I’m sat in my kitchen trying to persuade my husband to let my nephew come and stay. He’ll be a big help I tell him knowing full well he has every inch of his project carefully mapped out. He’s doing our garden. It’s a huge undertaking and I know that everything needs to happen in sequence. I know this yet I still a push for him to accept an extra pair of hands.
“What’s this really about?” he asks. He’d love my nephew to come and stay as much as I would but can see right through my guise.
So I tell him I am worried about my nephew and struggling to get through to him. He’s sixteen and I feel like he’s becoming harder and harder to reach since he lost his dad. I tell him I can’t bear the thought that he might feel alone and I want to help him.
“But what if you can’t?” he asks. I shake my head as I imagine the unthinkable.
“You can’t fix the fact he lost his Dad”
Ouch, that hurts.
“This has to stop Ali,” his tone is gentler, he’s less frustrated, and I can tell he’s genuinely worried.
He tells me he can see the pattern as clear as day. If I’m not trying to protect my Mum from feeling the loss of my Dad, I am trying to fix my nephew. Hell, I’ve even taken to cradling our daughter’s pet rat each evening since her companion died. I just can’t bear to think about the people (and pets!) I love hurting. I can’t bear it.
And I know my husband sees all of this and I know he pays attention. His genuine concern makes me want to cry.
“I’m worried we’re going to lose you.” There, he has said it. Those words that make me sit up and take notice. He’s doesn’t think I am in a good place mentally. Scratch that, he knows I am not.
Just hearing him say it out loud confirms my deepest fears. I am trying to fix the people I love because I couldn’t fix the people I have lost.
“I don’t know how else to be,” I cry. I’m allowing the tears to flow now. I feel like a child who needs someone to tell her what to do. For such a long time I have worried about everybody else. I have wanted to protect people from pain, to do the right thing, to do what I can. But somewhere along the line I have lost sight of myself. What is it I need? I don’t even think I know.
It’s the next day and I am recounting all this to a friend. Saying it to someone else just confirms that I have this in-built need to fix everyone else and to put their needs above my own.
She reminds me about the life vest analogy. That in the event of a plane crash (god forbid) you are told to put on your life vest before helping anyone else. You can’t save others if you haven’t saved yourself.
It hits a nerve.
I am the one that needs saving. I am grieving and I am hurting.
The people I love are hurting too but I can’t fix them. I can only fix myself.
I promise to sort myself out. To have a word with myself. To put the life vest on and I mean it this time. I have to focus on me.
So where now?
I need to take a break for a little while. To stop focusing on promoting my book (it won’t bring him back) and to keep off social media, with all its reminders of a life I once had.
Grief has changed me but it doesn’t have to be for the worst. Through writing about Danny and promoting The Counsellor, I know we have changed lives. I know the book has done so much good for other people and I am proud of what we have achieved but I also know I need to take some time out. Trying to help other people is taking its toll. It feels an enormous pressure that I am struggling to bear. I’m confident the book will continue to reach the people who most need to read it but for now I will stop promoting it. And in doing so, give myself a bit of space for me. So that I can get outside this grief bubble I have found myself in and reconnect with my life.
After all, it’s a sunny day.
Thanks, as always, for all your support. Take care. xxx
Learn more about Alison Kerwin’s book The Counsellor: A powerful true story about addiction, grief and love.