How are you? I hope life has been treating you kindly and you're enjoying the sweet things of winter.
Back in July, in the midst of summer, I made a commitment to tell you my truth. (You can read more about that here.)
So, I'm going to launch right on in...
At the beginning of 2012, completely out of the blue, my beautiful mum was diagnosed with cancer. She was given treatment for it and we were told later that year, that the treatment had been successful.
As you will know if you've been reading my blog for a while, in the summer of 2013, my beautiful sister was diagnosed with cancer. You can read more about that here and here.
Just as life was starting to settle into a gentler flow of warm summery days, after my sister's chemotherapy had finished, my mum was diagnosed with cancer again this August.
My beautiful mum died in October, just over a month ago, ten weeks after her diagnosis in August.
My mum and I were very close.
For the past few months since my mum's diagnosis and her subsequent death, I have been feeling immense grief.
The past couple of years have been an intense journey for my dad, my sister and I. A journey where we have become much more intimately acquainted with cancer and the effects it has on individuals and families. It has been and continues to be extremely challenging.
Grief is a strange thing. Not one emotion but a combination of many different emotions. Each taking their turn to be felt.
I have been left with choices about what I do with what has happened. And I find myself stepping tentatively along a path where the world looks and feels different and strange, and "normal" isn't normal any more.
There are some things that I am learning as I go along. Things that matter and have become the bedrock on which I am building a new normal in a world without my mum, a world which contains cancer, and loss and messiness, alongside beauty, huge love and immense kindness.
I'd like to share with you those things that The Universe is teaching me. That I'm doing my best to learn.
Lessons From The Universe
1. Emma, above and beyond all other things, it's important to look for the beauty in small things.
When life hurts, and you feel like your heart is breaking, it's important to bring things down to their smallest common denominator. Look for the beauty in small, simple things. A warm blanket that you can snuggle in, a soft pillow where you can lay your head for a while and rest, a cat to hold while you listen to it purring, a hot bath to ease your tired, stressed muscles. Grief causes tension and it's important to be especially kind to yourself as you're feeling it.
2. Emma, let yourself be loved by the people in your life who want to love and help you.
Letting someone help you is giving that person an opportunity to show you how much they love you, and even though it can be monumentally difficult to do, be courageous enough to really let people love you. It's easy to dismiss an offer of help for fear of putting someone out, to deflect a compliment, to reply with "I'm fine" when people ask you how you're doing. Don't. Tell the truth about how you're feeling, what you need and what you don't need. Allow the people who love you to show you their love with their actions. Let people help you.
3. Don't judge what you're feeling or how you're expressing what you're feeling.
People deal with loss and grief differently. Some people cry a lot. Some people don't. Some people feel angry and frustrated. Other people feel confused and isolated.
Emma, it's OK to feel what you feel and to let yourself feel it without judging yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you feel.
4. Stay in the moment.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed when you experience a loss like this. To feel disorientated and confused. Try not to project into the future and grow frightened of what's around the next corner. Live in the present moment, which is ultimately all anyone ever has, and make that moment matter by doing the "next right thing".
Even if doing the next right thing is climbing into bed, pulling the duvet over your tired head and sleeping.
All you have to do, Emma, is listen to your heart and gut, and you will know what you need to do in this moment to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself.
All of those small moments of being kind to yourself and following your heart will add up to hours, then a day, then days, then weeks, of doing all the things you need to do to take care of yourself, and move through this grief.
All you need to do is listen, in this moment, to what you need to do next, and then gently do it, without pushing yourself, or judging yourself.
Always remembering that, sometimes, the next right thing to do is "nothing".
5. Trust that you will not always feel like this.
Emma, when you're in the midst of feeling such immense sadness and loss, it can feel all-consuming. The world can feel a little bit broken and life can feel as if it's lost it's sparkle.
Trust me when I tell you that you won't always feel like this. Your heart will heal and you will laugh huge great belly laughs again. Sooner than you think.
6. Life is made up of contrasts.
You appreciate warmth, Emma, because you have experienced cold. You soar with joy because you've had times where you've been metaphorically face down in the mud. You are experiencing huge grief at the moment, and there will be a time where you feel huge happiness and connection, and will appreciate it with a new intensity, because you have felt the depth of grief you are feeling now. Life is full of contrasts, and part of living life to the full is experiencing all of those contrasts.
7. You are not broken.
Losing your mum hurts deeply, but you are not broken. If you can allow yourself to feel the full weight of your grief with your heart wide open, you will know what it means to be present.
As Leonard Cohen said "There's a crack, a crack in everything, it's how the light gets in."
8. You're doing better than you think.
Emma, you're doing brilliantly. Be gentle with yourself. You are enough.
So, these are the things I'm learning. That the Universe is teaching me.
I know none of us get through life without experiencing huge grief and loss. If you are experiencing great loss right now, I'm sending you huge love.
Bonkers Betty is doing everything she can to make sure I know I'm loved (including sitting on my shoulder and shouting in my ear. For a small cat, she can make a lot of noise.)
The painting "Embrace the Beauty of Small Things" is one I did a while ago and didn't get round to posting. I'll put it in the "Free Glitter" section for you. A small gift from me to you, with love.
P.S. We raised £535 for Cancer Research UK. The winners of the prize draw were Rashell, Liza and Annie, who have all been notified that they were the winners. Thank you so much for all your support. It has an added importance and poignancy for me now. Em x