February 25:D-day No 5

Five years. Half a decade. 1,828 days. 157,939,200 seconds. 2,632,320 minutes 43,872 hours. 261 weeks. Whatever unit of time I use it feels too bloody long since I distractedly said goodbye to my husband as he left the house in a flurry to go and play tennis. How can I have survived the half decade that I have since Colin’s heart stopped working at 3.01 on a south London road on Saturday 25th February 2012. When I saw that policeman’s uniform through the windows of my front door I didn’t think I could live a minute without him let alone five whole years. The 25th of February 2012 is the day that my whole life changed completely and forever and somehow this year feels worse than year one, two, three or four. The world has spun me so very far away from him now and the pain may has multiplied with every eon. And now sometimes he feels like a figment of my imagination.

So I do. I imagine him in our lives everyday. I imagine how he would enjoy the funny, enlightening and sometimes baffling conversations I have with my girls. I imagine how he would be part of so many small decisions about their wee lives (ballet or tap, Irish or highland, packed lunch or school dinners) and also the great big, huge ones (money, wills, education). I imagine him proud of them reading books to themselves, being kind (every so often in Isla’s case), being so keen to learn everything and just proud of them for being fabulous.

It was so hard to imagine life without him in those early moments, hours and days and now it’s hard to imagine him here. Enjoying it all.

What is real and not imagined though is that I am grateful his death has changed me for the better. I wish he hadn’t had to die for me to realise that life is not about the things, the stuff, the car, the house, what other people have and don’t have and is their life better than your because of it. My world now is so much more about the people I fill it with. His death has made me full of empathy for others where perhaps I didn’t always put my feet in others shoes without opinion and judgement. His death has made me aware of the mortality of everyone I love and also myself. I would feel I’ve done a bad job of being on this earth if I didn’t do my utmost to raise col’s wee beings to be amazing people. He was so they shall be too. I hope with all my heart.

A tough weekend and a tough week. You hear less and less from people as the years tick on. In year one I would probably have held a bitter grudge. Now I just nod to myself and think it’s only because they just don’t know how this death of a partner and intense grief thing works. It’s hell. It’s ongoing and it doesn’t melt away as life goes on. And now, clear my throat, it is time for my crusading bit. I am glad my friends (well some of them) don’t know how widowhood can be, how it is all encompassing. I wouldn’t want them to. However, just in case the worst does actually happen to any of those I care about I am appealing to everyone out there to send a letter to their MP. It takes two seconds on this link I am sharing. One day that could be you or someone very close to you receiving a policeman’s knock on the door or some bad news delivered by a harassed doctor. Current plans by the government will rob those who do (after April 6) of much needed funds, compiled from the deceased’s NI contributions, and it makes my head spin with devious way it is happening to those who do not even know they need it yet. Rant over.

Once Upon A While Ago – Revisited

This time of year is always so rubbish in terms of trying not to feel the countdown between the day Isla was born (Christmas Eve 2011) and the day Col died (25th February 2012).  Just nine short weeks and every year I feel them ticking. So this year I am sorting so many positive and proactive things to try to avoid the spiral. First up, Evie’s grand plan for walking up Daddy’s hill to raise money for a bench in Edinburgh. And we are nearly done! The girls are ecstatic and so chuffed that so many of the friends and family are helping them get there with the fundraising. Thank you everyone. Just less than £200 to go so any last donations are welcome – we are already thinking how we will word our plaque to thank you all.

Continue reading Once Upon A While Ago – Revisited

In my dreams…

In the months after Colin’s death I could easily recount in minute detail by minute detail the few dreams I had of Col. The one where I was in our house, it was full of people, but I couldn’t find him. I desperately needed to speak to him. I hunted and hunted for my phone to see if I could track him on the phone. But no one had seen my phone. Eventually I found it. And it was blank. There was no key pad. I couldn’t dial his number to call him. I was devastated. I woke just missing his voice.

Continue reading In my dreams…

Taking My Own Time

Grief. Such a small word for such a bloody big never-ending process. It might rhyme with brief – it is anything but. I wish it were.

