Which mountain?

It’s just over 2 years since we lost her. It doesn’t feel like 2 years. It still just seems like last month..

This photograph was taken on our last family holiday. It’s the view from the hotel. The view brings back so many happy memories. But it’s a sobering thought that the next time I see this view for real it will be on a trip to scatter her ashes. That wasn’t in the script…..

I feel a bit like Dr Strange in the last Avengers movie. Scanning all the possible life outcomes and probably only seeing one which involved ashes within such a short time span. Unfortunately that one came to fruition.

On that last holiday we spoke briefly about if something happened where she wanted to be laid to rest. I never paid too much attention to it. Surely that life option isn’t going to happen for many years – I would make a really crap Dr Strange. But now we have a bit of a problem. Can I remember the preferred sites. Two in the UK are reasonably simple and straightforward. The two in Switzerland ……

One is easy as it’s an instantly recognisable location, we have been to it several times before. The other location is a tad more problematic. She wanted to be scattered at the same location as her beloved Dad. It’s at the top of a mountain I have never been to. Assuming I have remembered the right mountain, Switzerland are not short of one or two. Then I can vaguely remember the instructions. Get the cable car to the top. Start the path down and it’s next to a bench near a small pile of stones. Unfortunately looking at the internet the mountain has at least 8 paths and I’ve counted at least 20 benches. As our son helpfully points out – you will know if you have picked the wrong mountain or wrong bench when that bolt of lightning strikes. No pressure then….

Two years ago this genuinely caused me huge anxiety and anguish. Now I can see the funny side. That’s progress.

Important note. Trying to arrange taking ashes abroad from the U.K. is a nightmare especially if you are planning to fly. You need to arrange a specific flight time with the airline. Then get the undertaker to securely package the ashes and complete the required cover note which has to include the flight details. The airlines I spoke to made the process so difficult. Also straight after the cremation the last thing you want to sort out is air flights. Fortunately the Eurostar train option is so much friendly. They told us to get the ashes securely packaged. Then book as normal when you are ready – just pre warn security when they check your bags. It’s another train journey for my partner then – she loved trains.

When dreams fade

The pre Valentine onslaught is in full swing. One advert claiming to have the perfect gift for my partner, every base covered….. Really – every base?

I’ve always been a daydreamer. As a child dreams of football, cricket, astronauts and mountains dominated. They gave hope. The years went by and still I dreamed. Dreams of happiness and a successful career. Then I met my partner and the dreams changed. Suddenly dreams focused on starting a family. Then our son was born and dreams shifted to happy family life. Few years further passed and it became more likely no more children would arrive – again my dreams shifted. Now they were dominated by images of us happily growing old together. Walking hand in hand. Sat together in Parisian cafes. Sharing new experiences in new lands. Dreams and hopes intertwined. Then the world suddenly changed….

Now I live in the moment, just focused on the practicalities of the day. When I daydream now (very rare) these are entirely focused on our son. Dreams involving me have gone. When I look – nothing. They died with my partner. No happy thoughts of growing older. Just the deepest blackness. I have heard this phrase used before. Living our lives through our children. It is so true. One role.

One day I do hope my daydreams return. Some things don’t change. I am still a daydreamer at heart.

Bereavement and Aspergers

Death is inevitable but so so tough to comprehend. It’s hard for a grizzly mile worn traveller like myself to cope with, what on earth is it like for someone so young. Especially when it’s now 5 major deaths in 4 years. He’s only 11.

My son living with his Aspergers finds comfort in routine and orderly plans. Bereavement doesn’t fit into this ordered and planned world. Suddenly the world shifts, things are never the same again. This complete paradigm shift seems to manifest itself as shutdowns in his processing skills. His fine tuned memory becomes vague and unreliable. Concepts and principles become just random jumbled images. Simple tasks become complex nightmares. All he can think about is that the world and his happiness will never be the same again. Completely lost in this alien world.

Another aspect of Bereavement is a sensory one. Our son constantly fights to control and deal with all the sensory inputs flooding his body every second, every minute, every day ….. hardly ever receding. He has talked about death ramping all these sensory inputs up several levels. Suddenly the noise in his head is louder, he can feel the heart pounding, his skin is oh so much more sensitive, the unsettled stomach becomes a whirling vortex. He is trying to understand death while coping with this sensory storm.

