“And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief.” – C.S. Lewis
Grief has hit me in many ways, but the one I was least prepared for is the tiredness which floored me these past few weeks. For months I’ve been pushing through the stresses of daily life, carrying my family and caring for everyone else but myself. I’m not resentful of that, far from it – I am grateful that I had the chance to look after my husband as much as I could and be there for him fully in the last moments of his life.
It’s a privilege I guess which comes with the diagnosis of a terminal illness. You have that time to deal with the end of your loved one’s life while he or she is still there. I suppose you could say that my grief began when we were told there was nothing that could be done for Roger, and because of that I had him there, holding my hand and comforting me when I was at my lowest points.
Now he’s gone, my body is left in a state of shock and doesn’t really know how to adjust and carry on. From the outside, it might look like I’m coping, carrying on with daily life as best I can as really, what else can I do? But inside, I am exhausted, feeling unable to cope with simple tasks and craving time and space to think things through.
I’m been lucky enough to have a bit of that time now, as Sam has gone back to school and Florence is with her childminder three days a week. It’s given me a bit of breathing space and time to just process things a bit without the constant questions and demands of young children. My neighbours will probably tell you that my nerves just can’t take anymore when it comes to about the 5pm mark…
After our holiday to Filey I managed to get a few days and nights straight all on my own, something which can’t have happened for years. I stopped off at my parents’ house on the way home and the kids stayed there for a couple of days while I had some time at home. I have to say much as I missed them, I really made the most of the lie-ins, the time to cook and eat good food, a break from the non-stop tidying up which comes with little ones and most of all, the silence.
I could sit in my house, drink tea when I liked, get up when I liked, even leave the house when I liked! Simple things like being able to go out to the supermarket at 6pm are a perk of being child-free, or just watching TV at anytime before 9pm. I even started watching a film while eating my dinner one night, oh the luxury!
It’s simple things like this I think that are key to helping me relax a little and try to deal with some of the tiredness of my grief. I’ve just been reading up on whether this fatigue is normal. Despite knowing that whatever feelings I have will be normal, I am still comforted by finding out that tiredness is a stage of grieving which helps your body to cope. It’s your body’s way of slowing you down, making you look after yourself and deal with the physical aspects of pain.
I know I’ve quoted CS Lewis before but bear with me – I found this line which is from the book A Grief Observed which I have just started to read – “And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief.”
For me it goes some way to explain how the exhaustion I’m feeling is normal. And to be told that what you’re feeling is ‘normal’ is a sure way to make you feel better. Every page of the book so far has been a comfort, and I would say if you are in a position where you need to read something like this I would really recommend it. Lewis wrote it after the death of his wife, and it’s described as his way of trying to ‘argue out his grief’.
I also read this in an article I found helpful from American therapist Karla Helbert – ‘Sadly, though nearly all of us will experience the death of someone we love, and the pain that follows, very rarely does anyone tell us what to expect.’
So hopefully by talking about our own experiences of grief, we can help those who are yet to go through it, and also try to tell ourselves that whatever we are feeling, it is, in fact, normal.
Many people have said to me that grief comes in waves, and that is certainly how I’m experiencing it. As time moves on and I’m able to reach more of an acceptance of what has happened, it’s sometimes the unlikeliest of times when I feel that pain in my heart.
Walking by the beach, I wonder why I can’t walk with him. Waiting at the school gates I suddenly feel I need him there with me, and often wonder if he’s there, watching me, seeing how I am and looking out for me.
So if I seem happy I probably am, in that moment, managing to feel slightly normal. But I’m a long way off my ‘normal’ self and really do wonder if I will ever get back there. I’m told things will get better, but they’ll never be as they were, just different. It’s this different state that I suppose I’ll just have to get used to.