I THOUGHT I knew what grief was, how you're meant to deal with loss.
I thought I knew how I coped with tragic events in my life, when the sh*t hits the fan and everything gets torn apart.
But, the last week has made me realise I don't know any of that anymore.
It's just been bad news, after bad news.
I lost four friends in four days to bowel cancer – the same disease that's invading my body. They, like me, were all too young.
Then I lost one of my best friends Simon to cystic fibrosis. He died waiting for a new pair of lungs.
I found myself standing at the bottom of a grief mountain, with no idea how to take the first step to conquer it.
I was numb, in a state of shock.
I didn't know what to do. Looking back, I go off the rails when bad things happen.
I have a few blow outs, feel numb for a while and then wonder how I got up and managed to keep going.
Then I hit a brick wall and I cry.
I plunge into a whirl of anxiety and panic, but emerge with a stiff upper lip, a shot of tequila and start to pull myself together again.
'It's not that simple – grief comes back to get you'
I've learned grief isn't that simple, or short-lived.
Grief can come back and hit you at anytime, when you least expect it and often years later.
At the age of 19 my cousin died in a car crash. She was 17.
I remember screaming when I heard the news, I don't have the words to describe the piercing pain I felt. I just wanted to escape my body.
Nothing felt real, my life paused in that moment.
Telling friends what happened I felt like I was watching a movie. I felt like I was watching it happen to someone else.
After her funeral I jumped on a plane and went to work abroad. I couldn't escape my mental pain but I could physically remove myself from anything that reminded me of her. It felt easier.
Two months later I came home and carried on as normal.
It was only in my last years at uni that her death came back to hit me.
I suffered vicious panic attacks, and I became terrified of driving in the dark for many, many years.
I sought help, and started to have cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to try and deal with my grief.
It all boils down to the fact, I have an ingrained fear of dying suddenly, and too young – just like my cousin. And now, just like my best friend Rachael (Bland).
'I can't run away from my cancer'
Last week I had to travel up to Manchester, the day after Simon died, to record a podcast about grief. Talk about timing!
It was the first time Lauren and I had stepped into the BBC studios to record after Rach died in September, and it was the first time Steve had talked about it.
I found myself regressing to my 19-year-old self, just wanting to run away again.
But this time I was caught by my own cancer and my very real mortality. The truth is, I can't run away from that.
I chatted alongside Steve, Lauren and Simon Thomas, and I surprised myself by how OK I felt.
No, it didn't solve my grief, I didn't feel like I'd moved on. I've just recognised that I am grieving.
The days after Rachael died, I put on my brave face and did interview after interview, telling anyone who would listen how wonderful and important my friend was.
I held it together in front of the cameras.
But, behind them, I hit a brick wall and it's now I realise that it's OK to admit I found it tough.
'I'm scared I won't be here for my kids'
My grief for my friends is manifesting itself in anxiety.
I'm overwhelmed with worry about my own death, about the thought of my kids not having me around.
I'm grieving for Rach and my friends, but I'm also starting to grieve for my own life. The one I might not get to have.
I'm starting to get sad at the loss of my future, the fact I can no longer dream of growing old.
I can't make plans more than a couple of weeks in advance, I have to take each day as it comes because next year is too far for me.
I know grief isn't a linear process, I always believed there were stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
They try to give you a framework of what learning to "live" again looks like.
I didn't expect to get a medal when I hit each one when dealing with my cousin and now with Rach, Simon, my friends and possibly myself.
'There's no normal way to grieve'
I do expect a process. And that's where it's hard – it's not a straight forward process.
There is no normal, it really can be a case of ten steps forward, 20 steps back.
Laughing, crying, feeling OK… it's all OK and part of the process.
Life does indeed go on, it kind of has to. And as Rach's three-year-old son Freddie said after she died, "it will be OK".
There isn't a day I don't miss those I have lost, but I suppose you have to learn to function again.
Do we let the heartbreak destroy us too in the process, because that's the easiest option?
Or do we hold our hands up and scream, "help, pull me up from this sh*t and bring me back to life"?
I know if I die, I'll be shouting at my loved ones telling them to wipe their tears and get back to the party – after a good cry, of course!
My new book F*** You Cancer is available to buy now – and gives a brutally honest view of what cancer is really like – buy it here now
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