Every evening is dedicated to grieving. Sometimes this escalates to sobbing, screaming even, and may include incessant repetition of my very own mantra, but that’s OK. Sometimes, though less often, I cry quiet dignified tears. But then the sobs still come when I go to bed. If I don’t have this time to mourn, I feel even worse and spiral downwards RAPIDLY. The evenings were always ours, and they still are.
I have discovered a new means of enabling myself to sleep. To remember him. Quietly. Focus; almost meditate on every single contour of his face. The clear blue eyes and how expressive they were. How his hair laid on his neck. I can visualize it so clearly and it calms me because I CAN. It’s almost as though I am floating above him weightlessly and it is so real that I can almost touch him.
I make a big decision and have something to look forward to - I seek help from one of my Managers to enable me to make a decision about the car. This involves me sitting in the showroom like a child – mute - while he speaks to them for around 20 minutes, exploring all the avenues. He helps me work out the best way of managing the financial aspect of it and I make my first adult decision WITHOUT CLIFF, albeit with the comfort that I am doing this for the right reasons and not putting myself at risk financially. I reason that I have kept my side of our “deal” and even though he doubtlessly would not have chosen this car, this is a different world for me now. He is not here to fix the car when it breaks down at night in the dark and the rain. I even take the car for a test drive, despite being terrified without me by his side, despite my neighbour coming along for moral support.
I also work my way through all my personal paperwork and bills, even though I have to take it into work to accomplish this, because I simply CANNOT DO IT at home.
I have a setback. A repressed or forgotten memory from the day he went into hospital suddenly comes to me just before I drift off to sleep and this upsets me. BIG TIME. It is so clear, like I am watching a video on TV. Crystal clear. It is of him on the trolley in the corridor just after his CAT scan on his way into ER. He is shaking, really shaking uncontrollably. All of his body and limbs banging up and down erratically on the bed, and I am terrified for him. I am petrified that he is scared. I ask a nurse,
“Why is he doing that? What’s happening to him?”
and she explains that his body is reacting to what has happened to him, that it’s going into shock, not to worry, it’s normal and he will settle in a few seconds. He does and they move him into ER.
I FEAR now that more memories will surface. I am upset that I have forgotten that this happened. How COULD I forget what happened? The worst day of both our lives. I analyse this with some degree of logic and work out that there cannot be more memories, tucked away waiting to come and knock me so far down that I will never recover, because he was only in the corridor for a very short while. The rest of the time he was in ER or the Critical Care Ward, and I was not allowed in with him during the CAT Scan. I ponder on whether writing this blog has enabled this to come to front of my mind, and conclude that it probably is, but that I will persevere unless something drastically upsets me. In any event I will talk to my counsellor about it.
I manage my anger at work by keeping a low profile, and sounding off at one person who understands and won’t repeat what I say. This is Kimberly. Silent tears rolls down my face out of the blue and no one makes a fuss.
I take stock of where I am on this journey during these two weeks and write down some lists as follows.
What have I learned?
How much Cliff taught me and how much I am still remembering.
It’s OK to be selfish at the moment, so long as I don’t become self-centred.
Realizing that I am only thinking about his positive qualities – I cannot remember him irritating me. Even his snoring seems endearing today, and I am SURE it was NOT in reality
Accept help – this is not the time to be too proud.
Ask for help – so far people have been happy to oblige.
That my Mom, Dad and Cliff gave me a solid foundation (and confidence) on which I can and will build.
That there are people who don’t have the benefit of a foundation, in fact they were brought up without support or encouragement and therefore are more fragile than I am. They weren’t nurtured and no one had patience with them. In comparison to them I am in a better place today and need to be mindful of this.
That even though I would have never thought it possible, I think I love him EVEN MORE now.
That I am still learning from Cliff even though he has gone.
To be gentle to myself
Not to push myself too far or I can go backwards
I can’t delay any feelings by being busy
The difference between struggling and being incapable
My tolerance levels are off the chart. Below zero. Therefore I need to avoid Peggy next door because she has a drink problem and repeats herself and is incredibly self-centred. She stresses me out and irritates the fuck out of me. So I avoid her like the plague, at all costs.
It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all – I totally agree. I would not change my time with Cliff, if I could go back in time, in order to eradicate the pain I have today. NO WAY. He and my memories are worth every ounce of this nightmare.
I can be strong but not all the time.
My immune system is shot
It doesn’t matter that the volume of contact from people has decreased dramatically since the early days. I am left with those who actually want to hear the truth when they ask me how I’m doing. It’s quality not quantity that helps after the first couple of weeks.
This journey is not a linear process, nor are there fixed time constraints. I am me, and this will evolve in its own natural timeframe.
What has helped me?
Eating – even small amounts
The Forum/Discussion Board and the moral support, empathy and strength that it gives you. Knowing that you are in a safe environment and that these strangers, who become like family, truly understand.
Family and friends
The NOVA piece
Thinking that at the end of the day, I am in fact, one day closer to the day when I will be with him again, as dark as that sounds.
