One aspect that people struggle with is going back to familiar places that used to be very significant……with a loved one who has died. As with everything in life, you have a choice – you can choose never to go back and leave that place in your ‘memory box’ or you go back.
Recently I had this choice. I used to spend many hours at Leeds Headingley stadium with Clive at Leeds Rhinos rugby league games. Many times I would be there feeling guilty that I wasn’t with my son yet at the same time enjoyed the experience with Clive. We also had his final ‘Celebration’ there, literally with his coffin on the pitch and the ‘party’ he requested that we had afterwards in one of the suites.
I have been back a few times since to watch some matches but I have never been back there with the quietness of a non-match day, where it feels a completely different place. The day before I was due there I cried at the reminder of the pain of the loss and my apprehension at going back.
One of my new careers is as executive PA for Mike Coote and Dave Evans of Stratagem+ group http://www.stratagemplusgroup.com/ . I had to go along to one of their ‘Firestarter’ workshops, a two day NLP course, being held there. I recently attended one as a delegate and part of the learning is about thinking differently.
I had breakfast in the café where Clive and I had been at meetings with people every now and then. I wandered past the shop where we had spent time mooching. My room overlooked the road where the hearse had manoeuvred. I could ‘see and feel’ him everywhere. The sadness began to creep in.
Again I knew I had a choice. I could wallow in the past. I could recreate the grief, sadness and loss that I and many others felt at his passing.
Or I could choose to remember and smile. I could choose to accept that through the loss and saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities and introductions, I am in the happy place I now am. I am still growing and re-emerging with new and different directions in my career. My personal life is content – back amongst my family – and I have my new relationship to also develop.
Yes, it did hurt to be back at Headingley. After two days there I have revisited the past yet feel invigorated and hopeful for the future. So what made it easier?
I shared with some people my apprehension, such as my Mum. She understood and reminded me that I would be fine.
I was given a warm greeting by one of the key members of the Headingley team there who asked how I was. He had helped me put Clive’s day together.
Meeting new people in the setting helped. I had to focus on their needs for the course, which distracted me from my own thoughts and gave me new directions for the future.
As the new relationships and tasks developed and created new memories, the sharpness of the pain of loss began to ease.
I knew there were people there who would give me support if I needed it and had freedom to leave if I chose to.
I acknowledged that it would be an emotional journey and reminder. I knew that it was okay to feel like this yet I also realised I had to move on with it.
As I drove away I felt a huge sense of achievement. There is a relatively short window where people are truly sympathetic for your loss and I know at this point, it has passed. Leeds Headingley stadium will always remain a special place to me and now I have a new memory to add to it. I am pleased I went back.
It appears that I have ‘proved’ a theory by Howell and recent psychology graduate Jia Wei Zhang who surveyed more than 750 participants to examine how a person’s personality and their approach to time affects their life satisfaction. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-06-happiness-good.html
The study’s participants completed surveys about their personality, life satisfaction and “time perspective” – a concept coined by Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo to describe whether an individual is past, present or future orientated. To assess time perspective participants were asked such questions as whether they enjoy reminiscing about the “good old days” or whether they believe their future is determined by themselves or by fate.
Extraverts, who tend to be energetic and talkative, were much more likely to remember the past positively and be happier as a result. People high on the neurotic scale, which can mean being moody, emotionally unstable and fretful, were more likely to have an anguished remembrance of the past and to be less happy.
I am happy to be an extravert!
The reality of the visit was nowhere near as bad as I had allowed my imagination to create. How often do we dread a situation which turns out to be much better than the scenario we imagined it might be?
I suggest that if this is the case for you:-
Acknowledge you have a choice to do it or not
Surround yourself with people that will empathise and support you
Be honest and kind with yourself
Create new memories and celebrate your success.
By the way, I continue to highly recommend Leeds Headingley for any event – the facilities, value for money, customer service and catering are second to none. http://www.headingleyexperience.co.uk/
The’ Firestarter’ course was great too!
Comment for Going back to Headingley – an extravert approach?