Soulless

That pesky grief monster sneaking up on innocent folks again. Should be a law about that. On sorry I forgot our Government ceased being a viable legislative body two years ago. Still we can look forward to Johnson or Hunt now. OMG. One is a self serving buffoon who dresses up outrageous racist comments as free direct speech. A man whose middle name should be dishonesty. The other is a man who forgot which country his wife was born in (supposed to be our Foreign Secretary) and who wilfully wrecked our NHS.

So no help coming from the Government any time soon then.

I was having a 50 minute walk – can’t believe how much I miss my runs. Tired but been worse. Then out from a side path a couple emerged. Holding hands and clearly so in love. Suddenly waves of grief and remorse smash me into the ground.

That was us a few years ago…

We should be still holding hands today…

Those days have gone…

Suddenly I feel very tired, very old and very broken.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

An hour later I’m back at work but basically I’m going through the motions. My heart is trapped in a different year. It’s unlikely that it will be released. I feel soulless, yes that’s the word, SOULLESS. Just an empty shell. Just focus on that one job – give our son the best childhood possible. That gives me a purpose. Something to keep me going.

Deadly Question Time

So she is leaving before the job is done. Tears for her own job but not for 72 people who died in London on the 14th June 2017. Says it all. Time for the next numpty.

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You do get asked some questions in life. Some you can answer, some you can’t and some which you can’t quite comprehend. In 2016 the world changed for us. Over 6 weeks our young son experienced two much death for someone so young. I got plunged into single parenting – a role I was completely unprepared for and at a time when I was close to breaking. Since those fateful 6 weeks we have been asked so many questions about bereavement, single parenting and the future. Here are some of the left field ones.

“What’s it like not to have a mum” – a classmate asked that 4 days after he lost his mum

Have you thought about hiring a full time nanny” – a Parent

Do you think he is too young to properly grieve” – a Parent

Have you thought about a dating agency ” – a neighbour 2 weeks after the funeral

Luckily he is autistic so he won’t feel as much” – a Parent.

“I’m sorry for your loss but can you start back at work tomorrow as your project needs to stay on track” – a Senior Manager one week after the funeral

Now your a single parent what are you going to do with your new found free time” – a Dad in the school playground

Dads don’t cook so do you get lots of takeouts” – a classmate with a Dad who spends most of his time in the pub and playing golf

“Surely your career is the most important thing to you” – a Senior Manager after I quit to be there for our son

“Can’t your son just go to stay with someone during the week so you can do this role. Have you got family who could look after him” – same Senior Manager

“We are reading a book in lesson next week which has a boy who has just lost his mum. You don’t have any objections do you” a teacher

“You must think yourself quite lucky. You have closure. When my wife left me I didn’t get closure” – a Dad in the school playground

Have you phoned the Samaritans.” – a mum. I only asked if she had any idea why my bread wasn’t rising evenly.

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This time can we get a Leader how is up to the job. No numpties should be allowed to apply – that includes you Boris.

Ronan did me again

Grief is really sneaky. It’s like you at sea in a boat in perfectly calm water. But somewhere underneath you know a Great White Shark is silently hunting. Could be hundreds of miles away or it could be feet away. You just never know.

Everything seemed ok. Yes my partners birthday is approaching but I was ok. Needed to go food shopping. No red flags yet.

At the Supermarket walked passed the flowers. No problem. On passed the birthday cards. No problem. Uneventful food shopping then…..

Without warning the background music started playing Ronan Keating – Life is a Rollercoaster. This was one of her favourite songs. She would always be singing it. I took her twice to see him in concert.

Full scale grief attack. Floods of tears. Lord knows what the other shoppers thought in the soup aisle.

That’s the thing when you lose someone the world doesn’t stop. You might but the rest of the world does not. When you eventually do brave the world again it will try and get you – you just never know when….

Alone

Complete white out. Zero vision. Your boots constantly struggling to find grip on the sheet ice. All you can hear is the wind howl and your rasping breathe. Somewhere to your right are bone breaking crags, to your left a 200 feet sheer drop. Holding the ice axe waiting for the inevitable fall. The trail has disappeared. The map is useless. The compass won’t give an accurate reading. Alone. Are you too far right or god help you …. too far left. Too late to turn back. Your only guide is to follow the sharp slope upwards to the summit.

The delights of winter mountaineering. Or is a metaphor for life. Disorientation, lost, no idea where your going, unattainable goals, alone, no plan, fear and panic.

Then hope. A kind word. A caring hand in the dark. Brief enlightenment.

