Nor do we have two heads or carry leprosy. We walk among you unnoticed until normal little everyday things force us to fall apart in public and reveal ourselves. This is my place to vent my frustrations, wallow when I need to and discover a new future because the unthinkable did happen and my husband died suddenly at 38 leaving me and our two little babies under the age of two behind.
This time last year my house was crazy mad with people coming and going. Everyone wanted to express their shock at what had happened to Col. In a daze people came and went into and from my little bubble of trauma. People do feel they have to come when someone close to them dies but when they do they don’t have a baldy clue what to do or say to his widow. So in your new widow status you sit there and almost comfort them by saying that you’re ok, that you’re devastated but you’ll keep going and then you ask them the weirdest of questions. None of which I can remember asking or indeed the answers given. But things like: “Did he have a nickname for you?”, “Do you remember the time that he did this or that?”, “Can you help me by buying him a new tie for him to wear in the coffin?” and “Can you tell everyone who ever knew him that he has gone because I want the world to know what they are missing?”.
The best of family and friends kept my life going in these early days this time last year. I was still breastfeeding Isla so the option of Valium wasn’t offered but I did take the milk-friendly sleeping tablets to get a few hours respite here and there from this new unreality I was living in. Decisions had to be made though. So when I wasn’t howling under my duvet or sleeping a drug induced sleep, funeral directors had to be appointed, coffins had to be chosen, venues confirmed, music thought of and ministers spoken to. Thank God for all of those involved because I just didn’t really care one jot about the little details. I just wanted Col back and not to be having to think about organising a funeral for him. However, I did want him to be proud. I wanted the people who valued and loved Col to see just what an amazing man he had been and come away from his memorial service touched by the life he had lived.
Colin’s mum was fabulously supportive and didn’t need to be asked she simply stepped in to cover the costs while I was still wondering if I still had access to our joint accounts. His work was astounding, particularly his boss Fiona who made it possible for us to have a memorial service at Temple Church in London. His close friends took on so many little jobs that made it all happen and the end result was a day that I have been told over and over again was a fitting tribute to the man it was all for. I hope so because it almost broke all of us who loved him to pull ourselves together to make it so.
Getting to the anniversary of Colin’s death was like travelling toward the little flag on my Sat Nav that marks the end of a journey except this flag waved D for D Day, day of death as well as destination. The 25th of February was something to travel towards but when I reached that place on Monday I wasn’t quite sure where next. I certainly don’t want to go back to origin like my Sat Nav usually asks when I get to where I want to go as that would take me right back to the first day of this journey of grief. And that would be quite rubbish. However, I don’t know what we are aiming for now that I am over my year of firsts, all those anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas that have now all been done once without Col. Now he feels even further away because every day that gets lived now now adds up to a year and another day without him. Hmmm. I can no longer say it’s less than a year since he died and I don’t quite know how that makes me feel. Yes it means we have managed and got through the 12 month mark but what destination should I be typing in the Sat Nav now? I have no idea.
I do know that there is absolutely no way I would have got to that one year mark without the amazing people I spent Sunday and Monday with. The mix of kids and adults there all had one thing in common – missing Colin. We all had our moments of sadness and the Colin shaped hole did loom over all the fun and conversations but all the gatherings proved to me that the girls and I have a solid support network of friends and that each of them will be part of our journey, wherever it takes us.
I have told my sad tale so many times over the last year, particularly over the last week, that I became disconnected from it. Telling it was easy because it felt like it was a story. I am nearly 49 hours and 14 minutes from the second that Colin was pronounced dead a year ago and I have realised once again that this is not some film script or novel plot, this is my life. As I approach that minute when my world turned a familiar feeling has come back to haunt me. Nausea. I felt sick for months after Col died. I think I managed to eat one square of chocolate and a pot of yoghurt a day for the first two weeks after. Today that feeling of completely and utter horror that I am never going to see my love again and it’s a nearly a year since we spoke, shared the same air and physically touched each other has returned and I’ve been weeping.
