Since my fathers passing I have been blessed to have been shown unending support and compassion from those around me. Not only my friends and family, but complete strangers have taken the time to stop and offer their condolences and words of comfort.
That has been wonderful and I am truly touched by just how positive their words have been. In a world of media sometimes overwhelmed with negativity, it has been very refreshing to literally feel the love of others. I am very grateful for that.
Of course the obvious questions have been "How are you?" or "How are you coping?" The obligatory response is of course one of "I'm fine", "Doing OK", or "Muddling on" but it made me actually stop and think? How am I coping? How am I?
The honest answer is up and down.
I fully expected to be grieving, I fully expected to carry on with a strong heart, I fully expected to have times of complete overwhelming sorrow, and I have felt all of those things, sometimes those emotions hitting almost concurrently.
I have others depending on me to be okay, depending on me to be strong and for those people, I do my very best. My dad would have expected nothing less.
But how have I done that? Well its personal to me but I hope it may help anyone going through any form of bereavement, loss or emotional time.
Obviously the lion's share of my life has been dedicated to training, pushing my body to its physical limits and enduring all that comes with that lifestyle. Not only has this always helped me stay in shape, it has also helped me keep a clear head, to focus my mind when all around me may be chaotic. This, thankfully, has served me well in the last month.
It is well documented that working out, training, eating healthy is good for the body but let me assure you it is also an incredible way of dealing with any external stresses you may face. The endorphins released when living an active lifestyle really do help to push stress from the body and mind, help you feel calmer and simply put - better.
I would encourage anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by external pressures and sadness to take up or increase the amount of exercise you are doing, if you can. Speak to your GP, find something that works for you, even if it's a 20 minute daily walk, or gentle workout to start with to really get those endorphins flowing. The blustery weather is fantastic for clearing the cobwebs with a walk and really helps to reconnect you with the world.
This goes hand in hand by what you put into your body. Healthy eating, we know, is important. But when you are in the depths, struggling to find your way, grabbing fast food for a quick fix is easy. As well as the nutritional benefits, by taking time to think about, prepare and cook fresh good food, that act in itself does wonders for giving your mind a little time out, a little refocus and helps to calm whatever else may be pressing. Find the time, make time, as this is about doing something positive for you and how you feel.
I have spoken to so many parents or carers, who feel guilty for putting themselves first when it comes to taking time out of their day to exercise, in whatever form that takes. I reiterate that in order to be your best self for everyone else you need to start by being your best self for you first. Not only will you benefit from the exercise physically, but your self-esteem, confidence and inner calm will all increase too.
I am just as prone to allowing external influences to get to me as anyone. My dad's death made me question my own mortality, what I was doing and where I was going in my own life. When that happens the ego tends to take over. I hit the gym and saw a young fit 25-year-old working himself hard and the ego decided that I could match him, weight for weight, bout for bout. This is where the ego took a reality check. I injured myself purely to prove to others and myself that I was still in the same shape I always had been.
So the reality is no I'm not the same, I have evolved. I am striving to be the best version of me, physically, emotionally and mentally. This does not mean being "better" than anyone else, simply the best I can be now, for me and for those who are important.
If my dad taught me anything it was to be strong, to take care of others as well as myself, and to keep going. Not to allow what others expect of me to take over what it really means to be myself.
So that is exactly what I am doing. Death is an evolution of the soul, a new start. It changes how we look at things and how we deal with what is important.
How am I? I'm OK, but I am only going to be better.