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Emerging from Grief into Resilience


I always thought that grief took up a finite amount of time. I knew there were five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – but surely once you’d worked through them that would be it, you could move on with your life? In the sixteen years since my mum died I’ve learned that, of course, that isn’t the way it works.

For me, after the first few years of raw and all-encompassing grief (where I worked through the five stages several times each year) I soon realised that my grief was cyclical in a more personal way. I discovered – by steaming open a hospital discharge letter! – that my mum had cancer on Christmas Eve, and mum passed away on the 8th March, a fleeting 12 weeks from when she first became ill.

Cycles of Grief

My grief now follows that period of time, sometimes without me even realising it. As Christmas approaches, thoughts inevitably turn to family and lost loved ones but as the mum of a lively 6 year old whose birthday happens to be on Boxing Day it’s now easier not to get bogged down by sad thoughts. It’s in mid-January when I realise I’m feeling down and it’s not just because the days are grey and short, or because it’s cold and wet, it’s because on some subconscious level I’m reliving that period of time which was the worst of my life.

Mum is never far from my thoughts and as spring approaches, so does Mother’s Day (here in the UK), with advertising everywhere you look encouraging you to be a good daughter or son and get your card and gift before it’s too late. Ironically my mum wasn’t a fan of Mother’s Day, I can still hear her saying “if you can’t show me you love me every day, don’t bother just for one day!” but the pressure of advertising and hearing everyone else talk about what they are getting their mum’s was sometimes too much to bear. Until I became a mum myself, which has thrown a happier slant on the day.

Emerging into the Light

This year Mother’s Day was two days before the anniversary of mum’s death, it’s always that little bit harder when they’re close, even 16 years on, but I know that from the 8th March it will be like a grey cloud has disappeared from above my head. I’ll feel lighter and happier and find it easier to deal with the everyday worries and stresses of life than I have done for the past 12 weeks.

Knowing this is a cycle I go through doesn’t necessarily mean I can stop it, but when I have that lightbulb moment and realise that’s why I’ve been feeling down I can now make changes and make use of the resilience I’ve built up, such as being more mindful, remembering to be grateful for all the good things in my life, and making an effort to get out with friends, or just go for a walk to get some fresh air and, hopefully, some sunshine. In his psychology article - Grief: The Journey from Suffering to Resilience - William F. Doverspike, Ph.D. says that “Working through the stages of grief can eventually lead to the positive outcomes of recovery, resolution, and resilience.” And I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I wrote a blog last year ‘Spring Makes Us Happy” and for me, that’s so very true. I feel like I’m emerging from my cocoon of grief out into the sun.

Building resilience


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