Back In 2005 I couldn’t have been happier. Newly married after the perfect wedding, I was embarking on the course of my dreams, starting my nutritional diploma at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. Everything was good.

And then 2006 hit. The years that followed were the hardest of my life.

My mother-in-law died of cancer, and later on that year my Mum was diagnosed with cancer too.

Ever the optimist, I told myself over and over that everything would be OK, she’d be OK. If I’m honest, it was more denial than optimism. Then in February 2007 we learnt that her cancer was terminal and that she had six months to a year to live. Six weeks later she died.

Putting this down in black and white hits me hard. My beloved mum died, she was just 53. I fell into a black hole. A hole that I didn’t know how to get out of. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I didn’t want to eat.

The huge low I was experiencing impacted my marriage. We were both grieving the loss of our Mums. We didn’t know how to handle it or communicate about the pain we were going through. I felt so lost, I could feel my husband slipping away and I felt helpless to do anything about it. In 2008 he left.

It feels strange revisiting this time in my life, it all happened more than a decade ago and I’m in a very different place now. I’m happy, I have a beautiful family and I’m living from a place that allows both grief and happiness within me. Someone once said to me “it’s amazing how much light comes out of the dark places.” and I want you to know that you can come out the other side.

What got me through my darkest days?

In my darkest days I felt like I was going crazy, I felt lost. I didn’t know which way to turn or how to get through the day.

Yoga, journalling and my reiki sessions helped me through this difficult time. I was supported by a wonderful teacher Shelley Bloom, who guided me as I navigated my grief, helped me find myself again and the strength within me to come out of the dark.

What’s the one thing I’ve learnt about what I went through?

That I wasn’t going crazy, I was grieving. Grief is such a difficult thing to live through and it’s different for everyone. But it’s OK to grieve. Grief gets you in the pit of your stomach. I remember feeling like my heart would actually break. But day by day, and over time, it does get easier. And then you reach a point when the good days outnumber the bad. You never forget, but the ache eases enough for you to live again.

How am I different now that I’ve experienced what I have?

I’m stronger and happier as a direct result of everything I’ve been through. Don’t get me wrong, I’d give anything to have my Mum here. For her to have met Paul, my husband, and my kids. But it’s taught me to appreciate everything life has to offer all the more. I’m grateful every day for everything in my life. I appreciate the little things, the sunny days, enjoying my favourite chocolates. Somehow everything’s a bit richer for having made it through the pain.

What would I say to someone going through what I’ve been through?

Grieve in your own way. Take your time, you will heal. But you must grieve, don’t push it down or try to ignore it. Go through it and you’ll come out the other side.

And find what works for you. For me it was a mixture of yoga, cognitive behavioural therapy, journalling and reiki. And it helped that I had people to talk to, people that weren’t in the midst of it all and could offer me a space to be held.

I found these resources particularly useful, and you might too:

Grief Works, by Julia Samuel

No Time Like the Present, by Jack Kornfield

Life, death, whatever, on Instagram

The Live Awake meditations, on Insight Timer

What was the inspiration behind Nicky for Life?

When my Mum died I had the overwhelming urge to write, but didn’t feel ready. In 2015 that urge appeared again and I followed it, setting up my blog and calling it ‘Nicky for Life’, because I wanted to share my life experiences, help others through difficult times, and talk about the power of good nutrition to support body and mind. No matter the challenges we face, there is always a way through. I am a stand for allowing, welcoming and talking about grief, and for the importance of self-care when the going gets tough. I am Nicky for Life.

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