Society has changed a lot over the last few years, we are much more aware of our feelings and emotions. Stress and mental health have been the topic of many organisations in the media recently.
Having lived through a horrific personal experience, I'm only too aware of the strain and pressure it can put on your health.
Losing someone, going through a divorce, being made redundant, losing a pet or whatever the situation can seriously affect you emotionally. In the UK, we are always reminded "TO KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON", but this mantra is a little outdated; it's far better to talk about your problems with someone that you can trust than try to hide how you feel. Don't carry on, but instead start opening up.
Things have got better, and time is a great healer. However, time doesn't mean that you forget. There are times when memories are sparked… it could be something as simple as a song that sparks a memory. For me, the things that spark memories are songs and places; when I hear a particular song or visit a place that we once visited together, I get this feeling of a knot in my stomach, a rush of emotions coming to the surface. It transports you back to the time or place of the memory. One of my sons plays a certain song that Kate and I listened to when we were younger. The lyrics today still hit a nerve when I hear it; one particular line “I wish the world wouldn't be so cold, as to take such a beautiful soul” still catches me at times.
I once explained to a reporter that losing Kate was like a wave hitting you and pulling you under, rolling you around the bottom being hit by rocks and debris. Over time the wave strength has decreased. However, I know that it will never fully fade away. Kate will always be in our memory. I have built a strong network of people around me to support me, so when that wave comes crashing in, it doesn't pull me under because of my support network.
These triggers can really pull me back into a dark place.
People don't always understand how they feel, as we don't seem to have been taught this growing up or have a limited vocabulary when it comes to explaining how we feel.
If you know that someone is not OK... I always say: “I know you’re not OK, is there anything I can do to help you?”
When Kate died, some people didn't know what to say or how to act around us. However, they showed they cared and wanted to help by dropping off food parcels, popping a note through the door, reminding me of the list that Kate had written and offered support to fulfil these dreams.
There is always a period of time when you don't want to deal with how you are feeling. If you haven't got anyone close by to talk to or don't want to talk to close friends and family, please reach out to either a helpline, stress and mental health first aid professionals or charities to support you. There is no shame in discussing how you feel and seeking some form of mental health and stress management.
You can never change what has happened but in time you can change and learn how to live with those feelings and adopt strategies to deal with the triggers. I found writing things down and processing lists, was good therapy. When I was asked to write Mum's List I realised how therapeutic writing can be.
When a song came on the radio, I used to turn it off as quickly as possible or would end up getting incredibly upset. Now I turn it up and go with it, so if you ever see me driving around with music blurring out … you know why.
Going forward, we are going to focus on finishing Kate's list, although we have nearly achieved it. We are going to travel to as many places as possible to experience as many different cultures and ensure, as a family, we live life to the max.
Last but not least… Remember: life isn't about the number of breaths you take, it's about the amount of time your breath is taken away.
This article was written by Gina Childs on the occasion of World Mental Health Day.