Preparing to Face the Fear

What do you do when faced with having to do something you fear?

a) Fear? What’s that? I fear nothing!

b) Run away!

c) Hide and hope it will go away.

d) Face it head on – show it I’m not scared!

e) Do everything you can to best prepare for everything it may present you with.

Really, I suppose your response is going to depend on the situation. For example, I am terrified of spiders so faced with a huge one of those my response would be b. Run away, fast. I’m someone who thinks people who call the emergency services to help them deal with an eight-legged fiend in their home are perfectly reasonable.

Anyway, this is not a post about my arachnophobia. The fear I am facing is returning to work next Tuesday. Saying it’s a fear sounds strange. It’s not like it’s something that makes me jump in terror like seeing a big spider scuttle across the floor.

I have been away from work since early February, 2014. That’s a very long time. In that time, Hugo was born, Hugo lived, Hugo died. I had to recover from my illness. I had to find support to help me deal emotionally with my illness, Hugo’s too-short life, and his death. It took me a very long time to find that support, and in that time I developed coping strategies that helped me survive but that were not conducive to being out in the big, bad world. Those coping strategies involved being in control. Staying at home, usually; it felt safer. Controlling who I saw, spoke to and when.

Finally, the support I needed transpired. Another tough journey, scabs torn off, wounds reopened. But progress made.

An acknowledgement that any progress is good. Self-compassion, self-care. I have to be kind to myself. There is no cure for grief. This is forever.


Eventually, finally, I felt as ready as I ever will be to return to work.

And what is there to fear, rationally? It’s only work. It’s not like I’m in the armed forces, in the firing line. I work in a hospital, and not on the front line.

The problem? I will be returning to work with a couple of new companions: grief and anxiety. They can take up lots of energy, needle you with self-doubt, taunt you by sending you in to a spin of a deep, dark, mood.

Frustratingly, they do not understand rational thought. Telling myself there is nothing to fear does not remove the fear.

So, I am focusing on option e. Doing everything I can to prepare.

Being compassionate towards myself for those times when grief or anxiety take over. Making time for self-care so I have more positive energy to help cope with the dark moods. Teaching myself to resist negative energy, to focus on what it is important, to know my own limits.

Remembering that one step, one day at a time is all I need to do.

Remembering that I have dealt with so much worse in the past year. And survived.

Remembering that I work with so many wonderful, kind, compassionate people, many of whom I am proud to call friends.

Remembering that by remembering my self-care and self-compassion tools, I can remain in control of many things.

Remembering that some people will not know what to say, meaning that they may look at me like I am a leper, ignore me, or say the ‘wrong’ thing. That does not make them bad people. I have handled all sorts, I can handle this too.

Remembering that moving forward with my life does not mean moving on from Hugo. Hugo is still with me. In my heart, in my mind, his legacy in everything that I do.

Remembering that this is a landmark moment marking the end of the most beautiful, the most harrowing, the most wonderful, the most heartbreaking, the most eye-opening, the most challenging period of my life.

Remembering that while I wish with every cell in my body Hugo was still with me, I am the stronger for everything that has happened.

Preparations for facing the fear of what is next. But knowing that surely, what is next can never be as bad as what has come before.


Word of the Week: Preparation

Prompt word: Fear

The Reading Residence

42 Comments on Preparing to Face the Fear

  1. Sara (@mumturnedmom)
    May 31, 2015 at 6:22 pm (5 years ago)

    I think that you are preparing in the only ways you can, and that being kind to yourself and allowing yourself to feel all the emotions that will come at you, and not expecting too much for those first few days will be important. Having said all that, I can’t begin to imagine quite how hard this must be for you. I will be thinking of you Leigh xx Thank you for sharing with #ThePrompt x

  2. tracey at Mummyshire
    May 30, 2015 at 10:39 am (5 years ago)

    Gosh, I think you’re so strong and brave. Going back into the workplace after dealing with your loss must be extremely hard, but you’ve made the right decision to go back and it sounds like you have plans and are preparing to make the transition as easy as possible. Our fear of our own emotions can sometimes be so strong and can hold us back, but it sounds like you’re ready and will be taking it at your own pace, so you’ll get through it I’m sure
    Best of luck next week
    #ThePrompt #WoTW

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:09 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you. I don’t know about strong and brave, but I need to return to the ‘real world’ at some point. Thanks for your kind words xxx

  3. Mummy Writes
    May 29, 2015 at 9:41 pm (5 years ago)

    Oh Leigh. I mirror many of the other comments. That the anticipation will likely be worse than the reality. That there will be babies and mothers that will bring up all kinds of emotions. That it will get easier. I remember the anticipation every time I returned to work and I didn’t have grief. I think the hardest part would be having to reexpose yourself to people. You have many lovely colleagues which will help but despite that I expect you might feel exposed and vulnerable for a while before you find your feet. That’s not positive to say when I should be saying it’ll all be fine, but it’s a real part of grief that many people don’t understand. As I reject add that I sensed your fear of opening up the wound, and is one reason I’m glad I work from home! But I know you will be OK and your amazing inner strength will get you through it. Keep writing and keep being kind to you. We are all here for you. Hugs. Kelly x

    • Mummy Writes
      May 29, 2015 at 9:43 pm (5 years ago)

      I meant ‘read that’ not ‘reject add’!

