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).
Continue reading “Taking My Own Time”

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.

 

Healing Myself

I had a comment on my last post saying that they didn’t really understand my blog and why I wrote it. It has made me think. I started this blog for a reason. It was and continues to be my therapy. If it could help people close to me understand me then good. If it reached out to others suffering similar. Great.

In the early weeks after Colin died I was looking for any fix possible to make life more livable again. My grief and pain were so sore I could barely breathe for that awful black knot in my chest. I was breastfeeding Isla so the GP couldn’t numb me with drugs. I was given mild sleeping pills so I could find a few hours respite in every 24 hours just to keep me going until the next living nightmare of a day. I asked for a referral to a grief councillor. Anything, anything, anything that might help me. I got one. I did the therapy. I think went about six or seven times. I sat talking to a lovely woman at the aptly Continue reading “Healing Myself”

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

Good Grief?

I was told by a doctor in the days following Col’s death that I would  never get over the loss of him from my life. I didn’t understand that what that kind doctor meant was that my grief will always be with me but it would not always be as sore and raw as it was in those first hours and days. I wanted to fix myself and my life and sticky plaster it all back together so it could be what it once was. I didn’t want to hear that life would always have this pain of grief in it. The doctor was right and I was wrong. Life after loss is like waking up in an altered reality. Everything looks the same but you feel the whole world differently. People sound different. And you feel indifferent to much of what is said and happening around you because much of it is now trivial to you. For me the large shard of perspective that lodged itself in my head that fateful day that Col was ripped out of my life has made me focus on enjoying what I have and not spending life worrying over what I haven’t. It has also made me understand the pain of others’ grief.  Quite honestly before death darkened my door I didn’t get it. On hearing that a friend had lost a loved one I would have said “oh that’s sad, awful, terrible’ and I would ponder the unfairness of it briefly and then I would have moved on with my normal life. Not now and I wish I could give this new perspective to everyone. I want to give people a glimpse of how the world looks once you have lost love without them having to go through the pain of losing love. Perhaps then they would come close to understanding the pain of those of us wandering around this earth with those big gaping, unfixable holes in our lives and they may even forgive us for the little things, and big things, we haven’t managed to do or say rather hang on to trivial issues.  Instead of worrying that we are making decisions that we wouldn’t have made before, they might applaud us grievers when we use our pain and grief to propel us forward rather than stay static treading the deep waters of loss.
A fellow widow posted this feature Grief Intelligence: A Primer by Ashley Davis Bush from the Huffington Post on Facebook yesterday and it nails a lot of what I have tried to say in the first paragraph of this post. Fellow grievers read it and weep with the knowledge that finally someone has put ‘it’ into words and non grievers please read and try to understand us all a little bit better.

Talk to the Hand

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.

The Glad Game

I have been a bit radio silent for several reasons. The euphoria of finishing the Edinburgh Half marathon in Colin’s memory surrounded by friends and family was amazing but it gave way to a bit of a flat feeling. I can put this down to losing my focus of the last six months but really it’s not. A week before the run one of our other friends befell the same fate as Colin. A lovely man who leaves behind his gorgeous wife, my loyal friend Al, and two little boys of five and two. I broke down when I heard the news, over the phone. God I hate the phone sometimes. Always the bearer of bad news. Anyway, I digress. My friend has just lost her husband and people kept saying to me ‘Oh it must bring everything back’. I almost felt like there was a silent Poor You tagged on the end. But it’s not Poor Me right now.  Yes, another death, so similar, it did put me back to those first hours and days but that all encompassing ‘everything’ that I think people are referring to doesn’t really go away, ever. ‘It’ is always there. You just learn to put your horror of the immediate trauma following the death of your partner in its box for a longer periods at a time. But anyway, it should actually be Poor Al right now. But I know her well. And I know like me she would hate to have that word ‘Poor’ anywhere near her name. She’s a survivor and she’ll find her way through. What she’s going through I can identify with but grief is so individual, so personal and I can only help her if she asks. I didn’t really want to hear some of the advice from my widow friend who came to see me two weeks after Col died. She was 10 years down the line and I was so deeply in it that I couldn’t imagine ever getting to the stage of thinking fondly of Col like a an ex boyfriend you wished you’d stayed in touch with. The thought of that made me feel sick. So no Al doesn’t need my nuggets of advice until she is ready for them.
Knowing a good friend is going through something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy has made me try to find some positives to grief. I’ve been playing Pollyanna’s Glad Game (from the children’s book by Eleanor Porter) in my head so that I can give Al some kind of tiny piece of hope for her to hold onto. I am no expert. I am nowhere near the magic three years through my loss that someone who commented on this blog told me I needed to be to even have a hope of know anything. But when Col died I felt like a huge big, sharp shard of perspective hit my head at full force and it felt like suddenly I knew what was important in life. I have always sweated the small stuff. I worried about stupid things, about what people said or thought about me. I was permanently thinking life was about getting to this amazing point where everything had clicked into place – the husband, the house, the perfect children. I wasn’t always enjoying the journey because I thought it was about getting to this destination of perfection. Now through loss I can see life is so very short. Every step of it has to be enjoyed if possible. The minutiae doesn’t matter in the least. I wish I didn’t have to have lost Col to have learnt that lesson. What car you drive, what school your kids go to or even where your house is, all of it matters not a jot if none of it makes you happy. Bringing up children is enjoying every moment you can with them and not wishing their lives away so that yours will get easier. Losing Col has made me see everything differently. For every moment of pain there is a part of me that wants to rise up and shake the grief off and shout ‘come on life, bring it on, you’ve done your worst now let me show you what I can do’ and that person, the one who ran that half marathon with a stress fracture, the one that has signed up for another and is thinking about trying a triathlon, well that person would never have existed if I hadn’t lost everything one Saturday afternoon. Nope. Instead you’d have found a nagging wife moaning about towels left on the floor and not getting an equal amount of ‘time off’ from the kids. A woman whose priorities were skewed because things often mattered more than people. Now I know being rich is not monetary. I count myself a millionaire because I have discovered through my loss that what really matters are the people that love you and loving them right back, because you just never know…you just never know…and for that I am glad. Pollyanne

