Allow breathing space and expect fluctuations in mood and perspective. The bereaved work overtime. Not only is life more complicated, but all energy is siphoned into mental and emotional resolution. Grieving is nature’s way of healing the mind and heart from the greatest injury of all. Allow yourself the privilege of limping till your wounds have healed and you can learn to run again.

~ written by Jeanette Hendel, Bereavement Magazine, Nov/Dec 1989 ~

After a two week holiday over the Christmas and New Year period, I returned to work last Monday (8 January 2007). Unfortunately, I hadn’t even started to unwind and relax.

On the Sunday night, I couldn’t sleep. Remember when you were young and the excitement about some new event the next day would be so overwhelming that your small body refused to quieten and you would toss and turn all night, waiting for the big event. That’s what happened to me, except it wasn’t from excitement, it was from dread.

On Monday, I walked into the office with a heavy heart and a foggy mind. I sat at my desk and felt like bursting into tears. I looked around me and thought, “Another year … of this. How depressing.”

On Tuesday, after a second sleepless night, I sat at that same desk planning my resignation. The rational me kept saying …

  • What about the great location?
  • What about your great bosses?
  • What about your great workmates?
  • What about the actual job? I thought you liked it.

The other side of me was louder, and it said:

  • I don’t want to be here.

I didn’t resign.

On Wednesday, I burst into tears around 9.30am for no apparent reason. The emotions were so strong within me that I couldn’t push them aside. I couldn’t stop them. I paced my office in despair. I ignored the constant phone calls. I grew angry with myself because I couldn’t gain control of myself. It became so bad that I had to leave the office. I couldn’t even talk to tell anyone where I was going…let alone why.

On Thursday, I burst into tears again. In fact, I sobbed and sobbed. Again, I left the office and sat in my car feeling desperate. When I got home that afternoon, I stepped over the threshold into the house and broke down again. It was so unexpected that Gary went into a frenzy, not knowing what had happened, thinking the worst, he was so worried.

On Friday morning, I didn’t even manage to sit at my desk before the tears started flowing again. The workmate who had asked me how I was probably regretted speaking to me at all. It was obvious that I wasn’t alright. An hour later, my boss asked me another question and I burst into tears again.

Luckily for me, and everyone else, I had an appointment with my councillor at lunchtime. Fully aware that she was watching my every move, noting down on her pad my edginess, my extreme behaviour, my forgetfulness, I related important events that had been troubling me. And there are so many other events that have happened this week, that I didn’t mention, that have contributed to making my life a living hell.

It’s been almost 8 months since the world lost Barry, since I lost him. You would think that after this amount of time, life would start to get easier. I feel as if it’s getting harder.

It’s like trying to see over the edge of a fence which is too high. You hold on with your fingertips and pull yourself up to peer over. At first, you can do it. It’s not easy, but you manage to find the strength. But after a while, your determination wavers, your fingers start to ache, and pain develops in your arms, legs, back and neck. You struggle to hold on, and keep looking, but eventually you feel like letting go. You need to let go.

I feel like letting go. I have tried and tried to hold on, but I’m exhausted and I want to let go and find some release from the constant pain.

My councillor recognised this and asked me the following question:

“If you were allowed to have one thing on a wish list that was guaranteed to come true, what would it be?”

To have Barry back was my first thought, but I knew she meant in the realm of the living, so I didn’t give that answer directly. I replied, “Apart from the one thing I would really want, but I know I can’t have…”

She nodded.

“I want and need a long break,” I said.

“How long?”

“At least three months.”

“Then we have to find a way for you to have three months off work.”

Just like that. She told me that if I needed time off, people would understand. It wasn’t a sign of weakness. She said that if I didn’t have the days owing to me then I would qualify for Sickness Allowance considering everything I’ve been through and the level of my stress. She told me that she would be highly surprised to hear that my bosses would be surprised by this need.

At the beginning of the week, I had thought of resigning from a good job, because I need to let go and find relaxation for a while. The added pressure of working isn’t helping me. The people I deal with are good, but I feel as if I’m doing damage to the business, because my lack of tolerance is deepening. I don’t care. That’s not their fault, it’s mine. I know that. But who will be the person who ends up having to face a mad woman on the phone – a woman who has blown her top completely. I know that if I don’t do something now, then this is going to happen. I can feel the pressure tightening and building within me every day.

The quote at the beginning of this long post is important advice. “Allow breathing space and expect fluctuations in mood and perspective.” Whilst in some ways I’m improving in my grief, in other ways I’m slipping deeper into…what? I don’t really know. I haven’t reached it yet. That pressure cooker has exploded once (maybe I’ll share that story with you one day) and it was a day when Daniel saw a side of his mother he never knew existed and I saw a side of myself that should never be allowed out again. If I don’t take control of my future…and soon…I fear that woman might become a permanent resident within this body.

Tomorrow I will find out how many days I have owing me and then it will be time to make a decision.