Most dedicated students love a bit of stationery and despite my dubious student status, I do love my office accessories. I could spend hours in Paperchase picking different coloured pens and perhaps my favourite writing supplement is the coloured post it note collection. Hence my (subdued) joy 13 years ago when this was part of me turning a corner in dealing with various losses at that time.
I went to see an experienced colleague, let's call him N and he said what felt like magical words then. He said to help me with my current losses I needed to go back to when I last experienced a loss (not this set, the time before). Go back to how I was feeling then. I saw this character in 2002 after my ex left. I went back to 1999 - a great aunt had died. I felt the loss keenly being a sensitive soul. Having said that it was not the biggest loss of my life, of course not, there were many people much closer to her than I was. Then he said he wasn't really interested in how I felt, I would feel the feelings of loss - despair, sadness, grief, guilt, anger and other negative emotions. He wanted to find out what happened next. He said write down on three post it notes the things that happened next, as I recovered from the loss of Great Aunty O. On one post-it note I wrote down the first healing thing - time. The second was safety. The third was emotional support. Back with Aunty O it took me three days to recover to my 'normal' self. How long would it take to get over an ex? They were all pink post it notes. I still remember them clearly. With my scrawl. Little did I know how much they would help me again. For N said that it was these three things, that had occurred before, that would help me again. And he was right.
Firstly there is time. Time is arguably infinite. But with the passage of time, negative things can feel less intense. 'Time is a great healer' is the mantra we all know. But also with the passage of time you can experience other losses - you may deteriorate in mental health, who knows. 'Time flies when you're having fun' is true, and the reverse is also true. 'Why should I get up in the morning?' when time goes so slowly when we are experiencing many losses. It goes in slow motion at times of great stress and loss. Time is a slippery fish. With my Mum's death for two years - 18 months before she died and six months afterwards - I just took one day at a time. Taking one day at a time means not making any big plans or changes. You get into a routine as much as you can. Can we control time? Time is money. We can measure it but I'm not sure it's under our control. The other thing that is very helpful with time management is meditation. Relaxing whenever you can, helps regulate the pace of life. So if life is going slowly (a difficult patch) you can heighten your pleasure by employing a spot of 'mindfulness' - appreciating the little things in life, the scent of a flower, the view of a garden or sky, the stroking of a pet. 'This too will pass'.
Safety. Money can buy you this. It's a roof over your head, food in your belly, tea in your cup. It's security. We are lucky to have our house protected by CCTV cameras, they help me feel secure and safe at home and they deter burglars. It's warmth. Make sure you put the heating on when you get cold, put a jumper on. See people: 'Safety in numbers'. If we feel safe and secure we are also hopeful and optimistic about the future. Safe as houses. See your friends in their homes. Invite people to your home. Switch off the news. Some people argue that the media propagate fear, it sells. Pursue stability. Find your rock. What does safety mean to you?
Love from other people. If your friends and family can't provide this, then contact the professionals. If you feel suicidal ring the Samaritans. There is also Cruse - they talk to people three months after a bereavement, not immediately. Talk to your GP. Ditch all your leech-like friends, the ones who are a burden - you can always pick them up again when you've recovered. People may help you unexpectedly. Savour these miraculous events.
So how long does it take to 'get over' the death of a loved one? How long is a piece of string? Longer than three days for your mother I would say. I'm aiming for two years to feel back to 'normal' whatever that is - so October 2015 here I come.
What would you write on your three post it notes to help your future self recover from a loss?