A blog about change
What to do when life turns your world upside down, gives you lemons, eats you up and spits you back out. A blog about overcoming major life change, grief and loss.
Grief, loss and change are all synonymous and is something almost all of us will have to experience at some point in our lives if we haven’t done so already. Break ups, family illnesses or trauma of any kind, all entail an element of grief in simply life becoming different to what it was before - unexpectedly and uncontrollably. Grief is effectively change.
This year, the worst thing I could ever imagine happening to me happened. I lost my twin brother, Jim - my best friend, other half and favourite human being on the planet.
Although I am far from ‘healed,’ I wanted to share 10 key things I’ve learned over the last 6 months in trying to process and overcome a major life change that has come my way.
Of course, all types of loss and trauma are unique and no two people’s experiences are the same, but everyone can understand the feeling of change happening in our lives. If this helps one person then it’s worth doing:
1. It’s okay for your life go to shit for a bit - It is so completely fine for your world to crumble following a major set back as long as you acknowledge and accept that it’s a natural response to happen. We face so much pressure today in needing to be living our best lives ALL of the time, but we really don’t. Following Jim’s passing, for ages I kept going at 100mph trying to bury my pain and act like everything was fine until soon I ended up quitting my corporate job, drinking most days, gaining weight and hadn’t exercised in months. But what helped was accepting that this is totally natural for the situation I’m in. Actually, it would be weird if life remained exactly the same after such a majorly traumatic event. Personal growth takes time and it’s only when we’re ready and taken that time to hit rock bottom that improvements can be made - so take your time.
What’s helped me was: Self care and being kind to myself. Training that little voice in your head to talk like your best friend and not a critique is so important because otherwise it makes life even harder for ourselves. Get a facial, go for a run or see your friends more - anything that helps you feel more relaxed. Also BIG YOURSELF UP. You’re getting through something extremely challenging and just getting out of bed in the morning deserves real credit at times like this.
2. Life doesn’t owe you ANYTHING. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that it does just because we are a good person. But sadly, it doesn’t work like that and as soon as we adjust our way of thinking to accept that, it gets a lot easier. I’ve found it helpful to acknowledge that yes, this situation is shit BUT it could also be worse and it’s no one’s fault that these are the cards I’ve been dealt for now. I’ve imagined how much worse it could’ve been without the rest of my family coming together, without the amazing friends I have and having the ability to get outside, get some fresh air and meet people. Our happiness is all determined on our perspective, regardless of what we have or don’t have, so taking a step back and acknowledging what we still have can be really comforting.
What’s helped me was: listing 3 things daily I am truly grateful for. I’m so grateful that I still have options for my life, I’m grateful I am supported and can take this time to work through my pain and I’m grateful to have experienced having a twin - not many people have that.
3. Learn to be comfortable on your own. Everyone’s different, but for me I wanted to stay single after losing Jim. I think one of the greatest skills in life is learning to be completely content and comfortable by yourself, because the chances are at some point, we will have to be. I have amazing friends around me but there is still loneliness in being the only person you know that TRULY knows how you feel. In situations of major life change, we can fill the hole and numb the pain temporarily with distractions and quick-fixes but the only person that can make you feel better long-term is you. I’m not recommending you break up with your long-term partner or anything drastic but if you do feel alone, don’t feel worried about it or pressured to change it, in fact relish it as an opportunity to prove to yourself just how strong you are on your own.
What’s helped me was: spending some really uncomfortable time alone, sitting with my thoughts and feelings and coaching myself out of them. There is something really empowering about knowing that you’ve got through something by your own devices - and it builds your confidence to know there’s nothing you can’t handle now that you’re getting through this.
4. Do Something you used to love - I listened to a podcast recently and one key message I got was ‘what would your younger self be sad that you stopped doing?’ Our own personal wellness and enjoyment tends to come last these days behind work and commitments but maintaining that is so vital when going through emotional hardship. Whether it be a sport you don’t do as much anymore or an hobbie you’ve lost touch with, make time to start doing it again even if it’s just an hour every weekend or so. It enables you to connect with a version of you from before this happened and it’s something you know instinctively makes you feel better - so do it.
