Grieving during quarantine

As much as I like writing (well my version of writing), my favourite part of blogging is getting to read other blogs. They can make you laugh, cry, think and fill you with renewed hope. One of my favourite blogs is by Katie and Evee. It really captured me as like my son, grief often hits when we are far too young. They talk about it so beautifully. It’s grief with hope, loss with the desire to live again.

I’m really excited as today Katie and Evee are here on my blog. They have also rather recklessly allowed me to write on their wonderful blog today as well.

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Grieving During Quarantine

Hello, our names are Katie and Evee. Gary has kindly shared his platform with us today to write a little about our experience with grief during quarantine. 

~

Sometimes, during big events where the whole world is grieving such as the time we find ourselves in today, our own personal grief can feel small, detached and forgotten.

Evee: We lost our Mum 18 months ago, on the 9th of September 2018. We still feel it every day, but recently, the want for our Mum during such chaos, is deafening. For example, when I was at university trying to work out how to get home before lockdown, everyone had parents on the phone to call for comfort, or to pick them up. I felt the loss of my mum then.

Katie: Over the past 18 months I have been learning what grief is and how I can fit it into my everyday life, and our blog has been a great means of doing so. When life shifts, as it tends to do, I try to bend with it. I try to shape my grief to fit the big hole where Mum used to be. Before quarantine, I was working on allocating time to fit grief into my fast-paced life; 05:45 start, the commute, work, the commute home, cooking, exercise, writing for the blog, sleeping, and amidst that, trying to maintain friendships and socialising and trying to find time for me. Each of these parts were like spinning plates.

With this global transition, I now work from home. I think I speak for the whole nation when I say that this is a hard adjustment. We are all confined to the house, yet working towards the constant harsh deadlines. This, alongside the anxiety, fear, and sadness that the whole world is feeling right now has been intense and hard to escape. For me, something has had to give in the last couple of weeks and a couple of my spinning plates have fallen down – grief being one of them. 

Getting to grips with my new quarantine routine, I have not been able to dedicate any time to reflect on my grief or to sit quietly with my thoughts at all. But grief doesn’t stop just because our lives seemingly have, and as Evee mentioned, we both miss our Mum more than ever right now. 

Evee: On the other hand, I have a lot more time than Katie, because all of my exams and most of my assignments have been cancelled. I haven’t been able to do work because it feels like the minute I do, I get an email saying that the module that I’m working on has been abandoned. This week, the only thing I have been able to count on, is my home exercise routine. 

The gym used to be a huge part of my life; it would often be a place where I think about Mum and process everything. I enjoy the feeling of my body being spent, and of stretching my aching muscles out. For some reason, while my body is active, my mind can chug away slowly and think about everything that is happening in the world, and its impact on my small world. 

When the gym became a breeding ground for the pandemic, I began to create workouts at home. I have created a hard work out for myself to do during the day. I find this gives me a sense of normality, and enables me to have that time to myself and for me to think about Mum. Like what she would say and what she would do in this situation. My one hour outside I use mainly for cycling or walking.

I also spend a lot of time cleaning, tidying and making this house cosy and homely for my little family. It is things like this that make me feel like I am helping out, and easing the pressure off of my sister and Uncle.

It is in these moments where I can clear my head and remember happier times, and think of who I have, and what I can do to get through this period. And that also involves a lot of blog writing! 

Writing has always been a big part of my life, but particularly now, I find it indulgent and wonderful to log onto our online community, talk and feel less alone.

Katie: Thankfully, the clocks went forward recently which gifted us with an extra of sunshine in the evening. I use this extra hour of daylight to take my walk and I’m truly grateful for it. Evee pointed me to the direction of a nearby, beautiful church. It has become a wonderful addition to my newroutine. I go there to stop. Sit, think and reflect. It is an hour dedicated to being still and quiet. I close my eyes and reflect upon life and our Mum. I use this time to ground myself during such pandemonium.

~

This is a challenging time for us all. We constantly receive intrusive breaking news notifications on our phones. Our head is clustered full of worries, anxieties, and fear. It feels like at any moment our spinning plates will fall. Dedicate time to yourself. Dedicate time to reflection. Dedicate time to processing. In a little while, you’ll be able to pick these plates back up.

Stay safe, sane and smiling, friend.

Today we leave you with a song from one of our favourite and happiest artists; Newton Faulkner. 

 

My best-laid plans are washed away

No time to make ’em all again

Sometimes life gets in the way

We’ve got to keep on breathing

Look how far we’ve come

Look what we’ve made

Started from nothing, building

Brick by Brick – Newton Faulkner

 

Katie & Evee x

Spring

Spring must have arrived as the Rowan Tree has sprung into life.

