One year ago I wrote a blog about how happy I was to see the end of 2017, about how challenging a year it had been for me but how I was ending it on a positive note with so much to look forward to in 2018. I left my family and friends in the UK and flew back to Penang to celebrate the new year with my friends there, and my boyfriend Jerry. We had a holiday to look forward to. I was absolutely fine and really grateful for it.
2018 was not the year I expected and it was not the year I deserved. It has been the most difficult, painful and confusing year. 2 days of stability is all I got from 2018 and the rest has been, for the most part, like being dropped into the ocean amidst a huge storm where you know you’re good at swimming but you don’t have a true grasp on which direction to go in or where you even want to end up. The death of a loved one in such a traumatising circumstance should not be underestimated for how deeply it can affect you or how unpredictable it can become. It has been one very intense ride. On January 3rd I will give Jerry the attention he deserves separately to this post.
Honestly, even now with 3 days to go until the one year anniversary of Jerry’s death I am still somewhat in shock about the reality of what happened. There are days or moments in time where I feel almost paralysed with the realisation. I sometimes feel like I no longer belong in the same world as everyone else around me. It’s really tiring to process and work through grief. The trauma side of the accident is a different story as well. The reality is that I know how it feels to think you’re about to die. I know how it feels to be powerless to change the outcome. I know how it feels to wake up in an ambulance in a foreign country and be told by strangers that the person you love is dead. I know how it feels to see that person dead and I know how it physically feels to touch them. I also know what grief feels like and that is a set of emotions that is impossible to forget and is incomparable to the worst emotions I’ve felt previously in my life. These are things that most people thankfully never have to experience in this context, but that also makes isolation a real issue. There have been so many days where I have literally wanted to scream in people’s faces. I’ve never been an angry person and there have been numerous people I’ve wanted to punch. I’ve wanted to shake people and shout “Please understand me” or “Please help me to get this out of my head” and I’ve apologised more than ever before about everything. I even feel like apologising now for the negative tone of this blog, or how I come across. “I’m sorry I don’t know why I’ve said/done that”, “I’m sorry I feel so anxious today and I don’t really know why”, “I’m sorry it may not look like I care about you but I really do”, “I’m sorry to bother you with this but…”, it’s an endless cycle of apologising and feeling like failing.
One of the best lessons I’ve learnt this year is that there isn’t a rule book for dealing with grief and I need to give myself a break. I’ve learnt this but I’m still really bad at it. I’ve had to let go of expecting other people to understand me when I don’t really understand myself very easily. It’s quite difficult to communicate your own emotions and then everyone around you has their own personalities and experiences and their own problems. It becomes like a mine field to know how to manage social situations and different groups of people.
My one piece of advice for supporting someone who is grieving, and again it’s just my personal opinion, is to steer clear of clichés. Please don’t say “They would want you to be happy”, or “You need to live for that person”, “It’ll get better with time”, “Time’s a healer” or any of that kind of thing. Someone said to me last week “It seems like you’re over what happened now.” It was meant to be a compliment but the effect of it was that I immediately felt angry, about to cry and had a surge of flashbacks about the past 12 months. You can’t “get over” death or trauma. You learn to live with what happened to you in the best way that you can. You can’t spend the rest of your life being forever destroyed by negative things that have happened but equally you can’t just decide to get over them either. I think managing other people’s expectations has been one of my biggest challenges this year, especially because of social media. Social media has a lot to answer for with the pressure we put on ourselves. People can watch and make judgements without having a face to face conversation. This is the world we live in and I live on the other side of the world from the majority of people I know so social media can be great. If you really want to know what’s going on with me, please take time to listen and be open minded.
Having talked about negativity and sadness in 2018 I want to spend the rest of this post celebrating the fact that I am alive and I’ve achieved some stuff and I’ve had a lot of experiences this year. This year has taught me a lot about friendship (good and bad things) but the strength and value of friendship is something I know lots about now. This year has taught me that my mum is the best person in the entire world. I’m very grateful for my family in general. This year has taught about the importance of communication, as I am trying to do now. This year has taught me that you can still live and do things even when you’re being tested left right and centre. Here are some of my favourite moments from 2018:
All these photos show that 2018 has been full of beautiful, positive and memorable experiences alongside the sadness. They show that I am making the most of the life Jerry gave me the opportunity to continue, and that the right bunch of people are who you need to keep moving forward. Here are some more positives from 2018:
All fabulous stuff. Also I have a great set of teeth now and my nose is miraculously growing its own cartilage again. Physically you’d never know what happened and I really am grateful for that.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a post about life in 2018 without reference to this guy…
It takes a certain type of trooper to get involved with someone with as complex a situation as mine. Only someone with as beautiful a personality as you Asraf would put up with me every day, withstand more crying episodes than an average boy knows how to deal with, have more raging arguments than an episode of Corrie (which is a reference you won’t understand), try to answer more life and religious questions than you’ve ever contemplated before and somehow muddle through each week never judging, always listening and being patient and open minded. We are not perfect but that’s why we are pretty cool.
2018 you’ve been a life lesson. 2019, please be easier. Sorry to anyone I met for the first time this year, I have not been my old self and I’m still learning about my new self.