Grief comes in different forms, not just death.
This is my journey of losing my way and then finding home again.
The youngest of three, by 8 years, born in a small town called, Uitenhage, South Africa. My earliest memories I recall I was around 5 years old. After watching a scary movie with my brother and sister, while in the bathroom before bed, experiencing the door being held closed and the light switched off while laughter rang from the other side of the door, as I fell to the floor, lying in the fetal position, crying and trembling with fear. Making meaning at such a young age (lacking mental and emotional experience) that even those closest to me, those I viewed as maternally there to protect me, were out to harm me.
Perhaps the beginning of my journey of mistrust and guarding myself against those closest to me, themes I now see played out over my lifetime.
How fun exciting times at the park, being pushed on the swing as high as I could go, gleefully saying “faster, faster” on the roundabout, no fear no care in the world, progressed to watching and running to fetching golf balls at the park, wondering as a small child what I did wrong that made things change.
Seven years younger than my brother, Brendon, looking up to him, idolizing him. Unconsciously feeling the weight of comments / suggestions around my weight and looks, all while desperately trying to find my way in an all-girls school, wanting to belong and fit in. Often hearing from Brendon, “you are so sensitive”, raging this internal battle of why what I was feeling was “bad”. Constantly trying to suppress it because I didn’t want to be “bad” or “disliked”.
With my personality, often being turned to by adults, the middle man, counselor, forcing me to grow up much faster than I had liked. Doing my best to navigate situations, trying to “please” others as so culturally required and accepted. Especially of a girl.
Watching and mimicking many women around me, of what is “required” of a “woman” with romantic relationships. Knowing my “place”; no “back chatting” or “disrespecting”.
Unconsciously trying to make sense of all the feelings, emotions and sensations occurring for me (heaven forbid any of this been explained to me, barely got anything around menstrual cycles never mind alcohol, sex, etc.).
Add to that the fact I matured very young, around 11 years old from memory. Large chested at that age; not the best attention from equally hormonal boys. I was allowed to hang around with others 2-5 years or more older than me, finding myself in situations with alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.
Thank god something inside of me was repelled by drugs (perhaps seeing what it did to others around me!). I tried smoking a few times (didn’t like it but wanted to be “cool” or “fit in”).
The constant message around my weight / looks from Brendon, not ideal attention around my large developing chest and the lack of maternal protection, decades of working through losing my innocence at far too young of an age and definitely not what I imagined for myself. Alcohol playing far too big a role in my life at that age and in the decisions during that time.
Becoming an Adult:
Moving away to study, beginning with freedom and a new start but then falling back into a relationship (again!) that just didn’t serve me. While at university, something took over me and I was hyper focused about losing weight (while I was at school I went on a program to lose weight), and I followed the plan with ninja focus and turned into a lollipop. My head was bigger than my body. I was skinny, and I looked the way I “dreamed” since weight became an “issue” for me. Yet, I was still unhappy and had so many emotions swirling around inside of me that I did not understand what to do with myself. It just didn’t make sense; I thought I would be happy and okay now that I was skinny!
Again, finding the courage after university to go work on cruise liners, overseas. Away from it all. So much fun, such freedom, living life to the max. Swimming with dolphins, snorkeling in the Maldives, etc. yet those themes of alcohol and being mistreated by men running strong. Living it up while working on cruise liners, and while living in London, I put on weight. All of which was swiftly put into perspective on my trip home by Brendon.
This constant, uphill internal battle around my weight and my looks, very much pointed out to me on any occasion possible. Not only by Brendon, but by boyfriends too.
Then, Brendon died. Then, a man I loved (and thought I would spend my life with and have a family with) was with another woman six months after Brendon died. (Brendon died suddenly, shockingly and with no warning) And here I was, left with all this shit, the sheer heaviness, the sheer weight of it all, all consuming. I felt like I was drowning.
I would lay in bed planning how I would end my life and the best way for the person who would find my body. Just one thing after the next, big stuff, constantly coming at me, just so overwhelmed. I didn’t think I could cope anymore. I didn’t see the point of living anymore; I was so unhappy, and I hated life. I really could find nothing to live for.
When I try and think back now, I am not sure what it was that got me through, and that changed my mind about ending my life, but now I know that is when my real journey began.
That is when I began fighting for a life I wanted to live for.
Is my life perfect 8 years on, what is perfect? (Something I am learning to let go of, it is not real and only sets me up for disappointment) I feel my life is WAY better than it was, however, I still have my challenges to work on just like anyone else (how I feel about my body, weight, etc.). There are still things I want that haven’t happened the way I thought they would, of course.
However, where I am at now, internally, not been married or had children yet, 8 years ago, that would have broken me. Now, I still want that, but I thrive in my life knowing they will come.
I kept asking “why me”; why were all those things happening to me? Now, I am so grateful because they have made me who I am, stronger, more certain and more appreciative of life and what I have to offer to this life and to others experiencing what I did (and still do).
This is part of my story, what is yours?
Is it possible the tragedy you have experienced in your life is your crucible event?
Contact me and let us explore together.
Stephanie Harris Coaching
Sunnynook, Auckland, New Zealand
+64 21 025 93344