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.
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).
Continue reading “Taking My Own Time”
Col would have turned 43 today. He died at 38. Evie was 22 months old and Isla was nine weeks. I was 36. Colin and I met when he was 28 and I was 25 so we had just under 11 years together. I spent 10 birthdays with him. I bought him 10 presents and probably went for 10 birthday dinners. He has missed five birthdays. That’s five years that the girls have not been able to run in and jump on his sleepy bed head and shout happy birthday daddy on the 26th May. However you crunch those numbers he was too young to die. The girls were too little to lose their daddy. And I had too little time with one of life’s gems.
People probably think come on love…that’s nearly five years now. You’ll be getting over it. But you never get over it. I have learnt to live with our loss. I have learnt to ‘move on’ like so many bereaved people get told to do. Time has healed to some extent but the chasms of grief are too great to ever not feel the sadness waves when you see other children laughing with daddy, playing with daddy or simply just having a daddy. Nope that is not something you ever get over. If you are a dad or you’re married to a great one…just try and imagine for a few moments how deeply you and your children would feel your/his absence and you will see how col’s death at 38 and the fact he is not here to bemoan getting older (and maybe balder and fatter) at 43 just simply does not add up to something I will ever understand or get over.
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
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”
I took the summer off. Literally. I haven’t posted because I have been on so many wee holidays with my girls. It was my treat to me and to us. The summers are always a bit tough anyway with so many milestone dates, Father’s Day, wedding anniversary and birthday all coming in a steady flow of blows. This year it was a significantly important birthday though and it was the catalyst really for ‘getting away from it’. I felt odd because I was leaving the decade Col knew me most in but it also hurt that he never got to his four zero’s at all. He will be forever 38 and I am very much no longer his 36-year-old widow.
Recently, someone I have never met before, and certainly who has never met me with my children or indeed ever set eyes upon my children at all, sat earnestly before me at a dinner party and told me she felt I was projecting my grief onto my offspring. Yes it was like a punch in the stomach to learn once again that someone has an opinion on how I am dealing with Col’s death but it’s not a new thing, at all. We all do it, we all judge the way others are living their lives. It’s just some of us have learned through experience that sometimes you need to keep that thought inside and perhaps not verbalise it until we are in a position to know what we are talking about. And I wouldn’t wish the knowledge I have lived and learned through on anyone.
From the moment your husband, wife, partner dies it does feel like everyone feels they have a right to an opinion on stuff you are doing or not doing – the little and the big stuff. I am sure most who have gone through this have had moments where they’ve wanted to scream at people ‘how on earth do you know what is right or wrong here, you’re not where I am right now and although you’ve just made me mad I wouldn’t want you to know how this feels but just, just, arghhhh leave me alone to do this my way.’ People’s concern means that they care but there are often judgements within the worry – she’s not coping/ she’s coping too well/ she’s drinking too much/ she’s eating too little/ she’s not accepted it/ she’s not looking after herself/ she’s made the wrong big scary financial decision/ she’s being a cow (for too long)/ she’s moved on too quickly/ she’s not moved on enough/ she needs to find someone new to complete her once again/ she needs to be careful who she’s met because he might take advantage of her/ she is not being the best parent she can be/ she’s OK now/ she’s not OK enough to deal with this so we won’t tell her. Argggghhhhhh. The list is endless.
I still make the mistake of judging others’ choices in life. I should know better. I catch myself when I can and try to put myself in other people’s shoes before thinking they are doing the wrong thing. I try not to speak it out loud when I do have that opinion because what can my opinion add if I am not living their life.
I was particularly sensitive in the early days and many who crossed me with their well-intentioned tuppence-worth suffered my wrath directly or indirectly. I am sorry for that. I really am and I have learnt from that mistake but it still happens a wee bit here and there so apologies friends and family. Now I am less sensitive but I am still terribly thin-skinned when it comes to how I am helping my children through a loss that is lifelong and not fixable. Having read a significant amount on the subject I feel I have chosen the path that works for me and the girls. Below is a poem by Henry Scott Holland that was read at Colin’s memorial service almost three years ago. Many will know it. I believe its words and all in this house and those around me kind of live by them.
