My morning begins at 6am with a walk/jog around my local park. It's not the biggest park but hey, it's a green space in the middle of a city, I'll take what I can get!
The park is also right next door to a pretty large cemetery.
You're probably thinking, "jeez, how depressing!".
On the contrary, I find it fills me with nothing but ease and appreciation.
Five years ago, the most devastating time of my life began.
I lost three members of my immediate family in just three years and all at the ripe, young age of 24. I was in the final year of my degree, breaking up with my boyfriend and essentially, homeless. I thought my life was over. I spiralled into a pit of despair and self-loathing, as though for some reason, it was all my fault.
It has taken me six years and a hell of a lot of dedication but, I am slowly becoming the person I once was. In fact, I'm becoming more than I once was. A new, improved version of myself that's not only able to appreciate the experiences I've had, but also use them to inspire new beginnings and be mindful of how fragile our existence really is.
How did I do it?
I knew that if I didn't reframe how I was dealing with my grief, it was going to swallow me whole. Something needed to change, I just didn't know what at the time. I felt so much pain that I couldn't see the wood through the trees.
Seeking a professional doesn't mean that you are weak. It shows your strength of character. You are able to recognise when you need help and you're not afraid to ask for it. In the beginning, I wasn't even able to identify the feelings that I was experiencing. I needed someone to hold my hand in order to be brave enough to face the maze that is my own mind ( and that which we so eagerly avoid! ).
• Be kind
In the first instance, to yourself. In the second instance, to those around you. Forgive yourself for feeling useless, or like there was more that you could have done. There isn't, it's a fact of life. Forgive those around you for thinking or at least behaving like their grief is worse than yours. And forgive the deceased for leaving you all alone. But don't ignore that you have these feelings. Feel them, and then let them go. Harbouring any notion of anger or guilt will only stop you from living the life you deserve.
• Live a life worth celebrating
To be brutally honest, I went through a stage of questioning why I was even alive. The only thing that got me through it was questioning my dreams, desires and motivations. Try to listen to your gut - what do you really want to do with your life? What makes you happy? And then, slowly but surely, take small steps towards those dreams each day.
So, what did I learn?
If there wasn't something to be learnt from this experience, it would have all been for nothing.
• Be guided by your morals
It wasn't until my dad passed away that I realised how strong his morals were and how he stuck to them no matter what the situation. If you can, figure out what yours are and use them to guide you. You'll immediately feel more in control of your life. If nothing else, trust your gut.
• Stand up for yourself
It's not always the best thing to shy away from confrontation. You might think you're doing it for an easy life, but eventually, it will prove to be the opposite. This is not permission for you to fly off the handle every chance you get ( seek anger management if that's the case ), but if someone enters your life and is looking to disturb the peace, let them know it won't be stood for. Set your boundaries and stick to them.
• It doesn't get easier
Over time, you just get better at managing how you feel. It doesn't happen overnight and it takes a lot of hard work, but if you work on the above points and live a life that makes you proud you will feel happier. I like to think I'm making them proud - doing things that, for one reason or another, they were unable to do.
• Death is for the living
"We have separated ourselves from what death can teach us", Arianna Huffington - well, not me. Death was thrust upon me leaving me confused and alone. I soon realised that it is death that gives our life purpose. Only the living are concerned with death. If we allow it, death gives us a renewed commitment to enjoy life, every day. It reminds us that we're not that different after all. We are, in fact, exactly the same. Or, as my dad would say, "You go out the same way you came in", a quote from his favourite country singer Big Tom.
I hope you can understand now that walking past rows and rows of headstones each morning reminds me that the pain my family members once suffered is now over. The only pain that is being felt is by those left living. It also reminds me that it doesn't need to be that way. We can choose to celebrate the lives of those that have passed on and remember to live a life worth celebrating each and every day.