Better Memories 🙌🏻🏀👩‍👧‍👧

Have you lost someone that you love, a family member, a close friend, a partner? Grief is utterly horrible and it is so individual and unique. I know there is such a thing as the 7 steps of Grief but by God some days I feel like it’s 177 steps or at times that I’m stuck on a step or about to fall off a step!

My Mam’s 5th Anniversary is looming now at the end of January and in some ways it feels like she is only gone and in other ways it feels longer. Time is a funny phenomenon. Looking back I had thought I’d ‘grieved’, dealt with her death probably due to the fact we had known for some years that she wasn’t well and that there was no cure but I don’t think you ever give up HOPE for that miracle, that once off blessing that defies all odds? No matter the circumstances, the warning, the way we loose a loved one, it’s never easy to let go or to accept their death.

For many years I felt stuck, enveloped in the sadness, the hurt and pain of not having my Mam by my side to talk to, to laugh with, to do Sudoku and crosswords with. There is a real empty void when overnight their physical presence has vanished. Us humans are such sensory beings so not being able to smell their scent, their perfume, hear their laugh or voice or feel their hug and warm embrace is heart wrenching. It does feel at times that someone opened you up and broke your heart into tiny pieces.

However, having all that said I now feel I have turned a corner, I can feel more at peace about my mam’s death, I am able to look at her photos and smile rather than cry, I can bear to have little chats with her and it’s not as painful as it once was. Surely I must be on Step 6 at least!!

For me what’s changed is my perspective, my emotions and my relationships. Now I can see back to more happier times and not feel stuck within the cycle of her sickness and the trauma we all suffered, now I can feel all emotions again (still a slow process but I’m moving!) before at times I felt I couldn’t feel happy from guilt, or sad from the pain or anger from the shame! Gosh we are complex beings!! Now I can relate and communicate better than I ever could. I can now express calmly my emotions, my views and trust my thoughts.

I’m slowly regaining control again over my thoughts and being able to reminisce of times in my childhood with Mam, fond memories shared together and smile as I do so. I know she is with me every single day, guiding and protecting me and also giving me a good shake when needed!!! She wouldn’t want to see me sad, regret, have guilt or pain while remembering the past. She would only want me to feel the warmth of her, remember the true Anna Ward aka the Tough Cookie, the one who never missed a basketball match, the one who would give everything she had to make others happy, to lend a supportive and listening ear in times of worry or stress, help me with my homework/studies and pour out her love.

Coming up to Christmas and it’s just not the same as before, it’s a time for family and how can you be happy and joyful when someone isn’t there. That would have been my thoughts before now. Now I’m choosing happiness, I’m choosing fond memories and I’m choosing joy. The power lies with us which way we think/act and live. It’s not that I’m forgetting I’m now remembering. Remembering without the pain, the loss or hurt.

Sometimes we’ve got to take action in doing so. I’m organising a fun basketball gathering just after New Years (2nd of January) in memory of Mam, where we share stories, gather and remember the good times while making more!

How do YOU choose to Remember?

“Remember Me

In all My Glory!

I know You’re Sad

You Miss a Friend you Had

But I’m Not Gone

Eventhough Time can Feel

So Long!

I’m Still Here

Don’t You Fear”

(Deirdre Ward)

LIFE 🙌🏻🌸

DEATH – it is a five-letter word with millions of emotions, heartaches, and tears behind it. Death was something that I wasn’t very familiar with in my younger years. Of course I knew people who died and had friends who experienced death in their families, but I was lucky that death never really appeared at my front door step. I didn’t know the tragic feelings behind the word. The first 24 years of my life, death was simply just that five-letter word.

September 3rd, 2016 was the day that death finally appeared at my door. Actually, it was more like death broke down my door and ripped apart my life, as I knew it. My Mom took her last breath on this earth. To say my world was shattered is a huge understatement. I was broken. I had never felt this amount of sadness and heartache before. I wasn’t prepared for how death really felt. It was an emptiness that I felt so deep into my soul I wasn’t sure how or if I would ever be able to fill it.

