57, 27, 21. Numbers I will never forget. I was aged 27, when my mother aged 57 passed away on the 21st from alcoholism. It might seem odd that my age sticks out as a significant number, but for me it was something I was constantly aware of, "You’re still young you'll be fine", "you've still got marriage and kids ahead of you", "you've got your career in London" people would say.
Yes, but they didn't understand my mother would not be there on my wedding day, and yes I felt young, too young to deal and process what was happening. I didn't know any other 27 year olds or any of my friends that knew how to plan a funeral. A wedding yes, but a funeral no. A grandparent’s death to process yes, a parent no. Age 27 I found this out.
At first - denial. I had a funeral to arrange, and I had to plan it exactly as she would like it. Next - I had to make sure my dad was ok - everyone kept on telling me to look after my dad. Then - my career. I had a career in London to concentrate on as people kept telling me. There was a lot going on. I looked tired, skinny and stressed. I had somehow managed to get by and forgotten to look after the most important person - me. I didn't give myself the time I needed to process.
"You need to look after yourself", "Take Care" people would then say. I suddenly realised that as I had often done growing up in an alcoholic home I had been listening to everyone else rather than myself.
That's when the topic of 'wellbeing' and thinking about 'me' became really important. Having 'me time' felt foreign at first. I started by seeing a counsellor (I was lucky enough that my workplace had an employee assistance programme that I accessed confidentially) and started opening up to people outside of my work, family and friends. Next - I started to meditate using a guided app and use mindfulness in day to day activities. This felt really surreal at first. I suddenly realised what it was like to sit there and just feel. It felt uncomfortable at first, but then I realised the benefits of a quieter mind and allowing myself to just think. Next - I found comfort in reading about the concept of happiness and wellbeing, journaling my thoughts, trying new things – like Thai Chi – and booking experiences to look forward to. I combined this all together and started thinking about what I like and what makes me happy. It took time and self-motivation to get into a better place and feel happier.
Where am I at now? Wellbeing and looking after 'me' is still very important to me. But I now have the capacity to think about this in the context of other people. I have used what I have learned about 'wellbeing' to spread good working practices to others. A few months ago I organised a 'wellbeing week' for over 300 people at my place of work. Small things such as taking regular lunch breaks, reaching out and talking to others, raising your heartbeat through exercise and trying new things (e.g. Thai Chi) are all things which took place – good wellbeing tips in any context.
I will never forget my mum, my experience. It has shaped who I am today. I feel much happier now considering wellbeing in my life, and this focus has helped me move forward from this tough experience, yet still acknowledge and recognise it as part of me.