Dedicated to My beautiful Nan and my hilariously and equally great Uncle Marky.
May you both rest in peace.
How do you cope when you lose a loved one while you’re abroad? I’ll start by saying I don’t have the answer nor any remarkable advice. Wherever you are in the world no matter how close you are to family or how far away, any type of loss is heartbreaking. It’s a small moment in time that feels like an eternity. Emotions and feelings overcome your body at warp speed, and when you’re abroad they intensify tenfold. I found that in London your solitude is magnified. A simple shower can become a place of solace as it drowns out the sound of crying. Hyde Park’s hidden gardens become a refuge to escape to, and Facetime becomes the closest form of comfort you can get from family.
I lost my Uncle two months ago. It happened suddenly and when my parents finally got hold of me, Penny had to scoop me up from the side of the road near Green Park and keep me wrapped in her arms as I bawled my eyes out the whole way home.
I wasn’t able to return home to Sydney, because it was the middle of assessment week at university, and it was still another six weeks till I was booked to fly home. It was incredibly hard to coach myself through what to do. Especially when all I wanted to do was go home, comfort my family and mourn with them.
As an older sister, I thought it was my duty to look after my little sister and I felt awful that I wasn’t able to fulfil that. Everyone at home, including my beautiful cousins, put on a brave face when talking to me as to not make me feel more alone. Time difference doesn’t help in situations like this.
On the day of the funeral, I thankfully had a day off university. I found a church, lit a candle and listened to music. I’ll be honest , I thought I committed a sin by listening to music with my headphones in. (Don’t worry, I’ve asked and it’s not, phew!)
I barely told a soul about my Uncle and that didn’t help. A part of me didn’t want any form of fake sympathy. Another part of me didn’t want comfort because I knew I would be reminded I was sad and not home with my family. I’m sure I’m not alone in just closing off to the world when something traumatic happens. I Instead attempted to gravitate to people who didn’t know me well, and who I knew wouldn’t comfort me at all. The problem with this is it always ends up hurting more when they let you down, which they will.
I was only back in London for eight days when my world came crashing down. I had just got home from the Rolling Stones concert and I got the same message from my Dad that I did with my uncle, “Can I call.”
Losing my Nan has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. My heart is completely and utterly shattered. Anyone who knew mine and my family’s relationship with her knew it was anything but normal; s he was extremely special and loved by anyone and everyone who met her.
I was so fortunate that my parents helped get me onto a flight almost straight away. I am more than aware that this is a luxury that a lot of people may not have in this situation. As anyone who has done the journey back to Sydney from London knows, it’s long, painstakingly long. For the most part, I held it together, only mini breakdowns in the toilet cubicle into my sleeve. (I can only imagine how I looked, what a sight ! Yikes!)
This time around It was my little sister who encouraged me to reach out to people properly. It was this advice that allowed me to realise a very important life lesson. Good people with good hearts will want to help and be there for you. Whether a stranger, acquaintance or a friend, people’s true personalities shine through in times like this. You are able to learn very quickly the type of people you want to surround yourself with. Your real friends will help you and they will be there for you, even in situations that may be uncomfortable for them. After all, isn’t that really what true friendship is about. Just being there for someone, caring and loving them without there being a hidden agenda.
While I was feeling supported and had enough people holding me up it’s still not easy. In times of great sadness or hurt, we usually want to turn to our parents . They are a form of stability and comfort. However, when we see them hurt we are confronted with the unknown. I’m still unsure how to be there for my parents in a way that will actually help them. I at times feel guilty for relying on them for comfort when they are trying to manage their own feelings and grief.
I don’t know how I will ever forgive myself for not being in Australia. I do know the only way forward is to work as hard as I possibly can, because studying in London did make my Nan very proud. I’m pouring myself wholeheartedly into the final months of my university degree. I am also attempting to make the most of my time left here and surround myself with good and loving people. At this point in time, I think that’s the best thing that anyone could do in this situation.
– M x
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my Australian friends. You dropped everything in your incredibly busy life’s to be there for me, in a situation that I understand was out of a lot of your comfort zones. To my London friends and Spring Mews family I felt your love and the kindness all the way in Australia. I will never know how to repay all of you, just know I’ll spend the rest of my life trying.