harbour wall in Malta at Christmas – I’d fled there to try to escape – leaning forward and contemplating letting go and falling in.
I couldn't cure my grief alone
It was only the thought of the impact that would have on my Mum that stopped me.
Luckily for me I’m not the sort of person who waits for problems to solve themselves and I realised I couldn’t do this alone – I needed help so I started researching. Instinctively I knew that grief is not an illness so I wasn’t looking for a pill – I wanted some tools to help myself move forward so I tried lots and lots of things. Some helped for a few hours, some for a few days so I kept looking although I wasn’t clear on what it would be. Then chance intervened.
In 2007 I was on Amazon looking for a book that might help and read a review that said “this book is OK but it’s not as good as the Grief Recovery Handbook” so of course I ordered a copy.
In those days all I could get was a used copy which came from the USA. When it finally arrived 3 weeks later (do you know how long 3 weeks is when you are grieving? Flipping forever!) I took my cup of tea, some snacks and sat down and began to read.
Twelve pages in I already knew this book was different. Most books on grief are stories of other people’s pain. Which is OK in helping you realise you’re not weird for feeling how you feel, but for me reading about more pain wasn’t doing anything to reduce my pain. In fact it was the opposite - I found it oppressive.
I found I was nodding along to all the comments & ideas in the handbook.
Finally, something that made sense
Finally, something made sense of the planet I’d landed on since Kev died and it inched me back closer to Earth. I am convinced reading the book in its entirety saved my sanity. However, it is written as a self-help book and those Amazon reviews all urged that to get the real benefit you had to “do” the book. So I decided to follow its instructions and take the actions. There were no Grief Recovery Specialists in the UK as far as I could tell so I found a friend who’d also experienced a (very different) loss and we did the work together.
I cannot begin to describe the weight that was lifted off me when I completed the book, the anger I’d felt at Kevin for essentially dying of refusing to go for a check up of a bleeding mole, disappeared. I found I could remember all of our relationship – the good, the bad, the mundane, without that stab of agony. Yes, still deeply sad he was gone but my heart finally was peaceful.
Knowing what to do with future loss
This time three years ago I was planning my Mother’s funeral. She was 84, had as good a death as possible (she died at home surrounded by loved ones) I missed her hugely and was intensely sad. All grief is unique just as all relationships are unique. I did notice that, unlike when Kev died and when my Dad died and various other loss there was no pain. I also realised I don’t have the words to describe the difference between intense sadness and pain. But there is one, I wouldn’t have believed it had I not experienced it. The key difference was that by the time Mum died, I’d adopted the lessons of Grief Recovery into my everyday life and those tools meant that I was much closer to Mum while she was alive, made sure I’d said everything I needed to say so that when she died I wasn’t left with all those unrealised hopes, dreams and expectations; the would haves, should haves, could haves, if onlys & whys that cause the pain and keep us stuck on the hamster wheel of grief.
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