A journalist noted this week that I was stoic and tearless. I am not. I had just forgotten how to feel and I’ve just remembered and now I want to forget to again because I simply feel like I did on February 25th last year. Sick and horrified and absolutely bereft. Oh Col……I love you.
Evie asked me last night for some new wings. When I asked her why she said it was because she wanted to fly to Daddy In The Sky and her current wings (four pairs) weren’t good enough because they were pretendy wings.
The last week has been all about me in my head and I have forgotten two other major players in this drama called “Our Lives After Colin”. I’ve made a couple of major decisions and not really thought about the two girls. On D Day I want to be with the support network of friends in London that was so important to me in those first weeks after the trauma of Col’s sudden death. I didn’t really think about how it is for Evie. She now connects her memories of London life directly to Colin. It’s as if she thinks we just left him there and when I told her that we fly down on Sunday to stay with his friends for a special day she asked me if Daddy would be there. When I said not in person but in a sense we might feel close to him by all being together and remembering how funny he was she said, ‘but he’s very far away, isn’t he?’.
It’s so hard to know what to say. I feel I have been remiss with Evie this week as the blog stuff went mental. I was all over the place, taking calls, talking about Col in front of her to strangers, considering mad dashes to London and having reporters in our house ask questions about Daddy and his death and its aftermath with her on my knee. What an idiot? I don’t think my brain was fully engaged. My gut reaction was to ask them here when she wasn’t around but I didn’t stick with it. She’s coped so well considering but I am going to keep the girls out of it from now in. It’s simply not fair. The journalists were very nice and very lovely to her and myself but still…idiot, idiot, idiot.
I know myself that she’s continually working things out. She’s obsessed with daddies. Ask her if she wants a Peppa Pig yoghurt and it’s usually the one with dumb, old Daddy Pig on it. When we go to soft play places and there is a rare daddy there (I never go at weekends and whatever you say it is usually a female dominant domain from Monday to Friday) , she kind of hangs on the edge of the poor man playing with his kids until he has to involve her. Just as when couple friends come to visit she ends up being quite cuddly and loving to the male partner. And she is simply besotted by my brother-in-laws.
She will love this weekend because all those close friends of Col’s who promised to be in my children’s lives after he died are popping by during our visit. But there will be an element of why are all these people here for My Daddy, why is he not here when there are all these daddies here for the other kids. But that’s no different to her other days really. It will just feel sadder because when all of us do gather, these amazing friends, I simply keep remembering the man that brought us altogether in life and death and Evie and Isla will only have our memories to get to know him through. No amount of wing flapping, real or pretendy, will ever bring them close to him physically in this world of ours.
A happy little shot of me and the girls to say to the world…we’re ok….I would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of support, kind messages and love, really. Life went slightly crazy yesterday when the Daily Mail published extracts from my blog. It’s been amazing and so wonderful to hear from others that have either suffered the loss of a partner or parent, friend, brother, son…the list goes on. There are messages wishing me strength and stories of suffering that would make your toes curl. There have been generous strangers donating to my half marathon in Col’s memory. It’s all so overwhelming but in a really, good and positive way. So thank you all. I will reply individually as soon as I can.
On the comments on the actual Daily Mail site there are many most upset with me though. It’s haunted me a little. I would like to point out to those people angry with me for removing my wedding rings…I have not. I moved them to my other hand and wear them there alongside Colin’s wedding ring. This was my choice because I hated people assuming as I am going through my daily life with the girls that I was happily married to an alive husband. I am not and this way people get a little heads up when they meet me that things are not quite as tickety boo as I would like them to be. I remain in love with Col and I remain ‘married’ to him in that he will always be part of me, the girls and our lives. I hope that makes a little more sense to the incensed.
It was of course hard to miss that yesterday was Valentine’s Day and it would be so easy to write a negative post about how rubbish it felt to not feel to be part of the world’s big gush of love. But some lovely friends, old and new, and kind family members worked their magic to make it all easily passable. So big love to them. To be honest, out of all the commercial ‘happy’ days in the year it is by no means the hardest…I’ll save that honour for the now rather irksome Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but that’s a whole other blog post.
