Sunday, 25 November 2018

More Grief When You Are Already Grieving....My Experience of Losing My Beautiful Zachary




In the last post about self care ideas, I mentioned how important my dogs are to me and how wonderful animals are at giving you a purpose and reducing stress.
However today I wanted to speak about a different side to pets, the worst thing about them, which is of course having to say goodbye.

This is on my mind in particular as today, November 25th 2018, marks one whole year since I had to make the heartbreaking decision to put my gorgeous dog Zachary to sleep.

Zachary George, was the funniest, most loyal and very noisy Maltese x Shih Tzu and I miss him so very much.
He was black and white, always had his tongue poking out and had the biggest shifty looking eyes. His tail curled over his back and he followed me everywhere.

I must say though that before my mum died it was her that he followed everywhere. They were attached at the hip, and my mum called Zachy her soulmate.
She utterly adored that boy and it was rather obvious that he was her favourite, much to my other two dogs dismay!
He slept on her pillow, above her head and she used to hold his paw when falling asleep, which was especially comforting to her when she was ill. A very special bond.

I was frightened that he wouldn't cope well without her, and would pine for her which would break my heart even more. But surprisingly he was ok, and didn't even look to find my mum.
Dogs are incredible and I think that he knew what had happened and just accepted it.

I feel very blessed to have had two years with Zachy becoming my new best friend, and my new little shadow. I fully understood why my mum was so close to him and I treasure our bond.

That said I wanted to mention this story as losing a pet whilst already still grieving was horrible.
I developed bad health anxiety around my dogs after my mum was gone.
Whenever they even had a minor problem, and still to this day, I panic and cannot think of anything else.
The thought of having to lose something else in my life was and is too much, and I felt as though this time it would properly push me over the edge and I would just have a breakdown.

I think that the reason for this is that we got Zachary, Teddy and Maisie after my parents split up and they lived with my mum and I in our new house. So we became a new little family, just us five.

After my mum died they were a huge comfort and kept my home feeling like home. But when Zachary became very ill with kidney failure and wasn't going to get better, suddenly that family unit was diminishing.
It forced me to face the fact that one day there will only be me left, and then a life that I lived for years will be gone.
My dogs are very much part of my mum, and I love that. But one day I won't have that and that scares me.

What made me feel any comfort last year was knowing that my mum and her soulmate Zachary were reunited and she obviously missed him too much to be apart any longer.
I still have my beautiful Teddy and Maisie, who fill my life with happiness each day, and I just need to enjoy my time with them.

Grief on top of more grief is incredibly tough, but despite dreading it for years I am here today and again have survived. I was very sad for a while but that's ok.

Time is not a healer, you will always miss them, but with time does come acceptance. I accept day to day that they aren't here and have gotten used to it. That is how time helps.

So if you are someone who is newly grieving and are frightened about having to deal with more. You will be ok. You really do realise how strong you can be when needed and it will get easier again.

Grieving is our love still shining out, and it is a pleasure to have loved.


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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

5 Simple Self Care Ideas



Self care isn't selfish.

This is something that we often need a reminder of. Wanting to spend money or time on something that will enrich your life and feed your soul, calm your mind and nourish your body is everything but selfish.

There is a well known quote that says 'You cannot pour from an empty cup'

This is pretty self explanatory, but you have nothing to offer others and the world when you are not full yourself first. You give to others with your overflow.

Therefore I wanted todays post to offer up a few ideas for self care practises and share little things that have helped me to feel a little brighter and calmer during the darker days.
These are nothing revolutionary but I have definitely found that it is the small things that seem to help the most.

Candles

Just having a beautifully smelling candle on in the room can work wonders. It instantly makes a room feel cosy, and warmer, and the scent should either relax you or lift your mood.
There is also something about the flickering flame that I find to be calming too.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are incredibly powerful on the mind and inhaling their aromas can stimulate a part of our brain that plays a role in emotions, behaviours, smell and long term memory.
Some of the most calming essential oils (although you will need to test out which works best for you)
are said to be Lavender, Rose, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Chamomile and Frankincense.
A great way to use these as well is in your bath.

Walking In Nature

This is something that I have found to be hugely beneficial for my mind, and I should take my own advice to do more of.
Simply walking amongst nature is wonderfully healing. The time it gives you think clearly with no other sounds and technology around, the fresh air, the release of endorphins from exercising your body and the chance to notice the beauty all around us.
Not only this but it is actually believed that the essential oils emitted from the trees and plants in a forest, called phytoncides, actually can be beneficial to our health and appear to improve the function of our immune system.

Animals 

My dogs were a real lifeline to me after my mum died. They gave me an important reason to get up in the morning and their beautiful happy faces every day just instantly made me smile.
They are so wonderfully loyal and can sense when you are feeling sad, and sit right by you or on your lap.
There is a reason also why there are so many therapy dogs and animals out there and are even taken into some hospitals and hospices. Did you know that being in physical contact with animals can actually lead to the body producing oxytocin, a hormone that reduces the levels of stress hormone cortisol.

