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. 

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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.

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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

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so does anyone fancy a little virtual trip to a wonderful country called Switzerland.

Yes I might be currently over 1000km away in another part of Europe. But my heart is there.

So as my world rapidly shrinks for the next few months, I think it’s time to remember the beauty of The Alps.

The wonderful and friendly people. The brilliant culture.

The clock work precision of daily life. Even its wildlife get in on the act.

The stunning clear blue Lakes.

The history.

The beautiful Swiss villages and towns.

The always colourful alpine meadows.

The crisp mountain air.

The fun

And above all the peace.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday. The world has gone completely bonkers. This morning I so need my few moments of peace in beautiful Switzerland and I invite you to join me.

What I’m about to say might get my British Nationality revoked but here goes. I’m not sure I love my country anymore. I certainly love Yorkshire and the North East. I could see myself being happy in the Scottish Highlands. But increasingly my natural home feels like Switzerland. Not sure about the practicalities but maybe one day.

Today I would certainly settle for just another week there. It’s been four years now. So this morning it’s the next best thing – a virtual visit.

Remembering what it was like to walk in The Alps.

Remembering the colours.

Breathing in the sweet, fresh mountain air.

Listening to the calming soundscapes.

Be safe out there my friends and remember. It’s still a beautiful world.

Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so I’m in need of my weekly fix of Switzerland.

A country which is so special to me and our son. We spent many happy holidays in this beautiful country. My partners beloved dad worked with a injured soldiers charity out in Switzerland after the war. He fell in love with the country. That formed a long family bond with Switzerland. In my partners absence we will keep that candle burning bright.

I still remember that first time flying into Geneva and getting that initial glimpse of The Alps.

That first sight of a stunning alpine valley.

That first afternoon walking outside the hotel, hand in hand with my partner and getting my first sight of the mountain which dominates beautiful Spiez.

Those trips on the lake boats.

That first sight of The Matterhorn.

Watching the world go by on the trains while son repeatedly asked his mum to tell him the fairy story involving The Eiger, The Monch and the Jungfrau.

Watching the sun set over The Alps while son played with his animals on the hotel balcony.

Those trips to the heights of The Alps and pointing out each famous mountain to an excited son.

Circumstances mean that we currently can’t be there, but our hearts most definitely are.

Sausage Roll

Castle Howard is only a few minutes drive from our house. The photo is Castle Howard not our house. Sadly we don’t go that often now as it’s so expensive. Which is a shame as it’s truly stunning stately home.

Work came to a premature end at 10am this morning. That’s the deal with zero based contracts. Yes they are flexible and can fit round being a single parent but absolutely no guarantee of work. So a deep blue sky beckoned a first run in ages. The plan was to drive home and just run from the bungalow. But without really thinking I pulled over at the next village when I saw an enticing path sign. I thought ‘well lets see where this takes me’. The answer was stunning run which skirted the edge of the Castle Howard estate. All for free.

My trail shoes don’t have much tread left on them so I was taking a bit of a risk running down a steep muddy bank. I lost….. A sudden grip failure resulted in a crunching fall followed by several rolls down the steep slope. All sides completed covered in mud. After a few minutes the mud began to dry in the sun. I now know what it feels like to be a sausage in a sausage roll…..

After the painful and slightly embarrassing slog the run flattened out. The reward was glorious views of Castle Howard and the Estate. I had the trail to myself which gave me time to think. Probably too much time. It’s at times like this that my mind wanders to what has been lost. At least with running I do have a release valve. Just run quicker. It works but wow I’m knackered when I finish.

It was a wonderful run around a stunning track. My partner would have loved it. She would be definitely walking rather than running. I was sad that she never got to see these views. I will just have to look for the both of us. I really hope that works for her.

Bird Of Prey

Today’s run was turning into a nightmare. Wasn’t planning to go but another power cut prematurely ended work for the day. Thirty minutes later I was trying to run uphill into strong headwind. Already my mojo was rapidly ebbing away. A glance to the heavens (maybe for inspiration) stopped me in my tracks. A stunning predator was circling almost immediately above me.

Given how badly my running was going I’m surprised it wasn’t a vulture.

For a wonderful few minutes it was man against beast. A perfectly designed flying acrobat versus a muppet with his mobile phone camera. Only ever going to be one winner. So the photos are a little lacking in sharpness.

My running struggles were long forgotten.

Five minutes later my new feathered friend was off.