What helped me was: getting back into singing, I used to love it when I was at school but lost confidence as I got older. So since Jim passed away, I’ve made a conscious effort to get back into it - performing at open mics and regaining my confidence has really helped my soul. And it just gives me a break from feeling shitty sometimes.
5. Have a belief system - This is purely unique to the individual and isn’t a religion preach but connecting your mind and body to a higher energy or power has been really effective for me and helped me have faith that a better time is coming. I’ve found that having some kind of belief system and spiritual practise has helped me when times feel really dark. Whether it be something as simple as meditation or yoga, there are some really good apps too which help make this as easy as possible.
What’s helped me was: Doing 5 minutes of meditation and prayer everyday as far as I can as well as practising self-reflection often, tracking my thoughts, feelings and what’s triggered them. Which leads me onto my next tip..
6. Write stuff down - I’ve journaled pretty much every day since Jim passed away. It’s like a form of therapy for me and is a way for me to vent my emotions and feelings without feeling self-conscious of other’s opinions or thoughts. It’s so therapeutic to write things down on paper and not in the notes on your phone. Again, it’s not everyone’s thing but it’s a really effective way of releasing and off-loading emotions in an easy, accessible and personal way.
What helped me was: writing down when I was having a particularly good or bad day and my thought processes and feelings. So when I felt low I could read back on those and remind myself of how I worked through it and what made me feel more positive. Also remember that some days will be better than others. Thats normal.
7. Still be kind - The natural reaction when life gives you real big lemons is to hate the world and everyone in it - why wouldn’t you? There is so much anger, pain and unfairness that comes from grief and major life events. And although it may seem like no one else around you compares to your struggle, everything is relative and none of us have any idea what anyone else is going through. So have empathy for your mate who’s lost their favourite pair of shoes or your boss who’s had an argument their other half - everything is relative.
What I found was being an angry, bitter and unpleasant human to others early on made me feel even worse and I didn’t think that was even possible. In times of hopelessness just breathe, and understand that everyone is on a different path with their own life timeline. This is your’s for now but it will pass.
8. Everyone has their own timeline. As I touched on earlier, we live in an age where everyone is expected to conform to a certain ideal, whether it be body-type, career success or relationships thanks to social media. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the last 6 months is how everyone has their season at different times and that’s okay. So many of my close friends have had the best year of their lives this year and it’s hard to watch sometimes when your’s couldn’t get any worse. But what’s important to remember is that your’s will come, and you are exactly where you are meant to be right now, so don’t feel any pressure to be doing a certain thing or be at a certain point because that will happen when you’re ready.
9. Everything happens for a reason - As cliche as this is, it is my life mantra and I truly believe that every decision we make, interaction we have, mistake we carry out leads us to exactly where we are meant to be at that given time. Trust me, I’ve had moments in the last 6 months where I genuinely lost hope that things will get better and that I’ll just be living in darkness forever - but believe that life will get better. There is no point thinking ‘oh if only that hadn’t happened’ or ‘if only I’d done or said that instead’ is irrelevant because either way, your outcome would have still found a way to happen.
Remember that: The good times wouldn’t feel so sweet without the dark ones to help us appreciate it more, and at some point - you will look back and connect the dots between where you were and where you will be.
10. Carry on their legacy - This is the most important one for me in regard to coping with loss and grief. Whether it be that person’s favourite place, go visit it now and then or if they supported you in a dream you’ve always had - go and make steps to achieving it. For me, Jim needed a heart transplant and started his own awareness campaign for organ donation called Save9Lives. He worked with artists such as Lewis Capaldi and Little Comets to educate people on the need to talk about organ donation. I’m now continuing that on Jim’s behalf and not only is it because it’s what he would’ve wanted, but it also makes me feel so connected an close to him.
It doesn’t have to be something that takes over your whole life but just carrying one element of their life along with you is really powerful in finding meaning and purpose in your life.
Remember: It doesn’t get any easier, but what helps is building up habits to cope with it better and live life around this as best you can. It’s okay not to be okay. Of course, there will be days where you want to stay in a dark room and never come out, but don’t be afraid of asking for help, I have and it’s really helped. A big step to coping with change is accepting it and just allowing yourself to ride it out. And trust me, this too shall pass.