As I’m writing this, it is almost 5 years to the minute that I last spoke to my mum. She was in hospital and planning to go home. Ok the doctors weren’t planning on her going home for another week or so, but mum was stubborn. A battle of wills was brewing. I can’t remember what we talked about that evening. How often is that the case. I can remember being given a shopping list to fill her home refrigerator – remember she was going home.
We didn’t see the overnight relapse coming.
Yes I really miss her. My sibling do as well. She was the gravity that held us together.
But I’m not sad. Not today. She would have used a Yorkshire cricket expression – ‘had a long innings‘. She did. Lots of great memories. Lots of smiles. That’s what I see now. And today lots of ‘tea and biscuits’. That’s exactly what you got every time you went to see mum. Within seconds you found a biscuit in your hand, as if by magic. Even if you were on a diet that biscuit founds it’s way into your hand. Followed by a reassuring ‘that diet can start tomorrow, how about a piece of apple pie…”
Looking over the Vale of York I was pondering life. Pondering the wonderful things that I already have and what extra wonders might still come my way. I can definitely still dream big.
If you had asked me back in 2016 and 2017 I would have scoffed at the thought. Grief cruelly robbed me of many things including dreams. My dreams require a vision of future. Back then I could see no future, just a black void. I could only live through my son. It was his future and nothing else. Give him the happiest childhood possible. One day he would leave home and for me, that was it.
But with time dreams did come back and when they did it was like a dam bursting. I could hope again. I could see positive futures. Yes the old dreams are gone but new and very different dreams have replaced them.
Hope and dreams might be hidden but they are usually there somewhere. Maybe it just needs a bit of time and a period of pain. Maybe they need a chance meeting or a seemingly random event. But when dreams are rediscovered they might just be better than ever.
There’s a chap in the village who is an artist. A really really good artist. Has exhibitions. He has a talent for creating beauty. Even in his garden. He lets his garden go native. Will occasionally tidy it up but mainly just let’s nature sort the rest out.
Well this is what happens he does this…
This artist lost his partner a three years back. It really hit him hard. His world fell apart. Yet over time he has got going again. He has returned to making new art. He’s carrying on. He would give me a progress report every time I walked past his garden with Captain Chaos. Whisper it – the Cap likes contributing to this nature show in his own very unique way…. We talked about sitting down and having a longer chat.
Hopefully over the next couple of months I can pop over and he can show me his studio. We can have that coffee that has been on hold since the pandemic swept the world. We talked about doing this 15 months ago.
The 6 week summer school break is only a month away now. Not long. 30 days. Lots to do in that time. Even more after today.
Hawklad has decided that he wants a stress free as possible summer. Summer is difficult as he can remember the summer of 2016. First day of the summer holidays his granny died and then as the school returned he lost his mum. So summer can be tough even without his current anxieties levels.
Stress free means reducing exposure to those triggers that can escalate his worries. And what is one of the most common triggers. Movies and TV shows. I’ve frequently talked about how often story lines involve death, illness, broken families……
So I have a task. Compile a list of movies and shows that Hawklad can watch which are SAFE. No sadness, no illness, no bereavements. 6 weeks is a long time, so it’s going to have to be some list.
Here’s my list so far
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Wallace & Gromit
Kicking and Screaming
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Night at the Museum
The Lego Movie
Fantastic Mr Fox
Big Mommas House
The Office (US) but avoiding a couple of episodes
Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Remember no triggers. For example The Guardians of the Galaxy – top movie but just NO to the start…. For example Mary Poppins Returns – great movie but mum dies…. For example the Disney movie I’ve forgotten the name of at the weekend , really good apart from the one line about a serious illness.
You might not believe it but this is an official Yorkshire road.
The Road to …….
I live in a small bungalow with our son. Small so there is not much room to spread out. Well there is but remember it’s a boy house. Dad, Son, Mad Boy Dog, Massive Tom Cat and two Gerbils. The Gerbils are the sensible ones, but it’s all relative, they are boys as well.
So sometimes space feels at a premium. Especially when there are NO GO AREAS. Areas where LOSS still rules.
One half of the bed.
Boxes in the loft
A pile of cds – truly awful musical choices which have 0% chance of being played
A pile of videos – we haven’t had a video recorder in 4 years
A box case.
After the funeral in 2016 I had a crazed and largely mixed up clear out. Things like clothes and shoes went to a charity shop. But some things didn’t go. No idea why. They stayed in place and remain there today almost 5 years later. Yes they get dusted but I don’t even feel comfortable doing that. So I kinda just work round those areas.
The time is coming to finally complete the clear out process. Life moves on. It’s about living today not living in the past. Free up the some space for the boys. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy. The temptation will be to move out some of my stuff instead. But it has to be done. One more step down the road.
You kind of assume that your country is geared up to support its young people. That they matter. Well they should matter and countries should be geared up. But this is Britain, where support and mental health services have been under funded and in recent times cut back. Britain which has a Government that wants to return to ‘good old Victorian values’. Britain where children are only seen in terms of future economic value. In Britain where support is frowned upon by those in charge. In Britain where children taking time off in the immediate aftermath of a significant bereavement is described by the Government as ‘extended holidays’.
