Into the light

It’s taken me a long time to get back to a place of wanting to blog again… A lot has happened in the space of two months. The last time I wrote here, I had no idea that things would change so drastically; I had no idea that my world would fall apart in just 12 days.

On 24 February 2017, my mom died.

It was sudden and unexpected; no one saw it coming. Mom was the glue that held our family together. I found a Mother’s Day card the other day; inside I’d written: “Thank you for keeping us together, whenever we needed you, without you, we would probably all crumble!”

And we did crumble.

Losing someone so close to you is like losing a vital limb and knowing that it’s never going to grow back; it’s the worst kind of emotional pain you can ever image. It’s like someone has ripped a piece of your heart right out and comes to “suck” the life out of you at any given moment and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Once all the messages of support stopped after those first two weeks, it was hard to get back to “real life” and carry on as usual. I felt broken. Some people didn’t understand why I couldn’t reach out or attend a social event or send a message. What they didn’t understand was just how hard it was getting up some mornings and getting dressed to go to work. Everything was so mentally draining.

I went through a two-week period of being on auto pilot. I didn’t clean up after myself. I left clothes and make-up and plates and cups everywhere. I had panic attacks and fits of rage. I had moments of dark depression that lasted for hours where I couldn’t do anything but cry hysterically.

I struggled for a long time to ask for help, because I’m proud and I like to think I can fix everything. But I can’t fix this, so I’ve reached out to a grief counselor. I so desperately wanted to tick the grieving process off and get back to my life – for some reason, I thought the five stages of grief happened in the space of a few weeks. I thought they happened in order, one after the other. They don’t. Sometimes you get stuck on one stage for a long time. Knowing that, has helped me a LOT.

After a long period of walking blindly through the dark, just going through the motions, I can finally see some sort of light…

This kind of tragedy pulls people together and makes you see things from a completely new perspective. Things change; I’ve changed. Silly things that I used to stress about or try to keep up with just because, don’t matter anymore. Things that I never had time for, I now prioritise time for.

I don’t have patience anymore for pettiness or drama or fakeness. Be it online, with colleagues, friends, or even family. I want to live a life that has meaning and purpose. Blogging again, sharing thoughts and letting down walls is a good place to start, I think.

Going away for a few days this past weekend helped me find part of myself again.

I relaxed and laughed and was (as G calls it) the “fun Melanie” for the first time in months; it felt SO good. Being in nature has an incredible way of making you realise what’s really important and putting everything into perspective. It also reminded me to take better care of myself. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

Embracing my faith has been life-changing. I got baptised in November last year and I don’t know how I’d have found some light on my own throughout this grieving process. Filtering what I see online has been a huge weight off my shoulders, too.

I’m making a conscious effort to bring some form of self care into my day. It sounds so selfish, because I am a little selfish, but it’s necessary. I don’t feel guilty about spending a few hours over the weekend relaxing at home watching a movie or blogging instead of trying to cram as much as possible into a weekend. It’s too hard right now to be at big social events – even with family, and that’s okay.

All things in time.

When your cup is full, stop pouring. I read that line this morning– how incredibly accurate.

I don’t know what this year holds or where I’ll be this time next year, but one thing I do know: I want to live a life that would make my mom proud. So here’s me starting today. Opening up and being a little more vulnerable and being okay that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

This picture was taken this past weekend in Plettenberg Bay. Whenever I’m at the beach, I know mom is near because it was her favourite place in the whole world.

10 Replies to “Into the light”

  1. This was beautiful Melanie. I’m so sorry for your loss.. I lost my mom four years ago and after I emerged from that dark time, I too wanted to make my mom proud. It also helped knowing that I was blessed to have a mom like her. Someone once said to me that it’s really hard to lose a parent no matter how “grown up” we are and I do agree. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I’m sure Your mom is with you and very proud of your strength. Xo

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      You’re right… for some reason, I thought it would be easier to lose a parent as an adult, but there’s nothing easy about it. 🙁 It’s so comforting talking to people who’ve been there, because those who haven’t, don’t understand – as much as they try. It’s a pain you can’t even put into words properly. That’s great advice – I’ve been thinking about that, too, over the last week as we work our way up to Mother’s Day… just how blessed I was to have this wonderful woman in my life, as my role model. Thank you so much for your kind words, Emily. It really means a lot. oxo

  2. This is one of those times when I truly do know exactly what you are feeling. When I lost my dad at age 20 my world fell apart. He was literally the glue that held our family together. I was almost comatose for six months afterwards and honestly, Mel, I still feel a sense of profound loss.

    So I understand, and I’m sending you a hug of friendship.

