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.
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…).
Dear Darling Col,
It’s unbelievable to think it is four years today that I last looked at you and saw those twinkly eyes of yours. Four years since you raced out the door, with a quick and happy goodbye over your shoulder, to never come back. Never. I still find that so unreal. So full of life and so full of love. So much to live for. So completely unaware that your heart was a ticking time bomb. It’s just bloody unfair, on everyone.
Why do you not to have all the great times you should be having right now with our little girls? They are so funny and sharp and much fun to spend time with. I laugh out loud so often but every time I do I wish you were there right beside me so I could catch your eye Continue reading It’s Been Four Years…Darling
When Col spoke of his dad he always spoke with such admiration and pride. He described him as ‘nails’ or ‘afraid of nothing’. He told me one story many times of when, growing up in Nairobi, he and his sister nicola had been petrified by the appearance of a huge spider the size of a fully grown man’s hand (col was always one for exaggeration but he insisted this wasn’t one) near the house or in the garage (I wish I could ask him which, but I can’t). Col described his dad as calmly coming to the rescue and scooping up the giant arachnid on a postcard, Continue reading In Memory of Poppa
I had a large bag of notes, cards, letters and photos, 100s of them, that I have not looked at or opened since the weeks after Col died. I have tried. Numerous times. But failed to even go beyond the first few lines of the first letter opened. I bought a beautiful book to place the memorial cards people picked up at the service for him and were to fill in with their favourite memory of Col for myself, Evie and Isla to read in years to come. These have a smiley Col beaming out from them on one side and are blank for his friends, family and colleagues to conjure up a moment in time with the man we all adored. I have read only half of them today. Through tears. So many tears. My head hurts, my eyes are but a memory and pure puffiness has replaced where they once were and I keep seeing him everywhere and weeping more.
This week a radio show asked me to voice my opinion on the subject of young children and how we should deal with them dealing with death. I am not sure how relevant I really was to an argument that had arisen from writer Carol Sarler’s feature in the Daily Mail, where she puts forward that there is a certain element of grief pornography going on on the streets of Edinburgh that has seen the parents of young children in the Drylaw community allowing their kids to take along memorial teddies, flowers and notes for tragic Mikaeel Kular, the little Edinburgh boy who was found dead last week, and place them at a makeshift but growing shrine to the three-year-old. I actually agree with her on that fact. I wouldn’t take my child along to such a gathering but then they didn’t know him and it would more than likely frighten them to know even a fraction of what seems to be the story behind his awful death. However, there are those children that did know him and those that went to nursery with him and they need to find something to help explain the inexplicible or somewhere to hang the feelings that they are now feeling about a boy they knew but ‘bam’ is no longer here. So this is where I disagree with Carol. The discussion on the radio didn’t get particuarly heated on the parts that I heard. We all agreed it would be wrong to take a child along that didn’t know Mikaeel, especially a very young one, because why bring death and the emotions it brings with it into their lives unless they did.
But death did rear its ugly head in my girls little world a long time before anyone would want their kids exposed to it . I would love to wrap my children in the warmth and ignorance and love and cocoa that she suggests but I can’t. So I suppose I did get a bit riled when Bereavement expert Ann (I think) suggested waiting Continue reading Discussions, Death and, er, Disney
My last post on playing the Glad Game within the process of grief and gaining the perspective on life that those not suffering a traumatic loss cannot hope to have drew many comments and personal emails and texts. It seemed to touch a few hearts. One comment really rang true for me:
“Hi there, I also lost my husband suddenly at age 34 he was 36 my boy and girl were 7 and 3 years old …
I just wanted to agree with your comment about realising what we have and we we should realise what is important, the down side to this gift and it is a gift, you won’t tolerate people moaning about the little bugles in life etc however I have been better at this with time xxx”
Thank you Eileen. Yup there is the rub. The downside of the widow’s new view of the world is that we really don’t have time for those who have no idea how bloody lucky they are. Oh well we’ll just have to keep on holding our tongues until people ‘get it’ and to be honest I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.