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…).
Last night’s bedtime, the penultimate before turning six, and Evie says this: “I am sad that daddy isn’t here to see me get bigger.”
I tell her a story about how it was the hours before she was born. I was in labour so daddy went to the upstairs room to get some sleep as there was no point, in his words, of us both being tired. When the pain got awful I crawled up the stairs about fiveish to say we should think about going to the hospital. He checked his NCT notes on timings and said we should wait a bit! We made it to the living room and he was in charge of packing the car. But before he left the house we both stood at our dining room table and he cried. He cried with fear and joy and he was never so raw to me. He told me he was so excited to meet our baby.
I told Evie this. And I told her that as soon as she was born in all her screaming he was overwhelmed by her being. He just kissed her and kissed her and kissed her.
She told me she wished he could kiss her now.
I said I know it’s hard but we know he is around us just by the fact that we are. We just are. And then she told me she knows he is invisible. But she thinks he is just there and she waved her hand above the bedcovers. She explained he’s there but we don’t know it and we can’t see but she knows he’s there. I hope so darling Evie. Happy 6th birthday. Love Mama
When you think about it you can measure your life in Christmases. I can and I am sure most of you can too. I can remember my first Christmas that I can physically remember in the toys that we all got. Sindy furniture for my sisters and a bright yellow Snoopy hat for me. Then there was the year of the rollerboots. There was the year of the salopettes that we all put on when the snow outside got deep enough to run out and play in them. I remember the Christmas I got a Commodore 64 with cassette games of Daley Thomson’s decathlon and Hunchback. There was the year I got a Yamaha keyboard, suggested by Dad and I taught myself to play Nick Berry’s Every Loser Wins by ear. I remember the last Christmas with both my paternal grandparents. I remember the first Christmas without my Bampi and how my Gran was without him there. I remember the endless games of Trivial Pursuit when it was the first year it came out. I remember a year of dumping the olds so we could watch Take That on MTV in a separate part of the house because our lives depended on seeing it.
Christmas is only one day of the year but it marks every one of our years because we lay such importance on it. It is also etched in our memories because we take such a lot of photos of everyone we are enjoying it with so as the years pass it can be a marker of what we have had and what we have lost. In childhood it was most definitely about the gifts received and what was under the tree. As the years have passed, for me, it has become about the people I spend it with and the people that are no longer here to spend it with. The gifts are background noise to the most important part of the season for me.
Isla was born exactly four Christmases ago, on Christmas Eve. It was the only Christmas I would spend with her and Col and Evie. My parents had come down for her arrival and so were there when Colin and I brought her home from hospital on Christmas Eve. It was a special Christmas anyway but now in retrospect it was so much more than special. It was unique and out of this world as within four years two of the special people I shared it with have gone. Isla and Evie are no longer the tiny beings they were and are walking and talking mini people and mum and I are widows. How odd.
There was that first Christmas without Col my family rallied and we got through. A case of shingles and two cases of chicken pox were an added bonus to an already difficult time but we got through.
Since then I have measured Christmas by the strength of my parents to ride me through it and the amazing addition of Cameron and his boys to our whole brood.
This year is another shaky one. Dad has gone and mum is surviving. We are all holding on as we make it through the endless cheer. My heart has broken numerous times for my girls, and for me, as they appear as Angels or Mary at Nativity plays and I wish Colin back if only for those moments.
My photos this year will lack two of the most important men in my life but I have to see the postives and be glad that have three new men in the form of the wonderful Barrie boys.
I wish love for all those spending their first Christmas without an important person in their life. Tick this one-off and you’ll find the next one – not easier just different. Christmas is forever changed but it is what it is. A day. Enjoy it if you can and if you can’t – well just count the hours and minutes and get on through. I had several duvet moments on my rookie year. I am not ashamed. I am human and those ghosts of Christmas past sometimes do get a little much. Even this fourth year down the line I still feel a bit knocked for six by it. Good luck my bereaved followers. Good luck.
