Nearly every week on my blog, I share a post called “The Friday Focus”. It’s a post where I sum up the past week in one word and reflect on the things that made me smile.
I see a lot of posts on social media about choosing a word for the year. Something that sums up your intention or focus for the year. It’s something I’ve done in previous years. 2016 was the year I started my daily gratitude project so my word was “gratitude”. In 2017, it was “kindness”. Last year I didn’t choose a word but had I done, I think it would have been “hope”. Hope for a future without surgery hanging over us, welcoming a new baby, looking forward to becoming a family of five. Hope that was so cruelly and abruptly snatched away on the night Jessica unexpectedly collapsed and died.
It’s taken me a while to decide on a word for this year. I think at first I was trying to aim for something more positive. Over the past few weeks though, I’ve realised that I need to learn to walk again before I can run; that a more positive word will only be setting myself up for failure. And so my word for the year is this: survival.
Navigating life as a grieving parent is exhausting and overwhelming. There are days when I feel strong and able to be positive, and days when I feel like I am drowning in the stormy sea of grief. It can change abruptly – one minute I can be laughing; the next sobbing. Some days I can be busy and productive; others it takes every ounce of energy I possess to simply keep going.
Focusing on survival means being gentle with myself. It is about giving myself permission to do whatever I need to do to get through. Reminding myself that it is okay not to be okay, that it is okay to go with the flow as far as my feelings are concerned. That I don’t have to put pressure on myself; I don’t have to put on any mask, or be sociable if I don’t wish to be. That it doesn’t matter if the to-do list doesn’t get completed, or whatever goals I’ve set for myself aren’t achieved. It’s okay to stop and be still, to cry, to shout, to scream, to laugh, to be happy – to be whatever I happen to be in any particular moment.
There are times when life as a bereaved parent feels too hard to endure. But endure it I must – I have no other choice but to keep going. One step at a time. Taking each day as it comes, living moment by moment – even second by second if needs be. My family need me, but to be there for them, I need to look after myself too. To be kind to myself. This year I just need to focus on getting through.