When someone you love dies, what would you expect to be doing two months after their death? Would you expect to be consumed by grief unable to function? Would you be overwhelmed with fear of what next? Would you be replaying the time you had together and be captured by all the memories and still be looking back? Would you be looking forward embracing life and living it to the fullest?
There is no right or wrong answer I’m just curious.
This week I was at Kangaroo Island Health Retreat for a week of dynamic detoxing. It was a retreat like no other - set in Emu Bay a beautiful area of Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Sue McCarthy the owner and host of the retreat greeted us on arrival, her bright blue eyes sparkled and her smile radiated warmth.
We soon learned that Sue had lost her husband of over 40yrs less than two months prior. Austin, her late husband, used to run the retreat with her helping in the background and this was Sue’s first week back at work and she was flying solo.
I was awe, I'm honestly not sure what I'd have been doing if I'd lost my husband of over 40yrs but I certainly don't think I'd be standing as Sue was in front us smiling, sharing her story of her loss, talking very fondly of Austin but also speaking of her excitement for the next chapter of her life and what that would bring - at 72yrs of age this would be the first time she'd been on her own.
What I learned about Sue was that she had a very strong sense of self and whilst her and Austin's marriage was loving and strong, each of them very much held fiercely to their own identities and understanding of their own needs within the relationship. What was interesting was the terms she used for the roles each of them played in the relationship. She described how early on into their marriage they had agreed that there would be a 'head' and a 'neck' in the relationship. I'd never heard roles described in this way and I was curious to learn more.
The head was the leader setting the direction, determining the agenda and the goals to be pursued and the driving force. The neck was the much-needed support for the head, without its strength and stability the head would be wobbling away with no ability to stand firm. The neck would set the parameters for the goals, so the head did not get carried away with all its ideas and opportunities. The neck was the voice of reason and challenge and kept the head on track.
It was fascinating to understand, and it made sense to me that in a relationship there couldn’t be two heads or two necks and that you really needed one of each. It's important to also highlight that each role is equal, the head does not rule the neck or vice versa. They are both required to function together to be successful. I understood as Sue talked that she was the ‘head’ in her relationship and Austin the ‘neck’.
The awareness they both had of who they were and what needs they had individually enabled them to have discussions early on about what that meant for their relationship and the roles they would play. Neither one had lost themselves in the relationship – two had not become one, they were still very much two and worked incredibly well as a pair.
Sue’s outlook on life and her experience in her relationship really helped me see how things could be, she didn’t feel the need to confirm to society’s expectations of what a grieving widow should be doing and how long she should be doing it. She celebrated Austin’s life and they time they had together, but she also knew that life on her own still very much counted and she had a lot of living left to do. She knew she still had a difference to make and she wanted to keep living her life to the fullest. Austin was not with her physically, but he was always with her in spirit.
The title of this post was inspired by Sue’s story, although she doesn’t know this yet! Pay attention to who you are and understand what you need in life and give yourself that. It’s incredibly important to nourish yourself first so that you can then help nourish others. If you’re in a relationship are you clear on the role you play – are you the head or the neck? Are you playing an equal role?
When life throws curve balls at you and a few rocks for good measure, which it no doubt will from time to time, knowing who you are will certainly save you.
I hope you got some value from this post, if you have any feedback, thoughts please don’t be shy – let me know.
To your life of abundance.