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.
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.
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
I don’t know what it’s like to lose my dad. Thankfully mine is still here. So I don’t know what it’s like to grow up without one but everyday I just watch my daughters to get a taste of what it must be like. To see them look out at the world and see that world as different to their own can be heartbreaking. When Evie lies in bed at night asking “why does Tess have a daddy and I don’t?” or when she says “it makes me sad that daddy isn’t here but Erin says I can share hers” – well it makes me shatter into tiny little pieces while I cuddle her and kiss her and try to make up for all those cuddles and kisses she misses getting from him. When Isla conjures up her tall tales about what her and daddy used to do together before he died it’s equally shattering. For Christmas I made each of the girls a baby book heavily featuring as many pics as I could of Daddy. This was quite a task when it came to Isla because he died when she was only weeks old. Now she goes to sleep every night kissing every fuzzy daddy pic I’ve cobbled together in her wee book and she tells me about each picture: “In this one daddy has just finished reading me my story – see there that’s the story book beside him on the sofa – and that’s me in my buggy waving to daddy, you can’t see him because he’s faraway – and that’s me and Evie on daddy’s knee and he’s just fed us our milk.” Every photo has a narrative elaborated by Isla who bases it very loosely on the truth she sees within the image in front of her. This week I found a Flip camera that Col and I bought when Evie was tiny, before we upgraded to iphones that had video on them. There are 54 short videos on it. The majority of them are of Evie in her stream of firsts: Her first smiles, her first bounce in the door bouncer, her first rollover and her first sweet potato feed. Col’s hands, Col’s voice and the back of his head appear but few of his face and his smile. I wish I had had the forsight to nudge the camera his direction a few more times just so we would have had more of him to remember. When I showed Evie and Isla the clips Evie was so excited and poor Isla was excited for her too. And then she said, where are the clips of me and daddy? I have none. Not one. Gutting. She’ll have to continue to elaborate on the few still images we have of her and him instead. Here is my favourite though. It’s the one that brought on the tears, of course. And it’s the one that makes me ache to give my girls back the daddy that adored them so that they wouldn’t have to grow up without him.
*Video being tricksy so trying to convert it to play
I wept like a baby on and off for the whole first day of 2014. Howling once more. It was all down to a misunderstanding and my paper-thin widow-skin. An assumption on a good friend’s part that because much of the time I sound happy and things are good with the new life I am building that perhaps means I don’t crumble anymore, that I’ve moved on so much that I don’t perhaps miss so much what I once had with Col, the life we shared and the friends we enjoyed. So when some of the closest friends Col and I had together gathered on New Year’s Eve it was assumed that I would be busy, happy with Cameron. So no invite came and I was blissfully unaware. And I was happy with Cameron. Of course I was. It was lovely to bring in the new year with someone who has turned my life around so Continue reading Happy New Year…
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
My late husband always refered to the Daily Mail as the Daily Hate. As many do. I think and indeed hope that he would be quite amused at the furore he, I and Cameron have caused within the tiny minds of the small-minded people that have written such vitriolic comments on my feature in the paper yesterday.
Of course the paper sensationalised it. ‘Husband who told his wife to find new life from beyond the grave’!! Not my choice of header. But it’s what they do to get some of their readers whipped up in a frenzy about things. Dear God, I know Col is not having wee chats with me from beyond the grave. Even if he had one I think my GP or my family would perhaps be getting a little concerned if I was having those types of conversations with my dead husband. Mind you I do have moments where I think about what he might he say…and in this instance, this Daily Hate-gate I’ve created as he might call it, he’d be laughing his socks off. These people and their hateful comments are the very ones that pay the money that will pay me for the feature. And yes you could say I have sold my soul and am trading off my husband’s death…but when Col died I left my London life and my main livelihood (although I was actually on maternity leave) and so now I have to do what I can to get by and feed and clothe my children. When a paper approaches you to write a feature…. well I am a writer and that’s what I do. It’s how I have got through the last 20 months in tact. Judge me if you want. It helps pay the bills at a time when I am up to my ears in looking after my beautiful children pretty much fulltime.
For those who think I am a callous widowed witch who has moved on too quickly. Well, that’s an opinion not so eloquently put by some but they are welcome to it. I was barely half a person after col died. I was functioning and living for my children, as one lady suggested I should have, and perhaps I should have been happy with that. But don’t my children deserve more than half a mother, one who hated waking up every morning, one who fell asleep weeping every night, one who wasn’t looking after herself and was on a path to self destruct as food become a little known concept and wine too close a friend? Do they not deserve a mum who laughs and loves life again? Oh no I forgot widowed women should be dressed head to toe in black and weeping for their loss for at least three years before they earned their true widow stripes. Aye right. Is it here that I should bring up the gender divide in bereavement. You see it’s a well known fact that men move on quicker than women. Many remarry within the first 12 months. But that’s OK because they are men. I wonder if the vitriole directed at me and some of my fellow widows in the comments feed on the Daily Mail site yesterday would have been the same concentration of nastiness if the feature had been written by a man? Who cares really though? To be quite frank these people, that wrote the horrid stuff ( there were so many who were lovely and writing kind ones in between), well I get the feeling that none of them, male or female, have lost a partner. Once again I shall say that I wouldn’t wish the death of a partner on my worst enemy but unfortunately it will happen to 50% of people who are in a relationship, it’s a simple fact of life – people die, so it will happen to many of them and only then will they truly get it. Mind you I do question whether certain commenters have a life beyond their little computer screen, never mind a partner.