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Oh Bill, my friend. Now I understand all those posts you wrote about your dad and losing him. I remember not understanding that feeling or being able to comprehend the loss. Now I do, completely. I can’t imagine losing my mom so young though… I don’t think I would have handled it as I am now; I think my entire world would have also fallen apart for a very long time. Your dad must be very proud of how you’ve turned your life around and how you are inspiring people to follow their dreams and write! Thank you so much for sharing and reaching out. Sending you a hug of friendship back. Will catch up soon.

  3. These kinds of things DO change us. We don’t know – indeed, we CAN’T know – how we emerge from something like this until we go through it.
    And everyone is different.
    Everyone’s process is different.
    I lost my oldest brother in a car accident in 2011. It shattered my family. They’ve never quite recovered. But, everyone has gone on, differently, and appreciates life differently.
    I share that not for sympathy, but to encourage: you will never be the same. And that’s okay. But you will go on and appreciate different things, as you mentioned.
    The grieving process is so…I dunno…so weird. Not sure of the right word, but I’ll tell you what: westernized cultures do not deal well with death. It’s swept under the rug and people whisper about it and speak in euphemisms. Here in the US, in my job, you literally get 2 days off for “grieving.” That’s it.
    It’s because people don’t want to think about it or talk about it.
    But, you know, once I started studying Aztec culture, I admired their take on death: they “mock” it. That’s sounds weird, I’m sure, but they celebrated 40 days of the dead before the conquistadors took over their culture. Then the Europeans reduced it to three days – and it is still celebrated today: the Day of the Dead. But it’s an Aztec tradition of facing it head on. They built altars to the deceased and honored them with their favorite foods and other favorite things they had in life. They believe that that person comes down to visit during the Days of the Dead. These days are now celebrated on 31 Oct (All Hallow’s Eve), November 1 (All Saints’ Day) and November 2 (All Souls’ Day).
    Thinking about that helped me come to terms with my brother. It helped me not to take death so seriously.
    I share that to emphasize that this is a personal journey. You’ll get there. Your heart will always yearn for the glue that held your family together, but your mom and her spirit will always be with you. If it helps, you can build a little altar in homage to her.
    And your faith. In this life, that which helps us to feel normal again is what we should do. Your faith has carried you through and may it continue to do so.
    And visit the beach often. I’m glad you’ve already been doing that. It’s such a wonderful place to experience – and know – that your mom is still with you, guiding you and lighting your way. Always. <3

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      I wish I could just reach out across the screen and hug you. Thank you, my friend. You put into words what I needed to read… that things DO change. I’m not the same person I was 3 months ago and it’s a very weird thing to get used to, or to try and explain to those closest to you – even they don’t understand. I really don’t understand why it’s considered the norm to “sweep it under the rug” – to almost pretend like it didn’t happen. We get 3 days off for family responsibility, which isn’t near enough. You need at least 2 weeks, if not more. Getting back to real life is probably the hardest part. You’ve spoken about your brother before, but I guess I never fully understood that kind of grief or how it could shatter a family. Now I really do. I have to believe these things happen for a reason; all part of some bigger plan that leads us to where we’re meant to be, that makes us stronger and more in tune with life and approaching it from a totally different angle. It’s a selfish way of looking at it, but it’s this – this faith, that’s helping me get up every day and keep going. You are just amazing – thank you for always being there, and especially now. I’ll catch up with your messages soon, likely over the weekend. I hope you’re having a good week – thinking of you as you round up one chapter and look forward to moving on to a completely new journey. xx

  4. You have hit the nail of grieving on its head, Melanie. It is the most horrible period in a person’s life. It will last forever, at least the longing, but one learns how to live with it. Strongs!

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Thank you Martie. It’s both awful and comforting knowing that… hearing it from the beginning, that it’s going to last forever, but that you can get through it and live with it, that helps. I hope you are well, it feels like ages ago since HP days. ox

  5. I want you to know that grief takes you, and keeps you, for a while. But it does not own you, for it just one part of you now. And, as much as it stings – those days where you feel okay are actually harder, because you question yourself more – your progress away from the moment of losing your beloved mum, and towards assimilating this as a part of yourself (I’m sorry, it doesn’t go away, it just becomes a smaller focus of your day) will guide and comfort you. My inbox is open for your venting. Tip: do it. All my love. X

    1. Melanie Chisnall says: Reply

      Thank you Cath… your words here, they help more than you can imagine. You’re right, those days when things feel okay, are strange days and they are harder. I feel like writing an essay here, but I won’t – I’ll keep that for an email. Thanks for being so willing to listen and for caring. It means a lot. ox

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