How To Cope With Grief

Photo on 01-11-2015 at 15.49 #2This post is sort of a sister post to my post last week – I promise no more morbid posts after this. I’ve mentioned numerous times that 2014 was a difficult year in which a number of people close to me died, three of whom were very young (22, 25 and 28). I’ve unwillingly learned a few things about coping with grief; I am a slow learner, but I’m getting there.

This year, two of my friends have in turn lost friends of theirs. I thought I’d write this post, not because I have the answers on how to deal with grief but just to pass on what helped. Grief is always going to be an incredibly personal and intimate experience, coloured by your relationship and contextualised by all sorts of nonspecific events. If I’m honest, my grief is something I’m still processing, and perhaps I will always be reeling from last year. But here is what I’m learning.

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Allow Your Memories
All the deaths immediately sparked off a flood of memories for me – memories that had been long forgotten came zooming to the surface. I couldn’t stop my brain if I tried. I literally stared into space for a week whilst my brain regurgitated all sorts of random moments I’d thought I’d forgotten. I jotted everything down as fast I could – not because I wanted to go back and read them, but because I wasn’t sure if I’d remember them again. This also led me to..

Write Down Everything

I also wrote down how I was feeling every day. I was so aware that what was happening was bizarre and strange and uncalled for, especially with those who died young. I wanted to document that time, how I felt, what was happening to me and to us. After Pete died, some of what I wrote down made it out into the first three blog posts I wrote after his death. I’m not sure why I didn’t blog about the previous people I lost; I think I just needed a new outlet other than my diary by the time Pete died in November and I was so frustrated and exhausted from the people I’d already lost that year.


Don’t Question The Dead
Another knee-jerk, subconscious reaction was questioning the relationship I had with these people, especially the friends I was closest to. I started questioning what they thought about me, if they really cared, times we had bickered, times I had failed them. I wondered if we really were close or if I was making things bigger in my brain, and I questioned if I was entitled to my grief and deep sense of loss.

It was awful. I’m not at all anxious or neurotic normally but it was inescapable, thoughts spiralling out of control and my mind reminding me of all the bad times. After the fourth death and the fourth spiral into Paranoid Land I eventually (to my shame) approached a family member of the deceased, who I was on friendly terms with. He essentially took pity on me, told me I was being ridiculous and to not doubt my friend for a second, saying that I had been dearly loved and if my friend was still alive he would have chosen me all over again. I echoed these words in my post last week, as they have been one of the most enduring pieces of advice (if you can call it advice) that I received.

The final thought on this horrific line of self-analysis is that when you doubt somebody’s love, you undo all the things they did to SHOW their love for you whilst they were alive; you ignore all the pints they bought, lifts they gave, times they shared, hugs and kisses and compliments and all the rest of it. It’s insulting to the efforts they gave to you and a terrible way to recall them.

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Stay Connected
There were quite large parts of me that just wanted to curl up and avoid everybody after my friends died. I think that is important at times, but I also think you will have more than enough time dwelling in your own thoughts without purposely isolating yourself. It’s SO important to stay connected with your friends, even if you’re justing sending a text that says “:(” and even if it’s just to one person. Even the tiniest effort can inspire a friend to make the tiniest effort back, and eventually that turns into all of you helping each other out.

Turn It Into Something Else
For me processing these deaths has taken the form of a 12 song album and multiple blog posts. Songs and writing is what I do anyway, so it was no surprise really. Other friends talked about drawing pictures, getting tattoos, writing poems, cooking huge meals and even just pointlessly chopping logs to try and turn the grief into something else.

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You Don’t Have To Talk About It
With each death, I found that almost everybody else immediately asked what happened. Not how I knew them, or what our relationship was, or how I felt, but straight off: how did they die? One person actually messaged me to say I’d “forgotten” to mention how Pete died in my first post. It is very rare for somebody to die in their twenties, so people are bound to be shocked and curious, and I understand that. But I can tell you now the cause of death seems very superfluous. The fact that my friends were no longer there was the real crux of the matter, and however they died does nothing to diminish the simple and overwhelming fact that they died.
This sounds strange but another one of the things that most bothered me after the first friend of mine died last year (which was a suicide) was the number of people who could not relate. Whilst I’m incredibly grateful to the people who offered to talk or listen, I also felt like I had such a conflicted and nuanced set of feelings that I couldn’t possibly open up to somebody hadn’t lost someone in a similar circumstance. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to relate and you don’t have to say. A lot of people had an opinion on suicide without having experiencing it. I found it hard to articulate to people that I didn’t want to endlessly question my friend’s decision because I needed instead to just cope with the pure fact that he just was no longer there.

