1. Reclaiming my neighbourhood

A story based on an account from a Loss Survivor.

“Before the loss event, I actively participated in many social activities which included team sports, going to church, attending family celebrations and using common social media sites to chat with my friends.

After the loss event, I quickly withdrew from most of my social activities and decreased the number of friends I included on my social media site.

The reason I did this was because I lost trust in people; even my closest friends and family.  I also lost trust in my space.  My happy, social space no longer existed.  I had let the loss event steal my space.

After many months of loneliness, I realised that I needed to reclaim my space.  It was difficult to know where to start and so I asked for help from my doctor.

>…….

He suggested that I

  • start gradually
  • only go where I felt comfortable
  • have a plan to leave whenever I was feeling uncomfortable
  • take a trusted support person with me
  • congratulate myself for being courageous to reclaim my space

It was some days before I put these suggestions into practice.  I started by sitting in my front garden and just observing the busy flow of traffic and people going past my home on the way to their places of work or school.  I became aware that no-one stopped and looked at me; no-one cared that I was there;  This was different to my own fears that people would stare at me and know straight away that I was afraid.

After some time, the busy morning traffic had dispersed and only the local neighbours became present in their front gardens.  My next door neighbour saw me and immediately smiled and said hello.  This took me by surprise and I couldn’t find any words to reply and so I just smiled back and nodded my head.  Another neighbour walked past my gate with their dog and smiled and also said hello.  This time I was ready and replied my greeting and approached my gate.

The other neighbour who had greeted me first moved towards my gate as well.  Both were happy to see me.   I realised that I had chosen to remove myself from their friendship and upon reuniting the ‘neighbourhood gate chat’, I felt an immediate warmth of social connection again.  The chat only lasted a few minutes and focused on local goings-on; and no-one pried into my situation.

I went back into my home and wrote in my journal what I did.  I congratulated myself for being courageous and noted how I felt when I accepted the friendly smiles and social connection.  I also noted the initial fear I felt when I was just sitting alone and watching the traffic go past.  I noted how my heart rate had quickened when the first neighbour made contact with me.  I noted how my heart rate calmed when the next neighbour made contact with me.  I noted how my heart rate went up when I approached my gate and when it went back down when the flow of comfortable conversation had started.

I read what I had written and felt happy.  I knew that I had conquered my front garden.  I then made a decision for the next day, to go past my front gate and walk around my neighbourhood block.  This was the start of me reclaiming my neighbourhood space.”

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