What an autumn 2018 was! Luckily I didn’t know -when I moved to the forest cottage with the kids- what I would have in front of me during the next month and a year. However, despite the time which tested me maybe more than any other time in my life, I can now say that probably exactly because so many big life events overlapped then, the result was as good as I can now say it to be, in January 2020. Such is life!
But, here we go. Let’s walk together in the last leg of my year 2018.
Just like my sisters and brothers, in September 2018 I spent a lot of time with my mom and at our family farm. There were dad’s funeral arrangements to be done, but naturally, life went on and many other things related to our farm needed to be done too. As one of the last words my father had given advice to my mother “to continue all small normal life chores after he had gone”. For me, it felt first impossible and I can only imagine that my mom thought the same. But in the end, I feel it was good advice. After all, it helped that the grief didn’t take too much power over life. In September, we knew also that the last animals would leave from the cow house in January 2019. That’s why I also wanted to make the last work there to say goodbye to that part of life. The grief needed to be walked through with that loss too. The community spirit that was revealed in our village was amazing. So many people and other farmer’s showed their support to our family and helped in concrete with the work that was left unfinished after our father’s passing.
Besides the grief, I struggled with my burnout, depression and financial situation. I had already planned that I take a long break from SaimaaLife and do something else to earn money and “see closer from further” before I would continue SaimaaLife. The timing was perfect when Savorak Laiturit dock company wanted me to come to make new marketing content for them and work on their brand renewal. From the first day I enjoyed my work. With the help of that work, I also got the backbone for my living on that challenging time. I’m so grateful for that!
As I was very aware of my limited amount of energy plus the fact that my kids life basis had changed due to me and my husband’s separation, I tried to keep our life at the forest cottage as simple as possible. There was endless list of To Do’s with the living but I tried to take just one at a time, do them together with the kids and also have moments of rest in between.
I leaned on my girl friends more than ever and they supported me with messages, phone calls, and all creative ways. I tried my best to do the same. I can honestly say that I would have not survived autumn 2018 without these amazing women! As a result when year 2019 started we were closer than ever, and also after that our friendship has just got deeper.
Besides my friends, in 2018 I learned to lean on other people for real too. Finally! When I noticed that there was just too much to be done and for example I would have not been able to prepare my home and its surrounding clean before my company’s first Japanese travel group came to Saimaa and visiting me, I put a request to Facebook to local people to come to help me. It was still not easy to ask help from others, but as I noticed how volunteers came, an isolating barrier in my mind finally disappeared and I realized how there was really nothing to be ashamed of asking help. This mental growth step with myself was so needed! I could say that it was about time! (I’d also say that many other Finns would need to go through this same also – It is goo dthat we have our sisu but as one negative thing I feel it causes that too often, and too long we try to survive alone and do everything by ourselves)
World stopped for a while on our father’s funeral day. It was a rainy day. Somehow it felt comforting. Like nature was also griefing with us. Me and my mom were the last persons to see dad in the funeral morning. I looked how the picture of our whole family would go to the grave with him and how dad had our grandma’s new handmade wollen socks on his feet. I touched and said my last words for him. In spring 2018 he had sown the last oat on our field. That oat was ready in autumn and we threw it to the grave with him too. All that was so very sad, but in the end I feel that our father were able to leave in the best possible way. Also the fact that before his death he had already said himself that all was good and he was ready to leave, brought peace and comfort for us.
A day after funeral it was time for the Finnair flight that brought the first SaimaaLife guests from Tokyo. Yes, it was soon, but I felt good also that life continued. After all, I had already noticed that griefing was a long process. Also this visit and all good energy and positivity around it was something that I longed for in the middle of all other life events. What memorable moments we were able to experience toghether with this group!
Big emotions rolled inside me when during the same weeks with funeral and travel group, journalist Tiina Suomalainen and photographer Mikko Nikkinen visited me. Tiina wanted to make a magazine article about my depression and I asked her whether I could talk there for the first time also about the reasons of it. It was OK and a few days before they came, I visited the forest that played a big role in my past. I couldn’t help myself do that without crying. Partly memories did that, but partly I cried also because of a relief – Even though I was afraid, I knew that letting all out and the public would be the last step for me to heal totally and strengthen the current long-wanted path with myself and life.