In 2016 Hawklad lost his granny and mum within 6 weeks of each other. A traumatic experience for anyone but for an 8 year old with Aspergers, it’s an emotional maelstrom. But here’s the thing. Sadly he won’t be the only child in this position. But where’s the support. Schools are not set up to cope. In Hawklads case the school cared but where clueless. The specialised education services in the area had been effectively closed down to meet savings targets. I approached his Doctor who just referred to child mental health services. He warned that they had a backlog of cases. That was all the Doctor did. Hawklad was already on the waiting list for Aspergers support.
That was it for over a year. No support. Left up to me, someone who was struggling already. How do you start to help someone when you are broken.
Finally we got to see the Child Mental Health Team. They worked on anxiety issues but no bereavement counselling, no Aspergers support. Luckily his dedicated worker was wonderful and she did try but it was not her area of expertise.
Fast forward to 2021 and Hawklad still has not had any bereavement counselling. Taking a wider view. He had some help with a physiotherapist but that was cut. He started speech therapy but that service was cut. He has had a few months of Aspergers related support but the specialist retired and was not replaced. He has had no dyslexia support. He does get some support for anxiety but that is patchy.
AND he is one of the lucky ones in Britain….
It has to be better than this for all our children. THEY ARE NOT JUST ECONOMIC RESOURCES. It won’t change here under this Government, it will only get worse. BRITAIN is BROKEN when it can’t care for its children.
Loss is different for everyone, whatever the reason behind the life story. Each loss is unique.
It’s now approaching 5 years for me. The journey continues. Things change. Sometimes suddenly, other times gradually.
One of the biggest changes over that time has been with my attitude towards memories. When 2016 hit I truly realised their importance. Time can be short so it’s important that you create as many memories as you can. But here’s the thing, my mindset was that was for me there would be no new personal memories. Yes there would be new ones but they would be about Hawklad, not stuff I had done. For me that was it….
That’s changed now.
Time is still a limited resource and memories are still important. But it can’t be just about looking back. It is definitely OK to create new memories. That shows that life is not just about survival. It’s about LIVING, even after loss. So yes I want to create new memories. AND there is no reason that the NEW ones can’t be just as good or even better than the old ones.
You just never know. All you can do. All I can do is give LIFE a CHANCE.
It’s Sunday so it must be time for our weekly virtual trip to glorious Switzerland. A country which means the world to our little family. My partners family have had strong connections with the country since before the Second World War. It started with a young chap being sent to The Alps to recover from a serious chest illness. It continued with members of the Quaker family working with injured serviceman charities . Then my partners mum and dad holidaying here every year while staying with close friends. Then my partner would go there on family holidays. I was then introduced to the wonders of Switzerland and finally Hawklad was.
Life moves on. That connection with Switzerland now rests just with me and Hawklad. A connection that we both are keen to treasure and keep going.
Bereavement and loss changes everything. My previous life foundations came crashing down. As I sat battered and dazed amongst the wreckage it was just impossible to see clearly. All I could think about was what was lost and how on earth was I going to be able to function as a single parent. My autocorrecttried to change that to single patient – that works as well.
I’ve talked about the impact on DREAMS many times. In the rubble of my former life , dreams and hopes were extinguished. All I could see was nothingness. My dreams had been stolen from me.
It’s now nearly 5 years on. I’m still clearing away the rubble but a new life has started to be built. Here’s what is sometimes forgotten. My old life was far from perfect. It had many issues, many downsides. I couldn’t rebuild the old life if I wanted to. Yes for too many months I did try to do that. Finally I realised the reality. Maybe just maybe I could learn from the past and not make the same mistakes again. Maybe this time I could build a new and improved life. Dreams and hopes play a huge part in that process.
YES they are back. Back stronger than ever. Ok they might seem like pipe dreams. They might seem really unlikely to ever happen. But that doesn’t make them any less important to me. They are a key part of my rebuilding process. Let’s see where those wonderful dreams and hopes take me.
Surely he can’t be still going on about work emails……yep those work emails often more about social nights out…..
Trips to pubs, meals out at restaurants. Even growing excitement for some to returning to nightclubs.
Each to their own…..
Since life changed for me these things seem like alien concepts to me. It’s been years since I’ve been to a pub, to sit down at a restaurant. Actually I don’t think that I’ve been a to nightclub this century… it’s that long that when I last went they were still called DISCOS…. My only social outings now are the occasional football match or rock concert.
Parenting, Aspergers Parenting, Bereavement, Single Parenting, Reduced size of the close family support network. These all contribute to a different social life. A struggle at first but not anymore. I’m relaxed about my changed social life.
So if you offered me a free pass out today. Definitely no pub. Definitely no nightclub. Probably no sit down at a restaurant. Actually probably no football now. Yes a concert would be fun. But this afternoon I would definitely take one option. Sat on a seafront, maybe sat on a beach. Tucking into a takeaway. Enjoying salty fish and chips. Thinking just how lucky I really am.