It was another one of those Yorkshire days. Cold, wet, windy, brooding.
That weather combined with a pandemic, homeschooling and our enforced lockdown is a heady mix. A mix which gets me pondering life. Probably too much pondering some days.
I was sat looking out through the window at that dark sky. Sat alone while Hawklad did his school work in the bedroom. I was suddenly taken back to before 2016. The old small conservatory had finally fallen to bits. We had found the money for a replacement one. I think we planned for years of sitting in there, spending time together. But here’s the thing. We never really did. Life always got in the way. We always seemed to be too busy. If only we had found a way of slowing life down. Creating time at home. Seemingly having too much time on our hands. No excuses to not sit together in that new conservatory. At the time it kind of never really mattered. We had so many years ahead of us to do that.
Well that plan didn’t go well.
Here’s the irony that 2020 presents. Suddenly time has slowed down. Often a feeling of too much time on our hands. A lockdown enforcing time together. No outside distractions this time. A perfect time to sit with my partner and look at that dark sky. Thinking how lucky we are to have that time together. The irony is not lost on me.
Time passes. It keeps on passing. A wander round this small graveyard provides proof of this. Many of the once proud gravestones are now weathered beyond recognition. Time passes.
Five years ago I had just driven to the crematorium to pick up my partners ashes. They joined my mothers ashes on the sideboard. At that stage a real urge to get on with laying my those two precious spirits to the earth. Definite external pressure for this. I remember listening to one so called expert talk about it being unhealthy for society for people to linger on those who had left us. Maybe that’s the hidden message there – it might be ok for the person grieving but it’s uncomfortable for everyone else. Anyway it seemed like the right thing to do. The only thing to do.
Within weeks I had scattered mum on her family grave. I remember it so well and I have already wrote about a bizarre memory from that experience. I was alone in the graveyard. As I started to clear some earth away, to my side I noticed a little squirrel. A squirrel apparently doing the same thing on a neighbouring grave. Was it a case of burying nuts or was it a burial. It made me smile, two souls getting on with important stuff, maybe the same stuff, almost happy to have company there. Mum would have loved that sight.
Now time to get a move on laying my partner to the ground. Partly in England and partly in Switzerland. A bit of a logistical nightmare. I secured the paperwork to allow for the transport of ashes overseas. Ready to begin.
Five years later…..still waiting to begin.
Now I worry. Have I left it too late. Have I missed the window of opportunity to follow my partners wishes. Being a single parent and with son’s Aspergers, European travel is a nightmare – feeling like it gets more problematic every year. No similar excuse for the English sites. But it just didn’t feel right. Should I really put our son through more grief when he was still so young. No right or wrong answer here. We all need to do what’s best for our close ones and ourselves here. Unfortunately just like most things, just like European travel for us, it seems to get more daunting the longer it goes on.
Have I missed the best time to do it?
That feeling is making feel very anxious at present. Will we ever get round to doing what we have to do? Was life really supposed to be this vexing…..
So here I go again. Starting another grief year. This will be the fifth one. Grief is not something that suddenly stops. It changes, it evolves but it doesn’t leave you. It becomes part of you. It’s part of me. It will always be part of me.
I remember back in 2016 thinking Life had made a terrible mistake. The roles should have been reversed. It should have been me that went first and my partner became the single parent. I must admit I had the same thought a few hours ago. Why her and not me. For whatever reason it just happened that way and I’ve had to get on with it. But it doesn’t stop me thinking that especially on the anniversary. These days I realise that I will never know the answer. It just happened that way. The key is make sure I’m the best parent I can be for our son. My partner would have done exactly the same thing. Being that parent will not happen if I am constantly inward looking. So let’s put that question back in its bid for another year. Let’s get on with the fifth year of grief by focusing on the here and now. Yes it’s the fifth grief year but more importantly it’s the fifth year of being a single parent. That’s got to continue to be my focus.
This is what is best described as a free form post. Just writing as the words pop into my head and then I will post it. No checking or editing.
At virtually this exact time four years ago my life changed. Our life changed. I received that late night phone call. I didn’t need to pick it up, I knew the words that I would here. I was right when I did answer the call. It was the Hospice. My partner had passed away. Even though I knew those words would inevitably come it didn’t lessen the pain. The loss. I called her sisters and her mum. I decided to tell our son in the morning after he woke up. I then just sat. I sat all night. Trying to get my head round life and death. The new situation. My old world was gone. The door had permanently slammed shut on that place. The new one was already starting. But it didn’t feel like that . It was just blackness. No light. No new doors to walk through. Nothing. Such a big part of my life was gone. All those unfulfilled dreams suddenly binned. Nothing. What do I tell an 8 year old boy. How do I raise him up when I am utterly flattened.
Looking back. I handled that chat with our son as well as I possibly could. I bumbled through that next period of my life. Can’t believe how devastated I was but still the world kept turning. I felt like I was still looking for a new door to walk through but I just couldn’t find one. Actually that was wrong. I had already walked through the door, I just hadn’t found the light switch. That took much longer to locate. But it was there all along we just find it when we are ready.
