Grief – what does it feel like?

Well, my plan to revive the blog went well didn’t it?! 12 months of nada. What can I say, life happened. I feel sporadically guilty that I should be sharing said life, but then well, life happens again. And I don’t.

Our hectic life is still happily nomadic; countrybebe is now a strapping 5yo, ensconced in school and his 21mo baby brother is a walking/talking whirlwind. We are still flitting back and forward to France every 6 weeks and plan to spend 2 months there this summer getting the next traunch of renovations done (I will update you – I promise!).

So, what’s prompted the reprive? Next week is 2 years since we lost my mummy and it’s got me thinking about the ever-shifting feeling, intensity and emotion that is grief. Then I read this and it summed it up so eloquently. Left simply as a comment on a bereavement post by ‘oldguy’:

what grief feels like

I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not.

I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents…

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.

Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

How amazing is that? When my parents first died I used to want to scream when people would say ‘time’s a healer’, or ‘the pain will lessen with time’. Part of you never wants to feel ‘less’, because that lessening signals a letting go, or an exceptance of something that will never be ‘ok’. However, a few years down the line I get it. I am still routinely floored by their loss, but it *does* come in waves rather than a constant battering. I do live my life in between those waves and I am definitely learning to weather the storm.

I know grief is really hard to articulate and can feel so internal and private, but if you want to share any comments below, or any other passages that helped you come to terms with grief, I’d love to hear them.

she-stood-in-the-stormCF x

I’m back!

Long time no see huh?

Where to begin…. I’ve been umming and ahhing about how to ‘relaunch’ Countryfille. But before I move forward, I can’t launch back into waffling posts on make-up and my favourite cake recipe without detailing my near 2-year hiatus, so let me fill you in…

Since my last post we have been through the best of times and the worst of times… to summarise: we lost my mum to stage 4 Ovarian cancer last summer, just a short 7 weeks before CountryBebe #2 made an appearance. In the last six months I can safely say almost every emotion on the spectrum has been covered: grief, anger, loss, acute joy, determination and my current status? Hope. Hope that the last three years are a chapter I can now move on from; battle-weary, inherently changed, but determined not to be defined by the horrors I have witnessed. It’s all too easy to get ‘stuck’ in the dark cloak of grief, to wallow under its heavy burden. Until that is, something or someone jolts you out of it…

I distinctly remember the moment, sitting on the sofa holding my 4 day old son, Raffaele Francesco Mansi, and feeling a stutter. Like an old piece of machinery spluttering into life, a flicker of happiness jolted to life in my chest. An emotion so alien to me after nearly two years of caring for, losing and grieving for my parents, it made me realise how long it had truly been since I had felt it. Too long. An emotion that was a daily norm ‘before’ had now become so foreign to me that when I did feel it, I almost didn’t know how to react – guilt? Was I allowed to be happy when both my parents were dead? Confusion? Can you be happy and still sad at the same time?

Gah. Who knows. I certainly still haven’t figured it all out yet. Maybe I never will. All I know is that those happy milestones – birthdays, first steps, school awards – they all now come with a bitter sweet edge. Yes, I wish my parents were here to witness all that life with two brilliant little boys brings, but more than anything I’ve realised I AM HERE to witness them – and it’s about time I started making the most of that.

So, like a neglected muscle, I’ve spent the last 7 months ‘flexing my happiness’. Taking time out with my two boys to slow down, watch the Disney movies on the sofa under a duvet, get muddy in the woods and sit on the beach contemplating our next chapter.

More on that tomorrow… Until then, here are a few snaps (indulge me…)

raffy France Jan 2016Mr. Raffaele Francesco Mansi, aged 5 months

2015-12-22 09.43.13The original Countrybebe, who has turned from my pudgy, sweet little toddler into a hilarious, too wise for his years, 4.5 yo. The grief of the last 2 years hasn’t past him by… he is more anxious than any little boy should be, but we are working on that. In the meantime, Lego and Thomas the Tank Engine continue to rock his world.

2015-09-20 14.57.07-1Two sons! It still feels like rubbing your tummy whilst patting your head, slightly drunk and with your eyes closed – but I’m slowly getting the hang of it!

CF Review: Bodyism Serenity supplement for some serious beauty sleep

I’ve written a couple of posts now about coping with grief, and while I don’t wish for that to become my focus for Countryfille.com, I thought a couple of practical, helpful ‘coping device’ style posts might help others going through the grieving process, or even those dealing with serious stress at the moment.

So, I’ve written a little about my bedtime routine, thanks to Aromatherapy Associates brilliant Inner Strength bath oil and the next step that has truly helped me combat stress-induced insomnia is Bodyism’s Serenity supplement.

I have a history of stress related insomnia – namely after a night-time car accident – so it was no surprise that in the last few months, sleep hasn’t come easily.

My main tip for anyone deal with grief is don’t try and stop yourself crying during the day. ‘Staying strong’ and ‘being brave’ are all very well but it’s got to come out sometime and if you put it off you will get into bed and howl. And I did. With a very bewildered toddler around, plus the practicalities of hospital visits, phone calls and juggling everyday life on top, I found myself getting into bed at night, turning off the light, and being flooded by a wave of tears. Learning to take some time alone during the day – a quiet 5 minutes sat in the garden, even a good 10-minute cry sat in the car in the hospital car park – it all helped to release some of that sorrow I was storing up for bedtime.

Another thing that really help, which I approached with a ‘well, it can’t hurt can it?’ skepticism is Bodyism’s Serenity supplement. While I truly love James Duigan’s brand and it’s ‘clean and lean’ ethos, I never thought something so natural could deliver such calm, restful sleep.

The chocolate drink (made with raw cacao powder for a huge hit of antioxidants) is a really cleverly balanced blend of herbs and minerals, each added for their specific snooze-inducing properties, for instance:

Hops, oats and chamomile – to help your body relax into a deep restful sleep.

The duo of calcium and magnesium are known to work on your nervous system to sustain deep and rejuvenating sleep.

Rosemary and liquorice for antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties (your immune system is the first thing to go when you are run-down and stressed).

L-Gutamine helps the body recover from periods of stress, while a whole host of herbs help combat the release of stress hormones and their effect on the body.

I have been making mine with warmed almond milk each night before I go up to bed. Yes it could be argued that the ‘warm drink’ in itself has a relaxing effect, or even the ‘placebo effect’ of taking something that purports to ‘help me sleep’ will put me in the right frame of mind but I can’t help but notice the difference in not only my stress levels but the deep, good quality, refreshing sleep that I have each evening I take this.

So many people self-medicate with sleeping pills to get them through difficult periods or sleeping patterns. This works out at just over £1.50 a night and for me, has been a lifesaver.

Bodyism Serenity supplement, £50* from bodyism.com or Space NK stores

*PR Sample

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