Knowing that I did my very best for him – the funeral arrangements, the Eulogy, my dignified behaviour on the day
Knowing that I was there for him when he died
Knowing that he died without pain or fear
The countless sympathy cards, including the ones from work that nearly all referred to the fact that they had heard so much about Cliff and how obvious it was that I loved him so much. This reaffirms that he was the centre of my life, that I appreciated him, that I didn’t take him for granted even though I think that he felt that way at times
The texts, voicemails, emails, Facebook, and phone calls
The stories that people tell me about him
Not being treated like a leper because I am a widow
Smelling him on laundry when I want to. Having this present through each night
Jenny, Sue, Kimberly and Tina telling me they are proud of me
Max and Faye – for being the best listeners
Vern’s company and practical help and encouragement
Routine and normalcy
Making a conscious decision NOT to go for a promotion. Because the world has changed for me. I am better in my comfort zone right now.
Laughing and my dark (sometimes sick and probably entirely inappropriate) sense of humour
Knowing how much he loved me
Other people’s problems (provided they don’t whinge and whine as that takes me way above my tolerance levels right now)
Reading “Companion through the Darkness” – this is the single most important book I have read in my life. It has brought me comfort because I have proof that I am reacting in a perfectly normal way and am not insane. It also teaches me that we all react at a different pace
Embracing the tsunami instead of fighting it
Accomplishing something new or persevering despite feeling scared, as small as it may appear to be and taking pride in that
Bringing his ashes home
Talking to him
Analyzing what may have triggered a “wobble” (when I fall off track to a greater degree)
Listening to Cliff/my inner voice
Intuitively I seem to be thinking like him which is good. He never led me wrong. This shows just how much I listened and took in over the years
My faith in life after death, even though I don’t have any fixed ideas about what this might look like, and the fact that he shared this faith
Understanding that I STILL feel that I don’t want to be here, I still want to go with him, but I’m slowly learning to function at the same time.
It’s alright to be angry, even if it’s an emotion I’m not comfortable with
I don’t need to afraid of the fact that I want to die so that I can be with him. It’s a natural reaction to losing a spouse. Importantly, I won’t commit suicide because he wouldn’t be happy with me and besides, I MIGHT GO TO A DIFFERENT PLACE forever then I’d be shafted for ETERNITY. My counsellor tells me that it will happen eventually but I need to have patience. Hmmm, that it not one of my stronger qualities.
I feel as though I have ALWAYS been with him, from the beginning of time almost, and that I will be reunited with him. I feel as though I was with him for HIS whole life, even before I met him. An analogy would be “The Time Travellers Wife” with an added complication or dimension, almost. My counsellor tells me this is because real love is eternal. I like this.
What can’t I do yet?
Cut down on the ridiculous amount I am smoking
Be at home without the TV on – THE SILENCE IS TOO LOUD AND PAINFUL
Listen to our/his music – Joe Cocker, Chris Rea, Peter Frampton, Texas, Shaggy, David Grey and THE SONG WE GOT MARRIED TO – Someone Like You (Van Morrison). (I can listen to the Kings of Leon as they are quite new and I don’t associate their music with Cliff).
Cook proper meals, especially if I’m alone
Throw away his mustard (in the fridge)
Watch Antiques Roadshow or Stargate SG1
Watch any movie that I ordered from
Go out in our old hometown to drink and socialize with our old friends
Watch animal documentaries, anything relating to the Caribbean, travel shows, Extreme Makeover Home Edition. The latter allows in GUILT. Guilt that I sat there watching it while the real thing was going on in my house, LIVE and being done out of love for me. A labour of love.
Listen to people telling me that it would be alright for me to meet someone else in the future (I feel very strongly that I WILL NOT and do NOT want to. I think they are wrong about their belief of what he would want. I know that he would want me to live a full life, be safe and be happy, but I don’t think for an instant that he would want me to be with anyone else. He never liked sharing. This upsets me to the point that I have to call Liz – another widow – and ask her what she thinks. She reassures me. Her rationale is that we married such mavericks that no-one can possibly compare to them. She adds that Cliff was “poles apart from anyone else she has ever known, and so strong, so fearless, that no one could ever come close to him”. This is why she thinks that I will not embark on another relationship. She has been widowed and “single” for the past 17 years, and there are plenty of single women in the world who have rich and full lives. So WTF do people keep telling me that it will happen and that it’s OK. Ain’t gonna happen. NOT. IN. A. MILLION. YEARS. Shut up about it PLEASE. My counsellor tells me that this can happen and that I probably don’t want to hear about it and she’s right. I DON’T.)
What haven’t I done yet that I feel I should attempt in the near future?
Next time I congratulate myself on adding eggs and bread to my shopping basket, I should try eating at least some of them
Move his jacket off the barstool in the kitchen
Take down the Santa’s that are still in the lounge, kitchen and toilet
Clean the house properly
Get Paul or Vern to see what’s wrong with my Kirby
Remove the dish and cup next to his side of the bed
Instruct the bank to pay off the mortgage
Sort out my new broadband connection and get it working
Read the first two posts on my blog out loud – Frances has suggested that I do this. That writing it down, then reading it out loud changes it in some way, and helps
See Liz – I think I am scared of what she has to say about her own journey
Quit worrying that talking to him out loud stops him from being at peace and is trapping him hear, possibly endangering him
Stop fearing that THE WORST IS YET TO COME. One day at a time. Nothing more, nothing less.
