When I was turning 20, (back in the last millennium, and indeed more than a decade before its end), a few people asked me, “what do you want for your 20th birthday?”
I answered, “Twenty years between now and when I am 30”.
I thought it was a very clever answer. And it was also an honest answer, based on my worldview at the time. My worldview was that, “by the time you’re 30 you need to be somewhat in a career, have a profession, and be in a steady relationship”. (Seriously, did I ever believe that kind of stuff?)
AND what felt even more important to me when I was 20 was that I also travel to lots of interesting places, meet lots of lovely people, (including a few lovely men), play the field a little – or a lot, and then perhaps possibly maybe “settle down” into something resembling a career, relationship, and even a family. But how the heck to do that within 10 years? Unless I somehow got cloned (not a real possibility as this was still almost ten years before the birth of Dolly the Sheep).
In the end I had a full ten years between 20 and 30, not more, not less, just like those of us lucky ones who get to live until we are 30. And I managed to get a good bit done work-, travel-, and relationship-wise. There wasn’t so much “playing the field” as I met Mike when I was 20 ½. I realised pretty early on that I wanted to be with him into my old age, and that meant that the dating plan had to evaporate.Read more
I have just come back from what should have been two lovely days away with my Medjool. My new love. My number two. (Not Second Best. Just Number Two. Subtle but Important difference).
Some of our time away was lovely – truly relaxing, soothing, stunningly beautiful, comforting, renewing, and more. And some of it was just plain horrid. For me. And of course, I had to make it so for him because pain is just too big sometimes and I need someone else to feel some of it, to pass it on to, even if it’s totally unfair and unwarranted and immature and I should know better. And it’s not passing on the pain anyway. It’s doubling it. No one wins.
We went away on Friday 10th Jan. Four years to the day since David Bowie died. The world rocked and reeled instead of rocked and rolled. And four years to the day since my sweet youngest brother Edward died, aged 46, of a Glioblastoma brain tumour. My world rocked and reeled.
At one point in August 2015, the medical establishment said they gave him “two weeks to two months”. He had more than 5 more months. Not masses, but worth having. A pyrrhic victory for sure, because the outcome was the same. We counted his months in full moons. Friday 10th Jan 2020 was the "official” full moon of this month, and it was beautiful and stunning and sad and meaningful as it hung there massive as a pancake wanting to be gobbled up in the morning; and bright and tight and pert in the evening.Read more
Today is Friday 3rd January 2020.
Or 1/3/2020 if you’re somewhere in North America, but that looks plain wrong to me.
And anyway, that would be my dad’s birthday, 1st March. Not my uncle’s birthday, 3rd January. Both healthy, sporty, fit 81-year old men. 82 now for my uncle.
Today is 1000 days since Mike died. In about ten minutes, for he died at 15h05, it will be 1000 days. 1000 days since a friend, brother, uncle, husband and father died. Formerly a son, formerly a nephew, formerly a grandson. (Do we lose those roles when the relevant people who make us such die? I suppose so. But then that would mean that if all your kids died, you’d no longer be a parent, which would be blasphemous in the extreme).
One thousand days. ONE THOUSAND. A thousand days, each with 24 hours in them, each with 1,440 minutes in them, each with 86,400 seconds in them.
Day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day day dayRead more
I noticed Kelley Lynn put up a couple of lovely questions on her Facebook page in the run-up to Christmas. It went along the lines of:
- Tell me, what/who are you missing?
- And if you’re joyful, then say more about that
It’s Christmas morning, and I am sitting in bed. No rush here, because for over a decade, Mike and I said to our guests, “Christmas lunch will be 3pm or 4pm.
That habit probably started in my teens when, as a family we went to the Lake District, walking in the hills, at Christmas, and seven of us (plus hangers on) stayed in a tiny miner’s cottage. We had to go for a long walk just because it was beautiful, whatever the weather; and because inside we’d have got on top of each other, metaphorically in terms of nerves and literally in terms of bodies.
Then living with Mike in France, he and I got into the habit of going for a gentle Christmas jog in the local woods, which made the whole preparation thing get quite late. So late that lunch/early dinner it became. And of course, added bonus, there’s no need to actually provide lunch (nibbles will do), nor dinner (because you’re still stuffed).Read more
I am trying to get festive. I really am. But little things tick me off.
