The day I have been dreading

I have been dreading this day since the same day last year.

On Friday 18th January 2019, will be Mike’s one year anniversary. It will be one whole year that he has been gone. I guess that I am new to this club, this club of losing someone you care so deeply for to cancer. And I guess I have found that this club kind of sucks, there is no rule book, there is no protocol, there is no meet up groups. It is a pretty lonely club, even if it is one of the largest clubs in the world.

Since the start of this week, and even for weeks and months before hand I have not known how this time of year would be for me. It comes straight after the craze of Christmas and New Year, when you are mostly surrounded by loved ones, and in Australia surrounded by sunshine. But this week, the third week in January, was the week I knew would be hard.

I have felt on edge since the start, not knowing what was going to trigger me, whether to stay extremely busy, or to give myself time and space to just be. So, in true Nikki style I have decided on the first option, then giving myself Friday as a day just for me, to feel what I want to and allowing myself to do what I want and need for that day. But was that the best idea?

Everyday, at some point throughout the day, something will remind me of Mike, and this does not mean I go into a place of sadness. Sometimes, it makes me laugh, but yes, sometimes it does make me cry.

However, this week I have been having flashbacks not to happy memories, but to the day of the funeral. They are vivid memories, and even vivid dreams that are keeping me awake at night. Isn’t it strange how your mind and body remember certain things so well. I can still feel the strength of the sun on my face that day, I can smell the grass that surrounded us, taste the constant feeling of being dehydrated, I can feel my friends hands in mine, holding them so tight because of how scared I was, not knowing if the pain would ever go away. I can close my eyes and feel the tissues in my hand inside the pocket of the dress I wore. I can picture exactly what I was wearing that day, the black Cue dress, and bright neon yellow stappy shoes that Mike loved, and in one pocket a heart shaped shell he found for me when we were on a secluded island in the Cook Islands. I can feel the weight of the wreath I had made with the colour flowers of his tartan and thistles to represent his Scottish heritage, and the words “Dear Mike, love always, Nikki” on the ribbon. I can hear the bagpipes playing. I can feel the tears running down my face.

Will those memories ever fade, or will they stay this vivid for years to come?

My friends have been wonderful, asking me what I am planning for Friday, and all making sure that I am not alone. My amazing beautiful friend Alison even said she would fly up to be with me for the day if I needed. I feel so fortunate to have these caring people in my life, without you, I would not have survived this past year.

This year has been hard, it has had so many ups and downs, a real rollercoaster at times with some people that have really said the wrong thing at the wrong time. I have stepped away from many people, I have stepped away from things that no longer serve good to me, knowing that I need healthy nourishment around me to survive the road ahead. When people ask me how I have survived, I explain I have had to ride it, like you do the waves of the ocean.

Imagine that you are in the warm, salty water of the ocean, feeling the water move between your hands and the sandy bottom on your feet and in between your toes. Then suddenly you notice that the shore is getting further away and a slight panic sets in. You are in a rip, and the natural thing to do is to swim back to shore, which means swimming against the current. But this is exhausting and sometimes means you go nowhere, instead, you allow the rip to take you, to let if flow over your body, until you get to calmer waters and can find the channel to swim back with ease.

This has been my journey for the past year, the day Mike past, felt like I was in that rip, but even though my natural reaction would have been to fight it and in this case just get on with life and push it to one side or not talk about it. I choose to allow the rip to take me, it was to an area unknown to me, and scary at times, but I let it happen. I feel like my friends and people around me were my lifeguards at times, trying to pull me to safety immediately, but they needed to let me just be, to just let me feel the pain. Feeling this pain allowed me to grieve the way I needed to.

There are not 5 stages of grieving, there are not 9, there can be endless stages, the pain doesn’t disappear totally, you just get used to it over time. And you have to allow yourself to celebrate or be sad at the anniversaries, whatever you feel you want to do. It is not the same as your best friend, or your parents, we all react differently and telling someone how they should be, how they should act, how long it will take them to grieve, and how they should “get over it” is not helpful. Allow them to be, and even maybe ask them “what do you need from me?”

Last night I attended a Yin class, after a pretty full day of work and a stressful personal situation, I felt that I needed to have some time out, be with my breath and stretch my body. It felt great to listen to my mind and my body. But leaving the studio, I received a text message from Mike’s family asking “if I wanted to go to Mike’s”. I was a little confused, what did they mean, his house, no, after clarification it was his grave. It set me into an hour of crying uncontrollably, with the thoughts of those two words together, Mike’s grave. It may seem odd or even silly but it really got to me, it must have been my trigger. Today has been hard, it has been sad at times and knowing that the day is getting closer.

But, through all this I have learnt that I just have to be kind to myself, listen to my body, listen to what it needs. I have been listening to music, I have been working from home, exercising and having wonderful souls around me that are holding my hand and being present, and just letting me be whatever it is I need to be at this moment in time.