Five Senses Technique

This is a simple technique that is used to bring you into the present moment, and to help with anxiety and panic attacks. I was never taught this, but actually have found myself naturally following the routine when I need to feel calm.
Take a moment to run through each of your five senses and note what you are experiencing.

What can you see?
What can you hear?
What can you feel?
What can you smell?
What can you taste?

When taking a walk I actually like to sit on a bench for a moment and run through these questions. We miss so much around us in our hectic day to day lives.

You can also use these senses to create a calming environment for yourself at home when you need it. For example, pop on your favourite feel good film and then your most cosy pajamas and a soft blanket. Burn a beautiful candle and make yourself an indulgent hot chocolate.
All of your senses are being filled with home comforts and should make you feel safe.
Of course you fill each one with what works best for you.


I hope that these may helpful, remember that the little things all add up and you appreciate them so much more when you are going through a difficult time.
Take time for yourself and do not feel guilty for it.










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Tuesday, 13 November 2018

World Kindness Day...My Experience On Why Self Care Is So Important During Grief




Self care is absolutely vital in life generally, but when you are grieving I can't stress enough how important it is.
I really do believe that I suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after my mum died, and think that it does still rear it's ugly head from time to time.
It is sometimes easy to think that you are just going crazy, but watching someone that you love die is extremely distressing, heartbreaking and stressful. So no wonder that our minds struggle to cope for a while. I don't think that this is helped by the way that the media depicts death, and what we have grown up to watch in films, which sadly just isn't the way that things end in real life, but that is a whole other issue to speak about another day.

I have always been very laid back and calm, but having gone through losing my mum I definitely became more anxious. I worry a lot nowadays, and it is generally about other people I love getting ill, or my dogs. It makes me frightened that I don't have the one person who is meant to protect you the most in my life anymore. I feel vulnerable without her.

There was a day, around 2 months after, that I had decided to try and go back into working. (I must add here that I am freelance, so was very lucky to be able to be flexible around when I wanted to return to my work as a hair and makeup artist.)
I had booked to do a test shoot; which is a creative photoshoot in which you collaborate with other freelancers to build new images for your portfolio.
It was in London and I thought that this would be a great fun and relaxed way to ease myself back in.

I remember standing on the rush hour train into London Bridge, squashed into a corner as it was so busy, and feeling so tiny and vulnerable. None of these business men and women knew how bruised emotionally and mentally I was, and none of them cared for me. They were happy to push past and nudge me with no care at all. You really have no idea what anyone is going through.
The world carrying on around you when yours has fallen, is very very odd.

I started to feel hot... extremely hot, and also quite sick. I felt myself panicking, but tried to stay calm and just take my winter coat off to cool down.

I had one arm out, and then the next thing I remember is being woken up on the floor by a man, and a crowd of voices asking if I was ok.

Mortified. I was mortified.

I was offered peoples seats, but decided to do the very British thing of saying I was fine, silly me, and I would just stay on the floor.

I had fainted a couple of times before when my mum was very ill and she had woken me up in the night, but at least I was in the safety of my home then.

I never made it to my photoshoot as I still felt extremely dizzy when we arrived to London Bridge and the idea of trying to carry on and carrying my heavy kit around the underground just was not a good one.

I think that I wanted to share this little story to remind anyone facing grief, that even though you haven't been physically injured, you really do still need to take things easy and listen to your body.
Grief can be debilitating and cause actual physical symptoms, or affect your mind in a way that you do become anxious or have panic attacks.
These often will ease with time, but it is important to know that this is normal and not to worry.
Just as you may have looked after your loved one who was ill, you now must look after yourself.

I thought that as today is World Kindness Day, this would be the perfect day to remind you to be kind to yourself too.


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Monday, 12 November 2018

Advice For The Friends Of Someone That Is Grieving


There isn't a rulebook as to how people grieve, and everyone is completely different in how they cope. I haven't been on the other side of my situation luckily, but I can imagine that it can feel quite powerless to have a friend that is grieving and not knowing how or if you can help.
Not wanting to interfere too much, but also not wanting to disappear in the fear that you don't know what to say.

Therefore today I have compiled a list of ideas for friends on how they can help and the best ways to approach the situation. These are, of course, only my opinion of what is best, and as I mentioned above everyone grieves in a different way, so these may not work for everyone. But I believe that they offer wonderful support, which is often practical.

Care Package

My best friend from the age of 4 left a little hamper of goodies on my doorstop for me after my mum died. She didn't knock, simply left it there and then text to say it was waiting. Inside was a beautiful letter which she had warned on the envelope that I may not want to read just yet.
Then another note, which had a list of instructions and a step by step guide on how to use the enclosed treats.
There was a bar of chocolate, a bottle of Baileys, a pair of fluffy socks, essential oils, a face mask and bath crystals.

