I knew there was something wrong with my son when he was 2 weeks old. The doctors however, kept on finding excuses. Theu blamed my emotions of my husband dying (they had actually met my husband and we had been seeing them for 3 months when my husband was alive!), I was feeding him wrong or I was a paranoid first time mum. It took me 2 years of pushing the doctors to take notice when Oliver was diagnosed with a rare Kidney Disease.
Salt was an issue for Oliver’s kidneys and protein had to be kept low, so our diet had to be readdressed. I didn’t add much salt to our food so I had to research where else salt could be cut out. questions I had to find the answers to were;
which food was salt free? (less than I had hoped! Even bottled water has salt in!)
what salt free alternative foods could I afford?
how could this new regime be convenient for a busy (tired, grieving, single parent) family?
Salts negative effect on Oliver’s kidneys means his medicine has to be increased if he has too much salt and the higher his medicine the more damage they could do to his kidneys and the risks of a kidney transplant increases. After watching both a nephew and a niece go through kidney transplants I was determined to do whatever I could to avoid Oliver having one. He can live a long and happy life with medicine and food management and minimal impact on his life experience without the horrific ordeal of kidney transplants that would also mean huge disruption on the rest of his life. So his diet is an important part of managing his condition.
Exploration and research
I have explored what we eat and how our bodies react to food, how our mental state is affected by food, exercise and self-care. There is a lot of twisted truths to make you buy certain foods. Some brands make out they are healthy but are actually not. Instead they are increasing someone else’s pocket whilst destroying the purchaser’s health including weight issues, sleep, brain function, higher risk of disease including cancer. Understanding our bodies and what it needs as an individual is crucial to our wellbeing as well as knowing what foods are REALLY good for us, what body movement we enjoy (exercise doesn’t have to be horrible), eating food we love and looking after our mind and body. We all deserve to be healthy and happy and we don’t have to give everything up to have this. It is just a matter of knowing what we really want and learning how to integrate it into our individual lives.
My research on how to look after my son’s needs and my own wellbeing is what led me to Health Coaching. Having a better knowledge and understanding of my body and it’s needs, food, health, mindfulness and overall wellness for my mind, body and spirit I can make better choices to look after myself and be there for my son.
As well as in and out of hospitals I spent my time in and out of police stations and court rooms regarding my husbands death or the police were in my house going over and over my husbands death, showing me pictures of him on the road, talking through statements etc. My introduction to motherhood had gone from perfection to hell. I had to keep every second of every day unbelievable busy to stop myself from falling apart. My son stopped breast feeding the day Chris died and that added to my negative emotions. I stopped eating, couldn’t sleep and my booze consumption went up. I knew I had to survive for my son but to stop and focus on myself didn’t seem an option if I was to carry on keeping my son and my dog fed and watered and to make it through each day. It wasn’t healthy but it was how I coped through this horrific time. I felt I could hardly breath and had no energy so there was no way I could realise what I was doing was completely the wrong way round. If I looked myself, THEN, I could look after my son to my fullest.
I look back now and I don’t judge myself, I got through it and my son is ok, but I have learnt from the situation and I must come first for my son to be top priority!
Asking for help
Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you don’t know where to start with asking. I couldn’t figure out what I needed or wanted from other people. I had brain block. Every time someone asked me what I wanted or what they could do, the only thing i heard in my head was it shouting ‘I want Chris back, I don’t want anything but Chris back’. It was a time of mass confusion, high emotions, and I couldn’t deal with people. I built up survival habits and got very good at hibernate from the world but managed to have enough contact to keep people from checking in on us too much or being concerned. I just needed the world to give me space, but needed people at the same time, grief is conflicting and confusing! These habits were ok for a while but ultimately I had to face what life had thrown at me and find some habits that actually served me and let me work towards having a life again.
Getting the help
A counsellor (it took me 4 attempts to find the right counsellor) was my first shout for help. I still check in with her now and to be honest, will probably always check in with her from time to time as long as she is working! She gave me mindfulness advice and helped me to manage my grief to be able to get through each day.
This journey of widowhood led me to suffer from anxiety, depression, I lost loads of weight and gained lots of weight, I relied on booze to relax and numb myself from my pain. I struggled everyday to even get up in the morning. I had lost my soul mate, I was completely lost and had no idea what was next and how I was going to look after my family when I could hardly look after myself. My son had me up every night for 16 months with his condition and still 5/6 yrs later we still have lots of broken nights sleep. So little is known about the version of the disease he has, so I was alone in trying to figure out how his body reacted to food and his medicine and then having to report back to the hospital. I had an awful relationship with food since Chris died. I remember for a while I just had bacon and avocado on toast once a day which my mother would make me and that was it. Food had been a huge, fun part of my life growing up and with my husband, and now I had to start cooking for my son and focusing on a healthy diet for him and I found it unbelievably overwhelming and didn’t know where to start. I had no choice but to start studying food, specifically about salt and protein for Oliver. I also had to start thinking about how I could work through all this and bring some money in!
