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This I know – notes on unravelling the heart

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This book has to be one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It’s part journal, part Polaroid photography, and part guidance.

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The idea for Susannah Conway to write this book followed on from the sudden passing of her partner, the deep, dark hole she fell into and how she slowly, but surely climbed her way out. From her journalling of spending hours alone in he house, in her pyjamas, longing for her partner to return in some form or feeling, to her counselling, long walks on the beach and her move to another city to rejuvenate her career, this book tells the story of how although you never get over a death of someone, you can learn to live in harmony with your thoughts and feelings. In theory it sounds like a book that would be good for helping people deal with bereavement in their lives and getting themselves back on track, but it is so much more than that.

I felt the book didn’t so much relate to the very recent passing of my beloved grandma, but it pulled more at the feelings I have towards my health and illnesses. It spoke to the grieving I have for my previous life, to the reality that is my current life and how I am trying to create a life for myself that will work for me, for the new me.

Each chapter ends with ‘Reflections’. These include little tasks you can do to treat yourself, to delve deeper into your thoughts, and to just remember that everything is ok. My favourite task is writing 20 little cards of treats for yourself, put them in some sort of basket and when you’re feeling low, struggling with life or just feel like you deserve a little happy time, you pull a card out and do whatever is on it. It might be a bar of chocolate, a posh cup of tea or coffee, a chapter of a book or a cuddle with the cat, whatever works for you. And what’s more, my crafty mom made me beautiful little cards and envelopes to pop these ideas into, so opening every treat is a pretty, cute little treat in itself, adorned with a beautiful butterfly on each little pocket. Each little task can be created to your own personal likes and loves.

The book is beautiful to flick through, every few pages is adorned with meaningful quotes, soft Polaroid photos and it brings an overall feeling of peace to you as you read. This book itself will be one of the treats I add into one of my little envelopes.

In recent times of high anxiety, feeling blue about my difficult health situation or just having one of those days, I’ve recently reached for these pages and got myself lost in a world of learning to feel good about life, and most importantly, myself, again.

Susannah also has a beautiful website with lots of free ebooks, courses, meditations and photos to download.

Karen xx

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Bereavement

At 29 I’ve been to more funerals than I care to remember; as a child when I didn’t really understand, to friend’s, to family member’s, being there to support past partners, and, more recently, my wife. But this October I had to attend the most difficult funeral yet, that of my Grandma. As the Vicar ended the service letting Grandma know it was time to dance with the planets and stars and towards those who were waiting for her it was then it hit me. She’d really gone.

A couple of days later after burying her ashes in her family grave I sat on the train back to Brighton crying, I’ve no idea if I attracted strange or concerned looks from my fellow passengers. All I knew was that I needed, wanted even, to restore some sort of order in my mind. Why wasn’t there a universal grieving manual I could turn to tell me what to do?

As I sat there watching the world speed by me I got thinking, is there a right way for us to grieve, to say goodbye and accept that our loved one has really left us behind to continue our lives without them.

There are numerous articles, web pages and self help books telling us how to cope. Each one is so very different. Yet not one of those appealed to me. Then I thought why do I, why do we, feel the need for permission and instructions to bereave. Animals go about it just fine on their own. We hear of dogs pining, elephants trying to wake the fallen member of the herd and monkeys sitting by their companions for days. Yet somehow they get by, and no-one told them what to do to move on and continue their lives. They just do whatever comes naturally, their instinct tells them.

Why has the subject become such big business, from funeral directors to self help authors; people seem intent on making money out of the inevitable and preying on those in their hours of need.

After ticking over with my random thoughts, a few days later I realised just what I needed. To just let it happen. To just be. Sometimes I don’t think about it, and that’s ok. Other times I shed a tear, sit with my memories or take extra care when putting on a necklace Grandma gave me. That’s all ok too.

There are no rules. Just do what comes naturally, seek comfort in religion or spirituality, a memory or photo album, anything at all you hold dear.

No matter what you do, it’ll always be the right thing.

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