A full kit for a pamper evening. This was such a well thought out and touching gift, and these comforting picks were exactly what I craved.
It is a lovely idea to put together a little box of your friend's favourite treats and comforts. Little things soothe the most and get you through each day.

Frozen Meals

I lived off of a frozen lasagne that my auntie had cooked for us all, for the first week after my mum died. I hardly had an appetite and would only eat once a day. So one tiny portion of lasagne heated up was it for me.
I must admit that I don't enjoy cooking at the best of times, so when I felt this horrific and had zero energy anyway, this was something that I just had no time for.
So a great idea as a friend would be to cook up something hearty like a lasagne, or a batch of chilli con carne, soup even, and take it round to your friend to pop in the freezer.
This way you know that they can eat some 'proper' food and it gives them one less thing to worry about.
If you don't love cooking either, why not pick them up some frozen meals from somewhere like Cook. Still nutritious and handmade, but with no preparation.

Make Plans, Don't Just Offer

I know that when you want to offer help, but don't know how, we often message saying 'let me know if I can help at all' or 'please shout if you need anything'.
This is always so well received as you know that the person in question cares for you, however I can vouch for the fact that often when someone is grieving you don't want to have to ask.
You either don't want the fuss, the sympathy, or just can't be bothered.
So one of my biggest recommendations is to not just offer, but to actually make plans.

'Are you free at 3pm tomorrow? If so I am picking you up and taking you for a coffee.'

Make it easy for your friend, they will want the company and help, but may not ask, so this makes it so much simpler.

Simple Tasks and Chores

Simple tasks and chores can really mount up and having help with these can be a huge help. I would never suggest simply turning up at your friend's door. I had this happen to me a few times, when I was really not in the mood to see anyone at the start ( and it was always people who weren't close friends anyway), and honestly I hated it.
But if you are popping over, why not offer to take their dog for a walk whilst you are there, or put a load of washing on for them whilst you are making the tea.
Even driving them to any appointments or taking them to do their food shop. These little acts can make the world of difference.

Send The Message

When I was in the initial few weeks of my grief, in the lead up to my mum's funeral, I didn't want to talk to anyone. I lived in a bubble and that is how I coped. My friends all text me regularly and I often didn't reply, but I did read every one. It's important to know that those messages are very important, and even if you never get a response, they are making a difference and being read.
Don't be offended, just keep texting so that they know you are there when they are ready to speak.


I hope that these few ideas can be useful when you want to actually help your friend in need, and to understand how they may be feeling.



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Post Crying Makeup Tips


When I have been crying, it is blatantly obvious. Red swollen eyes, blotchy cheeks and chest, a Rudolph nose as well.
During the first few months after my mum died, this was pretty much my daily reality and look. I needed to cry, and always felt a tiny bit lighter afterwards. In fact it is scientifically proven that the tears you cry from grief (emotional tears) contain stress hormones that are excreted from the body, and the act of crying itself stimulates the production of endorphins, our 'feel-good' hormone.

So even though this is a vital part of the healing and grieving process, there were days when I didn't want it to be so obvious. Days when I needed to leave my hibernation and show my face, and preferably a less blotchy one.

Therefore I thought it may be helpful to share my skincare and makeup tips on how to cover the redness and reduce swelling from post crying. I am a professional makeup artist, so luckily had some good ideas and I hope these may be of help.

Cold Water

I would start by splashing my face with some cold water, which will instantly refresh your skin, and constrict your blood vessels, therefore reducing redness.

Facial Mist 

Use a beautiful smelling facial mist that will help to rehydrate your skin, and lock in moisture. Floral waters are also wonderful at soothing skin too, especially rose water.

Cold Compress

To help with reducing the swelling around your eyes, you need to apply a something cold. A great way to do this is with a jade roller, to massage the area and encourage drainage. However an old school alternative is to use two teaspoons that have been in the fridge or freezer and to place one under each eye, with a gentle pressure.

Facial Massage

To further encourage drainage and also to help to relax your tense facial muscles, try applying a facial oil and massaging this into the skin as you apply. Always use upwards and outwards motions, and take a moment to focus on breathing and taking in the scent.
The oil will also add a beautiful glow and radiance to your skin, bringing it back to life.

Concealer

Once you have applied your foundation (if you like to wear any), then take a minute to add a little more coverage around your nose and around your eyes. This is where there may still be a little redness and especially if you need to continue to use tissues when you are out.
Pop a little concealer in these places and if you are worried, just take your concealer with you in your handbag for any extra top ups.

