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My First Trip Out And Other First Steps

The first time for any new event tends to bring with it a higher level of anxiety than otherwise would be. The first exam results, the first date, the first day at work, and many others, were all quite anxious occasions yet probably with hindsight you wonder what all the fuss was about. This anxiety is no doubt born into us to give us a healthy concern of all things unknown. When coupled with the emotional turmoil of bereavement it is hardly surprising that people find it difficult to move forward.

If you are finding it difficult to take your first trip out of the house alone or something else that you are finding difficult to do for the first time, do not worry, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

It may feel to you as though leaving the house is an insurmountable problem and that even if you do achieve this first goal, how will you cope with the people at the supermarket; what if the car breaks down; what if the shopkeeper asks me how my husband/wife is; how will I cope with returning to an empty house.

As with so many things in life smaller steps are safer steps. Many years ago I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa; the group had local guides who lead us high into areas where oxygen levels are much lower and sickness can become a problem. My instinct was to stride on, get to the top and enjoy the view. I can hear the voices of the guides even now, in pigeon English, ‘baby steps, baby steps, polepole’ (the final word being Swahili for slowly or carefully) and of course they were right. Those who took the advice and carefully took baby steps, proceeded steadily up the mountain and many of those who sprung on ahead, fell by the wayside, having bitten off more than they could chew. And so it is with the new events in your new life as a bereaved person – take baby steps into the future, ensuring they are safe ones, that will not cause you to slip and fall backwards.

To continue the analogy of the first trip out (but you can extend the discussion to any other ‘first event’) plan the occasion carefully. Your goal is to leave the house on your own and return there safely later on. So, arrange to meet someone early in your trip (this is not cheating, it is a baby step rather than a big step) and to reward yourself with something you enjoy (tea and cake perhaps, with your friend, in a local café) before returning home. On this first occasion, make sure you leave some music, or even the television, on so that the house is not quiet upon your return; perhaps coincide your return with the start of your favourite television programme. You can of course easily expand these thoughts into other ‘firsts’ by thinking through what will happen and what might happen and carefully planning how you can manage the parts you most fear. Talk to the people you are meeting about your concerns; if you can, make a joke about it, it is therapeutic to do so.

Successful baby steps will allow you to build your confidence and maybe in the future, you will reflect back and wonder what all the fuss was about.