Death is Nothing at All
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
It is the line “Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,” that resonates. Since Col’s death I have never allowed his name to be said in hushed tones or not spoken at all. I speak about him as if he were still here beside us all. I don’t change this for new friends that never knew him or me with him or Cameron’s friends who have only met me since I met him. It’s a 100 per cent of the time kind of a mindset. Col is my past, my present and my future and most importantly he is completely part of the girls’ lives. Perhaps this makes people uncomfortable but it is my way and from the research I have done on my children’s behalf I believe it is the best way to answer their, sometimes, barrage of daddy questions, ease their worries about death and keep his memory alive. To make his death, or any death in fact, a taboo subject will just make them feel death is a dark secret, his death is and his life are not part of them. Making it difficult to talk about him will make them feel different to others and down the line I believe it will make them anxious about a rather large subject that they need to talk through to understand.
When something so huge as the death of a partner, and the father or mother of your child or children, happens to you the perspective it gives you can feel like a gift if you can make yourself see the rather inadequate silver lining to the death cloud over your life. With my new perspecitve I am learning to face the world and its judgements and remember there is only one person I would take real criticism on on how I am bringing up my children and every decision I make for those girls I make with my knowledge of his opinions at the forefront of my mind. I believe I knew Col’s way and how he felt about the world better than most so I am making our lives as in tune with the way he lived his as possible. And I talk about him and his life and his way with my girls so they will hopefully understand where I am coming from when they are old enough. I may be right or wrong but this is my way. Others who will follow me in this journey may choose to do things differently, they will find their own way through, and others ahead of me in their loss are likely doing it their way. We all make mistakes but they are our mistakes to make. If I can sleep at night because I believe Col wouldn’t be judging me on how I am bringing up his children then I am happy. It is his judgement I try to put into my decision-making processes and so others can think what they like but I follow my heart on this. I don’t judge this person who made their sweeping statement of me. As one widow friend said when I told her of the whole upset I should be happy that she is so clueless as to how all this feels because why would I want anyone to suffer all this heartache. If she had come close to it she may not have said her piece so bluntly. Perhaps my reaction will make her think more before she speaks next time but I hold no malice. I think she meant well. Perhaps next time I am held up in judgement for my life and my actions I should learn to smile, remember the words of the Henry Scott Holland poem copied into this post and move on because in my heart I feel I am doing the right things the right way most of the time. And I will learn by my mistakes. Judge me if you will but keep it to yourself until you are walking in similar shoes to mine.
Three years this Wednesday and still learning.
On the last day of 2014 Evie, Isla and I decided that this sunrise was our present from Col. Perhaps he is sending us hope for the new year and toasting our successes in 2014. I hope so because I have still not had my chat with Mr Campbell that I wished for this Christmas. Wishing everyone who is grieving a loss some hope too for 2015. It is hard to leave the year that you lost a loved one in and know that the whole new year that stretches ahead of you is one completely without them in it. This is my third without Col and I am facing it knowing that I can make things work without him but I still wish him to be a part of it. In Isla’s words: “Daddy made that pretty pink sky. I love my Daddy.” Note the present tense. Love that. xx
Why is it that I can still have ‘bad’ days (and nights)? Why do I still feel overwhelmed by grief? Have I not shown bereavement my full mettle? What is that sets these times off? Is it worrying over Evie (aged four)? Why is it that she’s now crying in her sleep AGAIN? And then when she wakes she cries more and says “I’m just sad”? Why is it that she has started the whole OCD ‘I need to put my clothes outside for the right temperature’ thing? Why is it that I feel a huge wave of sad when Isla asks for photos of her and daddy because…well because there are only a handful because he died when she was only nine weeks old? Why oh why oh why?
Why does Evie have no memories for her Memory Jar at Richmond’s Hope? Why does she throw photos of daddy across the room instead of carefully choose some for her Memory Box? Why have I got about 25 empty photo frames up on my walls because I am too sad to go through all the pictures of times before that knock at the door? Why does Isla have to say goodnight to daddy through the window while looking into the sky? Why can’t she simply kiss him and snuggle him as she goes off to sleep? Why isn’t he here to call us silly names and annoy us with his teasing? Why oh why why why?
Not looking for answers…just venting