The clouds briefly part. The beautiful mountain summit reveals itself. You survived that crisis. Panic subsides. Your pounding heart starts to ease. The break in the clouds is short lived. But you have a path. You have a direction. You have hope. The climb continues.

Storm Bunker

We had a large thunder storm pass over this afternoon. The cat was taking no chances. After the first bang he made his way to his storm bunker.

Unbelievably the early morning cinema screening was very full. The cinema was mobbed. Not seen crowds like that since the ‘Everything for a Pound’ Store had a sale. It’s not a statistical significant sample population but from the early morning hordes I guess that The Avengers movie is going to pull in some astronomical numbers.

And yes it is an astonishing movie.

Yes the crowds unsettled our son but we took our customary place on the front row so no one could be in front of him or to the left of him. It’s so close to the big screen that I come away feeling like I’ve been chewing on magic mushrooms but it works for him.

For 3 hours we both lost ourselves in the Marvel Universe. All our problems and anxieties forgotten. Heroic deeds fill your heart. With even a bit of free grief counselling thrown in by Captain America. But sadly it doesn’t last. You eventually find yourself back in the same place with the same issues.

In fact it feels like we have regressed. Fifteen months ago we eventually secured some anxiety counselling for our son. I say ‘we’ as the fight to get some help started while my partner was still very much with us. It seemed to really benefit him. Progress was starting to be made. But now due to cutbacks that support has dried up. The anxieties are building and it feels like the system has cast him adrift again. We have been lucky really – far too many families get zero help – all they get is patronising comments from politicians who have no interest beyond their off shore bank accounts and rich friends.

So as the thunder rumbles on we try to fight demons. Health anxieties, fear of death, school anxieties, friend anxieties, social anxieties, reading anxieties, fear of being left alone anxieties…..

I’m no psychologist. I’m no health professional. I’m no education specialist. I’m not a grief counsellor. I’m just a parent trying to figure out this increasingly bizarre world with no one to help guide me. Doing the best I can. Deep down this scares me as what chance do I have when I can’t even come close to fixing myself. Queue worried face. 😱

Pleased to report the immediate threat to life and property must have passed as the cat has made his way back to his favourite chair again. That’s one less worry to deal with.

Plant versus Dog.

I have a soft spot for this particular plant. My mum had it in a container in her little garden. After her stroke she couldn’t get into the garden that often to water it. It looked lonely. Then the world fell in. When I started to clear her house after those 6 weeks of hell in 2016 – I felt sorry for it. I was in a completely unhinged state and I worried that the plant would be discarded. Left to die. Two deaths was more than enough for that pigging year. I started talking to it. I would tell it how bad I felt. How lonely I was. How completely broken I had become. It was literally the only thing I could truly open up to. I had to give up my job to be there for our son. I was so completely isolated. But that plant was there. Eventually when the house was sold I brought it back to our garden and planted it. It started to thrive. Then…

Then the mad pup arrived. Captain Chaos took one look at the garden and decided that this plant was going to be his ‘cock his leg’ plant of choice. Since then it’s been subject to daily dog waterings. If that wasn’t bad enough the pup then decided he could use the plant as an essential part of his escape strategy. So in addition to being constantly pee’d on it has been dug under, dug out, dug round, dug through and used as a canine climbing frame.

Yet it is still here and is still flowering.

I was discussing this resilient life form with our son. All that it has been through, all that it has survived and how it still flowers. Surely it needed a really heroic name.

Son thought for a while and said

I’ve got the perfect name … JEFF”

So meet the amazing Jeff. A survivor from 2016 and a damm fine counsellor to boot.

Alpine sunset

This photo was taken on the last night my partner had in her beloved Switzerland. During a stunning sunset. Watching the moon rise over the Alps was just the most wonderful experience.

Little did we know that she would be gone 12 months later.

This is a photograph I can look at and still smile. Other photos bring tears but not this one. Don’t know why. In fact the more I think about it this was probably the last Swiss Photograph. It really should bring tears. Strange.

That night we racked our brains trying to work out ways of emigrating here to retire. Drawing up plans for spending all of our long life’s together. So many plans. In reality just pipe dreams with no chance of coming to fruition. The one thing we never factored in was an early death. You never do probably.

A few days ago I walked behind an elderly couple who had been shopping. They walked slowly hand in hand. Behind them a broken man walked sobbing his eyes out. In our pipe dreams that was us in thirty years.

I can’t tell how much that hurts.