Like Christmas decorations. Particularly the really garish ones. And the plastic snowmen. The ones in our house are okay. Right now, that’s the sum total of an undecorated Christmas tree. And fairy lights that never actually went down after Christmas 2017. Somehow they have stayed permanent, if not always lit.
Like Christmas greetings. Particularly the, “2020 will be better than 2019”. Well, I heard that at the end of 2018, the end of 2017, the end of 2016 and the end of 2015. I now hold my tongue as a response, and if I am feeling benevolent respond with a light, “gosh – I do hope so”.
Like Christmas chit chat. “You must be so happy to have Ben and Megan home”. Yes – I am. And their presence, while comforting and warm and noisy and large is not comforting or warm or noisy or large enough. Julia’s absence is ever-present. More than ever. I slept in her bed two nights ago, when both my big ones were home. I have barely been in her room since she died. I haven’t wanted to be there. But I wanted to be in her bed on Saturday night. I needed to be in her bed, just as I had got Ben & Megan home safe and sound.
Like Christmas letters. I can’t even go there. But one was particularly painful as it talked of a very exciting and special time that was slap bang the day before the letter writer joined me in my family in Geneva for my youngest child’s funeral. When I think what I was doing those days – visiting the morgue, finding clothes for my dead child, meeting the celebrant and arranging for Julia’s friends to come and talk, preparing a funeral speech, arranging for beds for visitors, talking to police, cooking meals galore. Cathy N – your Christmas letter remains a firm favourite – a type of Christmas letter that I have long wanted to emulate and haven’t managed to do yet. But I live in hope.Read more
I have been pondering comfort, self-care, and help – what each of them is, to me, and what makes one or other easier and/or more accessible than another. Here is where I am at. And no, I have done no Googling or other research into what each of them is. Just research in my own life and experience. They are oft-used terms in Griefland – wobbly yet somehow vital components in this messy puzzle called life. Components that I have been shining a bit of a light on this week, supported by my therapist Catherine, and my grief guru Tom Zuba. This piece of writing won’t be particularly deep, nor complete. Just reflections at a point in time.
Self-Care, and more specifically, Extreme Self-Care. I pride myself on being excellent at “extreme self-care” – a concept I readily stole from Cheryl Richardson, having purchased her book with the same title, some 9 or so years ago. I’ve never done more than flick through her book but read enough to determine my own version of Extreme Self-Care, which has been about learning to trust what is good for me, how to monitor my health and energy, and how to restore energy when it was getting low.
My ability to self-monitor is pretty damned good (she says), and my strategies for (re)filling my bucket are vast. More to the point, my strategies provide enjoyment and are readily accessible. I have long been a bit of a guru, mentor, or role-model for others (specifically professional working mums) when it comes to extreme self-care, and the same skills have served me well in the land of Grief. Nothing makes the loss go away. Nothing makes anything better. But knowing if I am moving towards more pain, or able to shift microscopically towards some ease is often the difference between an awful day and an okay day. My ability to provide myself extreme self-care is second to none. For that I am grateful. And I know it helps me live and function as well as I currently do.Read more
Yes. I know. I have a funny thing about time. And dates. I take time to reflect on time and what time is, or might be.
Linear? Circular? Fluid? Fixed? Conceptual? Real? Polychronic? Monochronic? Measurable? Full of meaning and emotion? Or void of emotion and meaning?
Time takes on such a different meaning, a different feel, post-loss.
People say “Time stops”. I don’t think that’s true. I think “Time hangs, and grows pregnant, fit to burst”.
People say, “Time heals”. I don’t think that’s true either. I think healing is a choice, and you can heal from day one. Or even before. But it’s a choice.
People say, “In time you will just remember the sweet stuff”. That may be, over a long long long time, but not within 5 months, or 2.5 years, or even 3.5 or 4+ years. Yes – perhaps the sweet memories can start to outweigh the hard memories, but again there’s a massive element of choice, of intentionality, at play. It takes no effort at all for me to remember the hard stuff, if I choose to. And it takes no effort at all for me to remember the good stuff, if I choose to. If I am in a funk, only the crappy stuff comes. And if I am in a good space, more good stuff comes. It all hurts though. It’s either sweeter, or more poignant. Both hurt.
