The first proper autumnal fog, the first of many….
I was looking at an online social media chat about Bereavement ….. well it beats watching my team try to play football. The chat was all about the recent UK State Funeral and how it had triggered emotions in many about their own personal losses. It is hard to watch a funeral and not be reminded of matters much closer to hand. I must admit as I watched the Funeral, one thought really struck me. How on earth do you grieve in front of millions, I couldn’t do it in front 40 people.
Two funerals in 6 weeks and I didn’t grieve at either of them. Focused on an 8 year old and trying to process far too many thoughts. I’m not that sure I took any of the funerals in. I can’t remember anything that was said. Can’t remember the music. Can’t remember that much at all. I can remember my brother whispering something in my ear that brought a half smile. I can remember standing with Hawklad looking at a fishpond after his mums funeral. That’s about it. Just felt like it was about waiting for them to be over.
It does feel so strange that I took far more in for a woman I had never met than I ever did for either of my mum or partner. I sometimes wish I had a video of both Funerals so I could experience them, hear what was said. Feel a part of them after 6 years.
Back to the online chat, the consensus was very similar. Mostly funerals are an ordeal, to organise, to sit through. Often the grieving can only really start when you have the funeral behind you. That definitely was my experience, it felt like it was months and months later before I started. This may sound crazy but until that point I was hurting but I wasn’t grieving. I wasn’t really accepting the reality, wasn’t ready to let go. Maybe if I had let the Funerals in more, maybe I would have been more receptive to grieving.
The fog of life might have started to clear much sooner.
Sadly we haven’t seen too many of these visitors this year. Add that to the almost complete lack of Bees 🐝. Only a few years back our garden was mobbed by garden visitors but not anymore. Very worrying.
A few weeks back we had a day in the garden and we counted insects for a wildlife survey. You count the highest number of insects at any one time and the best we found was
2 Butterflies in the garden at any one time
0 Bees… ZERO, ZIP, we never saw one all day long
We have been doing this local survey for a few years now. The first time we did the survey, was before Covid, before a Trump President thing, we had the following scores
16 Butterflies at one time
14 Bees at one time
Not good, not good at all.
Sadly something which isn’t missing is the use of the death of a family member in TV and Movies, for dramatic effect. Fine, if it’s a drama movie but Kids stuff….. Two nights ago Hawklad was watching a random Disney type movie and without any warning the mum died. I could see the sadness in his eyes. Then today he’s watching a cartoon and guess what, the mum dies. He turned the TV off and went outside.
At least give some warning if the show is aimed at a young audience. Grief is tough enough without the likes of Disney adding to it.
A few minutes later, Hawklad came back in and quietly said “I’m probably going to stick to Tom & Jerry from now on”. I really can’t disagree with him on this one.
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.
Back to last week. See you don’t need the multiverse to do a spot of time travel.
“Dad tomorrow can we go to Scotland. Don’t mind where just can it be really quiet. Somewhere different.Maybe even exciting.”
Two herbal teas later the solution popped into my head. Visit a place where we can MARVEL at who grand Scotland is.
Quiet means arriving early. As we were heading 180 miles north then we set off just after 5am.
Heading to the stunning coastal village of St Abbs. Part of the Marvel Universe……
The second highest grossing movie of all time, End Game used St Abbs as New Asgard. Hulk and Rocket came here to find Thor. Hawklad didn’t think he would be stood outside Thor’s house…..
I didn’t cause an international incident by taking my shirt off and pretending to be one of the Avengers. Maybe next time. Actually if people think that Thor looked out of shape when he was in New Asgard, wait to they get a look at my version of a shirtless Avenger. Let’s just say the 6 pack is well and truly hidden these days.
As we wandered around St Abbs a thought struck me. The place feels remote almost cut off from modern life. Operating at its own pace with the Sea dominating life. Could somewhere like this be a place which would suit Hawklad. Then the realisation, it might actually suit me. I was brought up by the Sea until I left to go to University. It feels very familiar, very safe. Would a return suit my mindset. Would it blow away the life cobwebs. Would it fix the problem that the world now seems to spin at a different speed to me. Is it a great place to forget the past.
Maybe Thor had a point moving to somewhere as wonderful as St Abbs. A perfect place for his New Asgard
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.
It’s not far from here that Hawklad wants to scatter some of his mums ashes. Yes 6 years and they are still sat on a cabinet in the back room. A view through the window over the garden and the fields beyond.
It will happen in its own time.
It will happen when it’s right for Hawklad.
We could see the place where we want to scatter his mum but we couldn’t walk there. Not this time. A place which his mum loved to visit. This time we couldn’t follow in her footsteps. Two rather angry bodyguards blocked the way.
Maybe next time.
Things can change.
Soon it’s going to be Mothers Day here in the UK. A couple of weeks of nonstop adverts which are almost impossible to avoid. How many kids have lost there mum and have to go through that. But this year we have a first. A supermarket that we order food from has just sent this email.
This is a start. It’s a small step but a welcome step.