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Grief is not Brief. Annual check-in with my Mental Health

Nobody knows that I still tread the same walking route that we did during his last year. Nobody knows that I stop and sit by the stream that he loved playing in, have a sip of juice and picture him splashing in the water. Nobody knows that I feel the tall reeds in my fingers, in a scene reminiscent of Gladiator, through the long meadow grass that he would bounce happily along in.

Then I look over to the wall that he trundled down from on the night that the first death of the year happened and feel so disconsolate. Just for a second. Every time I reach that spot. And nobody knows how I let it consume me, just for a second.

Then I continue with each step, as I do with every burden. I'll sometimes walk for miles through the hills, watching out for swifts or cuckoos or hares or deer. I'll stop every now and then to let it overwhelm me. Then I'll circle back home where I'll carry on as I always do, successfully compartmentalising the grief for another week.

I'm used to feeling a form of sadness - it has come with the illness for years - but grief is a void that I'd never truly understood. It had always been shown to me to be a brief encounter that dissipated quickly, turning into a fondness for memories shared rather than true despair.

I was wrong. Of course I was. Many reading this will be shaking their head incredulously at my naivety. There is nothing brief about grief.

Yet years of dealing with depression has allowed me to learn coping mechanisms over time. Subsisting with one is reminiscent of coping with the other.

The concern from others, as we approach the 8 year anniversary of my attempt to leave this plane, is that grief will trigger something within that will take me back there; that I'll become lost in the pain.

It did come close. One night over the Christmas period I felt completely lost and undeserving. I left a social night out without announcement to sit in a bar on my own. All I could think about was throwing myself in front of the next train. It was a very real desire to die that I hadn't felt for a long time. I wanted to end.

But I sent the message instead asking for help. "I'm not safe and need coming for immediately." And it was responded to in required fashion. I was lost. In bits. Far from myself. Unsafe. But I was collected and taken home to try and work beyond it.

Now I try to deal with that feeling sensibly and tactically. It is overwhelming at times but so is much of life. I hold that grief to me and retell the stories that led to the affection. Grief is a sign of love. It is missing the moments shared and the special bonds within life. Grief is what ties us to this world so that we can share their tales and ensure that they are never forgotten. That alone is worth staying around for.

Nobody knows how I feel when I let myself be overwhelmed by it all. They do now. Parts of life become renewed but nothing will ever fix the hole in my entire being. I can only learn to avoid it, like a wonky step on a staircase that can never be fixed. It is always there but managed. Occasionally it trips you up when you least expect it. Grief is another part of me now and it will live with me forever - but only because they do too.

Always tell their story. Always recall every memory. And always ask to go home and stay with us all. You matter more than you realise. Otherwise grief wouldn't exist. Grief is not brief but it can be managed in time. 


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