It’s been almost two years since I lost my mom and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and wish I could hear her sweet voice just one more time. Two years might not seem like a long time for most people, but it seems so long since I last held my mom’s hand in the hospital on September 3rd, 2016. I think anyone who has experienced death in his or her family knows that it’s not easy to fill the emptiness feeling. I have to admit that it still feels like a struggle for me some days, but there have been things I’ve done that I truly feel has helped me.

After my mom passed I started a new career. This wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. I wasn’t extremely unhappy at my old job, but I felt that change would help me take my mind off of the sadness I was feeling. It created new challenges for me and also gave me the opportunity to meet new people and enjoy new experiences. I continued teaching fitness classes. This would have been something so easy for me to give up on because of the amount of energy that goes into it, and after my mom passed, energy was something that I lacked. However, getting back into teaching helped uplift my spirits and surround myself with people who wanted to better their lives. I spent time with my family, boyfriend, and friends. In some moments it was hard for me to get out of the house but I never regretted a single time that I did. Of course there were times that I forced myself to go out with friends or be with family, but it was good for me to interact with others and it gave me chances to talk to others about my mom and how I felt.

I have learned a lot about myself after death ripped apart my life at a young age. I had to be strong in times I felt like giving up, create new challenges for myself to keep my mind occupied, and focus on life instead of letting death consume me.

Death is something that everyone will experience at one time or another, but it’s important to focus on the things, other than sadness, that death brings. I have 24 years of cherished memories with my mom that no one can ever take from me. I choose to live every day making my mom proud of the woman she raised and the person I have become. I am not going to let death define the person I am today because I am choosing to focus on a four-letter word that means more to me, which is LIFE.

Erase 💬

Wouldn’t it be just ideal to have an eraser to wipe away those painful and hurtful memories/experiences from our past? Sadly it’s not so easy as this.

Nobody will escape this life without having pain and situations that are challenging and tough. Yes of course we will in varying levels and severity but as someone said to me before ‘your pain is YOUR pain’ and there’s no point comparing it to others.

For me some of the most painful experiences I’ve had were watching my mother being ill. Recently these traumatic memories have been filling my brain, I find it difficult to remember happier days and days when my lovely Mam wasn’t terminally ill. I feel locked and I’m searching for the key for those happier moments.

I distinctively remember the time when she was in ICU and we thought we had lost her. The sound of buzzers, beepers, alarms and at times the stark silence that existed also. I will never forget sitting, waiting wide eyed praying for a miracle to save her, for the pneumonia to go away. Hearing her wheezing and gasping for breath.

Cooped up in the box room that is the ‘family room’ alongside my Dad, our fears silently filling the room and not knowing any words of comfort because there were none. Visiting my mother in the isolation room, with my ‘scrub like’ armour on to avoid infections, drips and tubes hanging from her and really not recognising her at all. How could I? She had to wear a black mask that practically covered her face, she looked more like a criminal wearing a balaclava! 🙈 Every second of every day was spent wondering if that second would be her last.

Our bodies are amazing. I coped, I was strong and I was brave. We thankfully got through that horrendous experience and Mam did receive her miracle (thanks to Padre Pio), she lived on for nearly 5 more years. But these memories and painful events live on forever.

It’s only now that I’m realising the impact it had on me, seeing my Mam experience such traumatic and tough times. We all did. These times stay locked within, as hard as we try to erase them, they remain until we face them, feel them and free them.

The key is within, you can unlock them, you can feel at ease and you can heal.

“Memories Remain

The Good times, the Bad times

Some last a Lifetime!

Face those Fears

Release those Tears

You CAN Heal

But Pain

Needs to be Revealed”

(Deirdre Ward)

#UNLOCK (www.unlockirl.ie)