My Journey With Grief

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I landed in Thailand just over a week ago for what was a planned trip to teach Yoga here for 3 months, at a Muay Thai Boxing Gym and Retreat Centre. It had been a dream of mine to come back to this country to live and teach and it had sat as one of the things on my vision board for the past couple of years since I qualified as a Yoga teacher.

But just a week after I had taken the job and decided to pack up my life in London, I was back home in Carlisle to see my parents for a few days and my world unexpectedly crumbled around me. My dad suddenly died of a huge heart attack, completely out the blue and it was like everything I had ever known was all of a sudden no longer there and life as I thought I knew it was to change forever.

I spent the whole day before my dads death with him, for which I will be eternally grateful. Me and my dad had a very close relationship so to be around directly before and when he passed, though devastating and traumatic, was a humbling and life changing experience and though hard to fathom, almost like it was meant to be.

After the complete numbness and feeling of shock began to wear off and reality set in the real question was how does life go on? How do I cope and what do I now do? Do I continue with where I was planning to go?

Deep down I knew the answer was yes, though it did not feel as though I was strong enough to do it.

But my dad’s friends said he was talking about how proud he was that I was going to teach in Thailand the week before he died, and I know that he absolutely would have wanted me to still do it. So each day I’m here though I can’t call him and tell him about my life, I imagine there is a little piece of him with me on this journey. Thailand was one of his favourite places and I like to think I’m living for and through him each day I’m here.

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However, I did take my time getting to the airport on the day of the journey as I was still reluctant to go and my fear of flying made my anxiety and emotion even worse! I was so close to missing the flight check in and I had 5 minutes and I was at the back of a queue that was at least 20 minutes long, meaning I wouldn’t make it. But miraculously when I spoke to Thai Airways info desk they put me straight through business class to get me on the flight in time (little tip for the future ha). And I thought it’s like it’s the universe saying ‘You’re Going.’ That’s when I thought no going back now. I kept telling myself, if you don’t like it you can come home, and please just let the plane land safely, and it did!

The day I landed was very hard, I was tired after 20 hours of travelling, from a flight that was completely fine, but because of my irrational fear, I held the girl next to me’s hand in bad turbulence. It reminded me that you may travel on your own, but you’re never really alone and that there is so many kind hearted people everywhere especially when you’re in need. Including the guy in the next seat along who was Thai, but lived in the lake district teaching and was so nice to take me to my taxi and translate where I wanted to go!

But even still I felt emotional and missed home straight away and as I stood in my new bare and dark hotel room with only a cockroach in the bathroom for company I cried! I started to google flights and prices to go straight back home.

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Except I knew I wouldn’t. I was pandering to the dramatic, emotional part of my brain. I remembered the words my dad had said to me before he died. ‘When you get there it’ll be hard for the first few days as you acclimatise, but stick it out and it’ll be worth it.'‘

So I walked out into the pouring rain, which was worse than the UK’s weather miserable and exhausted, to the hotel reception, where the nice owner after a conversation through google translate came and removed the huge fist sized cockroach from my bathroom with his bare hands! I felt better instantly and realised again to remember you’re never really on your own wherever you are. There’s always help when you need it. And maybe one day I’ll be able to lift them up and out my room myself as I acclimatise to the Jungle. Maybe. TBC.

The next few days were quite overwhelming.

I struggled to settle in at first as I suffered hundreds of mosquito bites , got 2-3 hours a night of sleep as the bites and jet lag were waking me up at 2am. I went to the retreat centre, where I would teach and work, to meet all the guests and the other staff and found it took time to get to know everyone and make friends as I was new. The first yoga teacher had arrived a week before and I was trying to find the balance, as when I was a manger, between being professional and getting to know the guests, who ultimately will always come and go before I will, so that practice of dis-attachment and change that life throws at us, is very prevalent here too.

So I started to make gratitude lists, practice yoga again, meditate and focus on getting to know people well and building friendships, listening to their stories and gaining new perspective and most of all laughing again. I utilised the early AM hours while I was wide awake to write my blog, listen to helpful podcasts, read and developed a morning 4am trip to the local supermarket for my coffee, noticed the beautiful scenery and became aware of how happy, friendly and content the locals were with exactly what they had, even if to us it was very little.

Something started to shift after about 2 or 3 days in and I started to really enjoy it here rather than just making it bearable. I started to acclimatise and appreciate things I wouldn’t have normally. Now after just over a week I feel completely at home and I’m so glad I made the decision to come here for myself. I am exercising everyday in the heat, whether it be Muay Thai Training, Crossfit, Cycling, Running, Hiking or Yoga so I’m already fitter and stronger and sweating out a lot of toxins and emotional tension!

I’m in a great sleeping routine so I’m hopping out of bed at 6am if not earlier, I’m not drinking barely anything or doing anything that’s detrimental to my body and I feel happier than I have in a long time. I not only teach the yoga (between me and Sylvia the other fabulous teacher who I have built a great relationship with) but I also run the hikes, and temple excursions/trips out so I get to know all the guests well and build some great connections.

I know I’m still grieving and I probably will for a long time and I will always miss my dad a lot, but being out here gives me the time to reflect and process what has happened, what I want out of life and who I want to be, whilst helping others on their journeys. The people I have met so far and their stories have been inspiring and by stepping out of London and out of my comfort zone for a while has been the greatest thing I could have done for myself and my dad.

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Who knows where I will go after these 3 months, maybe I will want to travel on somewhere new, maybe I will be ready to come home, but right now I am enjoying the moment, living in the present and slowly being excited for what the future may hold, even if it is not how I had imagined it would be without my dad there. We all need to practice acceptance, what we can learn and how we can grow from any kind of loss in to better, kinder and stronger people, to live our short life to the absolute full capacity and potential we all have.

More Thailand adventures to come soon

Namaste xx

Nicole Andrews