Four years on I am filled with emotions and memories. I still feel that loss. I can still feel that dark chill to my soul which I experienced that night. I feel a deep sadness but I may not mourn today, we shall see. It might be a time for tears but it might also be a time for reliving happy memories. I will definitely remember the wonderful times we had. The ways in which our fallen member of our family left the world she found a better place. But I will also not forget that it is a new day. The new crop of dreams still need planting, nurturing and harvesting. I can definitely today look back as well as forward. Here’s to beautiful memories and new dreams.
The first few days in September are often a little tough for me. My mind has a habit of drifting to a hospice in 2016. It’s only natural. Going back to a time of great pain and heartache. The last days of one life – in more ways than one. I remember thinking that it was the end of a book. The author was about to write the words – THE END. It did seem that way. I might be still here but now the words had stopped. It was just nothingness going forward. I would carry on as I had to be mum and dad for our son. But my storytelling had finished.
But life does go on.
Yes I experienced pain and sorrow.
But eventually more smiles.
The story continues.
Looking back now I realise that my partners book did end. But she was still an actor in Sons book going forward. My story did continue. September 2016 only marked the ending of a chapter. A new one started immediately. My story is still being told. New characters and themes are entering the books pages. Let’s see what the next page has to show me.
Five unexpected things I encountered during bereavement. Could do a huge list but let’s just try to pick out the five main ones.
Just how much paperwork, leg work and phone calls you need to make in the weeks leading up to the funeral. Speaking to the hospice and hospital. Letting friends and families know. Registering the death. Trying to sort out joint bank accounts. Solicitors. Informing government agencies. Cancelling cards, subscriptions, memberships. Returning work assets. Selling a car. Pension authorities. Tax authorities. Changing things like house deeds. Changing insurance cover. Booking a funeral. Arranging the service. Inviting guests…… And on and on. This is all at a time when you are at your lowest ebb.Just how quickly the phone calls and visits dry up. Within weeks your suddenly alone. No more checks to see if you are ok. You’ve stopped but the world has kept turning. That’s when the mental health issues can really kick in.One person down and just how empty the house feels. Deathly quiet. Too many empty spaces. A very empty bed and sofa.Just how many times your mind plays tricks on you. Going shopping and you still buy stuff for the person you have lost. When you make meals you automatically make one for your partner. You drive back home and see your partners car in the drive – the first thought is too often – wow she’s home early today.Just how long the the legal side of the death can drag on. In my case the Will took well over a year to be finally signed off by the tax authorities. One bank account took two years to be finally transferred into my name. The telephone and TV accounts are still in joint names – given up trying.
I guess the message is that it’s going to take you to the depths of despair. It’s also going to be a bureaucratic nightmare. You just need to prepare yourself for the long hall. But there is stuff that helps. An empty, deathly quiet house is easily fixed by a mad puppy. If you know someone who is going through loss then why not phone them or even just send a card, especially if it’s a few months down the line – they probably really need the thought. Accept any help when it’s offered – you don’t need to do this alone. Take your time doing this – you don’t get a medal for completing as soon as possible. You need to spend time focusing on yourself, you really do.
Sunsets just happen. Nothing we can do to influence them. Maybe move to a better position to saviour them.
Loss can come from a range of sources. External factors. From within. The loss of someone special. The loss of something so vital to us. So many potential causes. And so many different roads to travel. Each grief journey is unique.
I’m on my own unique road which I must travel. I’ve come to realise three vital things about my own journey
It is possible for me to LIVE AGAIN,
It’s just as ok to LAUGH AND LOVE as it is to WEEP AND BE SAD,
I’m not alone on this journey.
And one more inevitable fact. Grief is like the tides and the passing of the day. I can’t fight them, I can’t stop them. When they happen I’ve just got to let them wash over me. Experience them. Knowing that they will eventually ebb away.
Small and a beautiful berry. Not great to taste raw but apparently you can make great marmalade from them. I will leave them for the birds.
These 6 weeks tend to be tough for me. Your probably bored of me saying this but here I go again – me, me, me – in 2016 I lost my mum at the end of July, the week after the funeral I found out that my partner was dying and she died at the end of 6 week period.
Since then, this part of the year is tough. Best not make it any tougher.
I love music. It’s always been a special part of my life. Some would question my musical taste. I do like a bit of Leonard Cohen. Partial to a bit of classical music. Enjoy traditional Scottish music. But mainly it’s Rock. Often heavy Rock. Even some Mongolian Metal. But during these 6 weeks I have to be careful. It’s a fine line between smiles and tears. Let’s not have too many tears. With me music has the power to send me both ways. So for the next few weeks it’s a filtered playlist. No sad songs. Absolutely no sad songs. Zero heartfelt songs. No songs about death, dying young and lost love. Queens – ‘Who wants to live forever’ is just a big fat NO. The soundtrack to ‘Love Story’ is an even bigger, fatter NO. Don’t even start me on Terry Jacks – ‘Seasons in the sun’.