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What Others Made
Death has always been a part of life and therefore people have always had to deal with grief and bereavement. This means there are millions of thoughts about death, about grief, about coping and about loss out there. There are films and books and documentaries and symphonies and songs and you can study them all and see how other people coped and I promise it helps.
I’ve made a list of some of the films, books, music and TV that helped me begin to process my grief, and I will post about it separately at some point. By all means please add your own coping mechanisms below. I very much hope none of you have cause to read through this, but if you, then I send you all my love and I hope there may be something in this post for you.




How To Be Confident


Something a bit different today! This is the first post I’ve written that has been requested. I’ve found it a bit difficult to write, because I don’t really know how to become confident, I just am. I’ve rarely felt less than confident in myself and it’s only been in recent years I’ve become aware that not everybody else feels the same. As I’ve gotten older more and more people have told me how confident I am – which I’ve always found weird because it’s like saying “you’ve got such great elbows” in that it’s not something I notice or have ever practised.

I find it hard to differentiate confidence from self-esteem from liking your appearance – for me personally, they’re all different words for what is essentially just being happy. So in trying to write this post I asked a lot of people what makes them confident, because like I say, I wasn’t sure. The answers were bewildering to me – power poses, making eye contact, tree stance, repeating a confidence mantra to yourself, etc. If that helps you then great, but I have no idea about any of that stuff, so I’m just going to tell you the things that I think make me confident.

1. Like Yourself – This sounds ridiculous but I actually think a lot of people have aspects of themselves they don’t like. That’s pretty crucial. I like my friends, I like my job, I like the way I look and I like my voice and most of the time I like the way my brain works. You can’t change yourself.

2. Be Certain – I think essentially, being confident is being certain of yourself. Know your capabilities, reactions, likes and dislikes. I never feel unconfident because I know what I’m like, and I know I’ll be ok. I’ve weathered a lot of storms so I never worry that I won’t get through something – I’m certain of my coping mechanisms and my strengths. It’s important to also be certain of your weaknesses, so you can at least be confident in what you’re bad at. For example; I’m late to every social engagement ever but I know this about myself, and I know that my friends are understanding of this, and I know I’ll never be so late that our plans are ruined. So I’m confident that I’ll be ok.

3. Know That You’re At Your Best – This is an extension of the above point. If you know you’re at your absolute best you won’t doubt yourself. Whether that means being prepared or having a good nights sleep, it’s important! For example; I never feel unconfident when I go on stage to perform my songs because I know I’ve written the absolute best song that I could. If I’m not happy with the song I won’t do it.


4. Know Your Strengths and How You Operate – I genuinely believe that if everybody knew their strengths and worked to them we’d be in a much happier society! Stick to what suits you and you’ll have no reason to feel unconfident. Be as prepared as you can be – or trust in your abilities to wing it. And if you are in a situation where you’re completely ill-equipped then…

5. Laugh At Yourself – When it all goes wrong, you have to be able to laugh at yourself and forget it. You gave a crap presentation – forget it. I mess up constantly and I always, always laugh it off. As my friends say, I’m literally laugh-a-minute. It’s one of my favourite things about my life; every stupid thing I do turns into a constant stream of comedy.

6. Have Good Friends – One of my friends went out with the most unconfident person ever and eventually became plagued with neuroses and feeling unconfident too. Nobody ever sat in a circle of friends who they loved and respected, and thought “Wow, I feel so unconfident”. Friends make everything better. Get the best ones you can and surround yourself with them.

So there you go. Pretty basic stuff but maybe it might be interesting for some of you! I think of this as an expansion of my earlier post about being happy. If there’s anything you would add to this list, or any times it’s harder to be confident, then let me know – I’ve got a follow-up to this post planned discussing certain situations!
Next post will be back in Japan ft a new dress and a garden designed in the 1400s…