How I turned the worst year of my life around


The paramedic talking to me is the third to arrive at our house in 30 minutes, he is asking me my wishes regarding the resuscitation of my husband should he go into cardiac arrest

The sun is shining brightly in through the open patio doors warming me as I feed our youngest daughter. The paramedic talking to me is the third to arrive at our house in 30 minutes, he is asking me my wishes regarding the resuscitation of my husband should he go into cardiac arrest while they are moving him to A&E. This is certainly not how I expected this sunny Sunday to turn out.

Yes, of course resuscitate my husband I want to scream at the top of my lungs, he is 39 years old he should not be dying. The reality is he is dying and it is happening much quicker than either of us are prepared for. ‘It is not like it is in the movies and he is in a bad way’ the paramedic explains, tears gently fall from my cheeks onto Harriet’s face and arm. Eventually I agree that resuscitation would not be in Ben’s best interests and we go back to the task of getting my husband to hospital.

I awake four harrowing days later to Harriet wanting milk next to me, I turn and let her feed. We are on a sofa bed in the hospice in a room lying next to Ben. I look at my watch hoping it is not time to start another day but wanting time to standstill, it is 4.20am, another couple of hours silence yet. Silence, silence, I cannot hear Ben’s rasping breath, I hold my own breath listening and waiting. Nothing, I slowly sit up trying not to wake Harriet who has just dozed off, nothing, Ben is lying perfectly still I grasp his hand still warm in mine and hold on tightly as my world collapses around me.  

I exist and stumble through the days, weeks and months that follow, surviving and going through the motions of our life for the girls. I would dread the evenings when they were in bed but I also longed for them so I could be alone and let the pain out. I would sit wishing things were different asking why me, why us, what did I do, what am I going to do, the list went on and on. Round and round the questions whizzed like a Catherine wheel constantly spinning.

I lived in this limbo repeating the same routine and patterns, I likened it to ground hog day but little did I know I was making it so through my actions. This was my way of preserving myself of allowing myself to function.  I had no choice but to put one foot in front of the other, our girls were relying on me to continue.

One Friday evening, large glass of wine in hand, I asked myself a question I had been pushing to the back of my mind for a couple of days ‘what would Ben say to me and what would he want me to do?’ He would want me and our girls to be happy, he would want me to look forward and use my past experiences for good but most important he would want me to live the greatest life I possibly could. After all I was living for him too now. This was a massive turning point for me, looking at my life through Ben’s eyes with his mindset was the wake up call I needed. What was I doing wasting my time, life is so very short and I should be grabbing it by the balls. The self-reflection continued and one of the first changes I made was to begin doing yoga and mindfulness again. Both of these had helped ground me in previous stressful situations so why not try them now. My mindfulness and yoga practice enabled me to sit with my feelings and halt the rumination that normally kept me company. I realised that red wine was not my friend and was making things more difficult to deal with so I decided to take a break from alcohol and soon realised the huge positive impact being alcohol free had on me. Not to mention the massive sense of achievement and pride in myself. The longer the wine stayed in the rack the more my confidence grew, the less anxious I was and the more I found myself stepping out of my comfort zone alone and with my girls. Next went the cigarettes, in for a penny in for a pound! My inspiring yoga teacher said she saw my progress like a rebirth, I like her thinking. My central role in the functioning of my family was becoming clear to me and without me it would all fall apart. I was deserving and worthy of my attention and my time, I was finally starting to listen. I started to look for the positive things in our lives and focus on those not what we were missing out on because Ben had died, gratitude is a very powerful emotion.

I decided to set up my own business as a life coach The Anchor Coaching Ltd and in doing so gave myself a whole other lease of life. I was now my own boss, able to work around my girls and be present and available for them as their lone parent. I am in control of my life and for me that is massive, I feel empowered and excited by what I do and going to work. Not that it feels like work in the traditional sense!

karen whybrow