I was cutting the grass today, and out of the blue, I thought of my friend who I had lost touch with years ago. I recently found out he had died along with his sister, who was also a friend of mine. As grief seems to do, I was overwhelmed by a mixture of emotions. Regret being one that I had lost touch in the first place and profound sadness that I would never be able to see him again or to tell him face to face how much I thought of him.
Many people I have loved, cared for or just had the privilege to know as a friend or in the community have died in the past 15 or so years. Varying ages and varying circumstances. Some without warning and others with time to say goodbye being gifted a few extra precious moments.
I sat, remembering them both with love and considered how grief manifests in life. The grieving process weaves its way with loss of relationships, loss of moments in time and situations you wish you could change to name a few. So many times, people forget the impact of loss of all levels. Many relate it only to the death of a person or pet.
To start grief can feel like an alien thing that is happening to you rather than is part of you. Travelling through the tornado of emotions can be exhausting and all-consuming. Relationships can change during this period as many do not know how to be around you while you are in your pain. Other times you may not share with the outside world what you are going through and therefore retreating socially.
Unprocessed grief or trauma can lead to PTSD, which is a condition that I have experienced. It is misunderstood and not discussed openly too often. It can be challenging to explain what this is, and to many, it is vastly different from person to person. From my experience, the differences come mostly from what the triggers within PTSD are. Triggers are a reaction to smell, environment, person or sound, for example. It can come out of the blue when least expecting it. The triggers can lead to body trauma, nightmares and other health conditions.
In an everyday mode, you could smell coffee brewing, for example, and it reminds you of a long lost family member. For me, Dove soap is a classic. Without fail, it reminds me of both my grandmothers and such vivid memories come into my mind with it. With PTSD however it then might lead to several symptoms including shaking, sweating, nausea and flashbacks. This can be all-consuming.
Over the years I have built on my behavioural training as a wellness guide to support others through grief either leading up to an expected loss of a loved one or after loss has occurred and also to support people who are experiencing PTSD. With support and tools it is possible learn to walk with the grief as if it is a friend rather than in fear of the next wave of pain or heartbreak. Flowing with the journey to acceptance rather than fighting it can reduce stored trauma in the body.
Today with the memory of my lovely friend, other losses came forward and settled into my heart. The familiar feeling of grief wove its way through me. I breathed in the warm air and let out a breath of love knowing that I have the tools and strength to ride the wave of loss and welcomed it in. Grief is part of my life as it is with many. It is an honour. It means I am strong, I have loved, I have known love, and I have had opportunities to learn from challenging times. It has given me the tools to support others in their trauma.
I carried on cutting the grass with my friend on my mind and a smile on my face for the happy times we had shared and deep gratitude in my heart.
Andrea Lines-Botell is a mental health advocate and life coach with a passion for dynamically supporting change.
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