Hi, my name is Cherie Nobbs. Three years ago I lost my best friend and husband, Butch. Actually, I didn't lose him, I know exactly where he is.
Before he passed, I believed grief was about missing someone or something. It never occurred to me how devastating and life changing this could be on all levels of my being.
The past three years have been a long arduous expedition into the unknown, where I've had to reconnect with myself, work out who I am now and recreate a life with joy in it. It's very much a work in progress.
The prescribed levels of grief didn't seem to apply to me. Books and information didn't tell me what I wanted to hear; that grief was hard, bluddy hard, that life wouldn't feel important anymore, that sometimes getting out of bed was an achievement all in itself.
I personally believe there's about 121 stages of grief. I visualise them as the floors of a skyscraper. Each time I move to a new level, I see a little more light entering my life. I begin to feel more comfortable with my existence as I move around and explore the new territory.
A few of the levels have mazes that can make me feel I'm going around in circles or nowhere at all.
On some, I drag my feet or pretend I can't find the lift, especially if it's too confronting, or heaven forbid, it might take me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes even when it's uncomfortable on that level, it can be hard to get past it and push the button that will take me up and out of it.
The levels have dramatically changed durinng my expedition. Originally they were empty and devoid of light. All the shared parts of me of the past 25 years had been removed after Butch passed.
Gradually I added a few personal touches like happy memories (hard to do when they had disappeared on the basement floors) and signs of gradual self-empowerment.
There have been times when I've skipped a level and it's felt right, but there's also times I've dodged a level and had to go back down. If I move too fast or cheat, I find the construction work on that level isn't complete.
Sometimes the lift jams or the cable slips. It's hard not to feel bad about that. I know I just need to reach out for the lift phone, to connect me with the lift operator, my inner self, to discover what's holding me back.
However, there are times I don't want to hear what the operator has to say, so I can remain there, stuck, for some time. There are also times I need to call for outside assistance for major repairs or adjustments. Experts can be necessary to help me raise my vitality or consciousness level. Usually I don't like asking for help and I'm stubborn (although I prefer to think of myself as an independent thinker), so I can stand there 'wallowing in my stuff' until I change or accept I am at a standstill.
More often than not, I'm the only person in the lift. Many people find it difficult to relate to me as I grieve and they don't know how to 'fix' me.
If I'm honest, I believe I'm at 82 (only 39 levels to go!).
Although it's not the top level, the view is much better than it was at 50 or even 70. Sometimes I even recognise the progress I've made instead of dwelling on what I've yet to achieve.
I've learnt a lot about myself, not all good, but that's okay. If I've learned anything, it's that my grief expedition is unique, no one else is going through grief in exactly the same way as me. I don't need compete or be better than anyone else, I just need to be the best I can be.
Reaching the top floor doesn't mean I'm over the loss of my soulmate, it means I've reached a pthe place where I honour myself and my new life.
I may not be an expert on grief, just mine. With my book, 'Grieving With Honour', I can help others with their expeditions, by sharing the highlights and low;ights of my own experiences. I can't make it better or 'fix' it for the., I can only help others feel less isolated and share the blueprints of my skyscraper.
My next step is to plan what my life will be like when I reach the 122nd level, to move beyond the what was and focus on the what can be. Who knows? Maybe I'll take a parachute and a leap of faith to build a new skyscraper....