Silence….

5 Days 14 Hours xx Seconds

No my blog has not been sponsored by Jack Bauer and the 24 TV Production Team. It’s the time I’ve gone without speaking to anyone (excluding our son). I’m not sure if I should be proud or a tad worried. Maybe both.

So almost a week without a phone call, chance meeting or random conversation. Even on two long runs – didn’t bump into a single person. Its one of the prices you pay for living in a small village.

It’s an odd feeling. Have I been secretly ostracised. Has my liking for Nickelback finally caught up with me…….

I had assumed my streak would have ended today as today was the food shopping trip. However I managed to get round the aisles without uttering a word. I did smile a few times at random folk. Surely a conversation will be struck with the assistant on the cash till. But no. All the tills were full so I opted for the self service lane. No scanning problems encountered so the streak continued.

Tomorrow I have to go to the work unit but that is in a largely deserted industrial estate and I will be the only person in our building. So the streak may continue into Thursday. Hang on a minute Thursday is Valentines Day. Wow am I going to be seriously cranky by the 14th…

Anyway we have started a little wager, who will break my streak. I’ve gone for a random cold caller with my first words being “will you just bugger off”. Son is going for the postman or randomly a lost Donald Trump.

I will keep you posted…..

Which mountain?

It’s just over 2 years since we lost her. It doesn’t feel like 2 years. It still just seems like last month..

This photograph was taken on our last family holiday. It’s the view from the hotel. The view brings back so many happy memories. But it’s a sobering thought that the next time I see this view for real it will be on a trip to scatter her ashes. That wasn’t in the script…..

I feel a bit like Dr Strange in the last Avengers movie. Scanning all the possible life outcomes and probably only seeing one which involved ashes within such a short time span. Unfortunately that one came to fruition.

On that last holiday we spoke briefly about if something happened where she wanted to be laid to rest. I never paid too much attention to it. Surely that life option isn’t going to happen for many years – I would make a really crap Dr Strange. But now we have a bit of a problem. Can I remember the preferred sites. Two in the UK are reasonably simple and straightforward. The two in Switzerland ……

One is easy as it’s an instantly recognisable location, we have been to it several times before. The other location is a tad more problematic. She wanted to be scattered at the same location as her beloved Dad. It’s at the top of a mountain I have never been to. Assuming I have remembered the right mountain, Switzerland are not short of one or two. Then I can vaguely remember the instructions. Get the cable car to the top. Start the path down and it’s next to a bench near a small pile of stones. Unfortunately looking at the internet the mountain has at least 8 paths and I’ve counted at least 20 benches. As our son helpfully points out – you will know if you have picked the wrong mountain or wrong bench when that bolt of lightning strikes. No pressure then….

Two years ago this genuinely caused me huge anxiety and anguish. Now I can see the funny side. That’s progress.

Important note. Trying to arrange taking ashes abroad from the U.K. is a nightmare especially if you are planning to fly. You need to arrange a specific flight time with the airline. Then get the undertaker to securely package the ashes and complete the required cover note which has to include the flight details. The airlines I spoke to made the process so difficult. Also straight after the cremation the last thing you want to sort out is air flights. Fortunately the Eurostar train option is so much friendly. They told us to get the ashes securely packaged. Then book as normal when you are ready – just pre warn security when they check your bags. It’s another train journey for my partner then – she loved trains.

When dreams fade

The pre Valentine onslaught is in full swing. One advert claiming to have the perfect gift for my partner, every base covered….. Really – every base?

I’ve always been a daydreamer. As a child dreams of football, cricket, astronauts and mountains dominated. They gave hope. The years went by and still I dreamed. Dreams of happiness and a successful career. Then I met my partner and the dreams changed. Suddenly dreams focused on starting a family. Then our son was born and dreams shifted to happy family life. Few years further passed and it became more likely no more children would arrive – again my dreams shifted. Now they were dominated by images of us happily growing old together. Walking hand in hand. Sat together in Parisian cafes. Sharing new experiences in new lands. Dreams and hopes intertwined. Then the world suddenly changed….

Now I live in the moment, just focused on the practicalities of the day. When I daydream now (very rare) these are entirely focused on our son. Dreams involving me have gone. When I look – nothing. They died with my partner. No happy thoughts of growing older. Just the deepest blackness. I have heard this phrase used before. Living our lives through our children. It is so true. One role.

One day I do hope my daydreams return. Some things don’t change. I am still a daydreamer at heart.

Made up

Today I was thinking about how nice it would be to have some colour in the garden again. I tried to picture some flowers. The flowers I could see in my mind were last years plants. Couldn’t imagine any new flowers.

Our son’s school does ask the kids to do an awful lot of homework. Too much really. One of his assignments was to start putting together his autobiography. Red flag alert. This is a recipe to just reopen old wounds. Son was equally apprehensive. So I contacted school and expressed my concerns. We agreed that rather his own biography he would come up with a fictional one. As his hand is still not fixed I was going to scribe his thoughts.

