Spring comes so quietly, it would be easy for us to almost miss it but once it begins it is impossible to ignore the daily radiance, growth and change around us. We so easily go about our daily lives, rushing to get to work with our heads in our phones, we risk missing the soft glow of the sun, the blue skies or the blossoming trees. The morning sun brings sounds that were not there before – the breeze carries an inviting warmth that entices us to go outside. It is clear a new season is beginning; a change is in the air.
The season of spring is full of transformations and many of the changes I have seen have been mirrored in my own grief – that feeling of warmth after a cold winter. The parallels were almost uncanny when I sat and thought about our first year without Rubén. Our first year really was a cold, cold winter. And although I have reached a stage in my grief I would call most suitably ‘Springtime’, where the skies aren’t so grey, not all the flowers are dead or the trees so bare, there is definitely still a cold chill in the air. Maybe even more suitably, being in the UK – there always will be.
As I typically do, I was doing some research around spring time and bereavement and I really admired the philosophy behind the Japanese attitude towards springtime. This season in Japan is marked by the arrival of their virtuous cherry blossom trees (locally known as ‘Sakura’).
They signify the renewing yet fleeting nature of life. The life of a cherry blossom is surprisingly short – in one year, you have one week when they bud, one week when they bloom and one week before they die. With only three weeks of the year to enjoy these beautiful trees, people cram in celebrations known as ‘Hanami’, where they will picnic, drink and admire the beauty of nature during this perfect spring. The undeniable beauty of the tree however, is offset by a sense of melancholy at their all-too-brief appearance and the Japanese often compare this to our short time on Earth. As with everything – it reminded me of Rubén – something so perfectly beautiful that we had for far too short a time, while we desperately tried to cram in as much time with him before we had to say goodbye – I guess he is my perfect spring.
Strangely, I have found it quite daunting that spring was approaching. I was trying to remember what it was like for me last year as a newly bereaved mother, but my life was in such a daze I don’t think I had the capacity to differentiate between hours, let alone months or seasons. I have started seeing new mums out walking with their babies and their friends in the sunshine thinking: I should have a one year old crawling or running around my ankles. I have seen families picnicking with big rucksacks on their backs ready for a day full of adventure and activities thinking: I wonder what I would be doing if Rubén was here? So in order to combat these thoughts and feelings, I have turnt my attention more to Rubén’s charity and ways we can honour him. With sunshine brings much more opportunity to fundraise, spread awareness and honour his memory (more about this later in my next post). While it has been productive to think ahead at ways of spreading awareness, Paul and I have been doing more in our personal lives to integrate ourselves back into society and here’s just a few things we have done that may be of some benefit to others:
- Making more of an effort to meet up with friends and family
While this may seem like a really simple, almost ‘non-tip’, please let’s acknowledge the most important word in that sentence – meet. Not the odd phone call, text or message via social media – actually get in your car, on the bus or train or walk and go to spend some quality time with your friends. This was not the first time I had visited friends since we lost Rubén, but it was for Paul and he was amazed at how much of a difference it made to his overall mood. It is so easy to isolate yourself when you’re grieving which is exactly what we done: I came off of ALL social media (even Whatsapp) and have yet to still go back and Paul completely cut off from all of his friends. So meeting up with people that care about us and are there for us – not to talk about Rubén (although inevitably he came up.. (much to my delight because I love talking about him!)) but just to catch up like old friends do.
- Talk to your spouse – communication is key
Again, this may seem like a no-brainer but certainly in our experience and I’m sure in others too, we would both hold back on telling each other if we were down or upset through fear of not wanting to upset the other person. But since we have both started to open up to each other, even if it’s to let the other person know we are feeling OK today, it has really helped. I know how to approach him if he is feeling down and vice versa, therefore we are able to comfort each other the way we need to be comforted. Whether that’s giving loads of hugs, having a good cry or giving some space – it all helps in the end.
- Take the time to spend time together as a couple – not parents that have lost their baby
Paul and I have always done things together, whether it is go for a walk, go to the cinema or go for dinner (the latter more often than not) but after Rubén, that stopped for a while understandably. But lately, we have spent more time doing things together and trying to make it more about us than it has been about Rubén. Of course, we still talk about him all the time, but when we’re out, we try to spend some ‘us’ time: like we would if we had a date night and had a babysitter in!
- Do things together to honour your baby
While this may seem to contradict the previous tip, this is just as important as having ‘you’ time. We both have our own personal goals for what we would like to achieve for our son and recently we have thought about what we would like to do together to honour him (more about this in my next post!). Whether it is to fundraise together, get matching tattoo’s or build a plot in garden together – doing it together could help you get closer as well as bring you comfort.
It is equally important to acknowledge that while these few things helped us, they may not be suited to everybody! Grief doesn’t discriminate – it hits you in any season, any month. But I’m working towards carrying through a message of new hope and looking to the future this spring. The important thing is finding what is right for you in your journey through grief.