Getting a counsellor was such a help. I needed someone not emotionally attached to my situation to talk it all through and support me.
As humans, we are stronger than we think and can endure a lot more than we realise, especially if we have a listening ear, a guiding hand and feel safe and loved.
But what was next?
Counselling was great, but what next? I had talked for 4 years but my grief was still there.
The Grief Recovery Method was the next step, finding them and learning the method has changed everything for me. It actually dealt with the grief directly. I felt lighter, clearer and at peace. I felt like I had more space to love my husband and more space to love my world again now the grief wasn’t there. I reuse the method whenever situations come up, like, my son going to school, that caused me grief. Thinking of moving house cause some grief, even moving away from health Coaching and focusing on Grief and Life Coaching caused me some grief.
In December 2019 I suddenly lost my father. He had stepped up for my son and I after Chris died. He made life that bit easier and we had always been so close and he had an amazing relationship with my son. It was devastating to loose him and so unexpectedly. The Grief Recovery Method helped me heal from my grief and support my son with his grief. Having the tools was a life saver I wish I had when I lost my husband. I still feel sad but I am not eaten up by my grief or consumed with the conflicting feelings that create so much pain. I don’t keep thinking ‘why’, ‘what if’, ‘I should of said this’ etc. All those things that eat away at you and distract from what is important, the love that was shared, the memories, smiling when remembering. That is where the focus should be, that is when we can honour our loved ones and also honour and make the most of our own lives after loss.
In an Ideal World
In and ideal world the Grief Recovery Programme would have been the first thing I did, but I had no idea it even existed or was available. If I had done it first the counselling, reiki, etc would have been so much more effective in helping my body heal from the trauma, me get a handle on my weight, drinking depression etc. Since doing the programme, I feel whole again and at peace. I feel more connected to my husband and my father, because I am not being eaten up by the feelings of grief that distract from the memories and love.
What feels like a life time rebuilding my life and going through the struggles I went through, is what started me on my life mission to try and help others who have suffered loss. I would like people to get the support they need, quickly and for all aspects of their grief journey without indefinite need of medication and lifelong counselling. I believe medication and counselling are needed, I had both, but they don’t need to be the only support available or an indefinite or long term support.
Healing is possible from grief and that does NOT mean forgetting.
There are still times of sadness but this is so much more manageable and with my coaching tools I am in control of my life.
Self growth, self care, self love – it is a forever growing, developing, changing path, but with my support system in place I now enjoy and love my life again.
Sharing the lessons learned
In 2018 this page of my website was very different. I had written about managing my grief and how my coaching training and counselling had helped me do this. Now in 2020 rewriting this page to say that I am not managing my grief any more, that I have healed from my grief and now I focus on my self, on growing my business and focus on my son, on my relationship and on being happy, which is amazing. I truly thought I would be managing my grief forever and although that seemed like an improvement, it still felt draining to think I would be dragging that burden and pain of grief around with me for the rest of my life and since I was 32 years old. It certainly didn’t make me want to live a long life, that grief was heavy!!!!!
Life is so good now and my son is doing amazingly. We have an amazing man in our lives and I feel settled in our new unplanned life. I never imagined I would ever love again, feel sane and be able to function. But with the right help, support, changing my habits and choosing a healthy lifestyle to support me mentally and physically I have built a life that is happy and we live to the fullest with some great future plans tucked up our sleeve.
So, I am now taking all the knowledge and experience I have gained and put the best bits into my business programme to share with you. I am speaking up about my experience and my journey in the hope as many people hear me as possible to support those who have suffered loss, so they don’t have to take the long path to recovery like I did.
I feel like what I do is a bit like helping people to put back together the bits that have been broken and creating something great again, just a bit different.
I have started 2020 with a fabulous man who accepts my life as it is, loves and supports me. The ups and downs, my angel husband, my son and my mad, crazy, noisey dogs plus his dogs! I have made a great home for us and love my business and am excited about my future. I still miss my husband and he gets talked about a lot but I am happy and I have the tools to keep building my life into what I want and create fun, loving times for me and my family.
We only have one life, let’s love it and live it for us and for those who can’t and with those we are lucky enough to have alongside us on our own personal journeys.
You are all Worthy of living your best possible life, so lets do it, one small step at a time.
The initial support I offer is with your grief in my role as a Grief Recovery Specialist, followed by supporting people to rebuild their life and find a path of love, balance and happiness again.
I am passionate about helping people to live with confidence, achieve their goals and live the life they really want, free from constant pain but still holding their loved ones with them? This is totally possible, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. It didn’t seem possible for me for 4 years.
But, I can say wholeheartedly that this is the case, as I have walked this path.