My partner loved these plants. She thought every garden should have at least one in a prime location. We had a beautiful one next to the front door. Poignantly it died the winter just before our partner left us. It’s taken a few years to grow a replacement but now she would be pleased again.

These days the replacement is in a large pot in the back garden. Now that’s my running is restricted to endless circuits of our little garden the tree forms a helpful obstacle to run round. On my last epic run I rather sadly counted how many times I passed the little tree. 213 times….. Yes I can count that far.

So according to the Rowan Tree and the daffodils it is Spring. Can someone tell the weather. It’s freezing. Even the bird bath is frozen every morning. This means the path is icy. That explains my latest fashion statement. My son looked at me with one of those Paddington Bear stares, shock his head and sighed.

Dad in most cases the human species has been evolving for millions of years. Clearly there are one or two exceptions to that.”

I had just finished my early morning workout and has decided to feed the birds. On my way to the bird table I slipped on the icy pavement. When I say slipped I mean a full ‘arse over tit’ moment. Most of the bird seed, bread crumbs, surplus rice and water landed on my very large head. It was a fetching look especially when it was merged with a white T-shirt and pink compression leggings.

Don’t you bloody love Spring.

While on the subject of Spring let’s seamlessly transition into our weekly fix of terrible poetry in the form of Chelsea Owens weekly challenge. This week Chelsea has set the following task

  1. The Topic is Springtime -or Autumntime if you’re South. You can haiku, limerick, free verse, acrostic, tanka, cinquain, sonnet
  2. Length is wholly dependent on the type of poem you write. If you go with an epic ballad, please cut things off before page 54.
  3. Rhyming also depends on your creation.
  4. The goal is to make it terrible. Mother Earth must rise from her seasonal slumber to smack you with an olive branch of peace.
  5. Keep the Rating at PG or cleaner.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (April 3) to submit a poem to Chelsea.

It’s Springtime in Yorkshire

The Sun is still on vacation

Still waiting for it to be a scorcher

Oh the pigging frustration

The path is covered in ice

And I’ve just landed on my bum

Now I’m wearing last nights rice

And I feel a right dumb dumb

The washing on the line is frozen rock solid

The gale force wind screams over the barren field

The weeds and broken branches makes it look so squalid

The poor garden birds hide in the bushes seeking any decent shield

So Springtime is here which means dust down the garden chair

Now I’m off inside to find my extra thick thermal underwear

Swan

It was good to see the swan observing social distancing at the local lake today. If only some of the humans could get their head round the concept. Our village thankfully has. Apart from the postman, the occasional food delivery driver and a handful of dog walkers – that’s it. All the cars are parked up and are not being used. Virtually no through traffic. We don’t have a shop, cafe or pub. The village hall and church are temporarily closed. Basically it’s like a ghost town. It seems to oscillate between beautifully peaceful and slightly unnerving.

It’s the new normal.

Work is definitely shutdown until at least mid June now. No sign of schools reopening anytime before September. The countrywide lockdown isn’t being relaxed any time soon. No long runs. Apart from the very occasional trip to a shop for essentials, that’s it for physical social interaction. Maybe for months. It’s not happened yet but I can see this ramping up a grief attack soon. Especially as my partners birthday is looming. But it is what it is. Another thing for my constantly racing two cell brain to deal with.

We were watching Toy Story 2 last night when a thought popped into my head. Apart from the obvious one – oh man I look increasingly like Mr Potato Head. Wouldn’t it be great if toys did come alive. How much fun would that be. Suddenly a whole new self contained social circle. And yes we have a Buzz Lightyear so maybe he could teach us to fly.

I feel bad now Dad. Not played with a number of my toys in years. They have been shelved. Woody was mortified when he was shelved. Maybe we should dedicate the online Drama lesson to playing with old toys.”

He’s been so turned off from the subject that playing with old toys would certainly have more learning value.

Dad Ive been thinking about Toy Stories meaning. Basically it’s that you need to keep old toys come what may. Yes always play with them, even when your old. But never, ever give them away – even to a needy cause. It’s a bit of a grim message really.”

And with that he was off to find his old In The Night Garden Toys. But unusually for him, he did not fully think this through. His Dad fell in love with that old BBC kids show. His Dad can still answer any question thrown at him about Igglegpigle, Makka Pakka and the gang. And rather than looking for the shelved toys in the old toy baskets he just needs to look at his Dads bedroom table. No shelved toy sadness here. The In The Night Garden gang are very happy each night. Much loved by someone who really should know better.