“Ok I am in my 70s”

“I was born in the South of England”

Good start.

I like music”

“My best friend is called Keith and he also likes music”

“I have another friend called David who I often share clothes with”

Not sure where this is going.

“I joined a band with my friend Keith”

“We played our first concert in 1962”

This sounds a bit like Mick Jagger.

“Well it is Jagger”

No you can’t use him, it’s supposed to be made up.

“Oh, Ok.”

“I am middle aged and I am a lecturer”

This sounds more like it.

“My father is very religious”

“I am an archaeologist”

“I’m scared of snakes and I am also an adventurer”

By any chance does he go looking for the Holy Grail.

“Yes, how did you know?”

Because its Indiana Jones. You can’t use him.

“Why he’s made up”

You just can’t use him, make one up about a child not a famous adventurer.

“Alright can I be an 8 year old boy”

Yes much better

“I am a bit cheeky”

“I live with a large family with many kids. I have a really annoying older brother and uncle”

“I am always getting shouted at”

This will make an excellent biography.

“Every Christmas my family go on holiday but they always forget me, so I am home alone”

Deep sigh…. Fine you win, you can be Kevin….

Bereavement and Aspergers

Death is inevitable but so so tough to comprehend. It’s hard for a grizzly mile worn traveller like myself to cope with, what on earth is it like for someone so young. Especially when it’s now 5 major deaths in 4 years. He’s only 11.

My son living with his Aspergers finds comfort in routine and orderly plans. Bereavement doesn’t fit into this ordered and planned world. Suddenly the world shifts, things are never the same again. This complete paradigm shift seems to manifest itself as shutdowns in his processing skills. His fine tuned memory becomes vague and unreliable. Concepts and principles become just random jumbled images. Simple tasks become complex nightmares. All he can think about is that the world and his happiness will never be the same again. Completely lost in this alien world.

Another aspect of Bereavement is a sensory one. Our son constantly fights to control and deal with all the sensory inputs flooding his body every second, every minute, every day ….. hardly ever receding. He has talked about death ramping all these sensory inputs up several levels. Suddenly the noise in his head is louder, he can feel the heart pounding, his skin is oh so much more sensitive, the unsettled stomach becomes a whirling vortex. He is trying to understand death while coping with this sensory storm.

When Bereavement occurs so many worries resurface for our son:

  • Fear of his own mortality. Suddenly every cold, every encounter with an unclean surface, every bump, every cough is a potential path to death.
  • Fear of his Dads mortality. No backstop, no second parent. Images of sad kids in cold foster homes like Harry Potter or strict Victorian orphanages flood his mind. How many movies have this as it’s premise.
  • Fear about losing special loves he will encounter in the future. Is the safest option to just shut the world out.
  • Bad things keep happening so they must be the norm in life.
  • Is it me. Am I to blame for this.
  • I just can’t find order and rationalise things anymore.
  • You learn to love, you learn to trust, then it is gone.

I think that final fear underpins everything. Trust in life for our son is hard to establish. He works so hard to build those bridges. Death smashes those bridges, breaks his hard fought trust.

We have started the healing process. Recommenced all the stuff which has helped in the past. But each time it happens the path to recovery becomes longer and more difficult.

The irony here is that this post is about our son (my only focus) and yet those last two lines (without thinking) are probably about me.

We now try to move on. The motto we have adopted is ‘each morning we dust ourselves down and go again’. Next post I will talk about some of the stuff which helps our son. More uplifting. More humorous. It has to be that way.

Sunday’s, Sunday’s

Sunday’s are a time for reflection. For our son he is not at school but constantly worrying about going back the next day. Constant mood swings. It’s a transition day.

Dealing with death. That’s 5 deaths in 4 years. Again trying to comfort a heartbroken son. A quieter much less fun house. Transitioning to another period of darkness – again. Death is awful and is so so difficult for kids to handle. This grieving process is especially difficult for autistic children.

Trying to refocus for the week ahead yet still so tired from the past week. So many tasks to finish yet so many more tasks to plan.

Son having a couple of hours extra in bed. Hopefully shutting the pain out for a while longer. No laughter, no talking, no warmth. Trying to think about the coming week yet realising the house feels so empty – again.

Hopes for more social interaction yet still strangled by the isolation of the preceding week. Day after day, no phone calls, no chance meetings, no…… I am so so grateful for my friends reading this, you literally are my only connection.

Trying to plan for the educational week ahead yet so frustrated with the constant battles with school. Yes progress but why does it have to be such a tiring fight.

Trying to plan ways to make our son happy yet so broken inside.

I think that’s why Sunday morning is always the time that the icy grasp of sadness is strongest. Especially this Sunday. Ice cold thoughts echo round the confines of our home. Self doubt takes hold. I have never been able to break this cycle. I certainly won’t break it today. Probably never will.