So what does a widow do on Valentine’s Day? I spent an anti-Valentine’s Night Out with my new widow friend and we discussed, amongst other cheery things, children’s grief. I had switched my TV on for five minutes during the day yesterday and it just so happened to be blogging widower Benjamin Brooks-Dutton and Jeff Brazier on ITV’s This Morning talking about how to cope with young children coping with losing a parent. It left me thinking for the rest of the day about how I have spent the last year preoccupied with how my two-year-old Evie is coming to terms with life without her daddy and I haven’t spent half as much brain space wondering how it will be for Isla. Benjamin and Jeff were on the sofa discussing their children missing their mothers and I was bamboozled thinking yes Evie misses daddy because she remembers him. How will Isla, who was nine-weeks old when he died, feel when she realises she had less time with him, a few blurry shared photos with him and no real moments that she can conjure up in her head? I’ve had people say to me it will be easier for her to deal with as she’ll just grow up knowing that’s how it is, she has no daddy, it’s simply the status quo. But is this right? Surely it may be worse for her because she’ll know that Evie had more time with him?
My friend’s little girl wasn’t even born when her husband died and she’s had similar comments. How can we really know that its worse for our toddlers than for our babies? We can’t.
Now that I look back on our first year with Evie I admit, though I never would have done at the time as it was a sensitive topic, that she was a really hard work baby. But Colin adored every minute with her. I can remember the way he drank her in with a deep breath as he gently kissed her head goodnight, the way he proudly walked with her as she took her first steps and the way he over-worried about her as she careered around playgrounds. I then think to when I was pregnant with Isla as all these things were going on and how he told me he worried that he wouldn’t be able to love another human being the way he loved Evie. He shouldn’t have worried at all because on her arrival he fell instantly in love with Isla Baby. But it’s so wrong that he only had nine weeks to drink her in, isn’t it? If he could see her now he’d be overwhelmed by how loveable she is. She’s now walking. He’d be boring work colleagues with her feats. She looks like him. He’d be pretending that he felt sorry for her for being ‘so Campbell’ but inside he’d be fit to burst with the pride of it. She is easygoing. He’d be telling me that she’d taken after him in personality too. She charms rooms full of people. Again he’d secretly take that as a bit of a chip off the old block. I just so wish that he could be here so he could see it all, all the Islaness of her and then people wouldn’t be telling me that it’s going to be easier for Isla. It’s not. It’s just going to be different.
Happy Valentines chat, eh?! Actually, aside from quite a bit of widowness chat we did have a few giggles over a nice meal with wine…but I’m not sure our table topics would have been that popular with the loved up populace. Ach well.
This blog was always meant to be an honest account of how this journey through grief is going. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest as I know many of the people now reading these meanderings. But I must stick to my pledge so here comes a most honest post.
It’s official I am suffering moderate depression according to my GP today. I think she knew it and I knew it as the tears fell out of my eyes, silently, as I ticked the box answers on the NHS depression assessment form. It went something like this…
1.Do you find yourself thinking there’s no point to life – A few days a month, half of the month or everyday?
Answer: Er somewhere in between half the month and everyday?? (Not going well already).
2. Do you have little or no value of yourself – A few days a month, half of the month or everyday?
Answer: Hmmm probably just a few days…(doing bit better here).
3. Do you feel like throwing yourself out the window/in front of cars/bashing headlong into a wall – A few days a month, half of the month or everyday?
Answer: Never, just tiny moments of thinking it once a week and dismissing it as an option…much better.
4. Do you find it hard to settle – A few days a month, half of the month or everyday?
Answer: Er, every evening that I am on my own (which is pretty much every evening).
5. Have you little or no interest in food or are overeating – A few days a month, half of the month or everyday?
Answer: Meals? What are they? Great for my waistline but probably not a good longterm situation.
I have never been one for failing tests and exams so, depending on how you look at it, I totally aced this one.