So it’s time for those songs about dragons, monsters, cars, highways, parties, card games, fun and high spirits. Yes love sounds but they have to be happy ones. That’s my playlist. Absolutely NO heartfelt songs.
MONEY. Not listened to that Pink Floyd song in ages.
Get a good job with good pay and you’reokay….
That’s how the song goes. It’s funny that I love Floyd but this is the only song of theirs that I don’t like. The sound of the cash till just annoys me. It’s kinda nice that when I finally got to see them live, I can remember the concert so well yet I can’t remember them playing this song. It’s so good when the mind works like that.
MONEY. Before the world changed in 2016 we were doing alright. Finding a way to maintain two quite well paid jobs while making sure one of us was always there for Hawklad. It wasn’t easy and took a shed load of planning, but we found a way. We had a nice house, two cars (our jobs headed in different directions) and we could afford a trip to Switzerland every year. We tried to save for the future so we didn’t buy much. But it was a comfortable life and we could certainly pay the bills.
Then the world suddenly changed. I’ve just realised how lame that phrase sounds. Took me long enough. Seismic Rupture might be better. Need to think about that…
MONEY. The last thing you should be thinking about after a bereavement is money. But far too often MONEY quickly looms over you when you are at your lowest ebb. Bills still have to be paid. Food has to be bought. The government wants its pound of flesh, death brings the delights of Inheritance Tax. Two incomes suddenly became one. Even that one….. Single parenting, Single Aspergers parenting, Single parenting to a 9 year old who has just lost his mum. My job became impossible to maintain. Suddenly I was scrambling for a part time job which worked round Hawklad. MONEY became a very scarce commodity. Trying to get my head properly round these scary things is the last thing I needed when my world had just been shaken to the ground. Trying to look at a shrinking bank statement is bloody hard when it’s done through crying eyes.
That’s how it’s been with MONEY ever since 2016. I was so lucky to find a job which was flexible enough to fit round the single parenting gig. But I was still trying to pay the bills. Working out which repair jobs would have to be kicked into the future – which is most of them. Only trying to spend on the absolutely essential stuff. Funny thing is how often schooling costssuck up any spare cash. Holidays are just not happening – the last one was back in 2015. When we do have to buy items the first point of call is always the previously enjoyed or damaged sections. Our one extravagance, concerts, are always in the much cheaper – restricted view areas. We never turn down hand me downs. I’m currently looking at an exercise bike which was surplus to someone’s requirements and is held together with copious amounts of electricians tape.
MONEY. How needs it. With hindsight it’s clear that we are so lucky. So many are in a much worse position than we are. I’ve found a job that kinda fits our lifestyle. We have a nice house and garden. Live in a lovely area. Friends are wonderful. Financially it’s challenging but we are just about stable. Money helps but it doesn’t buy you happiness. Thinking of Hawklad, memories and friends – money doesn’t buy you those things.
Fast coming up to four years since my little world changed forever. One day maybe Hawklad will write about his feelings. I won’t try and second guess them or put my words into his mouth. So it’s time for a bit more me, me, me….
2016 sent me into some really dark places in my mind. My life was shaken to the point that the foundation’s crumbled. Those dark places are scary and very lonely. I felt completely helpless and alone. I was suffering in silence. Unable to think straight and utterly disoriented. Thankfully I never got to the point of suicidal thoughts but I now better understand why far too many sadly do.
When I did pick up the courage to admit this what did I find. I quickly realised who were true friends and who where not. I found a health service starved of resources and with little interest in mental health. The health professionals I saw operated from the same care pathway protocol. Ask SIX questions to determine if I was suicidal. Once suicide was ruled out I was prescribed some antidepressants and sent on my way. There should be many more options on the carepathway, but these require funding which is just not available. I’ve still got the unopened boxes of antidepressants somewhere. Clearly that pathway didn’t work for me.
What got me through those dark times was our son. I had to give Hawklad the best possible childhood. I had to be the very best parent I could possibly be. I had a purpose. That was the key, A PURPOSE. A meaning for life. A reason to live. Without this I dread to think how much darker those dark places would have been. Things like antidepressants would have just been a short term fix. A way to temporarily mask the real emptiness. It would have been the same with things like alcohol, or gambling or splashing the cash on a new car or big television. Just short term fixes. The only way they would have worked for me would have been to continually try to top them up. Continually trying to hide the real underlying issue. The need for a reason to live. A reason to pick myself up again every time I fell.
So looking back my dark places were fundamentally about not being able to see a reason to live. A meaning for life. Bereavement masked them from my view. Suddenly I had no dreams, had no reason to endure the pain. As soon the parenting penny dropped they slowly started to dissipate. Life opened up again. Four years later I believe that I am living again.