Photo from the BBC.

Toy Story

Lovely midday weather here in Yorkshire.

It’s funny how you can overthink even the simplest of tasks. We try to make Saturday evening the official movie night of the week. A regular thing for son to look forward to. Popcorn, cola and a great movie. We save up new movies for the full Saturday experience. If we don’t have a new movie then the next best thing is a blockbuster. For days I had been working on a list of potential movies for this Saturday. Scores of candidates slowly whittled down to three favourites.

The Martian

Terminator – Dark Fate

Rocketman

So Saturday night arrived. I proudly gave son the list of three movies.

Ok Dad, let’s watch Toy Story.”

And with that it was Woody and co. A top top movie. Perfect escapism for today’s anxious world. But how much energy did I waste on picking an unused movie list. But I guess the point is that it successfully distracted me for a few days. While watching the movie I played my usual game of trying to pick which character I was most like. Toy Story was easy, clearly I am Rex. Although this morning I am a bit more Mr Potato Head.

We often forget how stressful the current situation is for kids. Confined to base, seeing parents stressed, unremittingly bad news on social media, kept apart from friends. In our sons case the confined to base and kept apart from friends is not really an issue. But his Aspergers requires routine and controllability. These have gone out of the window over the last few weeks. Adjusting to different daily routines. Food on the set weekly schedule (which has been in place for years) becoming unavailable. A completely unpredictable world. The fear of illness and worse ramped up by a spreading pandemic. He’s so young, had to deal with so much already and he’s facing this.

He asked what my best guess was for when things might begin to settle down a bit. Sadly I couldn’t say anytime soon. When he asked about schools opening and I couldn’t see anything happening and sticking before September.

“Dad is that September 2020 or September 2021”

I wouldn’t like to bet my shirt on that. We just don’t know who long the current restrictions will be in place for. When they do come off, how long before they need to be reintroduced. But we just have to deal with that. I’ve got to focus on the one overriding aim. Give son the best childhood possible. So we make the best of the new normal. Strengthen the new routines. AND above all try to have as much fun as possible. So Toy Story is perfect. It’s fun. Thank you Woody and co.

Gnomeless

Maybe it’s my dear parents influence but I’ve always liked a garden gnome. But for years we had a problem. My partner hated them. Which is unusual as she was the kindest soul going. Never a bad word about anyone. All except gnomes. She had serious issues with them. When I suggested the garden would benefit from at least one of these sweet little chaps the response was razor sharp

If I find one in the garden then it’s getting smashed with a hammer….

Even when I suggested that a gnome would significantly raise the IQ in the garden when I was gardening alone, the response was similarly brutal

The garden gnome will get it then your next…..

What I will now tell you will probably get a really pissed off spirit coming my way. I might have ignored my partner just a tad. A few gnomes did get sneaked into the garden. To ensure their life expectancy was measured in days rather than seconds they needed to go into deep cover. Very deep cover. The compost heap, under bushes, hid behind plant pots. Unbelievably a few survived the inevitable apocalypse.

One such hardy soul is still with us. Now he is enjoying life in the open. He has long forgotten the long years buried under the hedge. He’s a gnome from my favourite footy team. He’s over 20 years old and is still to see his team win anything. What was I thinking of when as a toddler when I picked Newcastle United as my team. I could have picked a team which won things. No I picked the team which is in a permanent state of chaos, a never ending winless soap story. No wonder the poor gnome looks so washed out. I went through a stage of telling the gnome the teams results. Unfortunately as that usually entailed breaking the bad news of another defeat I changed to just letting him know of good team news. As a result I haven’t spoken to the gnome in years…….

Air Display

We had an unexpected visitor.

A spectacular predator.

For a few minutes we had one of nature’s great air displays. Then it was off.

That was so lucky. Would have been so easy to miss this.

That brings to mind a slightly unsettling thought. How many of us would be missed if suddenly we were gone. Kinda like Marvels Infinity Wars. It’s an even more pertinent thought these strange days. So many of us are undertaking social distancing or full on isolation. Social links have been severed. If something goes wrong, if we are struggling, if we suddenly were gone – WHO would realise. Would the world even blink. Maybe not. That includes my own little family. Phone calls, visits, invites are rare at the best of times. Even rarer now. Would the world blink for us – no it probably wouldn’t. That’s a sobering thought. It’s a sobering thought for many of us.

But I guess that’s life. So we just have to deal with it. Keep our hearts open to others and just keep living. I’m lucky as I stumbled across the blogging universe.

The majestic raptor fly past is a great reminder of why living is so worth it.