Time heals…One of many stock phrases that get trotted out after a death. A simple combination of just two words that can make people like me, people who were just like everyone else in life until they suddenly aren’t because of death, feel like they are being given a mean old poke in the eye with a spiky spoke and a full-on extra nasty twist at the end of it. I can verify time does not heal you to the point of the fully restored ‘just how you were’ you. I am living proof of it. Time provides a distance between the trauma of a death to wherever you are in present time. In the immediate moment after death you are pretty much in the eye of the storm. Everything after is the process of grief. Time for me provides me time to numb, time to learn to cope a little better between triggers and as this process goes along I sense that the time between those godawful triggers, that have me sinking back into the darkness of grief once again, can lengthen. Time also gives me time to work my way through the emotional chaos created in the aftermath of each trigger and this time seems to get shorter each time. The bummer, a word I am borrowing from my six-year-old’s banned vocabulary list, actually let’s go further, the ‘total bummer’ is that it is my personal experience that time is yet to give me a heads up on where the triggers might lurk and sometimes time hoodwinks me into thinking I am properly healed (doh) and as strong as everyone told me I was along the way (another well-used stock phrase that people trot out to the bereaved when they seem to be less screaming banshee than they once were).
I can be ticking along quite ok. Well, relatively, because there will never be a day for the whole rest of my life that Col’s loss is not felt by me or the girls, fleetingly or profoundly. Ticking along OK but within our new normal that has developed over the four and a half years since he died. And then I am not. This has happened this week. I don’t think the trigger was my little baby going to school – the baby Colin last saw when she was nine-weeks-old. It may have been or perhaps that was one of many other bricks in the grief wall I have hit over the last few days. Maybe it’s that I will never have another baby going to their first day of school? Or maybe it’s that I am sitting on a train on my way to London, to re-rent our old home to more strangers. I think it’s that. I can’t moan too much as I am lucky (it’s all relative) that I have an income as solid as a rental house in London. But that doesn’t salve the pain of walking around your kids’ old nursery rooms smelling stale smoke and discussing replacing broken blinds with people who think you’re a mean old money-grabbing landlord. Yup that joy awaits me tomorrow and I’ll have to put my ‘strong’ head back on.
In the meantime, I have been reading these two different theories on the process of grief.
The first is the one you hear of more and the one I identity with a little less because it seems to be a step-by-step process. I still accept it but I like to mix it up a little and say that it works to describe elements of my grief but not in any linear way.
The second is more recent and identifies the hard work you have to put into processing your very own D day.

Perhaps one or both might help you make sense of you? Either way I like reading something that helps me see my madness in grief needs theories written about it. I say that in a present tense because my grief is pretty much always present its just sometimes less on show. The ‘time heals’ life raft that people tend to throw you is one that seems to indicate you will at some point get to the point of 100% better. Often healing leaves significant scars and today on this train, I have just picked at mine and it’s still bloody sore even after all this time (sorry couldn’t resist one last…).

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

https://www.verywell.com/the-four-phases-and-tasks-of-grief-1132550

The Annual Father’s Day Conundrum

This time of year does tend to smart and this year more than ever. My email inbox is clogged up with chipper Father’s Day gift ideas and my phone keeps pinging me clever ways to treat the men that are no longer in our lives. Popping to the supermarket to top up on essentials is like running a gauntlet of reminders of all the cheap tat we don’t need to buy this year, next year or indeed ever.

Evie’s loving practising her new reading skills everywhere we go – road signs, sides of trucks and everything you pass in shops. This week I’ve seen her walk that first aisle in Tesco and take in the cards and the messages so I wasn’t really surprised to have a big old chat with her yesterday morning. At nursery the girls have always either made me a card or made a wee picture for Grandad and they’ve never seemed particularly sad about that. However, this year this year there is no Grandad, no Poppa and, of course, no Daddy. So Evie was deliberating over what she wanted to do if her class did a Father’s Day activity: “I could make Grandad a card and laminate it so it could go on his grave but then how would we stick there? Miss Taylor has special Sellotape that might stick but what do we stick it to?”
I suggested punching a hole in it and tying it on with ribbon but was met with disgust so she pondered some different ideas: “I’ll maybe just make a card for Daddy and we can put next to his photograph or perhaps I just make Nana a card because she’s lonely all on her own.” Everything I said to these options was wrong even though I was only saying ‘you can pretty much choose any of the above my love because they are all fine plans and make total sense in a situation that will never really make sense to any of us’.

I decided to call in outside reinforcements because it was clear that Evie and I were clashing as only her and I can particularly when she is feeling a little at sea about something usually grief related. So I wrote a note to Evie’s teacher explaining that she was obviously uptight about any activities that might be done at school. Help.

I love Evie’s teacher. Due to some strange and awful fate Evie is one of three children in her class  grieving a daddy. in response to my scrappy note Evie’s teacher wrote the most beautiful little note back to me and also took the time to speak to me and Evie about the planned activity. So instead of a straight Father’s Day card Evie’s class will be doing an activity where they are asked to think of someone special to them and draw and write about them. It’s a lovely solution and Evie bounced down to school this morning full of beans about today’s Creative Hub. And hopefully those dad’s of the class who are all still here won’t mind too much…perhaps their partners will need to run to Tesco because there’s certainly some wonderful Daddy tat to be picked up at a reasonable  price tag. Evie and I can totally vouch for that.

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As for Isla? Simple: “Mummy for Father’s Day I am going to make a toy for daddy to play with in the clouds. We will need to put it on an aeroplane so it can fly up to him.”