Bernadette Petrie tells us we need to experience the stages of grief, so that we may move on with our lives.
Ten years ago, on a July evening I arrived at the Glasgow Priory. I can still remember standing alone in my room, and for the first time in the longest time, I had no idea whatsoever of what tomorrow would bring – other than it would definitely never be the same. I was scared, but deep down I was also sure that I was exactly where I needed to be. Perhaps, I had a sense of remembering, or just that my eternal self was able to send enough of a feeling into my bones to keep me on course to step into this unknown territory. For many of us, this is what the initial lock-down period feels like. The life we knew is no longer an option, and we left it so quickly, we didn’t even get to say goodbye.
Ten years ago, alone in my room in the Priory, I surrendered to something bigger than me, and everything changed. I had an experience which permanently and irrevocably proved to me that I am not my body and I will exist even when this body ceases to. My essence, my soul, my being, will never die. I am a being of light on a human journey, but I’m not alone, you too are on this journey.
However, despite this realisation, within a few days of being at the Priory, parts of me were hankering to return to my old life, to take my children (who at that time were nine and seven-years-old) on the trips we had organised for the summer. As a working mum I had struggled with the work-life balance and I was desperately trying to create better boundaries. These trips represented ring-fenced time and meant everything to me. Inevitably, just as with lock-down, a few days in the Priory became six weeks and, that summer the trips happened, but not with me. I had to let myself grieve for the lost summer of 2010.
I experienced all seven stages of grief, during my six week stay in the Priory; shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and finally acceptance. Acceptance came towards the end of my stay, just as the children and my husband headed for a special trip to Iona. It wasn’t an easy day, but it was the beginning of the rest of my life. Several more days of practicing acceptance would be necessary but something had shifted signifying that the grieving was almost over.
At that time, I had no idea that I was in the process of grieving. Grief is something we think only applies to loosing someone we love, but we can all experience grief, no matter the loss; a job, a relationship, an experience, normality. Throughout these unprecedented times we are all experiencing loss, and so we need to grieve.
Grief is part of a natural cycle, in the human experience, and it’s here to help us. You need to open the door, let grief in and experience each of the stages. In doing so, you are stepping closer to the day where you can once again lift your head to face the sun and say; “Let’s do the future – I’m ready.”
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