No Text Book Grief 2

A friend (emergingfromthedarknight) posted a comment about my earlier Grief Expert tirade. To paraphrase she talked about my mum loving squirrels and the fact that you sometimes read about loved ones returning and their spirits appearing in animals.

I remember reading a similar thing. The one I read was about a widow. Her husband would spend his free time stood by one particular tree looking into the valley. The widow kept horses and she was offered a colt. The colt didn’t like being close to humans and was quite difficult. When the widow went to see the colt it immediately trotted up to her and was really friendly. As a result she bought it. The colt almost immediately went to the same tree as her late husband. Everyday the colt could be seen standing by the tree looking at the valley.

I must admit my friend did get me thinking. What if my mum was in the spirit of the squirrel. That little squirrel who seemed to join me at the grave. Then a rather scary thought came to my mind. What would have happened if my mum had manifested herself as her favourite animal. I suspect I may have found a turn of pace quicker than a sports car. My mums favourite animal was a TIGER.

No text book grief.

I shouldn’t listen to the radio as it frequently gets me so very 😡😡😡😡😡 mad. The local station had a programme about grief. It featured a so called Bereavement Expert who seemed to be reading from a text book released before the Rolling Stones were born. It was truly awful. We had callers who believed it was wrong to grieve for more than a week or so – people should jump into a new relationship immediately. We then had callers who believed you should lock yourself permanently in a grief isolation cell – staying there until you die. No other options mentioned. The expert and the callers just so quick to pick faults with others. A complete sea of ‘I know best’ attitudes. The Expert advised people to not hang onto loved ones ashes – deal with them promptly and then move on. Then the so called expert brought up the case of an elderly man who every year took his wife’s ashes out for a meal on their wedding anniversary. The expert thought this man needed help as this was deemed as unhealthy. He was instructed to move on. Yes it was sad but he should be considerate to the other people having a meal.

Deep Deep sighs followed by immediately switching to a bit of Green Day on cd.

You just can’t judge how someone deals with bereavement and grief. We all do it differently. No right text book approach exists. Finding a new love quickly, or never replacing your love or doing something in the middle are all fine. Just don’t judge and stop picking faults – you just don’t know anything about that persons life or what they are going through. I find reading and listening to other people’s experiences with grief really really helps. I love hearing people’s ideas. But I never ever judge them.

I’m calming down a bit now.

Maybe this year we will start scattering my partners ashes, maybe we won’t. A couple of years ago I scattered my mums ashes on her family grave. My mum was adamant, no ceremony at the grave. I would do it when I had time. No new words on the gravestone. So when the time came….

The graveyard does not allow unapproved ashes scattering. The Policy states that it has to be an official process. An expensive and time consuming process. So it was time to go into covert operation mode. I decided to opt for a backpack and a shovel type of look. It would make me look like I was here to do some gardening. As I walked to the grave I realised that this rather shifty appearance made me look more like a grave robber. Anyway the time came. Do I just scatter them or dig them in. I will do both. So some were scattered. Unfortunately it was so windy part of my mum may have made it to Norway. She always liked the sound of a Scandinavian holiday. I then started to shift away some of the grave soil. Bit of a worry thought – how deep are the coffins buried? A nervous glance to the side revealed a companion. On a grave 5 yards away was a squirrel also happily digging away. Was the Squirrel hiding some nuts or was the little fella also solemnly scattering some ashes. We will never know.

My mum loved animals. Mum loved feeding squirrels. She would smile at the sight of the squirrel burying the nuts. So as I walked away I hoped that the little fella had moved onto our grave. Mum would like that. Not sure the Bereavement Expert would though..

Safety Net

Photo taken from the top of The Niesen.

I never really thought about my own mortality. Before I met my partner my attitude to risk was “it will be alright and if something happens to me I’m not too great a loss to society”. After we became a family I started to become more responsible but I still had a reasonable risk threshold. If something happened to me our son would still have his mum and his granny.

This all changed when I lost my mum and then partner within 6 weeks of each other.

The first few days after my partner left us are still a blur. But I remember one incident like it was yesterday. It was my son’s first day back at school and I was driving to register the death. Suddenly a sports car pulled out in front of me. A suicidal overtaking manoeuvre. Luckily I saw him and managed to swerve onto the grass verge and miss him – just. At that speed it would probably have been game over. All I could think about was our Son. One second slower reaction time and he would have been parentless. The whole incident shocked me. Suddenly there was no backstop for our son. No cover if I couldn’t be there for him.

A couple of years later and it’s a new life. With new dreams, new hopes and new feelings. All the climbing and contact sports have been permanently ditched. No more drinking. No more stupid risks to my body. I just can’t take those chances anymore. I’m even more boring than I once was but much more importantly I feel that I am a much better parent now. Yes the world has changed. But hopefully I have adapted to it. The reality of parenting without a safety net…..