 

First Words

When Evie was a baby Col and I had a competition about who’s name she would call out first. He would sit there just repeating Dada Dada Dada at her at every opportunity with a glint in his eye. I didn’t realise until some time later that I was fighting a losing battle anyway as almost every child says Dada first. And Colin knew it. He’d googled it and it’s something to do with ‘d’ being an easier consonant to say but could also be nature’s way of making the parent who did not pop the baby out in the first place feel even more attached. Anyway, much to our amusement Evie’s first word was neither Mama or Dada and really wasn’t a word. ‘Abu’ was applied indiscriminitly to both of us and became our name for her.
What’s gutting now he’s gone though is that Colin’s second daughter is very much a Daddy fan. Her first words have been bubble, ball and bot bot but her new favourite this week is Daddy. Not Dada but Daddy. It’s so clear and heart wrenching every single time. And everything and everyone is Daddy. Pictures on the wall and people who come and go all get the same thing –  a finger point and a, clear as a bell, ‘Daddy’. It’s not like we have that many daddies in our lives but I suppose she does hear it. From me to Evie and her about their daddy, from me to my dad, from her cousin’s to their dads, from the TV and from books. Maybe I shouldn’t think about it too much. Embrace it. I have been trying. So when she pointed at the black jazz trumpeter on the strange mural in my kitchen and said, ‘daddy’ I snorted with laughter and got up and got a pic of Col to show her who her actual Daddy is. I will keep on going with this process. Because after two hours listening to a perpetual ‘Daddy’ from the back of the car yesterday I am a little over it. I can almost hear Col laughing at the absurdity of it. When the two of us competed over Evie and her first Dada and Mama he used to tell me that he wouldn’t have to do much to earn it and that no matter how many nappies I changed or how many baths or feeds he missed out on it would still be ‘Dada’ that came first….well now he’s got that a little too right. He didn’t get too many nappy changes or feeds in in those nine weeks with Isla and yet his mini me is a massive fan. Oh Col you’d adore her right back.Image

Born to Run, hmmm

Last year, when I decided to run the Edinburgh Half Marathon for the British Heart Foundation in Colin’s memory, on what would have been his 40th birthday, it all seemed like a good plan. Even more so when about 20 others, friends and family, signed up with me. It also seemed a long way off. Now it’s next month. Argh. I am so not prepared. I have silly unequal legs and a flat foot and have been banned from running for two weeks now. I never thought I would say this but I have really been missing my running training. My stupid body has been terribly inconsiderate in getting an injury. Running, music on, clears my head and sets me free. Yesterday I picked up my new magic trainer insoles from my foot doctor and so I am hoping to get back on track over the next six weeks and break through the finish line in about two hours. Hmmmm.
Several conversations with Evie over the past few days are spurring me on. The first took place in the car. Out of the blue, she said to me, ‘Daddy’s heart was broken. But why don’t we send a boy to fix it.’ I was totally taken unawares but replied, ‘Sweetheart, we can’t send a boy to fix Daddy’s heart. His heart stopped working and he died, I am so sorry.’ Determined, Evie continued: ‘But if a boy can’t fix it, can’t we send a grown up.’ Of course, I am now weeping in the front of the car and have no real idea what to say but reiterate that Daddy’s heart stopped working and there is no one in the world that can fix it because Daddy died and his body is now gone and he is not coming back.
Then last night I came home from training and the wee toad was still awake when I snuck in. She saw my gym stuff on and said have you been practicing running for Daddy’s race in the sky. After a bit of questioning it turns out that she thinks all this running training is me practicing for a big sky race with Daddy. She believes he is in a physical place. She thinks that when we go on holiday we can wave at him from the plane and ultimately one day he will come back. My whole thing about saying Daddy’s in the sky has messed her head. She’s so not in a place yet to understand this whole death thing. My friend says her son is only getting his father’s death now he is four so I think I just have to be a little less foggy about what I believe and put it more plainly. Daddy’s spirit lives on but his body has gone because his heart stopped. I am running not because I want to see Daddy in the sky for some big old cloud race (although Col would have loved that – he always liked us to pitch ourselves against each other in silly competitions) but because hopefully raising money for the British Heart Foundation will help stop others losing wonderful people like Colin.
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