Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas is fast approaching - Barry

Following on from my previous entry:  life had started to get back to some degree of normality. Life will never be the same again, but Sarah and I had started to come to terms as best we can and we both were back at work. Some days were still too much, however we start to spend more time at work and less time away. I start to feel useful at work once more not just showing up.

Then I started to think about Christmas. Phoenix was due in early January, so if everything had gone to plan he may have come early,  or if not Sarah would have been heavily pregnant during Christmas celebrations. Either way he would have been a part of our celebrations and I am sure he would have got lots of presents.

Unfortunately Phoenix will not make it with us to Christmas in person, we will remember him and think of him in spirit. One night I was thinking about this and feeling down: I took some time to grieve and thought I had processed it by the next morning.  Sarah suggested we take the day off anyway just to be sure, but I think if I take a day off work every time I am feeling a bit blue I will never be at work. So off I went to work, thinking everything was good and dealt with last night.

As I prepared for my day as a school teacher, all is going well until the first bell for home group and I feel the grief rising but it is too late to deal with. I go in thinking I only have 20 minutes to deal with then I have a free lesson and can manage my grief then.  As I enter the class it must have been written on my face a student asks me “Are you OK?” I believe in being honest with my students and I shake my head but I don’t have the words and that’s it - I break down.

Luckily there is an office to the side of my classroom filled with teachers and I take refuge in there and a teacher kindly offers to take over. I spend most of the home group time in there to compose myself and worry what will happen when I have to show myself to my students. However I realise I have some important information to relay to my students and decide to face the music. The students don’t say a word about what has happened and take the information in as normal as I take over the class for the remaining 5 minutes. Some students even come up to me throughout the day to check that I am ok. It’s funny, I teach in a pretty rough school but the students constantly surprise you with kindness and compassion, I think some may relate to grief and loss.  I take my free lesson to compose myself and continue to teach for the rest of the day. It certainly was not the most successful day, I still feel raw all day but I manage to get through. After a stressful day I decide to take the next day off to recover. 

I recover and go back to work for another week and all is well until again the thought of Christmas surfaces in the car on the way to work and I think the 25th of December will be the 4 month anniversary of Phoenix’s short time on this earth.   The grief starts to swell again but I think I have it under control again. Unbeknownst to me it is just building and biding its time. I manage to get through homegroup, however in the grief and confusion I have confused my days and planned a lesson for a different class. I get to my actual class after a short detour to tomorrow’s class and start to madly think of what I can do with this science class that was supposed to be PE.

I stand in front of the class (most of whom are socialising waiting for me to call their attention), and I realise the grief is about to explode once more in front of a class.
I try deep breathing to calm myself however another kind and thoughtful student asks again “Are you ok?” and it breaks me once more. I rush out of the class luckily again another teacher is nearby to relieve me for a few moments.  I compose myself again and retake my class a short while later. On this day I have no free lessons to calm myself just recess and lunch. Again it is not the best day but I get through. I notice myself being snappy with the students and I have to apologise on more than one occasion. My students know my story and they are mostly kind and compassionate.

I decide I need to take action to try and prevent future outbursts in class. I call Dorothy from Red Nose and we discuss some strategies around preempting those bad days and using music to bring the grief on early before work. We discuss using a phrase like “thank you for asking” as a shield if someone asks “Are you OK?”. I also discuss with my partner Sarah and she tells me she talks to Phoenix every morning and that helps her.

The next morning I try many of these strategies. I feel I want to get back on the horse again immediately unlike last week when I took the day off. I think everything is working fine until I am about to leave and I realise everything is not fine. Now I know this will be a huge disruption and it will be difficult to cover my lessons but I feel I have no choice but to call in sick.  I apologise profusely and explain the circumstances of why I am calling in so late.

After another interaction at work I fall into a deep depression for most of the weekend. I was able to function:  I went Christmas shopping with Sarah but the usually joy I felt around Christmas and buying presents was not there. This felt different to the grief I had experienced up until that point. I decided I need to discuss this with a professional although admitting to potential mental health issues was not something I wanted to do. There is still a stigma attached to such an admission. However after talking to supportive friends and family I decided it is better to check it out rather than wait for it to get worse, so I set an appointment for early next week.

During the weekend however I talked about it more and discovered there are other things I could be doing for my mental health. By the end of the weekend I was feeling much better however I decide to keep my doctor’s appointment just to keep everything in check. We discuss the differences between grief and depression. I know I want to try and avoid at all costs some of the feelings of that weekend just gone. I want to be able to recognise if I am going to that place and to develop strategies to get out.

On a lighter note Sarah and I found out on Monday we are expecting twins. This delightful if slightly terrifying news has brightened our lives. As for Christmas I am sure there are ups and downs to come. We will take time to remember Phoenix on the day. Like Sarah I have been talking to him every day, and our family brought us a wonderful Christmas Tree Bauble to remember Phoenix. Next Christmas we will have two little ones to share Christmas with Sarah, Phoenix and me. One day when they grow older we will tell them the story of Phoenix on our tree. 

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1 comment:

  1. Beautifully honest and well written. Love to you and your family. Such wonderful news of the pregnancy and just keep going forward. As hard as it is, you will triumph this. Take care ☺