Everyday life continued, and even though big life changes had happened, little by little they came new normal. It felt good to notice how my family got closer. I remember for example a moment at our farm where I and my other little brother stood together outside and tested our mom’s new sauna stove. It was so simple moment but meant so much. At home, I invested in taking better care of myself, sleeping more and resting enough. It did good. Also with the kids, we increased hugs and kisses, talking with each other and time together without mobiles or any other screens or digital devices. Small things, but big in many ways for our happiness and health.
The men in my life was definitely a topic in autumn 2018. My father I had already lost, it had become more probable that we would not get back together with my husband, and my grandpa’s condition at the nursing home varied. Too little I had time to visit him -or my granma- but I tried my best. And I hoped that my grandpa would not go too – I felt that I could not just handle that at the same time as all other losses.
Finally came the day when me and my husband left the official divorce paper. When things were concretized my condition collapsed again. I knew that at that time it wasn’t good for me to be alone because my thoughts grew so black. I had agreed earlier to visit my friends in Helsinki. With my last energy I did that. However, while arriving there I got my life’s worst panic attack at Kamppi. A few days I was totally disabled. It was scary because I had not experienced that before. I slept at my friend’s home but got then got strong feeling that I need to be alone and I need to buy a paper and a pen. I took the cheapest hostel room and dragged myself there. The place was simple, even bare, but at the end, I spent one of the most meaningful nights there and wrote the text -or actually a travel map- for my future.
I traveled back home, and when I woke up the next morning all looked the same, but inside me everything was different. I felt reborn. I didn’t dance, sang out loud or even smiled, but the deep peace that I had had inside me was amazing. During one week, I had experienced the deepest bottom of my life, but also the brightest feeling. Acceptance, forgiveness, mercy, gratitude, and love had landed on my shoulders. I remember walking to the forest, sitting down, leaning against the birch tree and looking at the branches and sky. At the same time, I had nothing, but I felt that I had everything. I also knew that in my mind I had reached my destination, arrived home. The next day I wrote my first poem to the same notebook where I had written my words in Helsinki. A new era had started in my life in so many ways. I had no hurry anymore nor I needed to run after anything or anyone anymore. I had enough, I was enough – just as I was, as my natural self.
But life continued given me lemons. Almost the next week, I went outside to get firewood when I noticed that the stone foundation of the forest cottage was wet on one corner. Right on that moment, I knew what all I and the kids would need to go through. It felt depressing and I was afraid too, but breathed deeply. I decided to accept that -besides everything else- also the water pipe damage had come to raise me. I decided that I would take it as a learning process and that I would trust my skills to handle it in the right way. By summer 2019, I was luckily able to say that I did it, and building up my new, healthy self-esteem had got a big, good boost again. With that confidence, I knew also, that I would be able to handle all other challenges as well – and if I didn’t know something, I would ask help. After all, I had finally learned to trust not only myself but also to others. Also, by the end of summer 2019, I had learned that giving time and space to walk through all pain and grief was the right way to be freed from them and be genuinely capable of moving on in life. I was able to accept my divorce and that there would not be our family as four anymore. Also the more I noticed how my father’s spirit lived strongly in me, I was able to let go of him too.
Christmas 2018 was my first Christmas without my kids. Naturally I felt sadness over it, but on the other hand I felt there was a place for that experience. After all, compared to the numbness in summer 2018, it felt good to realise that by the Christmas my burnout had relieved, my depression symptoms were gone, and I was really able to feel all emotions again. Me and the kids spent our Christmas before Christmas and while they left to their father, I went to my mother. During the autumn I had learned to seize small moments again and be present on them – I remember how me and my grandma sat around the table on Christmas eve, talked about old Finnish Christmas traditions and food recipes. The moment was simple, but at the same time the depth that I was able to experience in it, made me feel warm and told me that all the time, more and more I was on a right track with myself and life.
By the end of the year 2018, I had no idea what my future would be. But it didn’t bother me. In fact, I wanted to “float in air” awhile, feel about myself and see what direction it would start to take naturally. The thing that I decided consciously was that as the year 2018 had brought a good and strong mental foundation and peace of mind to me, 2019 would be the year when I start to do all concrete actions so that I could turn a new blank page in my personal and SaimaaLife’s life.
When I thought about autumn 2018, I espacially remember the moments when I and the kids started to feed the birds. Following their life together in our backyard became the simplest, but also the happiest moments of our autumn. More that kind of peace and moments with a feeling of a strong connection to all life around me, I promised myself to look for also in 2019.