When Bereavement occurs so many worries resurface for our son:

  • Fear of his own mortality. Suddenly every cold, every encounter with an unclean surface, every bump, every cough is a potential path to death.
  • Fear of his Dads mortality. No backstop, no second parent. Images of sad kids in cold foster homes like Harry Potter or strict Victorian orphanages flood his mind. How many movies have this as it’s premise.
  • Fear about losing special loves he will encounter in the future. Is the safest option to just shut the world out.
  • Bad things keep happening so they must be the norm in life.
  • Is it me. Am I to blame for this.
  • I just can’t find order and rationalise things anymore.
  • You learn to love, you learn to trust, then it is gone.

I think that final fear underpins everything. Trust in life for our son is hard to establish. He works so hard to build those bridges. Death smashes those bridges, breaks his hard fought trust.

We have started the healing process. Recommenced all the stuff which has helped in the past. But each time it happens the path to recovery becomes longer and more difficult.

The irony here is that this post is about our son (my only focus) and yet those last two lines (without thinking) are probably about me.

We now try to move on. The motto we have adopted is ‘each morning we dust ourselves down and go again’. Next post I will talk about some of the stuff which helps our son. More uplifting. More humorous. It has to be that way.

No Text Book Grief 2

A friend (emergingfromthedarknight) posted a comment about my earlier Grief Expert tirade. To paraphrase she talked about my mum loving squirrels and the fact that you sometimes read about loved ones returning and their spirits appearing in animals.

I remember reading a similar thing. The one I read was about a widow. Her husband would spend his free time stood by one particular tree looking into the valley. The widow kept horses and she was offered a colt. The colt didn’t like being close to humans and was quite difficult. When the widow went to see the colt it immediately trotted up to her and was really friendly. As a result she bought it. The colt almost immediately went to the same tree as her late husband. Everyday the colt could be seen standing by the tree looking at the valley.

I must admit my friend did get me thinking. What if my mum was in the spirit of the squirrel. That little squirrel who seemed to join me at the grave. Then a rather scary thought came to my mind. What would have happened if my mum had manifested herself as her favourite animal. I suspect I may have found a turn of pace quicker than a sports car. My mums favourite animal was a TIGER.

No text book grief.

I shouldn’t listen to the radio as it frequently gets me so very 😡😡😡😡😡 mad. The local station had a programme about grief. It featured a so called Bereavement Expert who seemed to be reading from a text book released before the Rolling Stones were born. It was truly awful. We had callers who believed it was wrong to grieve for more than a week or so – people should jump into a new relationship immediately. We then had callers who believed you should lock yourself permanently in a grief isolation cell – staying there until you die. No other options mentioned. The expert and the callers just so quick to pick faults with others. A complete sea of ‘I know best’ attitudes. The Expert advised people to not hang onto loved ones ashes – deal with them promptly and then move on. Then the so called expert brought up the case of an elderly man who every year took his wife’s ashes out for a meal on their wedding anniversary. The expert thought this man needed help as this was deemed as unhealthy. He was instructed to move on. Yes it was sad but he should be considerate to the other people having a meal.

Deep Deep sighs followed by immediately switching to a bit of Green Day on cd.

You just can’t judge how someone deals with bereavement and grief. We all do it differently. No right text book approach exists. Finding a new love quickly, or never replacing your love or doing something in the middle are all fine. Just don’t judge and stop picking faults – you just don’t know anything about that persons life or what they are going through. I find reading and listening to other people’s experiences with grief really really helps. I love hearing people’s ideas. But I never ever judge them.

I’m calming down a bit now.

Maybe this year we will start scattering my partners ashes, maybe we won’t. A couple of years ago I scattered my mums ashes on her family grave. My mum was adamant, no ceremony at the grave. I would do it when I had time. No new words on the gravestone. So when the time came….

The graveyard does not allow unapproved ashes scattering. The Policy states that it has to be an official process. An expensive and time consuming process. So it was time to go into covert operation mode. I decided to opt for a backpack and a shovel type of look. It would make me look like I was here to do some gardening. As I walked to the grave I realised that this rather shifty appearance made me look more like a grave robber. Anyway the time came. Do I just scatter them or dig them in. I will do both. So some were scattered. Unfortunately it was so windy part of my mum may have made it to Norway. She always liked the sound of a Scandinavian holiday. I then started to shift away some of the grave soil. Bit of a worry thought – how deep are the coffins buried? A nervous glance to the side revealed a companion. On a grave 5 yards away was a squirrel also happily digging away. Was the Squirrel hiding some nuts or was the little fella also solemnly scattering some ashes. We will never know.

