When Benjamin died everything fell apart. I couldn’t do anything. I felt completely useless. The smallest of tasks felt impossible. I might as well have been trying to climb Mount Everest. In my previous life I was a high functioning, achievement-orientated person who had to be in control of everything. Forward planning was my speciality. I loved organising. My use of spreadsheets to track holiday itineraries was a familiar joke amongst Merv’s family. The shock and tremendous loss associated with Benjamin’s death, however, felt like it had destroyed me in the early days.
Most days I couldn’t get out of bed. I would just lie there and cry for hours on end. Eating was optional. Merv had to semi-force feed me just so I could take my post-surgery medication. I was having a good day if I got out of bed and had a shower. I knew that this was normal but I still really struggled with it. It felt like a loss of identity for me. People kept telling me to be kind to myself, to take things easy, one day at a time. All of these things were easier said than done.
What I wanted was somebody to tell me how to start again. What I wanted was somebody to tell me how to get through a day. It is all well and good telling me to take it one day at a time but how exactly do I do this? There are 24 hours in a day – what am I supposed to do with them? My old life was destroyed. I couldn’t just pick back up my daily routine. I was on maternity leave but I had no baby. I couldn’t go back to work because I was a mess. What next???
I felt I needed to regain some semblance of control over my life. I needed some goals, some structure, and some motivation to make me feel a bit normal. And so came the idea of “wins”. A win meant that I did something, anything in a day that could be considered productive. I started small. My first win was blow-drying my hair. For something that used to be a normal, daily task now felt like such an achievement. I had been going around looking a little like Worzel Gummidge (if you don’t know who this is it is worth a Google). All I needed was the swelling around my eyes from the constant crying to go down and I would have looked like a semi-normal human being.
Next on the list was eating a full meal. My Mum and Mother-in-law watched me intently at every meal. I would hear them whispering to each other about whether I had eaten anything that day and how I was getting very skinny. I just didn’t care. I didn’t care if I was losing weight. I didn’t care about anything. I could only think of my boy and how he wasn’t with me. When I finally ate a full meal the relief was written all over their faces. I was praised as if I was a 5 year old who had just finished all the vegetables on their plate. The funny thing was that I was probably as pleased with myself as that 5 year old would have been.
The wins were slow at first. I seemed to get stuck on blow-drying my hair and eating a full meal for quite a few weeks. It was very difficult when Merv went back to work too. I knew that having him to myself for 5 weeks had been as good as I could have expected. The thought of facing the days on my own, however, was frightening. My little win system would be more important than ever. As the weeks passed by the wins gathered momentum – cooking, making the bed, washing the clothes. All the things that most people take for granted were helping me to re-integrate into life.
Now almost 3 months into this journey these wins are giving me some much needed structure in my day. They are helping me to heal. The wins have even extended to me exploring my hobbies again – writing, reading and drawing. Things that I have not done since I was a teenager. I am back up on my bike and training with my friends. I even get to start running in a few weeks. My biggest win of all came last week – I had my first day without crying. Not one tear was shed for an entire day. It only took 11 weeks.
Much like the grief, however, there are good days and bad days. I try to take it easy on myself on the days when I don’t achieve much or have no wins. I’m still early on in the healing process after all. For now it is just important to try.