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).
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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.”

 

Catching Wishes

These last few weeks of summer the girls have been catching wishes. You know those floaty, spindly spheres that dance away from you as soon as you reach out to grab one. Yes, those. If my five and three-year-old can’t catch them I run, jump and grab upwards or stamp down upon them like a slightly geriatric child just so my girls can have those eyes-tight-shut-with-hopeful-whisperings kind of moments that I remember doing too. Where I wished for hair as long as Claire Jenkins, my girls wishes are much more poignant but are just as likely to not happen.

*****

Evie: “Mummy, if we wish really, really hard can we get daddy to come back.”

Me: “No, darling. A wish can’t ever bring daddy back. Remember I told you his body was broken and we said goodbye to it and daddy’s energy and spirit is all around us…”

Evie: “Yes I know but can Santa not even fix it so daddy can come back.”

Me: “I am so sorry honey. He can’t come back.”

Evie: “Well then can I wish for a new daddy.”

Me: “Well yes but you know Cameron is here not to be your daddy but he can be a bit like a daddy.”

Evie: “Yes that’s OK but can Isla and I have a daddy that doesn’t have any other children. A daddy just for us.”

*****

Isla: “I miss daddy. I want him back.”

Me: “I know honey. I wish you could have him back but I’m here.”

Isla: “But I want his cuddles.”

Me: “I know me too. But you’re lucky. You’re daddy is special because other daddies only get to see their little girls after school or nursery or after work. Your daddy watches over you all the time. And while he was here your daddy gave me so many cuddles that I can pass some of them to you.”

Isla: “And his kisses?”

Me: “Yes darling. Kisses too.”

Our sweet girls, Col. If only those spindly floaty wish things could make wishes come true…I wish that these were not the types of conversations I shared with my little girls at bedtime and that you could kiss and cuddle them in the flesh. I just wish.

 

The Best Presents..ever

A fog has lifted. Mother’s day was the marker. I can admit now that for the last three Mother’s Days I have struggled. My negativity towards the world of two parent families was quite intense for 2012, 2013 and even 2014. I only ever had one Mother’s Day with Colin all present and correct so I felt robbed of breakfasts in bed or other such little treats that he may or may not have thought of doing. Knowing Col so well though I know if he had been here for those three special annual Hallmark feted Sundays the day would have been marked by a card rapidly bought on the way home from work and perhaps a chaotic Sunday lunch before he scooted off to play squash. I am under no illusions that he would have meticulously planned presents from the girls, arranged a massive bunch of flowers and given me a spa voucher for a massage to take away the stresses and strains I thought I was suffering because I didn’t know how good I actually had it. Nope elaborately thought out gifts…that just wasn’t him. He flew a little more by the seat of his pants when it came to his gift buying and because I didn’t know how much I Continue reading “The Best Presents..ever”

My Christmas Wish

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.

Loss Of Control

Sometimes I wish life were like a school biology experiment. Instead of ten woodlice in one ‘control’ petri dish residing on a soggy bit of kitchen roll in their little world all constant and unchanged compared to their 10 friends on very similar petri dish who’d have had all sorts of changeables thrown at them, there would be two sets of me, Evie and Isla going through two similar but two very different lives. In one petri dish of a life the three of us would be all constant and unchanged and living in London and Colin would be there. On the other petri dish we’d have had all the spanners life has thrown at us since the death of Col. Hopefully on this second petri dish we’d be surviving and rebuilding as we are here and now but it would make it easier to pinpoint how we’ve been altered because we could look at the other Evie, Isla and Nicola and see what might have been and compare and contrast. The conclusion would be so simple. Any differences between those two petri dishes could be put down to his loss and the whole fallout from that terrible fact.

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Echoes of a Life

I can put myself back in those first seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks after I lost col whenever I let my mind go that way. It’s just not something that ever dulls. That pain. It’s unforgettable. That loss, that emptiness, that indescribable feeling that the one you loved, the one you shared your hopes and dreams with, the one you wanted to grow old with and look back on life with, has vanished without trace. I remember looking around me, through our house, the rooms he walked in, sat in, slept in, stood and munched celery at the fridge in, the stairs he left his trail of clothes on, the bathroom he forever forgot to rinse after shaving in, the shower he drew ‘I love you’ in the steam in, he was everywhere but nowhere. I could see him but only in memory. He who was so much my present and future was now only my past. Unless you’ve gone through it it is quite simply unimaginable. 
An old friend lost his wife to cancer the night before last and I keep putting myself in his shoes and imagining her presence but her lack of being through his eyes and I just wish he didn’t have to know how that feels. The sense that her life continues to echo on through their house, their family, all she did, all she achieved, all the people she touched…but why is she in the past tense? ‘Why?’. How can it Continue reading “Echoes of a Life”

