Another one of the annual milestones is close by. I can’t believe so many years have passed.
Loss in whatever form is a part of life. That message is hard to accept at times, it definitely was for me. But when the time is right you can start to see that, eventually I started to appreciate that.
Loss never LEAVES you but it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep living,
It might well be a different life with some doors now closed but when the time is right, there are new doors waiting to be opened. It still can be a wonderful life, one you value even more because loss never LEAVES you.
“Dad at mum’s funeral, why did we sit nearly at the back of the church”.
Nearly six years have passed and I had forgotten that I had chosen to do that. Back in 2016, I wasn’t thinking straight. Two closest of deaths within 6 weeks had taking its toll. I wasn’t sleeping, I was lost, I was trying to sort out my mums affairs and house, trying to sort out my partners affairs and funeral, I was trying to be a single parent. When I needed to be at my best, I was a mess. So that was the first thing I replied to Hawklad.
You know I’m a bit of a muppet at the best of times, imagine how much of a muppet I could be at the worst of times……
He knows me so he completely understood that.
I wanted to protect Hawklad. A small, low key funeral had morphed into something much larger. My partners family and sisters needed something different to me. Many more people. Many more strangers for Hawklad to deal with. He was just starting his Aspergers journey and stranger’s eyes could really bother him.
I thought being at the back of the church would mean you wouldn’t feel like you had lots of strangers looking at you……..more space as well.
“Dad wouldn’t they just turn round and look at me…”
I know, I didn’t really think that one through.
The church only had one exit which was at the back. If you needed to get out quickly then we would have had to walk along the aisle past all the mourners.
I thought it would have been easier to get out from the back.
“Easier for me Dad”.
Easier for both of us. Easier for ME. You were dealing with everything better than I was.
“Can you remember who sat near us Dad”
Not a clue, it was just a confusing storm to me. I know my brother sat behind me because I remember unbelievably that he made me smile at one stage with a comment he whispered in my ear. That’s one of the only things I can remember from the funeral. I had even forgotten we were at the back.
Hawklad then described the funeral to me. It was like I wasn’t there, all this detail has just passed me by.
A bright, warm autumnal morning back in 2016. I was driving back from The Crematorium with my Partners Ashes secured with the seatbelt to the passenger seat. A never ending torture drive. That might well have been my lowest point. That morning I had seemingly been ok until the Ashes were handed to me. Handed to me in what can only be described as a container that resembled something you would see traditional old sweets sold in. A Sweet Jar. Then the weight, it was surprisingly heavy. It wasn’t until back in the car that the reality hit home. Less than a month ago she sat in that car seat, now it was her ashes. It became such a painful memory that I had to sell that car within weeks.
Now in 2022 she is in two containers. An undertaker divided the ashes into two. One secured, wrapped with the necessary paperwork to go abroad. One in a matching unsecured container. The Sweet Jar now gone, replaced by cylinder containers like you get Malt Whiskey presented in. For 6 years they have sat on a sideboard, waiting. Now unexpectedly we are sorting a small portion out for a family member.
It was a surprisingly easy call to say YES to the family member but I can’t begin to tell you just how much I fretted over the DOING part of the process. Odd as it’s not the first time I’ve dealt with ashes. I scattered my mums ashes over her family grave. A potential emotional meltdown saved by the presence of a cute squirrel simultaneously digging away on the very next grave. Mum would have loved the humour in that. Rather than buckets of tears, SMILES.
This time around this felt a million miles from smiles. I was really uneasy and unnerved. What was the appropriate way to do this. Do I say prayers. Do I explain to the ashes what I’m doing. Do I wear gloves and a mask. What do I use to do this. I felt clueless and lost. Prayers and I talked her through what I was doing. I could almost here her voice telling me off for doing this all wrong. I carefully unscrewed the lid off one of the containers. What can only be described as a ‘ring-pull’ was next. I had a crazy thought, what happens if it goes pop like one of those party poppers, ashes going everywhere. I wasn’t smiling, I was panicking. No pop, no disaster this time.
Then the next issue. This bit might be gross. How do I get some of the ashes out. In the end I opted for an old spoon. A spoon my partner used to stir her tea with. It’s been unused in 6 years. And here’s the thing. I can’t just put it in the sink and wash the spoon now. That can’t be right. So it’s going to sit next to the ashes until called upon again.
I can’t spill a single grain. Not one. I have never been more careful. What on Earth happens if I get this bit wrong. Unbelievably my nerve held and my inner muppet stayed hidden. Well almost hidden….
I searched the house and every draw for a container or small bag to put the ashes in. All I could find was a food freezer bag. Too big and surely inappropriate. I can’t put my partner in a bag with the following instructions emblazoned across the front.
Consume within one month of freezing.
Once defrosted consume within one day.
Just NO. Here was the next best option. Please don’t be too hard on me. The only other clear, small plastic bags I could find were a few unopened mini lego sets that came in the Star Wars Advent Calendar. Yes I carefully opened two, removed the lego and used them. A Stormtrooper and a droid now without bag. So one bag inside of the other, ashes inside. Sealed tight with cello tape. I’m shaking me head at the thought.
Carefully wrapped up, the ashes headed on a journey. Several hundred miles. By POST. Yes I put a stamp on and posted them . Was that wrong. What is the protocol. I did check if it was legal. I had fears that they would be impounded. But in the UK you can post up to 50g of human or animal ashes. Thankfully they arrived safely and within 24 hours.
So after 6 years, the process has started. It might take some time to complete but in a strange way it feels reassuring that a very small start has been made. Next time I will be better prepared. HOPEFULLY……
Maybe a good place to spread some ashes one day. Back a few years I remember standing here. Standing here in the rain. An overcast thinking walk had suddenly turned wet. A sky not dissimilar to this one.