Now on my own the quick realisation that standing still in this icy gale force wind was not great for exposed legs. What possessed me to wear shorts. I was absolutely frozen . The prospect of a warm shower contributed to a rapid return run. My mojo was definitely healed by the encounter. We are so fortunate to have birds of prey hunt in the farmers field behind the house. It’s such a thrill for our Son. To get glimpses of these spectacular birds and not have to leave the safety of his garden.

Our Son has always loved animals. Of all his toys the birds of prey were always amongst his favourites and centre stage in his games. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things to do with falconry. When he was a little older he got the chance to handle some of his most loved birds.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen kids with Aspergers bond with birds of prey.

From about the age of five Son started to struggle at school. Suddenly he was withdrawing from group activities, becoming more insular and ill at ease with society. He would avoid physical interaction and all eye contact. So utterly unsure of himself and lacking in confidence outside of the safety of his home. Yet here was the same kid who was at ease and completely relaxed in the presence of these mighty hunters. Happily handling them. Intense, unblinking eye contact with Peregrines and Hawks. Face to face no more than a few inches between them. Complete confidence. Utter love.

Birds of Prey are truly majestic creatures who have another wonderful trait. They don’t harbour any misguided notions of prejudice.

Graveyard visit

This is the local church and graveyard. The current church structure dates back to the 12th century but it’s likely that an early Saxon structure stood here before that. Inside there are parts of the church still in remarkably good condition from the 12th and 13th century.

The weather worn graveyard has a definite ancient feel to it. So many long forgotten graves. These places have a habit of making you think about your own life.

We still have my partners ashes in the house. We just haven’t found the right time to start the process. We did spilt them. Some for England and some for Switzerland. We’ve thought about many sites. We sort of have a draft plan in place. It struck me today that we have never once considered this graveyard. Really don’t know why.

The other thing that struck me was that I hadn’t been to my mums grave in nearly two years. It’s mums old family grave about 60 miles from here. What makes it worse is that I scattered the ashes by myself. I’m the only one who has been there since then. Really must address that this year. Sadly I think I said the exact same thing last year. Life always seems to get in the way. So many demands. But those demands take over. My Dad was cremated in 1987. His ashes were scattered. I can’t even remember exactly where. I’ve never went to that place. Never been in 32 years. So now I need to ask my brother and sisters. Just hope one of them can remember.

So many things to do. Even so, surely I should be able to find the time to pay one visit. To remember those who shaped and moulded our live’s. I came across a quote from David Eagleman which sets this whole thing in context;

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

For those of us who are not the likes of Shakespeare then this process is inevitable and extremely sobering. But that’s life. We need to make the best of it. So for the last three years I have spent a little time each and every day remembering. Last night it was 15 minutes. Remembering names which I’m not yet ready to send into the third stage. So each night names are called out and good memories recalled. I guess it’s my version of a graveyard visit.

Valentines Day Boycott

Went for a run today. My body didn’t feel like one but I needed to get out of the house. It’s been a week largely home based working on mind numbingly boring spreadsheets. To keep me sane the radio has been blasting out. Problem is that increasingly the airwaves are filled with adverts. The dreaded Valentines Day ones. Apparently it’s next Friday. Would never have guessed that one. You know the adverts

  • Your special one deserves the best so buy them this special…..
  • What better way to spend Valentines Day than to have that special candle lit meal….
  • Looking for that gift that shows how much your loved one means to you….

I really understand Valentines Day. To many people it’s a great romantic day. Before the world changed I would have lapped up those adverts. But now it’s a very different world for me. Now it’s cheap commercial marketing. You can only be in true love if you spend lots of money. Sometimes I think advertisers forget about the real world. True love doesn’t rest on money. It’s also a world which isn’t perfect. People are lonely. People are grieving. People are abused. People are in relationships where love has died. Some people are loners. So to many Valentines Day is a nightmare. An unwanted reminder of life. It is to me. Every advert reminds me of a life now gone. It’s like a dagger through my heart. So eventually one too many adverts forced me to hit the trail. As ever a run often delivers a lightbulb moment. Let’s turn this into a little game.

When I get back I will become the Valentines Day Advert Referee. Every time I hear a company doing an overtly romantic advert then I will give them a red card. The red card comes with an automatic one month ban. I will boycott that company for a month. The first red card was awarded to a local Flower Shop chain. Unlikely that I would use them but anyway they are on the banned list. Suddenly I’m not the one hiding behind the chair. I’m in charge. The banned list started to fill up. Rather annoyingly my local supermarket made the list. That’s me shopping at the next towns rival shop. Then M&S became a repeat offender. Clearly a one month ban was not a sufficient deterrent. For the second offence it’s a three month boycott. Twenty minutes later they offended again. Now it became a 6 month shopping boycott. I warned the radio the fourth advert would bring a lifetime boycott of the shop. Clearly that threat worked. The annoying M&S special meal for two advert stopped.