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 30, 2015 at 4:47 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you Kelly, I am hoping the anticipation is worse, as these things often are. Yes, feeling exposed and vulnerable while when I am home I am more in control is something I am worried about. I respect you not saying it will be all fine – you get it. But ultimately, yes, it will be fine after all. Thank you lovely xxx

  4. Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)
    May 29, 2015 at 7:56 pm (5 years ago)

    I have fear too. I will attend blog camp in Bristol this coming Friday and I am so scared that I want to back out but this is something that I know would help me so hopefully I muster enough courage to go ahead with the event. Goodluck with yours. #wotw

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 30, 2015 at 4:42 pm (5 years ago)

      Hope you enjoy Blogcamp once you’re there, it’s a good event xx

  5. Nicola Young
    May 29, 2015 at 7:05 pm (5 years ago)

    Sounds like you have definitely got the right attitude in your preparations for going back to work. This is the next phase of your life, the next step to moving on. I’m sure with your positive attitude, it will be a positive thing for you. Good luck and enjoy.

  6. Tim
    May 29, 2015 at 1:21 pm (5 years ago)

    Hope all goes well next Tuesday, Leigh. It’s good that you haven’t underestimated how big a step it is. Heather took 13 months off after each of our three childbirths and it was a big adjustment for her, even though she was going back into a familiar job with familiar colleagues after a relatively smooth maternity leave – nothing like what you’ve experienced.

    But hopefully your constant companions will, in their own way, be a source of strength for you on your return to work. You’ve battled through so much in the past year-plus – going back to work will hopefully prove whatever fears you currently have to be unfounded.

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:23 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Tim. It is a huge step – and I also hope my fears are unfounded. x

  7. thereadingresidence
    May 29, 2015 at 11:05 am (5 years ago)

    Wishing you the best of luck with your return, Leigh. It’d be a tough thing to return to work after being away that long anyway, without the added grief and dark companions that you now carry. It’s natural to be afraid, I think, though it sounds like you’re doing all you can do to prepare yourself, including acknowledging to yourself that it’ll be hard, and that that’s OK. Will be thinking of you xx Thanks for sharing with #WotW

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:24 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you, Jocelyn. You’re right, they’re all natural emotions, and I am doing all I can to prepare myself. No doubt I’ll be sharing how it went in next week’s #WotW! xx

  8. sophieblovett
    May 29, 2015 at 11:02 am (5 years ago)

    This sounds like an incredibly healthy way to face your fears. I would probably have to add another option when it comes to dealing with terrifying life events – f) force yourself to take tiny steps forwards whilst peeking through your fingers because not doing it is ultimately worse than taking the plunge. I’m not so good at honestly embracing the things I am afraid of, but it is this I think that is at the heart of your strength. All the luck in the world for the return to work. I’m sure you will handle it brilliantly xx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:17 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you Sophie. Yes, forcing yourself to take tiny steps while peeking through your fingers is actually a perfect description of how I feel! xxx

  9. Mary @TheHeartyLife
    May 29, 2015 at 11:02 am (5 years ago)

    Good luck Leigh – wishing you an easy transition. You have come so far and yes this is a HUGE step. Grief is awful and anything can trigger it as your aware and so YES id deffs be fearful of being in a situation where that happened and where noone understood or whatever it may be.

    I worked with babies before I left to have Poppy and lost her and so havent gone back to that, its too scary and too much. I hope one day to find something good and that can bring something into my life x

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 30, 2015 at 4:46 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you Mary. I hope you do find a job that is right for you, I understand completely not wanting to work with babies after losing Poppy – grief is difficult enough as it is xxx

  10. Stephanie
    May 29, 2015 at 10:08 am (5 years ago)

    Hope all goes well next week Leigh, you’re a strong lady and I know you’ll totally smash it, but sneaking Fat Cat along (even if it’s just a virtual FC) for a soothing snuggle seems totally acceptable xx #wotw

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 30, 2015 at 4:45 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you…just keep trying to remind myself everything that I have already survived xxx

  11. Louise
    May 29, 2015 at 9:37 am (5 years ago)

    Wishing you all the very best with your return to work Leigh. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to prepare yourself. You are a strong lady and as you say, taking it one step at a time is all you can do. I will be thinking of you next Tuesday and hope all goes well x

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 30, 2015 at 4:44 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you Louise. One step at a time…trying to remember that xxx

  12. amytreasure0
    May 28, 2015 at 8:27 pm (5 years ago)

    I have a feeling you will enjoy it once you return. You are so brave for facing it head on and not running away. You are right there will be some people who won’t be sure what to say but there will also be (I’m guessing) a tremendous amount of support from your friends. Tell someone if you feel down and I’m sure you will be well looked after. Good luck lovely xxx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:16 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you, lovely Amy. I will try and focus on the lovely people and the support I am likely to receive, rather than worrying about the bad bits. xxx

  13. Goldie
    May 28, 2015 at 7:46 pm (5 years ago)

    You’re so brave. I realise that sounds patronising and It isn’t meant to. Your post brought back memories of going back to work after my loss and how the emotions were and still are so raw BUT it was the right thing. There were days when I just didn’t want to but the routine was good for me. Like one of the previous commenters I was confronted by a pregnant woman on my return and, I won’t lie, it was so hard. I swung between anger because it felt like a personal attack (crazy what emotions will make you believe) and calm acceptance. By the time she was due to go on maternity leave I realised her presence had helped me learn to live with that particular fear.

