Late last Friday night I started watching the film Mum’s List. (On Amazon Prime. True story, written by the dad, sad but lovely.)
I don't mind sharing this, I sobbed the whole way through.
And thought I wouldn’t stop.
It was like a dam being hit by a bomb and a long, powerful cascade letting go, sweeping away all in its path. I felt dreadful and out of control.
When I went to bed in the wee small hours, I was still having aftershocks – I had to lock myself in the en-suite until I could calm down!
I guess I know why it hit me. And I think so many of us are in this situation.
I am a really positive person, partly because life hasn't always been easy but I vowed when I was a kid that it wasn't going to stop me from living my own life, in my own way.
Even though I had to compromise along the way, and it has taken me until now to start actually being able to stick more completely to that promise to my smaller self.
I’ve coped with past griefs by smiling through, being there for everyone else or just having to put one foot in front of the other as a mum, wife, business owner and ‘do-er'.
But maybe not so much coping as supressing.
This film (not too many stars, don't let that put you off – some of the best films are not critical successes) opened up some old, loss related wounds.
Such as the shock of losing a dear fellow mum friend. A force of nature, she constantly helped others, and died 7 years ago in similar circumstances.
Losing my parents – my mum over a lengthy period with cancer – a living grief – then my dad suddenly as he seemed to be getting back to normal after battling cancer which had been cured.
And that was the shocking one. A teeny niggle in my mind, when my husband turned up at my workplace, me thinking, what on earth does he need me for, I am at work!
Then in the office atrium, him simply saying, it's my dad….and I just knew…my legs literally buckled (didn't know that was a possibility in real life, just a dramatic punctuation.)
It felt like the end of something huge – as I am an only child – it was.
No one with shared experience of childhood memories. But I had to pick myself up off the floor (literally) and get on with seeing the police (because it was a sudden death, there was a policeman at the house when I got there) and dealing with undertakers and to top it all, fending off a thoughtless (perhaps not the right word – un-thinking might be better) family friend who'd decided to post Dad's death on Facebook before we had told my teenagers – in the days when they'd be checking their social feed at lunchtime at school.
Long term caring for mum and dad since my youngest was aged under 1 in early 2004 until 2016 on top of bringing up my family and running multiple businesses, and volunteering, whilst working part time for other companies – I am NOT a Superwoman and it really does take its toll. (Not to mention that I have chronic illnesses which affect my ability to travel and to sleep, not that it stopped me – just exhausting, though, to keep going.)
With two more close family deaths – one incredibly tragic – last year and a couple of family crises along the way…
It’s all taken it’s toll.
Many of us are grieving deaths made worse by Covid restrictions. Lockdowns themselves can cause a deep feeling of loss. I am part of that suffering too….but I am NOT writing this because I am looking for sympathy!
Quite the opposite…
This is much more about hope.
And having watched the gorgeous but so sad film that is Mum's List, here is what I realised:
- I feel lighter for my release of emotion.
- Happier and more content.
- Nothing has changed except me.
- And that’s amazing.
- We all have potential for change.
- But like in grief, there are stages to change.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's grief/change management curve is really interesting to consider if you are suffering from a loss of a loved one.
There is also a selection of change models I can throw in for good measure.
Here are a few you may know (and which I have got to know so much better and have used in my recent submission towards my post-grad in Coaching and Mentoring).
- Lewin's change management model
- Kotter change management theory
- ADKAR change management model
…though we all have our individual journey and how we handle grief and change in real life is not quite as linear.
There's a but with models
I think us humans don’t necessarily need a model, but we do need to allow ourselves a bit of slack.
A good weepy film, a lovely walk or a laugh with friends.
Or a more psychological approach from a professional.
Or help with changing something in our situation, through business and/or life coaching.
What have I learned?
I feel lighter, but I also feel it’s opened my mind to things I’m working on already.
For example, boundaries.
I am empathetic and I am sensitive to others’ pain.
I have deep intuition and understanding…but I can’t DO the work FOR the people who reach out to me – they must be capable of doing that for themselves with my compassionate help..
So here are some thoughts around boundaries when talking to prospective clients.
By the way, boundaries are a way to protect BOTH sides, because I may not be the right person for them as much as they may not be the right client for me (and we are allowed to choose who we work with.)
- Those I work with will need to show a basic level of motivation and willingness to change.
- But not be ‘need-y'. I don’t have the bandwidth.
- I can’t take their grief and troubles away for them, I’m still working through mine.
- I can hold a mirror to them and be a guide, but I can’t emotionally (or physically!) carry them over rough ground. There’s more appropriate health professionals for that. That helps us both.
- It also means that I will ringfence certain times for coaching and mentoring, for writing and marketing, for my post-grad and family. And for creative time too.
- It means that emails, social posts, responding to shout outs and meet-ups will have to wait sometimes.
- And this week I started removing myself from WhatsApp because last year that caused a horrendous issue for one of my family. It isn't a healthy place to be.
In pulling together my list of boundaries, I felt empowered and I asked myself why I’d not done it before? For about a minute!
Because what has been is not significant really, it’s what I do from now, what we all do from now, which is important.
Love and Joy
It is the right time to love the life we are living, to be joyful.
Right here, right now, because we can't stick in the past.
Though do remember, how we deal with the good and the not so good here and now will strengthen (or weaken) us in the future. But only weaken us if we get so traumatised by the here and now we cannot shed it…better to seek help at the source of the problem than months or years later.
We ARE allowed to reflect and to be sad, because the sad times are only due to the fact we have those happy times and HAD happy times with those we lost.
- There cannot be light without shadow, there cannot be love without loss.
- We can let go a little, we are permitted a wobble.
- We are allowed to have love and joy in ALL parts of our life – we don't have to ‘make do.'
See this first in LINKED IN – please subscribe to Faff Free Friday from Rachel Bentley where you can catch up from issue 1 too. Not connected with me in Linked In? Please send me a connection request as I'd love to have you in my network…
If you'd like to see more about what I do and grab a copy of my freebie, 21 Essentials of a Simple Plan to help you get Faff Free this Friday and beyond, please pop over to my micro site here…