What makes me laugh or smile?
Sex and the City (Cliff wouldn’t watch it)
Malcolm in the Middle
memories (unless they are about him caring for me/looking after me – these make me incredibly sad, even if they are comforting)
St Trinian’s – DVD. A bonus is the fact that I manage to get the DVD to work. I put in the scart lead and figure out which output it is. I did it Cliff! Hoorah!
What are my next hurdles?
Dealing with a spider (my neighbour will deal with it. I mean how badly I will react to it)
I must finish the house. It would be criminal to let his hard work go to waste. Disrespectful even. But, it will be incredibly difficult and painful to move on, see his brothers touch his tools, move his stuff and I am DREADING it. I know I won’t be ready for another month (at least). He has written on some of the walls in our home – measurements, or words like; washing machine, fridge, sink. Then Jenny tells me that she writes on walls when she redecorates – the words are STILL THERE, but you can’t see them. Just like him really.
Sorting through boxes of stuff of his – paperwork, his little treasures, who knows what I will come across, what will reduce me to more pain.
Contemplating recycling any of his clothes. I know that I will keep anything that holds a memory. One baby step at a time and not until I AM READY. NO WAY.
Getting used to the new car
Letting go of this car because we travelled in it together
Taking the dogs to the vet alone
Putting the dogs in kennels when I stay away for the night (because my neighbours complained that Fred barks all night when I stay with friends or family. Obviously they have been impacted by Cliff dying too, so I will worry about them even more now.)
Disposing of the ashes. I will keep a teeny-tiny amount to alleviate this.
My birthday – the other day I remembered how Cliff held me for at least four hours while I sobbed and sobbed, “I don’t want this birthday” the year after my surviving parent had died. We stood like that for half the day, and in the end he told me I had to stop because he was crying with me.
Our Wedding Anniversary
New Year’s Eve
What I miss about him the most at the moment
Feeling safe ALL THE TIME even if he wasn’t with me 24/7
The way he could give me good advice and seemed to have a better understanding of my work environment, despite the fact he had NEVER even been inside the building
His sense of humour, sarcasm and sense of fun
His patience with me and understanding of me. He knew me better than I know myself
His understanding of what makes people tick.
His gentle counsel on human behaviour when I despaired
Our laughter. His laugh.
Watching him cut a piece of wood, without measuring it, and always being amazed that it fit perfectly
His ability to work his way through dilemmas, additionally his capability, skill and knowledge to make things, fix our home, plumbing, electrics, … the list is endless
Getting excited about seeing him, even after 15 years together
Feeling part of a whole
Knowing I’ll NEVER feel the same again
His intelligence and intellect
Our easy bantering and bouncing off each other (verbally)
Discussing stuff that when we watched documentaries
Touching him and breathing him in
Sharing my day with him
How he made me feel
Never giving up
His kindness and thoughtfulness
Being near him
Our holidays and lazy days
My ability to see beauty in the world with him by my side
Being able to cope with the evil and suffering in this world because I had to remedy to this next to me
HIM – all of HIM
Where do I hope to be in 5 years time?
I’ll know more about gardening and DIY and my home will look welcoming
I’ll think about him every day, and cry less often
I’ll still be listening to what he taught me
I’ll have a social life, rather than NEEDING to see people because they are my security blanket
I’ll be playing the saxophone he bought me
I’ll listen to our music and smile
I’ll host a family reunion or Christmas
I’ll no longer be delaying what I don’t want to do
I’ll cook again, even alone
I’ll still travel, but to see friends rather than to resorts
I’ll have been promoted and will have developed professionally
I’ll still miss him but be more adjusted to living without him
I’ll get excited watching fireworks
My dogs will be better trained
He’ll still be proud of me
I’ll blog around once a month instead of daily/weekly
I’ll still logon to the Forum but with the purpose of helping others
I’ll think about what he’d say, do or think, but not out loud all the time
I won’t feel guilty because he spoiled me and let me behave like a child in an adult’s world. I’ll remember how hard I worked instead.
I’ll have had THE dream (After my Mom died, she came to me in a dream, aged in her 30’s, wearing the elegant suits and slingback shoes she used to wear when I was very small, to say goodbye to me and to reassure me that she was alright. Although this distressed me at the time, when I awoke, it gave me unbelievable comfort and still does today. Cliff had an eerily similar dream (without my telling him about my own version) which distressed him equally. I woke up in the middle of the night to find him sitting on the edge of the bed, crying. His mother had also visited him in a vivid dream to give him the same message. His mother was also in her 30’s, in her prime really, similarly dressed.)
I remember a recently widowed colleague telling me that she wished she could fast-forward her life by five or ten years. Conversely, I don’t want to. I don’t want to lose the lesson. He’s lost his life. The least I can do is learn from this and from him.