    I hope it goes okay and I think you’ll find people to be so supportive depending on what you need. You’ll work out who to go to when you want to be completely distracted and talk about mundane every day stuff and you’ll know who to go to when you need to cry/talk/be emotional. I found that to be so important. Much much

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:15 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and advice. It’s about moving forward, as you say. Hope it works out to be good for me, too xxx

  14. Hannah Budding Smiles
    May 28, 2015 at 7:40 pm (5 years ago)

    Dear, sweet Leigh you are so strong and you will find coping strategies for the moments when work feels too overwhelming just as you will embrace work when it gives you focus and direction. I’ll be giving you virtual hugs and high fives all day and wherever you go, whatever you do, Hugo is with you, your shining star watching his shining star of a Mummy xxx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:14 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you lovely Hannah. Your support means an awful lot xxx

  15. mummyshambles
    May 28, 2015 at 7:02 pm (5 years ago)

    I’ll be thinking of you, Leigh…
    As you so wisely step at a time, one day at a time..
    Much love X

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:13 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you lovely. Trying to remember one step at a time, eating elephants and all that xxx

  16. Joelle
    May 28, 2015 at 6:56 pm (5 years ago)

    Just wanted to wish you good luck for next week, going back to work is a difficult milestone I remember well but you sound prepared & ready to be kind yourself when needed. I’ll be thinking of you & sending love & strength.
    Joelle xxx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:13 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you lovely. I will do my best to be kind to myself, and to not expect too much of myself xxx

  17. Chan Parke
    May 28, 2015 at 6:44 pm (5 years ago)

    I went back to work gradually after James was born sleeping one year and 2 days ago. I used a few keeping in touch days from November to December, before then, I told work a couple of times that I’d be back on x date then emailed again the next day to day I’d made a mistake and I wasn’t ready. My first day back in November was just to go in and have some lunch and it was a new site of work for me too, because the week that James was born my office was due to move. So one of my colleagues met me in the car park and I had to take a few moments cos I was welling up as I was scared. When I got in we marched straight into my boss’ office as I could feel myself going again. After a nervous hour in her office chatting I was at my desk and was faced face first with a pregnant belly (sorry, don’t want to scare you), my boss had told me some weeks before about this lady, but she just came at me out of no where, and said I was looking well and that we should go out for lunch (was she mad?). The day went well, and my next few ad hoc keeping in touch days were ok. I made sure to avoid the pregnant lady. From January I started back with a couple of days a week, increasing by a day each month and have been back at work full time for a couple of months. Before I went back I sent them the SANDS leaflets about info for employers for someone who had a still birth, and a copy of a newspaper article we did, so people knew that we like tomhear people mention James, and some of what had gone on over the months that is been away.

    I’ve had a couple of melt downs at work since January, which I think is good going. Some people mention James and others don’t at all. I don’t mind too much, because I know not everyone is comfortable talking about my baby, his photo is on my desk.

    The fear is a big thing, about going back, what people think and what they’ve been saying, but I think the fear was bigger than the reality. I’m sure many people complained about me being on mat leave for 6.5 months with no baby to look after, but they all deny it!

    Find yourself someone to confide in if you’re having a bad day, and if you need to have days where something just makes you crumble, then let it and find somewhere with someone who can listen.

    Much love, and good luck with your first day back.

    Chan x

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 31, 2015 at 5:12 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you for your sharing your experiences and advice, Chan. I know it won’t be easy – there will be so many hurdles to traverse – but it can be done. Being kind to myself – as much as I can – and not expecting too much of myself is good advice. Thank you xxx

  18. Tara
    May 28, 2015 at 6:29 pm (5 years ago)

    It sounds like you’re thinking about it the right way. Can you take some familiar things in with you to put on your desk. Photos of Hugo, of course, but maybe the plant you look at every day, a favourite scarf or the pen and notebook you use the most (maybe Fat Cat?). I know it’s not going to make everything ok but they might offer a little bit of comfort. Maybe?

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 29, 2015 at 8:29 am (5 years ago)

      Oh wouldn’t it be fab if I could take Fat Cat to work with me?! I’ll definitely be taking a photo of Hugo with me, alongside some other comforts. Thank you for your kind support Tara xxx

  19. babylossmama
    May 28, 2015 at 6:19 pm (5 years ago)

    Going back to work after losing your child is so hard, but you are doing everything right to make it easier and gentler for yourself. Good luck as you begin the next stage of the journey!

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 29, 2015 at 8:28 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you. Feel panicky about it all this morning, but I am sure it will be fine xxx


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