What was I thinking back then.
Why me. Why take Hawklad’s mum and leave me. She would have been the better single parent. Sometimes I still do. After loss, how many other utterly confused souls have had similar thoughts. Many I guess. But in the end, all we can do is walk those paths allocated to us, do the best we can. The rest will sort itself out in the end.
It’s coming up to six years now. Six years since THAT YEAR. 2016. When EVERYTHING changed. I quickly scattered my mums ashes but we still have Hawklad’s mums ashes in the back room. On a mantelpiece overlooking the garden and fields beyond. There is no rush and to be fair, we have gone through a pandemic. We kinda assumed that at some some stage in the future we would get round to scatter them.
Then out of the blue.
One of her family have asked for a little portion of the ashes to spread. It’s odd I assumed it would be tough to say yes. For Hawklad, for me. Yet it wasn’t. Within seconds we both went – THATS FINE.
That’s progress. Life has moved on for both of us. The next question is where that leads.
But back to the ASHES, just maybe the hard part is still to come. The doing bit. We shall find out in a few hours.
So Yorkshire has enjoyed the briefest of Springs. We are now heading back into one last crack of Winter. Even mention of an outside chance of the white stuff.
So before the poor things are battered into submission let’s have one more Daffodil Fest.
The American Psychiatric Association have now officially recognised Prolonged Grief Disorder as a mental health condition. Intense grief that lasts for more than 1 year that disrupts a persons mental wellbeing and health.
Surely much shorter, very intense grief can send people into terrifyingly dark places. Those places will have a profound lasting health effect. That will have just as much impact on a persons wellbeing than the new Official Prolonged version. Grief is GRIEF, regardless of how long it lasts a person.
I just hope that finally GRIEF gets the support it desperately needs. Too many suffer in silence. What support there is poorly funded and badly over subscribed. Even when it comes to children the support is just not there. Hawklad’s Doctor put him on the waiting list for Specialist Grief Counselling. That was back in 2016 and he is still working his way up the list….. How many parents are trying to help their grieving child when they are also suffering as well.
Grief may or may not be a separate mental health condition but it definitely has a direct impact on a persons mental health. Looking back the only support I received was a 12 page pamphlet handed out by the Hospice. For too many that is simply not enough. It wasn’t for me. Hawklad didn’t even get that…… That’s an 8 year old who has just lost his mum. That can’t be right.
Sunday brings thoughts of family holidays to beautiful Switzerland. Trips to an alpine wonderland from a much different time. Yes the last holiday was only 6 years ago but it does feel like a lifetime ago. Much has happened to the world, much has happened to our family over those 6 years. It’s actually quite hard to remember how that former life felt like.
That former life isn’t coming back but Switzerland is still there. Maybe our much smaller family can return sooner rather than later, start to create some new memories. Life has to go on.
Time to see what memories some old holiday snaps can bring back.
It’s Sunday here in the UK and it feels like it’s time to take another virtual trip to one of the worlds most picturesque, picture perfect countries. It’s time for a bit of Switzerland. Definitely a place for big dreams. We need those big dreams more than ever.
Nearly 7 years since our last visit. That’s far too long. it wasn’t supposed to be that long. We had plans to visit in 2016, during the October school holiday. The three of us plus Hawklad’s Granny, but the world changed over just 6 weeks.
Now in 2022, Hawklad and his old muppet dad are starting to make tentative plans for a return to Switzerland. The first window of opportunity might be this October. That is dependent on a pandemic, on Hawklad’s anxieties. Let’s see what happens. But big dreams can come true. They really can.
I’ve talked about how my bereavement journey has moved on. I’m not stood next to that permanently locked door anymore. Life has to be lived. That’s something I didn’t think I would ever say in the early days. But approaching 6 years after the world changed and now I can.
But what about Hawklad.
Losing a mum is devastating. Losing a mum at 8 years old is beyond words. I did what I could but there is a limit to what anyone can do in those circumstances. If he wanted to talk, we talked. If he wanted to forget, then I shielded him. Understandably he found it tough to talk about his mum. He found it distressing to hear references to death in TV shows and Movies. Professional Grief counselling has been slashed by Government cuts, so he is still waiting…. So we muddled through.
Roll on 6 years. He still finds movie references to family death tough, so we still try to avoid. But here’s the thing. Now he can openly talk about his mum. He asks lots of questions about his mum. He wants to learn more about her. He smiles and laughs at the memories. He is getting there.
Virtually every day for over two decades I have looked at this landscape. Looked at that tree, stood alone in the next farmers field. The occasional trip away, the all too infrequent Swiss day broke those years up. But definitely for 6 years, every day I have looked upon that view.
After my partner died, I couldn’t contemplate making changes to the house. It just didn’t seem right. Then a few hesitant steps. Clothes, shoes, handbags and some books taken to a charity shop. But her cd’s are still sat, untouched, in the same place. Her ornament largely in the same locations. But now the mindset is changing. Time for change if Hawklad is ready.
A start will be my partners cd’s. A quick scan revealing a taste for 80’s pop and dance music. They are never going to get played in this metal and rock house. Music is such a waste of its not played. Time to move them on to a better home. Ok I might keep the Dido cd…..
I’m looking at a sofa that is over 20 years old. Cats, a mad climbing dog, food and drink spills, my enormous backside has taken its toll on the poor thing now. It’s really time for a change. Well kind of. Hawklad would appreciate some more comfort but is kinda attached. So we have plan b. But a new sofa, finally change the living room look. But the old sofa can find its way into the conservatory.
That’s still change.
Life has moved on.
I’m not stood by that permanently closed door anymore.