Bright Lipstick

Why not add a bright lipstick to your finished look? This always lifts my mood instantly, makes me feel more confident and 'put together', and also brightens my whole face up. It also can help to distract away from your eyes.

Finishing Touches

Wearing a bright coloured high neck top or dress, or even a scarf, can also help with disguising any red blotches on your neck and chest, and can stop them being seen if, like me, they like to show up when you are feeling anxious for any reason.
The bright colour will also brighten your whole complexion up.


I hope that some of these tips may be helpful. They are very simple, but I know the feeling of being worked up and then not being able to think logically.

Another note to leave on, is that it is important to know that it is ok if you do cry in public. I have always struggled with this and find it hard to even cry in front of people who I love and trust, but I have learnt that people are kind and sometimes it just needs to come out.
So if you have worked through all these steps and then been back to square one as soon as you leave the house....it doesn't matter. You will still look beautiful.




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2013...The Year My Life Started To Crumble


2013

I arrived home on the train from London, after a night staying at my flat. We were due to be heading out but my mum was always running late, so it's a little hectic in our house. I quickly made sure that our 3 little dogs have been in the garden for a last minute pee before we go, and could hear my mum moaning upstairs. I ran up to check and hurry her along to find her trying to pull her tights up and struggling. Apparently her back is hurting again, something she has been complaining about for a little while now.
I help her so that we can finally get moving, and then she asks for me to put some more product into her hair too. She likes it to look 'the wackier the better' and often panics if it looks too flat, dramatically throwing her head upside down in the middle of a shop so she can shake it up and add more volume, being a regular embarrassing occurrence.
The back pain has been playing on my mum's mind a little, however as this is someone who once broke her wrist by doing the can-can spontaneously in our kitchen, I just assume that she's been doing something equally as crazy and forgotten. Trust me, it's a regular thing!


It was probably about a week or so later that I headed back home from London again to take my mum to a hospital appointment. No stress or worry involved, you see, my mum actually had breast cancer back in 2010 but luckily it was caught super early at her 50 plus screening, so it was a full cure after a lumpectomy and a course of radiotherapy for good measure. The whole diagnosis and treatment was pretty straight forward and she was never 'ill' or 'sick' at any point.
So this appointment was just to have the yearly checkup. Mind you-they had forgotten to send an appointment date this time, so we were there due to some reminding and pushing.
Sitting in Worthing hospital I didn't have any fears and to be honest can't remember the amount of time that it took to get the results through. Times that seem pretty insignificant do have a tendency to just pass you by.

However I do remember clear as day standing in a staff corridor of Liberty of London, where I was working in a hair salon at the time, and speaking to my mum on the phone.

'I have cancer again Darling.'

The chills that that word sends down your spine is like nothing else. My heart sunk to the ground, my fingers trembling and a feeling of pure dread filled my whole being.
Of course I tried not to let this show through my voice.

Something I should probably let you know at this point is that my mum and I were incredibly close. We always had been like best friends whilst I was little and growing up, and still very much were. But unlike perhaps other close mother-daughter relationships, ours was different.
My parents had got divorced a few years before, and when the family house was sold, my mum and I moved into our own little girly house.
I have an older brother but he lived and still does, in Cambridge, so throughout the divorce and our move it was just mum and I. We had been through a difficult few years and after such a huge life change, we realised that we could get through things if we just had each other.
I have always been quite laid-back, so I was the relaxed, calm, practical head of the pair of us. So you can now understand why I couldn't let my mum hear that I was worried.

The walk back to Oxford Circus tube was a bizarre one. In one of the busiest streets in London, at one of the busiest times of day, I heard or saw nothing. Just a white noise ringing in my ears and a haze of shadows passing by.
We prepared for the likely hood of an operation within the next month and potentially chemotherapy or radiotherapy again. I managed to calm myself down after a while and remembered how plain sailing the first time round was, this was definitely something that we could tackle again together.


Even though we now knew that there was a breast tumour again, the specialists needed to check details....how fast growing was it? Had it spread into the lymph nodes etc?
Another vivid memory of mine, that I honestly wish would disappear, was sitting in the consultants room that day. My mum had had a full body scan to determine what was going on and he popped this onto the light up box and continued to point to an area on her spine.
The one thing that you never want to hear started to drip from his tongue...


'The cancer has already spread into your spine, therefore it is now not curable, just treatable.'

The dread that I had felt before now seemed like nothing, compared to this feeling of unconsolable sadness. A real feeling as though my life was spiralling out of control before my eyes.
Sure, my mum has had some back pain but she looks fine, she's healthy. I was looking at someone I loved and I could not comprehend that what this man was telling me was true. Surely this was a bad dream. Bad things don't really happen. Why her? Why me? How we will cope? What about my job? Will I lose her?
A life altering moment that I would never wish on anyone.

This is the chapter of my life where the story begins. A moment where my path changed and certainty disappeared.


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