Bereavement and loss changes everything. My previous life foundations came crashing down. As I sat battered and dazed amongst the wreckage it was just impossible to see clearly. All I could think about was what was lost and how on earth was I going to be able to function as a single parent. My autocorrecttried to change that to single patient – that works as well.
I’ve talked about the impact on DREAMS many times. In the rubble of my former life , dreams and hopes were extinguished. All I could see was nothingness. My dreams had been stolen from me.
It’s now nearly 5 years on. I’m still clearing away the rubble but a new life has started to be built. Here’s what is sometimes forgotten. My old life was far from perfect. It had many issues, many downsides. I couldn’t rebuild the old life if I wanted to. Yes for too many months I did try to do that. Finally I realised the reality. Maybe just maybe I could learn from the past and not make the same mistakes again. Maybe this time I could build a new and improved life. Dreams and hopes play a huge part in that process.
YES they are back. Back stronger than ever. Ok they might seem like pipe dreams. They might seem really unlikely to ever happen. But that doesn’t make them any less important to me. They are a key part of my rebuilding process. Let’s see where those wonderful dreams and hopes take me.
It’s inevitable that if you spend anytime on this planet then you will experience what LOSS feels like. Losing something precious to you. A person, a dream, a way of life, a friendship, a love, a companion….. It’s inevitable.
When I experienced LOSS I also LOST something else. MYSELF.
LOSS is about losing something permanently. Never getting it back. That’s why it hurts so much. All you can do is to try to learn to live with that LOSS. But with LOST it can be different. It doesn’t have to permanent. You can find it again. That’s what I did with MYSELF. It took several years but I have found MYSELF again. And here’s the thing, I actually may have found more than I LOST. I may have grown as a person. May have a better outlook in life. More appreciative of what is truly important to me. I definitely understand MYSELF better now.
Wind back the clock 20 years and a couple walked along a country lane and thought we must try that narrow path that runs along by those trees. Where would it take us.
Virtually every single time that couple walked that lane one voice would mention the need to walk that tree lined path.
20 years, 15 years….
Then it became a family of 3. Still they walked that lane and pondered that mysterious path.
10 years, 5 years….
The TIME ran out. Time ran out for that couple, that family. Since then the bereaved partner has finally run down that path. Found out where it led to. Definitely beautiful but such a powerful symbol of missed opportunity. The dangers of thinking that you have plenty of time. in reality the clock is always TICKING.
“Dad what do you think about this question. It’s RE and I have to draw a family tree. Show the current connections. Then describe the familyrelationships. Then talk about what the various religions might say about our family.”
####So we cracked on for 10 minutes. One current family tree was down on paper.####
“Dad it’s a bit thin. Look at the example one and then look at mine.”
The example one is all about quantity ours is about quality.
“Dad should I add in those family members not hereanymore. That would fill the tree out.”
You can do anything you want. Why not just use our much reduced tree. It is how it is. Your just answering the question. Putting my old ‘at school’ head on, it might mean less to write about.
“I could include the pets….”
Why are you chuckling.
“I could then write aboutour extended family. If we didn’t explain that some of the names are pets then I could really make our family sound weird.”
Yes I dread to think of some of the things you could write about. The stories you could tell about the cat and dog…
But here’s the thing. Isn’t it about time that schools updated some of their teaching materials. Many children will not come from the classic family structures listed in the textbooks. How hard is it for a child to look at the set images when they may come from a broken home, or has a single parent, or has lost a parent(s) or has no brothers or sisters, or has a family set up which is different to the traditional view or has no family. Surely we can come about with learning materials that are a lot more sensitive to the needs of ALL children.
I had a scheduled call with the bank today. Just routine stuff. Routine stuff which you would just a year ago pop into the branch and sort out at the counter. Nothing is routine now.
Anyway during the call the bank person asked a couple of not really banking questions that kinda through me
“Can I ask. Are you ok. Are you coping. It must be so tough. Are you getting the support you need.”
That’s the bank saying that……
Now before I go on – I am ok. I am coping. A bit of support would be nice but it’s not happening. But here’s the thing. I could so easily be doing not so well in this single parenting gig. Really struggling. Getting no support. Desperate. Looking over the precipice. Sadly many are. In fact forget the single bit, many people are….
I became a single parent in 2016 following the death of my partner. In that time the only official person to ask how I was doing was that bank person. No doctor, no school professional, no education specialist, no one from the local services. NO ONE in the support areas has ever asked what the bank person asked. How many people are struggling and nobody finds out. Nobody asks. I guess the assumption is that those that struggle will always put their hand up. Sadly that might not happen.
I couldn’t sleep last night. Maybe two hours max. Event after I abandoned and a few minutes later I had a chamomile tea in hand and was channel hoping. I stumbled across some really cheesy B-movie. Then one of the actresses delivered this line
“The hardest thing for me after my husband died was having to be nice to my family.”
Wow. That must have been some family. But it got me thinking. What was the hardest thing about losing my partner back in 2016. Strangely worrying about being nice to my family didn’t feature. The Worst Thing Thoughts that did pop into my head were.