The weather

I bumped into a parent from our son’s last school this morning. A conversation started about the weather (forgive us it’s a British thing), Brexit (forgive us it’s a British madness) and son’s old school. Nothing remarkable. Then the dreaded question from the parent.

“It’s been a couple of years now. You must be over the worst now. Now the clouds are parting do you think it’s time to move on. Find someone else. Your still relatively young…”

Couldn’t believe it. What a thing to say. Relatively young. Cheeky bugger I am still only 24!!!!! I think it was 1875 when I was 24….

That conversation reminded me why staying in the house is often so appealing and cheaper – ended up sponsoring his son.ł

A year ago the main part of that question would have thrown me completely. I suspect I would have gone to Jelly. Now it just yields a deep sigh.

Every persons grief is different (forgive me I keep saying this a lot). With me the clouds do part some days but they often quickly move back in, blocking out the view.Like the weather I get fine days, average days and crappy days. The comment about you must be over the worst because it’s been a couple of years is clearly an unfounded assumption as every persons grief is different (forgive me I’ve said it again). Find Someone Else ….. makes it sound like I’m house hunting.

The photo is taken near Interlaken in Switzerland (forgive me it’s another favourite country plug – still waiting for my chocolate from the Swiss Tourist Board……). It’s quite a good representation of my grief journey. Yes the clouds keep sweeping in often covering the mountain peak. But somedays the mountain is cloudless. Same mountain vastly different mood. So unpredictable. That’s the weather for you (The Brits and the weather AGAIN ).

Sneaky Grief

Grief sneaks up on you. It often doesn’t attack head on – when you can brace yourself for impact. The big hits are the attacks from behind – the ones you don’t see coming. That song on the radio, an unexpected find, a hidden photograph, a surprise film scene.

In the U.K. Mothers Day is fast approaching. It’s not an easy day to get through but it’s no surprise. You have weeks to prepare. It won’t be fun but I guess it won’t be a complete meltdown. I suspect I will blog further on this again.

Taking the dog for a walk in the local Arboretum. It’s a lovely relaxing place. I was using the walk to get my head round a work problem. The mad dog was happy – a dog and an Arboretum full of thousands of trees …. Pup Heaven.

So I was in autopilot. Just following Captain Chaos from tree to tree. Starting to form a viable fix to the work problem. Then I stopped dead in my tracks. A sudden realisation of location. A sudden sinking heart. Suddenly hit by a sneaky grief attack.

In autopilot mode I had drifted into one particularly beautiful area. During autumn a place glowing with silver leaves. A place my partner would repeatedly visit. I can see her face smiling at the view. A place where she wants part of her ashes scattered. A flood of tears and complete despair. I feel very old and so very alone.

But thankfully for my sanity I have designated role. Our Son needs me. He deserves the best childhood possible. So I let the dog pull me away from the area to a particularly exciting unmarked giant Tree.

Put away the tissue. Breathe. Refocus. That wave of grief has passed but I know that the tide will return.

This funny book is going to make me cry…

Every Christmas my mum would always check to see if Terry Pratchett had a new book out. It was always her go to present for me. It became a tradition. Looking back she bought me every book in the series since the first one came out in 1985. I have read all of his books except the last one. He is without doubt my favourite author. Funny, clever, inspirational and with a boundless imagination. The last book was written as his Alzheimer’s took hold. He wasn’t able to finish the planned final scene as his heath rapidly deteriorated.

Sadly both my mum and Terry have now left us.

I miss those Christmas evenings. Sat by the fire. The new Pratchett book in one hand and a box of miniature Cadbury chocolate bars in the other (mums second go to present).

After mum left us I had one final discworld novel to read. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It just didn’t seem right. The tradition was broken. I think part of me also realised that it would be a deeply emotional process as well. Memories of two stunningly beautiful people flooding the pages of the final novel.

But now the we have crossed the line. The Shepherds Crown has arrived by post. The 41st and final discworld novel. Tonight I will start this cathartic experience. It won’t be easy but as it’s a Pratchett novel, it will also be brilliantly funny. The mini chocolate bars will be replaced with copious amounts of black coffee. I don’t think I am ever going to have such a book reading experience again – it feels like a once in a lifetime event.

The process has started I read the first couple of lines. Even those brought a tear to my eye. This one is for you Mum and Terry.

It was born in the darkness of the Circle Sea; at first just a soft floating thing, washed back and forth by tide after tide. It grew a shell , but in its rolling tumbling world there were huge creatures which could have cracked it open in an instant.”