People also say, “It will get better”. I ask back, “What is the ‘it?’” My body’s aching? My fragile, hurting, bashed up heart? My quality of sleep? My engagement with life? My incessant fear about having another child die before I do? My roller-coaster emotions? What exactly gets better?
It’s all such hollow talk. Such shallow reflections. And totally useless. An abhorrent waste of time.
Here are some deeper – to me – reflections about time, post-loss.Read more
One of my favourite widbuds is Charlotte, who I met last year at the Soaring Spirits Camp Widow event in Toronto 2018. She is beautiful and strong and capable and clever and funny. And she’s grieving. And despite her grieving, she attended my daughter’s funeral, “just because she happened to be in Europe at the time”. We are both in a WhatsApp group of five widbuds, all of whom were at Camp Widow. Our Whatsapp name is Mourning Glories, which I love and think is rather brilliant. That was Pamela’s idea.
Despite there being just five of us, we rarely go quiet on one another as a group. I am sure that once a week “something happens” to one of us. Something of a trigger. Something hard. A challenge outside of the normal challenge of grieving. A challenge where we just wish our partner were there with us to pick up and carry the blanket of weight for a while. Or at least a corner of it. Or failing that, just witness it being carried.
Like Pamela attending the funeral of a dear, way-too-young friend, and witnessing the left-behind wife, and 7- and 9-year old kids.
Like Charlotte packing up a holiday home in the mountains, putting belongings in boxes, crying out past memories and future dreams, then driving home alone, for hours, to an empty home.
Like me packing up my youngest child’s bedroom this week, two hours a day over five separate days, this time wisely accompanied by friends who care.Read more
A little over 6 months ago, at the end of April 2019, two months before my 15 year-old daughter Julia died by suicide, and 2 years after Mike my husband died, I met a man on a dating website. He’s called Medjool, after my favourite kind of dates. Big, chewy, tasty, sweet. Yum.
Since there seems to be some kind of annoying gender difference whereby (many) single men prefer women who are quite a lot younger than them, and since I was only interested in meeting a man (approx.) my age, this Medjool was the only Medjool I met. He didn’t seem to share the common belief that prospective female partners should be 10-15 years younger than him. As it happens, I am 6 weeks older than he is.
I had one date with one Medjool. I had planned on having quite a number of Medjools but this Medjool was the one and only. As it happened, there were other women on the dating website interested in him, and Medjool was juggling not just me but another woman who too was dating just him. It took Medjool a little while to figure out – openly and transparently – that he needed to make a choice, which he did some 6 weeks later. Two weeks before Julia died.
Julia wouldn’t have liked the news but I am sure it was not a factor in her decision to take her life. I had planned to tell her and her older siblings just a few days into July, when the four of us were to be in Munich together seeing Elton John in his final tour. Julia never made that concert. She died 5 days before.
Medjool chose me.Read more
One of the patterns I have noticed in friends’ responses to whatever I happen to post on social media is that, when I post some good news, “happy photos”, or an achievement, I get 3 or 4 times as many “likes”, comments, and whoopy doos, than if I post something hard, messy, painful and tough. There the sorrow just hangs out its forlorn head alone, unnoticed.
I know there are a gazillion algorithms deep at work in the bowels of (for example) Facebook’s functioning, and when one person “likes” or comments on something, a whole host of their own friends will see it too. Especially if there is a connection to me. A snowballing of likes and comments ensues.
Some “likes” are more powerful than other “likes”. I am sure I could rank order my friends in terms of the impact of their likes. But I won’t. I am not particularly interested in Facebook’s bowel-y algorithms. I am sure they are functioning healthily.
What I find somewhat more fascinating is the underlying tendency for there to be more responses and comments when things are “good” than when things are “bad”. When I am “happy” than when I am “sad”.
Good news is rewarded. Cheered. Celebrated. Raved. Hearted and clapped and liked.
Sad, tough, lonely news is barely acknowledged.
Is it even seen? I don’t know. I think it is. I suspect that some friends see every single thing I write. That I am “tagged” in some way. Tracked, like an inmate with dodgy behaviour patterns.Read more