Widows United

There is a widow site/online community that I am a member of. A place where those who have lost a partner can vent, moan, laugh, weep their way through with others who at least have some understanding of what it is like. In the build up to Christmas the posts are understandably about all the excess pain that comes with the season of joy and goodwill to all men for us widows/widowers. From the small things, the way you’re addressed in cards or on envelopes and who’s remembered to send anything in the post at all; to the difficulties in watching your children in nativity plays singing their hearts out, albeit badly, without their daddy or mummy beside you to share that big fat moment of pride, together; to the larger ongoing issues that come from the expectations of family and friends to be over it, at least for the festive season. To the outsider’s eye (the non-widowed that is) a lot of these posts could be read as self-indulgent moans but to all those reading this who have lost a partner you will get it. It’s hard at this time of year and it’s extremely hard to keep your perspective about you. I know I am lucky to have the girls to watch in plays. There are others who weren’t so fortunate to have that longed for child before their partner died. I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family who still remember us in many presents and carefully worded cards and who don’t mind when my ‘second Christmas as a widow’ bambi legs (it’s how I actually feel – a novice at Christmas once more) mean I have forgotten to buy a gift, not made it to the post office in time or not sent proper Christmas cards…so ie their kindness has not been reciprocated (YET). So I do try to remember that I am lucky when I feel the widow bah humbugs of Christmas wash over me. If I can’t I vent to my widow friend.

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Not So Silent Screaming

I have been counting dates again. Isla is the same age Evie was when Col died. She is 22 months. And she’s still just a baby. Yes she talks and she understands stuff but how, at this same age did Evie cope with loss and understand that daddy just disappeared from her life? How did I think she understood? She didn’t but she did. She stopped asking for him, she refused her much-loved milks and she point blank refused baths. His death did seem to have an affect on her. So she did suffer the loss but it’s only now at three and a half that she is beginning to grasp it. When will 22-month-old Isla get it? Will she feel jealous that she had such a short time feeling his love all around her? Arghhhh.
Seeing Isla at this same stage also makes me think, once again, about how short a time Col had with both his girls. At the time I thought at 22 months Evie was almost a fully fledged child. But she was a baby. Then I start thinking about the fact that if she was a baby then Isla at nine weeks was practically an embryo. Tiny. They shared such a tiny amount of time in this world with their wonderful daddy. It’s heartbreaking (well of course it is, the whole bloody thing is).
Those who know and follow this blog will also know that I have come under fire from certain Dail Mail idiots. I have moved on and met someone so that of course means I am callous and unfeeling. Well if those people could walk in these grief boots for just one moment they would, they would, well, they’d eat their sanctimonious hats. I am moving on. But every step forward is also filled with sadness. My children have lost their daddy and I lost the future I thought I had ahead of me. I am only now able to start emptying some of the boxes I packed up in the weeks following Col’s death for our big move north. My new house is not so new anymore, after over a year in it, but with the piles of random objects and boxes sitting in the shadowy corners of most rooms it looks undone and very unhomely. Meeting Cameron has spurred me on to make the house look happy and lived in and so yesterday I started to tackle the last few boxes. Almost immediately I was in pieces. First the cufflinks I bought Col for our wedding day had me in silent tears and then…well I peeled the bubble wrap off our wedding photos and found myself wracked by those animalistic sobs that those who have suffered this type of loss will know. The ones where your mouth freezes open, like in Munch’s Scream, and you get that awful pain in your chest. The one that feels like a deep, dark, unfillable hole.
It’s been a long time since I felt that pain. As well as the despair that the life I had was gone in amongst this latest bout of weepage I was thinking…God, will this ever, ever, ever get any easier? Of course it will, it is (this time I had Cameron holding me up and hugging me while I collapsed inwards and that definitely felt better than being alone and falling apart) but I think I would be a fool to think that grief will ever leave my life completely. One day when these girls of ours get bigger this pain will hit them too and I so wish I could keep it from them but they can’t stay three and a bit and 22 months forever. Soon I will be counting the date that Evie has been alive longer without her dad than with…great

Aaaaaarghhhhhhhhh
Aaaaaarghhhhhhhhh