For over 5 months after we lost Juggernaut, I couldn’t feel any interest or joy in anything. All the things that used to fascinate me and give me great joy – painting, writing, business planning, coaching, reading… I tried to go back to doing them but I was just going through the motions, trying to fill time really. I remember thinking, “what if I live a really long life? That’s a shit-load of time I’ll have to figure out how to fill. And if I can’t feel interest or joy in any of the things I fill my time with, that’s going to be the most unbearably long time.” I wasn’t suicidal, but for the first time in my life I felt absolutely no positive anticipation or hope for my future and I sincerely hoped that I would not live a long life.
My inability to feel interest or joy made it incredibly difficult to socialize, almost impossible to do basic household maintenance and completely impossible to continue with my business. Some days it was hard to even get out of bed, because I just couldn’t think of a good reason to do so and I knew that as soon as I got out of bed, I’d have an eternity of time to fill and no idea what was worth filling it with.
As a Social Worker who’s counseled hundreds of people though major change, loss, trauma and depression, I knew that my lack of interest and joy was normal as an early grief/ trauma response, but 6 months is a fucking long time when you’re interested in nothing and just trying to pass time so that you get through another day, and then another, and another. Knowing it’s normal only takes a little bit of the “future fear” edge off.
I knew that I needed to be able to find something interesting again.
I’m not talking about passion here – that would have been way too much pressure! About 4 months into this hopelessness, I made the decision that I had to search until I found something that interested me – something I felt vaguely connected to when I did it, so that there was a feeling of “I want to do more of that.” I intuitively knew that, with that tiny seed of interest and curiosity, I could grow the possibility of feeling joy again.
Weeks went by after that and all this time, I had been walking most days. Walking didn’t feel enjoyable at first – it was hard. My feet and legs were swollen and tender from water retention because of my kidney condition. My body was stiff and I was exhausted (it turned out that the medication they had me on caused severe fatigue and overdosed my Potassium levels, which caused the muscle stiffness and cramping). I could only manage a few kilometres at first, but I walked because it was a way to pass the time. I knew I needed to do some form of physical activity if I was to rebuild my health, and walking was the most I could handle. Over the months, my walks lengthened and I felt my body becoming stronger.
Then one day, while I was on Facebook, I noticed that someone posted about something called the Kidney March. Because of my hereditary Kidney Disease, it caught my attention and I clicked on the link and read more. As I read about the 100km walk through the foothills of the Rockies, I felt that old familiar feeling of interest and knew that I had to do it. Even though I was only managing to walk around 5km at that stage, I signed up immediately, knowing that, if nothing else, this commitment would be my way of honouring that little inner voice that called out, “I want to do this!” After longing to hear that voice for so long, I knew my only option was to listen to it.
Since then I’ve discovered so many other reasons why I had to sign up to walk in the Kidney March…
Things I had no idea of when I first made the commitment. It’s given me a role – a “job” to go to where I have a great team to work with and a vehicle for making a contribution, and that’s started to rebuild a sense of meaning, purpose and hope in my life. Three of my good girlfriends joined me to walk and that deepened our friendships immensely. As a team, we’ve raised over $16K from donations to sponsor our Kidney March over at our Kidney Raffle fundraiser.
Working on the fundraising for the Kidney Foundation has been incredibly healing for me. I love the goal, I’m deeply connected to the “why” behind it, I’m working with amazing people, and I think we’re going to make a big difference with this project – not just through raising money for kidney research, but also through inspiring each other that, even in the middle of major adversity, we can all keep taking another step closer to our Essential Selves and we can all find new sources of meaning, hope and joy again after significant loss. The generosity, compassion and connection surrounding the Kidney Raffle has been a welcome contrast that has helped me to put our losses this past year into perspective – there’s deep sadness in the world and the possibility of terrible things happening, but there’s amazing goodness, generosity, compassion, and love too.
Being in the middle of this flow of extreme generosity and open-hearted contribution, and having a vehicle for making my own contribution, has been incredibly healing for me. I’ve also received many emails from friends and family who had been feeling helpless in their inability to “fix” our broken hearts. They thanked us for giving them a way to feel like they were doing something to express their love and support. And then there have also been many emails from people who’ve also lost a child or a pregnancy, or who have struggled with kidney disease in their family… thanking us for standing up for them and helping increase awareness around both of these difficult life experiences.
This whole experience of running a fundraiser for Kidney Research while in the middle of my grieving has convinced me of the incredible healing power of community and contribution.