What has grief taught me?
I’ve been reflecting on what it means to have lived without Abi for an entire decade. Here’s what we learned, how we changed and what’s stayed the same and what is different.
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Today is that day again. The day our lives were forever changed.

As I write this, it’s Saturday morning, the 1st of June, the last morning ten years ago we had our dear girl. The last morning we all got up together, our family of five. We squabbled, we packed up the car for our weekend away, we went through the usual family routines. I had one sweet moment when Abi called me in to the bathroom, wanting me to share some facial scrub with her – just 12 years old, going on 16.

You’ll have similar stories I’m sure. Last moments, last meals, last memories. Painful and cherished in equal measure.

As this tenth anniversary approached, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to have lived without our girl for an entire decade. To have endured, survived, clawed our way back to happiness somehow. To have a dog who’s lived longer than our daughter.
What have we learned, how have we changed, what’s stayed the same and what is different?

Ten years is both a short and a long time. Time means nothing, and time means everything. As grievers, when we are first bereaved, we hate to be told that time heals. We push back, rant and rave at how frustrating the phrase is. Time won’t heal because nothing will heal this wound, so raw, so deep. We’ll never be a family of five again - our lives are changed forever.

If we can’t speed up time, does that mean we are forced to hang around and wait for healing to happen? Surely we can’t be expected to sit in this amount of misery and turmoil for months, even years to pass? I can’t accept that. I can’t accept this.

I felt all those things. In fact, I felt them so deeply I literally wrote the book on what we can do to help ease us through that process and pain. Writing Resilient Grieving certainly helped me. Hearing how it’s helped so many of you encourages me to keep going with this work we do. Helping others helps us heal.

So, what is the answer? How do I feel on this Saturday morning?

The truth is I don’t really know. Even after all these years, and so much thinking, writing, talking, even delivering training about grief, I’m not sure how I feel today. I may be on a mission to build grief literacy, yet apparently I struggle to find the right words to describe how peculiar these anniversary days feel. I know you’ll understand, you’ll likely feel it too.

But here’s what I can tell you. What I do know, and some of the things I’ve discovered over the past ten years of days without our beautiful little girl.

⭐️ We have somehow survived grief’s ghoulish game of snakes and ladders.

⭐️ We are happy.

⭐️ We miss her and we still love her.

⭐️ We both do and don’t talk about her. That’s okay.

⭐️ We don’t cry much any more.

⭐️ In fact, I cry so rarely that, when I do, I welcome the tears. They remind me it’s real, that I still feel, that I care.

⭐️ We beat the odds – those overly shared (and not overly accurate) research statistics and warnings marking us as prime candidates for divorce, mental illness and family estrangement.

⭐️ I used to dread that awful intrusive rumination (continued, uninterrupted, uninvited obsessing about her and her death) would never end. Thankfully it did.

⭐️ I did feel depressed on and off for a good few years. Particularly in the summer holidays which were always extra hard.
That wore off too, and in time, happier moments and purpose prevailed.

⭐️ We learned to laugh, sing, and dance together again.

⭐️ We re-learned to live in the world without her here.

⭐️ We somehow got used to her not coming home, not having her around, not seeing her, hearing her, touching her, getting annoyed by her, laughing at her and with her.

⭐️ I miss her things, and most of all the sillliness and lightness and girliness she brought to our world. I miss that still. That’s probably the most enduring hurt of all.

⭐️ But we have new girls around today who weren’t here before. They’ll likely never know how much they’ve helped us heal. They never knew her. That’s strange. She would have loved them. Oh so much...

⭐️ Death ends a life, not a relationship.

⭐️ We’ve learned to live without her, and yet we still, all of us, continue to live with her.

⭐️ She made her mark on us.

⭐️ Gone, but never forgotten.

⭐️ Little Abi Hone, 12 forever.

⭐️ We will always be a family of five.

⭐️ I’m so proud of you Trevor, Ed and Paddy.

⭐️ Writing that made me cry.

⭐️ Ed so far away right now. Paddy, thankfully under our roof today.

⭐️ An important neighbourhood party to look forward to tonight.
Not ours, but friends - so much better than hosting a party to mark our misery, a party to celebrate enduring friendships and community. A special occasion to soak up the love, the life, the laughter, and music with the people that matter most.

Hold on to those moments, they’re what counts. Look around you, feel it all.

Ten long years since you were here, with all your blonde hair and nonsense, your skinny legs and squeals, your huge smile and manic laugh, the singing, the dancing, the trappings of a 12 year old life.

For years I thought this day was the end of our family of five. In some profound ways it was of course. However, I’ve also learned to recognise that, in the eyes of those who knew us, we will always be a family of five. I know this because I see it in other families I’m close to who have had someone die: I don’t only think of their living, but picture their whole family when I think of them. The dead and the living, they’re all still there in their shape in my mind. Families, love and relationships don’t die.

Today, I vow to feel it all. To walk right through it and drink it all in. The tears, the wonder, the laughter, the songs, the hugs, the caring, the missing, and the wistful wondering. Because that’s what life and living is all about. Go feel it all, joy, pain and sky.


If you’re intrigued about what grief has taught you, how it’s shaped your life, your decisions, your values and your relationships, come and join us on our first ever Grief & Growth course, starting 14th June (10am-1pm NZT). Find out more and grab one of the limited spots here.

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