Torquay

My neighbours bird bath. Over the years it has become increasingly hard to fill. Thankfully the Yorkshire weather usually takes care of that.

Yesterday was a decently fun day. Any day with Pizza helps. We played football in the garden. Son fired a million questions at me. Including the following belter.

Name 10 best things about Torquay”

We had been watching John Cleese in old episodes of Fawlty Towers. It’s set there.

“Son your going to annoyingly tell me that you know 10 such facts”

Actually 17 facts Dad”

I whispered a silent bugger under my breathe.

We then tried to watch the new Joker movie. I was watching it thinking the acting is brilliant but I’m not enjoying this in the slightest bit. Then son broke my thought pattern.

Dad I’m really not in the mood for this. I enjoy a good bit of Joker but this isn’t a Joker movie. It’s a movie about how a country fails to deal with mental health and how people look down on others who are different. I don’t like the way the film is doing it. Let’s watch it another day.”

So ten minutes later we had the new Shaun The Sheep movie on. That there is a movie.

But I understand what our son was talking about. Not the right time or mood for this Joker movie. There is too much going on in the world. It is also Mother’s Day in the UK. That’s one of THOSE days…. I must admit the social distancing has severely restricted our visits to the shops. That means less chance to walk past all the cards, flowers and potential gifts. Dealing with it for just one day is better than having it rammed down our throats for weeks on end.

I must admit this one has been less painful than the other ones we have endured. We have wished our lost mums a happy day. In my partners case we have kissed the ashes. Then so far we have gotten on with the job of making the most of today. My heart does go out to many mums today. Because of the restrictions and other factors outside of their control, they may not see kids and grandchildren today (or for many days to come). I really hope a way is found for a connection to be made. A text, a video call, a card, a cute photo, a virtual hug or a telephone call saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.

Stay safe and to all mums out there. Sending you a big hug. Thank you for being super heroes.

Friday I guess

Some random daffodils blooming next to our front window. These always make me smile as they just seemed to appear one year. I can’t remember planting them. Having said that, this is me…..

My mobile phone rang this morning. I could hear it somewhere really close but I just couldn’t find it before it rang off. A few minutes later I found me phone when I sat down. It was in my back pocket.

This morning it took me one hour to work out that it was Friday.

Sometimes there are no answers.

A few months back I was asked if I had found a magic bullet, a cure for it.

Sometimes there are no answers.

No it wasn’t the W.H.O. approaching me as a world expert on the search for a vaccine for the pesky virus. No don’t worry, I am still the same old dim witted goofball. No it was a parent from my sons last school. She had recently lost someone close and was really low with grief. She was desperate for the pain to go away.

Sometimes there are no answers.

Unfortunately I’ve not found a magic bullet, no cure or no vaccine that works with bereavement. It still hits me. It still hurts me. The days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I’m still waiting to gain acquired immunity. The route cause remains and will always remain. But I do believe that I have started to understand myself better. I am also slowly finding things that help with the symptoms. That’s something to cling on to. Sadly the things which help me, may not work for others. There is also no guarantee that what works today, will work tomorrow for me. I guess that’s the case not only for bereavement but for many other areas of life.

So what works for me (sometimes…)

  • Exercise, weights and running
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Nature
  • Walking
  • Climbing (I haven’t been able to climb in 4 years but just reading about it helps)
  • AND above all focusing on making our son happy.

Today was one of those days when virtually everything on the list did not work. All I could do was throw myself into keeping son happy. That distracted me. It got me through the day. It numbed the symptoms but didn’t cure the route cause. Now it’s 2am and those dark soul symptoms are bubbling away again. Probably going to be a long sleepless night. Will watch some rubbish TV and will again ponder over the home finances spreadsheet. Don’t know why – it’s not going to look any better when I’m tired.

It’s a brand new day. A fresh start. The old problems and hurt will still be there. But maybe, just maybe it will be symptom free day and it will be a good one.

Stay safe my friends.

Music

Above the church it looks like that an RAF pilot was bored and decided to try and do a signature in the sky. Hope he was smiling when he did it.

Late last night I was watching the Queen biopic and my mind wandered again. Sometimes my mind wanders that far I’m surprised it makes it way back before breakfast. Actually maybe it doesn’t – that would explain things….

Anyway I was watching Queen and thinking about concerts. In all the years we were a couple, we only went to four concerts together. She somehow managed to convince me to see Ronan Keating TWICE. Don’t tell anyone that as I might get kicked out of the Mongolian Heavy Metal Grunting Club. I managed to convince her to go and see Meatloaf (the deal was I drove and she could drunk wine). The last concert was Tom Jones – I resisted the urge to throw my underpants at him…

I guess like most couples our rock and roll lifestyle went out of the window when we became a family. That was it. No more concerts together.

