Breaking the mask

The period of national mourning was an intense and emotional time for many people. One thing it did was put a focus on grief, what it is and how it affects people. We don’t like to talk about death or about the impact that losing someone close that we love has on us. This is something we need to challenge. What has become very evident to me in the four months since I suddenly lost my Mum, is that grief touches so many lives and the experience for everyone will be different.

I have been coping with Mum’s death by spending time with my Dad, looking after my horse and immersing myself in work. It was doing the trick. Most days were not too bad, and I only had an occasional emotional meltdown. The sad death of the Queen did have an impact bringing my grief back to the surface as I know it did for others. Talking about how I felt did make things easier to manage as well as restricting the amount of news coverage I was watching and reading. With these measures in place I was coping.

On Friday, I had to make the most difficult decision of my entire life. After 19 years looking after, caring for, riding, competing and generally being Mum to my handsome horse Edward, I had to ease his pain by putting him to sleep. It was as peaceful and dignified as befitted a horse with more than a thousand followers on Twitter, who touched lives and who once met could never be forgotten. At the age of 26 and standing more than 18.1hands (very big for non-horsey people), his arthritis, colitis, COPD and a range of other ailments had just become too difficult for him. I was, and am, still devastated by the loss of my soulmate.

We had spent almost every day together during the past 19 years as my holidays were a break from work and more time at the stables. He knew what I was thinking, and I knew what he was thinking without any words being exchanged. There are few things as special as the bond you get with a giant horse who could cause you serious harm but instead just wants to love you and help you. It is this bond that made it obvious the time was right for him to leave, although the pain continues for me. I have so many memories that I can treasure and will reflect on when I can.

What I have also lost and am grieving for is the way of life that I had. Three trips a day to the stables and I worked it out that including travelling time I now have an additional seven hours each and every day. I no longer have a need to leave the house and as I work from home some days, without my Dad, wouldn’t speak to anyone. At the moment I can’t think about what my life should be or how it should develop, it is enough to just get through a day at a time.

Edward was the most amazing horse and had a full life. He, like my Mum, was definitely a force of nature. I am thinking about writing about his life and particularly how he had such a positive impact on everyone he met. I certainly have the time to do it now.

So, why am I telling you all this? Partly it is to help me try to make sense of what has happened not just with Edward but within my life during 2022. It is also a tribute to the most wonderful horse that ever walked on this earth. But I also hope that in writing about my own difficult experiences with grief, trying to make sense of the ups and downs of life and coming to terms with loss may help other people. If you are struggling at the moment, please talk to someone, find help and don’t try to hide how you feel. When people have asked me how I am I tell them honestly to break the mask. It is part of my approach to acknowledge that this is as difficult as it feels and I do need to be kind to myself as I try to navigate the way forward.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has sent supportive messages to me since I posted the news. RIP my beautiful Edward.

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