In the last few months some epic events have rocked our little family. Well, they felt epic for me at the time and it's only now that I feel ready and able to talk about them and the lessons that I've taken from this time.
The events that rocked my safe little world
Firstly, my grandfather (we call him Poppa) became seriously ill and we spent nearly a whole week saying goodbye to him each and every hospital visit.
Secondly, my sister and her family (including my two darling little nieces) moved to Europe for at least two years.
Both events caused me pain, and I have grieved through this time. But out of such upheaval, I feel privileged to have experienced a great overwhelmingly wave crashing sense of joy. Why? How? Through the bonds of our family.
When Poppa became ill, our family quickly pulled together and, without really realising we were doing it, we organised shifts to help share the load around. We each took it in turns to visit Poppa in hospital, we had shifts in place to visit and care for nana, shifts to make food and cups of tea and shifts to check in with dad. Because of my day job, it was my job to drive mum down to see Poppa in the evening at the hospital, and take nana out for dinner so she got a bit of a break. Because my sister had a bit more flexibility with her work, she was able to do the day shift (even with her two kids in tow!) and keep nana in bright spirits. Mum and dad were there constantly and my uncle Stephen even flew back from his overseas holiday early and stayed with nana for a while to provide her with comfort and support.
So during this incredibly hard-time, it made me stop and think. Wow - what an amazingly supportive family we are. There were a few times that I particularly felt this roller-coaster love. The first time was when I looked over, through my blurry eyes, to see my husband Brendan holding Poppa's hands as he lay in bed. The second time was seeing my dad cry whilst staring at Poppa lying in his hospital bed. That was a special moment for me because I got to witness dad shedding tears of love - for the dad he had and the loss he would feel when Poppa died. And finally, hearing my nana tell my uncle Stephen how much she loved him, when he was crying in a German airport desperate to get home to say his goodbye's. We're not an overly emotional family so being able to witness this outpouring of love was truly special.
And you won't believe it - after the fourth day of goodbye's Poppa started improving! Despite what we were all expecting, he didn't end up dying and we now have some more precious time left with him. The conversations that we have all had with Poppa since he started talking again are all incredibly treasured. I think our bond has grown with our nana too, because we've been through such a raw emotional time together, it can't but pull you closer. Another piece of joy in among the grief - we no longer take each visit, each conversation, each celebration for granted.
Then my sister left...
Shortly after Poppa's recovery, my sister's husband got a great job offer overseas and the family started preparing to move. Many of you know that my sister Jess is my closest and dearest friend, and no one knows me better than my soul sister. Jess has lived overseas before and we both know how tough it can be with the time difference and geographical separation. So as soon as Jess found out that they were moving we both began our slow dance of grief, preparing ourselves for the transition. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at a day spa together, spent countless weekends hanging out and made our habitual trip to ikea to help Jess pick up some last minute items.
But this time it didn't feel as terrible. I think it's because we're both committed to ensuring our bond isn't disrupted this time around. We've planned and put things in place to help us get over the distance. Firstly, we're loving the WhatsApp app because we can talk for free via instant message or on the phone and we can also really easily share pics of what we're doing and watching. Secondly, Jess has finally moved to a place that I actually want to visit (!) so we'll be sure to see each other a few times during the time that she is away.
The joy I've taken from this crappy separation? Our bond is stronger than geographical distance, our love carries over water, and we're closer than ever before. Plus I know that this opportunity for Jess and her girls is once in a million. When Jess is happy, so am I.
Have you too experienced joy in grief? What silver-lining have you discovered recently? I'd love to hear your story.