PLEASE don’t take this the wrong way. This is not a sad post. I’m smiling while I’m writing this. There was a very good reason why we didn’t see many concerts together. We had completely different musical tastes. Her cds have not been touched in the last three years. Why? I could say it’s because it just wouldn’t be right. Listening to the music would make me sad. Actually the real reason is that I’d rather listen to a chainsaw grind on for hours than endure any of her cds. I will never get rid of them, but they are never, ever going to be played by me. They have become a thankfully silent reminder of our differences. The differences that made us work as a couple.

I can only think of one other possible use for them. If you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead then this will make no sense. If we ever have to fight off a zombie attack with only our record collection, then her music is fired first….

I guess the point of this post is to say that

just as it’s ok to cry when you are bereaved, it’s absolutely fine to smile as well. It’s your bereavement, you do whatever you need to do with it.

Dreams pesky dreams

If I was a flower I wonder what dreams I would have.

Before my partner died I would have the occasional dream that I could remember, but not that often. My sleep would be disrupted but usually by our son. Plus back then, when there are two of you can take turns on the sleepless shifts.

Then after my partner died sleep became increasingly disrupted. Son has always had an interesting sleep pattern. Whatever we have tried has never managed to change that. Eventually the health professionals just called it – it is how it is for him, it works for him, so just run with it. Basically his mind and body are too active for sleep anything south of midnight. He will usually fall asleep between midnight and 1am. Then he will sleep until 6am until his mind and body kick into active mode again. When he was younger he would constantly wake during that time, so one of us would need to be with him to get him back to sleep. But as he’s got older he more often than not sleeps through. A couple of times a week he will still wake and I get the night visits. Checking I’m still here, wanting an answer to a question or wanting to tell me a fact.

Dad Harold (that’s Harold II) was not the last english Saxon king. William beat Harold on the 14 October 1066 but wasn’t officially crowned until the 25 December. In theory Edgar Atheling (Edgar II) was king. He had the strongest blood claim to the throne. Night Dad.

But as our son’s sleep has stabilised my dream pattern has increasingly disrupted mine. It takes an age for me to get to sleep then all to quickly a vivid dream wakes me and then that’s usually it for the night – no more sleep.

The dreams have also changed. I have had three distinct dream stages. Each stage has its own unique dream type – each night its the same sort of dream.

The reliving fond memories stage. This was the nicest, yet saddest stage. The dreams would relive completely accurately lovely memories. Maybe a holiday trip, a birthday, an early date with my partner, finding out when we we’re going to be a family….

The bizarre memory stage. Then suddenly the dreams changed. They still were based on fond memories but always morphed in some bizarre way. A dream about a lovely family trip to a petting zoo, but in the dream the cute little animals were replaced by dinosaurs – we still petted them. A dream about sledging with son on one of our few proper snow days. But in the dream the white snow had become pink.

The current dream stage. The weird/unsettling dreams. No more dreams based on real life memories. Just unsettling made up dreams. Last night for example my partner (who was pregnant) and I had gone shopping in this made up out of town shopping complex. We had gone into a huge furnishing store. We found some items we needed and I went looking for a shopping trolley. Couldn’t find any trolleys inside, so I looked out in the car park. Still no trolleys. So I walked across to the next store which was a supermarket (ASDA). They had trolleys but they needed a coin to release them. None of my coins would work. I then couldn’t find our car to get more coins. So I ran down a short slip road to the next group of shops. Here the trolleys were all vandalised. I ran down another slip road to the another shop which was a huge DIY store. They had trolleys but they wouldn’t push correctly. It took all my strength to move them a few inches. Finally I found an electronics shop which had trolleys that worked. But now as hard as I tried I just couldn’t find my way back to the first store with my partner who would be getting increasingly annoyed with me. I was now completely lost and in full panic mode. Then I woke up. Now I was completely unsettled and that was it for sleep. Too tired to read or blog. So all I could manage was to watch crappy TV and listen for the clock to tick round until son woke up.

I look back with fondness at those memory dreams. Even those bizarre Dino type memory dreams. Yes they could be sad but they where a wonderful gateway into the past. But these current dreams I really hate. No sweet memories here just my brain finding new ways to unsettle my soul. Sleep is now something I desperately need, yet I struggle to do it. It is also becoming something which brings me nothing but stress. I hate being stuck in this ever decreasing sleepless circle.