My mum loved animals. Mum loved feeding squirrels. She would smile at the sight of the squirrel burying the nuts. So as I walked away I hoped that the little fella had moved onto our grave. Mum would like that. Not sure the Bereavement Expert would though..

Safety Net

Photo taken from the top of The Niesen.

I never really thought about my own mortality. Before I met my partner my attitude to risk was “it will be alright and if something happens to me I’m not too great a loss to society”. After we became a family I started to become more responsible but I still had a reasonable risk threshold. If something happened to me our son would still have his mum and his granny.

This all changed when I lost my mum and then partner within 6 weeks of each other.

The first few days after my partner left us are still a blur. But I remember one incident like it was yesterday. It was my son’s first day back at school and I was driving to register the death. Suddenly a sports car pulled out in front of me. A suicidal overtaking manoeuvre. Luckily I saw him and managed to swerve onto the grass verge and miss him – just. At that speed it would probably have been game over. All I could think about was our Son. One second slower reaction time and he would have been parentless. The whole incident shocked me. Suddenly there was no backstop for our son. No cover if I couldn’t be there for him.

A couple of years later and it’s a new life. With new dreams, new hopes and new feelings. All the climbing and contact sports have been permanently ditched. No more drinking. No more stupid risks to my body. I just can’t take those chances anymore. I’m even more boring than I once was but much more importantly I feel that I am a much better parent now. Yes the world has changed. But hopefully I have adapted to it. The reality of parenting without a safety net…..

Changes is good just not that early

Today started off in the usual manner. Early morning exercise session listening to rock on the radio. Things going fine apart from the usual creaking body. Put me down for the a full body transplant, I’ve used this one up.

Then things started to change.

I hate doing the plank but apparently it’s good for me. This morning it became even more a form of modern day torture. Two cats decided to sit on my arched back while a dog attempted to lick my face off. Apparently this was one of the Spanish Inquisitions favourite tortures. But I survived.

Then almost immediately the radio signal disappeared. The sound of silence. So I quickly grabbed the first cd I could find. Black Sabbath Vol 4 and tried to complete the session.

Vol 4 is a fine album and features a rarity for Sabbath, a slow reflective song. CHANGES. This song finished off my exercises for the day. Normally at the end of a routine it’s an immediate mad sprint for the warmth of the shower. But not today. I just sat on the cold floor. Lost in thoughts.

A line from Changes had shaken me.

And I can still hear her last goodbyes

I can’t. As hard as I try I can’t remember hearing my partners last goodbye to me – blank. I can vividly remember her peacefully sleeping at the hospice as if it was yesterday. I can remember talking to her gently and holding her hand but as hard as I try I can’t remember her last goodbye. I can remember driving her to the hospital with our son but the conversations are gone. Why would I remember them at the time as she was only going in for a couple of tests and would be out by the weekend. I just can’t remember that last goodbye. That haunts me. Probably will always haunt me.

Today

DEEP BREATHS – MOVE ON

Grief is a double edged sword. Yesterday felt like repeated thrusts to the heart. Focusing on what has been lost. That ‘why did it happen to me’ feeling. Everything reminded me of the loss. That video. Sad songs. Radio advertising – anything from where to go for your romantic Christmas meal to the perfect present for your loved one. Her favourite painting. Her favourite cat. That empty bed.

The walk, the wet walk did help a bit. It did help me get focused and ready for our son.

Today I’ve experienced the other side of the grief sword. The positive side. Now the focus is on how privileged I am. Even someone like me was able to experience 16 golden years. Romance. So many happy memories. A beautiful, perfect son. Grief is really everlasting love. That is something which can’t be lost.

One Million Minutes

For the first time in years I sat with my laptop doing some admin with breakfast TV on. I don’t know why, maybe the house just seemed too quiet. Then it all changed.

The TV programme showed an advert in support of a campaign to help lonely people in the U.K. – 1 Million Minutes. Within two minutes I was a flood of tears and a world of pain. I hadn’t realised the advert was about people who had lost love ones. Bearing in mind I cried watching an Indiana Jones movie. This took it it a whole new level. I’m still really shaky an hour later. Just thank god our son didn’t watch it. Not really sure why I’m sharing this or what I’m wittering on about. I think it probably shows the enduring power of love. Going to take the dog for a very long walk.

The video link is below.

http://youtu.be/AKLWE2bCYpQ