Here’s a link for some that might need it…
Evie turns five tomorrow. Can you believe it? As she went to bed tonight she whispered to you to say: “Daddy, I’m five tomorrow. Send me a kiss from heaven.” I hope you manage some way to do so. I simply can’t believe we’ve managed four of our first baby’s birthdays without you. She’s grown so much. She looks so like you and after several years of worrying that your loss was creating a sad little girl she has changed so much recently. She still carries a sadness but she is so caring and has such lovely friends and happy times. She has her moments, of course, but she is becoming very much a little person you would be proud of. Clever, thoughtful and a little bit feisty. You only ever spent the big One birthday with her. I simply can’t get over that fact. But at least we had that. We all miss you at these times but I hope that we can feel your love tomorrow. I had a discussion with the girls as I was rushing them to nursery the other morning. As I was going half crazy about footwear or lack of I can’t remember how it started but Isla said something about where is daddy or why is daddy not here. I told them both that you surrounded them with your love everyday it is just sometimes we can’t see it. That’s how I understand it. Simple. You can’t give us the hugs and kisses we would love to have but you caress us with your love everyday we just simply know it but can’t physically feel it. Love you always darling. Lamb-a x
PS I found this pic tonight when looking for another one…I love this more. Evie looks more like you than ever now. Mini me or what
If I could wish for one thing this Christmas it would be to be able to have one last conversation with Colin. Oh I could ask for more. A whole 24 hours with him would be amazing. Just a visit so he could see how well we’ve been doing since he has been gone. So he could hold me one last time. So he could laugh with his girls, tickle them, talk to them, see how they’ve grown and just breath them in, one more time, like when he used to sneak little kisses on their scalps as he fed them their milk at the late night feed. But I know he can’t visit us so one last conversation with him would do. For him just to appear to me in a dream and tell me that he’s proud of us, that he thinks the girls are astounding, that he is glad I’ve found my feet again, that he likes Cameron and wants him to know that I can be hard work but that I have my good points too. I want him to laugh with me about how Cameron is getting to know the silliness as well as the high maintenance side of me. I want to see his face not through the glimpses I see in our children but his face. If only I could see one more time his wicked grin and his twinkly eyes.
It will be three years in February since he died and I have only dreamt of him a handful of times. The first time I don’t think I was even asleep because it was only the first night or so after he died and I didn’t sleep back then in those first horrid living nightmare days and nights. But I must have dosed and somewhere between sleep and wake I saw him in our room at the end of our bed just standing watching me and tiny baby Isla. Then there was the dream where I needed to speak to him and our house was filled with everyone from our lives together but no one knew where I could find a phone to call him on. I frantically searched everywhere but to no avail. When I did find the phone it was useless. It had no keypad. No way to dial the number I needed. Almost a year later I spoke to him on a bench in a room stripped bare. He was older but still him. He’d not have liked this version of him as he had more wrinkles and his hair was white and thinner but I still loved him. I told him I missed him – where had he been. He hugged me and said, “Nic, I’ve been here all the time”. I woke up just he was imparting some knowledge to me. He was telling me that there are only three important cards in life – the Swan, the death card and the…….I woke up before he could finish. I’ve never been into tarot but a quick google search the next day did make me wonder about dreams and dead people and can they chat to you. Still not sure but I like to think Col threw me the Swan card as a wee message to say ‘everlasting love to you my sweet’. He must have googled it his end because he used to think of himself as fairly spiritually defunct so without some spiritual search engine he’d have had no clue that the Swan was such the symbol of forever love that it is.
Anyway since then the dreams have been scant. He has appeared on the periphery of dreams here and there. So if I could have my one wish for Christmas I wish for one last proper conversation, particularly at this time of year when I feel his loss so keenly, I wish, I wish, I wish for it every night when I go to bed. I wish for it every day that gets closer to the day our second child was born on Christmas Eve three years ago because every day of December brings with it bittersweet memories of prepping for her arrival and for a Christmas that was to be our first and last as a new wee family. So bring it on dream people/Santa/spiritual beings/Col. Grant me this one wish and I will be good, or try to be good, for the whole rest of the year. I promise.
My friend “who happens to be a widow too” and I have just done a second holiday a deux. When we did it last year we were quite conscious of what people around the pool would be wondering about our little set up. Would they be trying to work out, as we lathered each others backs in factor and answered to four children under five indescrimitorily of which ‘Muuuuuuuummy’ was being summoned, if we were in a ‘my-two-moms’ set up? Or perhaps we were golf ‘widows’ (La Manga has a few of these women who describe themselves as such without realising the weight of the W word) whose husbands had such scant care for holidaying with offspring that they didn’t make it to the pool once to throw a child up in the air? One couple we met assumed we were military wives. A rather obtuse conclusion but then when you people watch on holiday you do concoct quite elaborate and full interpretations of people from that tiny slice of life that poolside observation offers.
Continue reading Poolside People Watching
Stumble, trip. Stumble, trip. Every time an anniversary hits I stumble and trip my way into it, no prep, and I find myself amazed to feel myself bereft once more. It has been cols birthday today. I had thought I was on top of it. So many many calendar dates down the line and I believed I was a pro at handling the grief monster. Ha. Last thought I had before sleep last night was this was cols third birthday since his death. Forever 38. Sad but ok. First thing this morning Evie and I had a discussion about what she’d have done for daddy if he’d been here for his birthday. She’d have let him play with her toys. Heartbreaking but still ok. Kids and I in a supermarket challenged by a self checkout… Uncontrollable weeping out of the blue. Odd just odd.
Continue reading Happy Birthday Dear Darling