February 25:D-day No 5

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.

So I do. I imagine him in our lives everyday. I imagine how he would enjoy the funny, enlightening and sometimes baffling conversations I have with my girls. I imagine how he would be part of so many small decisions about their wee lives (ballet or tap, Irish or highland, packed lunch or school dinners) and also the great big, huge ones (money, wills, education). I imagine him proud of them reading books to themselves, being kind (every so often in Isla’s case), being so keen to learn everything and just proud of them for being fabulous.

It was so hard to imagine life without him in those early moments, hours and days and now it’s hard to imagine him here. Enjoying it all.

What is real and not imagined though is that I am grateful his death has changed me for the better. I wish he hadn’t had to die for me to realise that life is not about the things, the stuff, the car, the house, what other people have and don’t have and is their life better than your because of it. My world now is so much more about the people I fill it with. His death has made me full of empathy for others where perhaps I didn’t always put my feet in others shoes without opinion and judgement. His death has made me aware of the mortality of everyone I love and also myself. I would feel I’ve done a bad job of being on this earth if I didn’t do my utmost to raise col’s wee beings to be amazing people. He was so they shall be too. I hope with all my heart.

A tough weekend and a tough week. You hear less and less from people as the years tick on. In year one I would probably have held a bitter grudge. Now I just nod to myself and think it’s only because they just don’t know how this death of a partner and intense grief thing works. It’s hell. It’s ongoing and it doesn’t melt away as life goes on. And now, clear my throat, it is time for my crusading bit. I am glad my friends (well some of them) don’t know how widowhood can be, how it is all encompassing. I wouldn’t want them to. However, just in case the worst does actually happen to any of those I care about I am appealing to everyone out there to send a letter to their MP. It takes two seconds on this link I am sharing. One day that could be you or someone very close to you receiving a policeman’s knock on the door or some bad news delivered by a harassed doctor. Current plans by the government will rob those who do (after April 6) of much needed funds, compiled from the deceased’s NI contributions, and it makes my head spin with devious way it is happening to those who do not even know they need it yet. Rant over.

In my dreams…

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.

Continue reading In my dreams…

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).
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…).

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

https://www.verywell.com/the-four-phases-and-tasks-of-grief-1132550

Number Crunching…again

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.

Invisible but just there…

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

It’s Been Four Years…Darling

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

Time Out

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.

Continue reading Time Out