Dealing with grief

They say grief gets easier with time but I sometimes find that hard to believe. Four years ago to the day Sharon, one of my closest friends, died of cancer. This year has been particularly hard and my grief has at times felt as raw and emotional as in the days and weeks just after her passing. Huge feelings of sadness and loss and missed opportunities. So much has happened in the last four years, both good and bad and it’s been really tough not being able to share these moments with her. We used to message each other pretty much daily and although I don’t have that urge anymore to reach for my phone to send her a message, I do miss the closeness we had.

This post is in memory of Sharon. She was the most incredible person, so positive and caring, and always had a smile on her face. Nothing ever seemed to faze her; she would just soldier on despite the horrendous journey she was on.

We met at work seven years prior and hit it off straight away. We shared an office for most of that time so we got to know each other really well. We became good friends both inside and outside the office. We grew closer as the years passed. We told each other everything. When things got tough for one another within the office, we had each other’s backs. We understood why the other one was feeling pissed off or hard done by. We had so much fun together and despite being different in so many ways, we just connected.

I remember one time when I was going through a particularly difficult time and was in a very bad place mentally opening up to Sharon once again. A week or so later, she got the devastating news that her cancer had come back. I was so sad for her. I stopped confiding in her, after all how could I possibly tell her that all I wanted to do was end my life, when she was fighting to save hers. Not long passed when she asked me how I was. I tried to brush my feelings to one side and tell her I was fine but she was having none of it. I opened up to her and apologised for being so selfish but what she said took my breath away. She told me that mental health was an illness, like cancer or diabetes – you wouldn’t stop treatment for either disease and nor should you for mental health as those tablets were essentially keeping me alive. She was always so selfless and had the most caring heart.

The weekend before she passed, I had flown to England to go and see her as she had been having a tough time of it with her cancer and had spent considerable amounts of time in hospital. We had a blast together. She was her usual funny, positive and caring self. Even asking her husband to pull over the car so she could buy her weekly copy of The Big Issue and give the vendor some extra money for their child’s birthday. I thought about him/her for a long time after Sharon died wondering if anyone had told them what had happened. She touched so many people’s hearts.

The next morning, she was excitedly telling me their plans to go camping and the house renovations they were going to start in the summer so she could build her own holistic studio as she had been training in this new field. She didn’t want to just treat people, she wanted to teach people how they could heal themselves.

The following day I flew back to Spain and we texted back and forth over the next few days. On the Thursday she told me she had been admitted back to hospital and on the Friday came the devastating news that she was at the end. On the Saturday morning I got the call from her husband telling me she had died peacefully the night before. My world just crumbled. I was physically sick. How could she be dead, we had just been together not a week before.

The grief that followed in the following weeks was a pain I’ve never experienced before. It would hit me in waves when I would least expect it. I’d be riding my bike in Barcelona and the tears would just stream down my face> Or I’d be meeting with friends and feeling overcome with sadness. That summer we travelled around Greece and I would find myself bursting into tears randomly. I just felt so sad. When I found out I was pregnant with Amelia, my sadness turned to anger. Anger that she wasn’t around to share my news. She would have been so happy. That first year was intense with a mix of emotions running through me. The following years were easier except for when it was her birthday or the anniversary of her death. They’d be weeks of feeling sad and emotional until the event had passed and then I would breathe easy once again.

This year has been particularly tough and in many ways has felt like the first year of her leaving us. I have felt lots of sadness and pain and have cried so much. I have a photo of the two of us which never moves from its place and I often go and talk to her. My daughter has on a few occasions asked who she is and I have replied, “That’s Sharon, my special friend”. Thank you, Sharon, for being such an important person in my life. You will always be missed and I will always love you.