Suddenly it was time to do the school run. Again more Valentine adverts on the radio. More boycotts handed out. Tempted to increase the punishments as many kids are likely to be listening now. Many kids suffer Valentines blues as well. Then the red line was crossed. Another M&S advert. That’s it. It’s a lifetime shopping ban. That’s a new shop needed for the school uniform and shirts then.

The banning game helped distract me today. But the bottom line is the 14th February is a difficult time for many. The last thing we need is week upon week of adverts rubbing salt into the wound. Maybe we need a new rule. Valentines Day adverts can only start on the 13th. At least then we just need to avoid the world for two days. But at the current rate I will be boycotting thousands of shops by next Friday.

Reminders

Last night I struggled to get any sleep. I managed to nod off once but woke all too soon. A strange dream about an old job, not being able to find a meeting room and Donald Trump as my boss woke me with a start. That was it. Facing another walking zombie day. My mind wandered to my partner. In the last few years of her life my partner suffered from insomnia. She could sleep for a couple of hours during the day but frustratingly not at night. So many late night television sessions. It was so tough for her. If she could cope with years of this then I can cope with just one sleep deprived night.

So lack of sleep brought back strong memories of my soulmate but that’s not a nice memory. So let’s balance that out with some happier memory prompts.

  • Sunsets. My partner loved sunsets. The slightest sign of red in the sky and she would be outside.
  • Ronan Keating and his songs When you say nothing at all and Life is a rollercoaster. Always brings a smile. I took her twice to see Ronan in concert. Whisper that quietly or my metal head credibility is blown out of the water. At the first concert it felt like I was the only male in the crowd. My partner thought it was so funny seeing me squirm and hide under the chair.
    Asparagus. Her favourite food. Asparagus with a touch of butter and nothing else. I don’t buy the stuff anymore but it always makes me smile when I see it.
    Stella Artois. Every time I see that lager my mind goes back to our first holiday together. We had an overnight stay in London waiting for an early morning Eurostar train. In a packed London pub we drunk a few too many Stella’s. With perfect timing to coincide with the place falling silent my partner asked loudly ‘if I was the only vegetable in the family’. No I wasn’t the only vegetable in the family but I definitely was the only vegetarian.
    Babylon 5. She loved this show. She would watch it while I chuntered on about it being a poor mans Star Trek and could we would the X-files. We still have all the DVDs. They make me smile when I see the box but they certainly are not getting played again.
    Trivia Pursuit. I must try son on this game. We would be always playing this. But we hardly ever got a winner. My partner would sail through all the subjects but she would get permanently stuck on Sport. I would sail through Sport and get stuck on all the other subjects. See the perfect match.

Godspeed ….

Sometimes a song catches a mood perfectly. Recently for me that song has been Alter Bridge’s Godspeed.

Godspeed official video

The band wrote the song following the death of a close friend. The words are just perfect for how I feel.

Some of the lines from this song are so on point. And then the days, they ran out. Without you I’ll never be the same. Without you I know I must change. You have lived and you have changed all our lives.

Yes my love your days ran out far too soon. I know that I have to change without you. Life will never be the same. You really did change my life.

Godspeed is about love and it’s about loss. It’s the best song I’ve come across which actually talks about my grief. It’s about sadness, it’s about change but it’s also about wonderful memories and hope. Life goes on. Yes it’s a different life but it’s a life which is still enriched by that bright shining star. Now it’s over to those who are left to shine.

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Test me once again
You know I didn’t do anything
Set my life on low
You know I could have had it all
Drifting out of place
With no direction and no escape
Set out all alone
On to a place I don’t belong

Without you I know I must change
Without you I’ll never be the same, no

Farewell, godspeed and goodbye
You have lived and you have changed all our lives

Test me all the way
Surely you know I’m not afraid
Prove now once again
That I will never see the end

Without you I know that I must change
Without you I’ll never be the same

Farewell, godspeed and goodbye
You have lived and you have changed all our lives
Cast away our regrets and all our fears
Just like, like you did when you were here

And then the days, they ran out
And then the days, they ran out

Farewell, godspeed and goodbye
You have lived and you have changed all our lives
Cast away our regrets and all our fears
Just like, like you did when you were here

And then the days, they ran out
And then the days, they ran out

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