Telling a young son his mum had died
Feeling utterly alone
The dark thoughts
Losing all my dreams
Getting up in the morning and facing the world
That final goodbye at the funeral
Trying to sort through my partners clothes and favouritepossessions
Hearing her favourite song on the radio
The deathly silence in the house when our son was at school or asleep
Those were the emotions that I went through in the immediate aftermath. But then something else kicked in a few months later. As I started to clear my head this thought kept dominating my thought. Going forward – “I didn’t want to feel this pain of loss again“. The pain was too much for me. I needed to stop myself from getting close to people again. The feeling of isolation that came from thinking that was utterly soul destroying.
So there you go. I’m disagreeing with a cheesy B-movie, but every loss is different. So family pains can be just as intense as the many I went through. The B-movie did pass some time. It ALSO was so boring that I nodded off. Nodded off still holding my mug of tea. Yep I ended up wearing most of that. Thankfully only lukewarm. Yes piping hot tea would have been a pain I could definitely do without.
I was trying to free up some space on the blog so I was looking what old stuff could de deleted. Can’t believe I’ve tortured people with 1600 posts since I started back in 2017. You know what, I never got round to deleting anything. I was too busy reading my first few posts. Wow they were bad (I’m not saying I’ve improved over the years as well….).
Reading those first posts a couple of message shine through. I was understandably messed up and I was at my lowest point. There was hardly any hope in my words. Hope is often the first thing that LOSS takes from you. It did with me.
Well 4 years later HOPE has returned. I now have a better perspective on life. LOSS is still the worst feeling. Loss of Hope is just as soul destroying. But now I can see a number of new more hopeful dimensions to this dreadful process. It wasn’t all bad. My life focus changed. I realised just how unimportant a career is in the scheme of things. A career is not about personal development rather its often a way of missing out on those important family moments. Single parenting is a tough gig but you get more time with your kids. More quality time. Time is the most precious commodity. And yes doors to close permanently but life eventually does go on again. New pathways open up. Pathways which would not have been found without LOSS. New OPPORTUNITIES, new FRIENDSHIPS. New HOPE.
When we first moved into our little bungalow on the hill we had a beautiful Daffodil patch on the shared area in front of our house. At the time I would never have thought that 20 years later I would still be here. Certainly not still here as a widow and a single parent.
Over the next few years the daffodil patch seemed to flower less and less. The daffs would appear each year but more and more would just not bloom. The area was becoming such a shadow of its former self. Eventually I planted some new bulbs and now there is colour again.
This morning it dawned on that there is a message to all this. Life happens and sometimes things fade and leave us. But with patience and hard work life can happen again. That works for the daffodil patch and it works for me as well.
There are things which I should not be allowed to do when I am are feeling depressed. Here’s are a few things that can send me spiralling downwards.
Watching my so called football team
Look at the news
Anything to do with Boris Johnson
Standing on a Lego piece
Listening to Roger Waters
Looking at the bank account
Watching the first 10 minutes of UP!
Looking at my face in the mirror
Now I can add something else to that list. Going on Street View…
I don’t know how but I ended up on that App, randomly looking at a street in New York. I had been searching for Science news items. But now I was in Street View. Thats when I made my first mistake. I looked up my old childhood home town. It’s a clever app as I could effectively wander the old routes I would walk when I was young. Seeing just how much had gone and just how run down it had become really made me feel even more down.
Then the next big mistake. I looked up the town we used to stay at in Switzerland. I wandered that beautiful place. At first it cheered me up. Remembering sights and sounds. But then pangs of sadness. Reminders of just how long it’s been since I was there. Then a nagging feeling. If I do ever make it back here I’m doing it as a single parent or probably on my own. Suddenly going back seemed even more unlikely.
Now I’m getting really down.
As I navigated the streets I caught sight of a building we wouldalways walk past on the way to the train station. A shop window I would always look at. It was a steep climb up that street and it would give my partner a chance to catch her breath. But now it looks like it’s gone. Turned into luxuryapartments. That made me really really sad.
A few minutes later I was stood outside in the garden. Stood alone in the darkness. Feeling really low. Yes definitely time to start avoiding Street View.
Have you ever tried to take a simple photo of a bush. A bush in Yorkshire. That’s Yorkshire where the sun might be out but it’s blowing an absolute howler of a Gale. The perfect weather for out of focus photography.
Out of focus.
To be fair that’s been me since 2016. Better recently but still not completely focused.
So many reasons for that but one thing stands out. Let’s go back to the summer of 2016. I’ve driven my partner into hospital for a short stay so they can conduct some exploratory tests. Our son in the back seat. What did we talk about. Can’t remember. I’ve tried but can’t remember. Probably talked about visiting and picking her up again on Friday. Probably about some jobs to be done. Maybe some shopping…..
When I returned on the evening she was sleeping so we never spoke.
I returned the next day. She wasn’t feeling too good and was having tests so I didn’t see her.
Friday I turned up and was taken to a separate room by the Doctor. Her condition had worsened overnight. The test results were appalling. She had at most a few weeks. She was drifting in and out of consciousness. If she woke then she would probably not be aware of who was around her.
That was it. No more conversations. We never discussed the new reality. The grim new future. The plans we had were in tatters. No new joint plans. As a result I’ve felt out of focus. Hesitant about my intentions. Trying to think about what we might have talked about and agreed if we had one more conversation. Guessing what she would have wanted. Trying to make decisions for the both of us.
It’s only recently that I’ve started to go fully with my views.Can I ever be certain what she would havewanted. It’s hard enough to work out what I’m thinking some days.So yes still probably out of focus but now it’s just through my eyes.