The outcome, as I stated, is moderate depression. Oops. Well, what with Christmas, shingles (X2), chicken pox (X2), loneliness, three weeks until the anniversary of his death, I’d say moderate is quite an achievement. I challenge many to not have developed an extreme version of this mental health issue.
So what can I do about it? Well, I have ‘moderate’ anti-depressant drugs or happy pills as I like to call them to start from today. We’ll see if they work and magically make life a little less hopeless when the lows come. But on a more positive note, I am so, so, so bored of my sofa and watching the baby monitor for kicks of an evening that I have decided to book in a few personal training slots and plead with family members to come sit for me during the week while I run my ass off (or what’s left of it after the above admission to having no interest in food at all) on the treadmill at the gym. Firstly, it will fill those dull evenings that I currently can’t bear. Secondly, it will get those happier hormones coursing through my brain a little more often. Thirdly, it’s not before time, as I stupidly have enrolled myself and a large crowd of Col’s friends to run the Edinburgh half marathon for the British Heart Foundation, which takes place on what would have been his 40th birthday, May 26th.
We shall see. Moderate or not I am determined that this state of mind will be overcome and the additional benefit will be a body that Elle Macpherson would be jealous of. Now that’s something to cheer me.
Oh and if you’re reading this and want to donate….click!
It is almost Oscar time and while the great and the good of Hollywood prepare their happy tears, their ‘I’m not disappointed’ faces or their gushing speeches, I feel I may be more worthy of an award for my acting than most.
We are in the countdown to the first anniversary of Colin’s death and I have to admit to myself I have not been honest with anyone. I have been putting on an Oscar worthy performance for almost a year and it has taken two almost strangers, two new people in my life, to spot the flaws in that ‘I’m fine’ facade that I have been presenting to the world.
I am manic. I pretend all is ticking along quite nicely, I talk about the future, I talk about getting things done, I laugh, I socialise and to all intents and purposes I do a good job of talking myself into thinking I am moving along all tickety boo. But then a moment of real despair catches me unaware and I find myself stock still, unable to think forward, unable to move and unable to think how on earth I will take life beyond that moment of doom. What’s the point? Who’s it all for? Poor me. It can be the overwhelming amount of housekeeping that does it or the worry about my financial future or the thought of being on my own forever and, wheugh, the plummet follows and I simply can’t do one tiny little thing. And so nothing gets done. The washing piles up, the carpet gets more grubby looking, the dishwasher lies half-emptied and the financial filing sits and sits and sits.
I have been institutionalised by marriage. I liked shopping for someone, I liked being in stores and thinking, oh he’d love that. I loved making the house look good for us. I had even got to the stage in life of actually ironing things. My feminist side abhors it but I loved doing things for my man. Doing things for my children is obviously the drive that keeps things from going completely off the rails in these despairing times but it’s not the same. I loved being someone’s someone. And I miss being Colin’s someone everyday. I hate going to the supermarket and almost buying an artichoke or a ribeye steak because I know he’d love the surprise. I hate not having to moan at him for not picking up his pants. I hate that I no longer have to be annoyed at his newspaper dried and stuck to the floor of the bathroom after one of his marathon weekend baths (he never mastered getting out of a bath without half the contents of it ending up on the floor).
From day one I have been trying to fix this big, massive problem of grief. I couldn’t bear to think it would take a long time. I spoke with a widowed friend in the first two weeks and she told me that the first three years were the worst. Three years? Not for me. I was going to sort this out quick as can be. Someone said therapy. I said yes please and within weeks of Col’s death was sitting at the Priory being assessed and being allocated a therapist. Excellent. Box ticked. Move house? OK, bring it on. I’ll move city while we’re at it. No resting and wallowing for me. I must move on. I must not let grief get the better of me.
Now, I am at the stage where sitting alone every night is actually doing my head in. So I thought I’ll fix that too. I will try to meet someone new. Well, I think I need to learn to walk before I can run. I need to get this first anniversary over with. My head is all Colin, Colin, Colin and what we had and that’s not going to work for someone else. There will be a future for me but right now I need to stop acting like I am OK and start being OK before I can think about anyone else.