When you’re a kid, you assume that your family will be around forever, then one day you grow up and they die. I’m not going to lie to you; I’m not the same person since their deaths. I’m angrier and less tolerant of BS.
My parents died from cancer, and my brother died from a drug and alcohol overdose. The three of them died within a five-year period, and in retrospect I should have gone to therapy. Instead I decided to deal with my grief through vitriolic Facebook statuses and binge-drinking. I was crying out for help, and it felt as if nobody could hear my screams.
It took me a decade to come to terms with the loss. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a struggle, but I continue to put one foot in front of the other. Below are four things that I’ve learnt throughout my journey.
1. I am stronger than I think.
I didn’t believe that I could go on without my mother. She was my soul-mate and best friend; I could not envisage life without her. But here I am, a decade later — still breathing. Whenever I’m finding life difficult, I remember my mother stuck in a wheelchair, unable to walk or talk due to a brain tumor growing over her motor section. I have no right to whinge about anything, and every time I remind myself of this, I tap into my strength.
When you lose your loved ones, you realize how fleeting life is. I keep a gratitude journal, and every day with my first cup of tea, I write down 10 things that I am grateful for. I’ve found that life is more fulfilling when I am grateful. I wasn’t always a grateful person. I took my life for granted. I took my parents and brother for granted. Everything is temporary. I choose to be grateful for everything I have now.
3. Follow your dreams.
The death of my loved ones has definitely given me a fierce determination; I use the anger as fuel to push myself. People make excuses for why they don’t follow their dreams.
“I’ll do it when I retire.”
“I’ll do it when the kids grow up.”
“I’ll do it when I lose weight.”
“I’ll do it when I have more money.”
They treat life as if it’s interminable, then suddenly they’re on their deathbed with a bunch of regrets. I have followed my dreams from day dot, and I will continue to follow them until I expire.
4. Being present in the moment.
How often do we have lunch with a friend and continually check our phone?
How often do you see people at a sports tournament uploading photos to Facebook instead of watching the game?
People are more concerned with how their life looks than how their life feels. I’m conscious of how much time I spend texting, emailing or checking social media. I have regular internet breaks and detoxes. Social media is a time vacuum. I don’t know about you, but I want to appreciate life and the people I choose to spend it with — in real time.
In conclusion, I would like to think that I have grown into a person that my parents and brother would be proud of. They haven’t really left though; I carry them within my heart.
The most vital thing about loss is that we learn lessons from it, and I have.