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Monday, April 27, 2009

A Major Setback

My neighbour Paul came round to tell me that his wife Peggy has been hospitalized because her kidneys and liver are failing. She is also incontinent, hasn't eaten for 3 weeks, but was still drinking White Lightning. All at the age of 36. It's heartbreaking.

So, I insisted on driving him and the girls to hospital to see how she is, and follow them to the ward she's staying on for the next 2 months.

IT'S THE SAME WARD THAT CLIFF DIED IN.

I start shaking, really shaking, so much so that one of the Senior Sisters came over to see if I was okay.

I told her that I probably needed a sugar fix. There was no way I was going to tell her what the real issue was ... because if I did, I would have started howling.

She probably thinks I'm a White Lightning drinker too.

----------------------------------------------------


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Lightning_(cider)

This stuff should be banned ... it's evil.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More inappropriate jokes

Three women sit in a beauty parlor talking about their husbands. The first woman says, "Last night my husband said he was going to his office, but when I called they said he wasn't there!""I know!" the next woman says, "Last night my husband said he was going to his brother's house, but when I called he wasn't there."The third woman says, "I always know where my husband is.""Impossible!" both women exclaim, "He has you completely fooled!""Oh no," says the woman. "I'm a widow."

One Sunday, a pastor asked his congregation to consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns.After the offering plates were passed, the pastor noticed that someone had contributed a $100 bill. Extremely grateful, he wanted to personally thank the generous person before the whole congregation.A quiet, elderly widow shyly raised her hand. The pastor asked her to come to the front. Slowly she made her way to the pastor. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and asked her to pick out three hymns.Her eyes brightened as she pointed to the three handsomest men in the congregation: "I'll take him and him and him."

One day, a fairy visits a lonely widow and says that she is there to give her three wishes. ''I wish I was 21 and beautiful!'' The wish is instantly granted.''I wish I had a million dollars!'' The wish is granted.''I wish that my cat here were the most handsome guy in the world and was madly in love with me.'' The wish is granted. The now young lady and her man go inside. They start to cuddle, and the man looks at her. ''Aren't you upset that you had me fixed?''

Three hicks were working on a telephone tower - Steve, Bruce and Jed. Steve falls off and is killed instantly. As the ambulance takes the body away, Bruce says, "Someone should go and tell his wife." Jed says, "OK, I'm pretty good at that sensitive stuff, I'll do it." Two hours later, he comes back carrying a case of beer. Bruce says, "Where did you get that, Jed?" "Steve's wife gave it to me," Jed replies. "That's unbelievable, you told the lady her husband was dead and she gave you beer?" Well, not exactly", Jed says. "When she answered the door, I said to her, 'You must be Steve's widow'." She said, "No, I'm not a widow!" And I said, "I'll bet you a case of Budweiser you are.

"Do you ever get horny?" said one widow to the other. "Sure." "What do you do about it?" "I suck on a lifesaver." "Oh. That works?" "Yep." "What beach do you go to?"

Good Lyrics

Here are two songs that I can really relate to right now:

Everything I own

You sheltered me from harm
Kept me warm, Kept me warm
You gave my life to me Set me free, Set me free
The finest years I ever knew, Were all the years I had with you
And I will give everything I own, I'll give my life, my heart, my home
I will give everything I own Just to have you back again.
You taught me how to love, What its all, all above
You never said too much But still you showed the way
In my new, I'm watching you Nobody else will ever know
The part of me that can't let go I will give anything I own
I'll give up my life, my heart, my home I will give everything I own
Just to have you back again
Is there someone you know You're loving them so
But taking them all for-granted You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away And they don't hear the words you long to say
I would give anything I own, I'll give up my life, my heart, my home,
I will give everthing I own Just to have you back again
Just to touch you once again

Run (Snow Patrol. Also beautifully sung by Leona Lewis)

I'll sing it one last time for you
Then we really have to go
You've been the only thing that's right
In all I've done
And I can barely look at you
But every single time I do
I know we'll make it anywhere
Away from here
Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear
And we'll run for our lives
I can hardly speak I understand
Why you can't raise your voice to say
To think I might not see those eyes
Makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbye I nearly do

Light up...
We don't have time for that
All I want is to find an easier way
To get out of our little heads
Have heart my dear
We're bound to be afraid
Even if it's just for a few days
Making up for all this mess

Here's Leona singing it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl7r2ApESN4

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pearls of Wisdom

This is something that someone has said to me in the past month:

"Everything happens for a reason. At least you are young. It could be worse."

What I thought: REALLY? Like, that means I have more years ahead of me to be miserable in. Or ... are you insinuating that I should go clubbing and pick someone up because I still can? What could be worse than losing my heart, my love and my life? Oh, and would you like to explain to me just what the reason might be?

What I actually said: Mmmmm.

Thank God I read "Companion Through the Darkness" where the author describes how someone responds to her losing her husband with, "really, oh that's dreadful, my mother lost her breast to breast cancer" and she then thinks to herself ..."you are comparing losing a tit to losing a husband". She has a dark sense of humour as I do, so I just think about tits and husbands and try not to smirk, every time someone says something stupid to me.

I know that we cannot possibly expect the untouched to know or understand, but if they are that clueless, can't someone just gag them when they come near me.

Another friend has suggested that I collect all these pearls of wisdom and publish them ... perhaps I could call it "Boo's boobs" (geddit? ;-)

And every time someone tells me they know how I feel because they have lost a parent? I agree with the book I read ... they are "amateurs" as she calls them, and I want to scream at them ... "I've lost my mother and father, and this is like losing them both x 1000. That was bad, but in comparison to this, it was CHICKEN FEED. Don't compare or demean what I am going through BECAUSE YOU JUST DON'T KNOW and I pray that you never ever will."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I had a dream ...

I dream that the past three months have been nothing other than a bad dream.

I can touch him, see him, smell him.

"Are you sure?" I ask him.

As I hold him, he disintegrates in my arms, into nothing.

I wake up ... distraught, and he is not here to console me.

Now I am too scared to sleep.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The best kind of message

Today I received, via Facebook, a really thoughtful message from a friend at work. Liz said that she had been following my blog and found it compelling reading, which is a nice compliment, however the best is yet to come.

To put some context around what she said, I’d like to add that I happen to know that this friend has four kids, is arranging her wedding, decorating her house, trying to place her daughter in a decent school (no mean feat), as well as adjusting to a new role.

Liz offered to drive to where I live (around an hour’s drive), should I find this Bank Holiday weekend gives me too much free time on my own (we all know what that is a euphemism for in reality), she’d be happy to get silly with me (which translates as plenty of drinking), and essentially give me company.

I thought this was the best kind of help. Apart from putting food in front of me, of course. Sometimes, just to know that the offer is there, is enough. I have just done TWO DAYS ON MY OWN, and was planning on driving to the coast tomorrow to see Dad and Jenny, so I had balanced it pretty well … allowed half the time alone for crying, and the rest for trying to live. But, I got another cold/bug, so that's not going to happen.


And, I’m proud to say that I VACUUMED THE LOUNGE for the first time since Cliff died. I’m amazed my Kirby didn’t blow up.

Time to think about new clothes for work

Today, as I walked up the stairs at work, my trousers almost fell down. There are 900 people in my building and it’s all open-plan. The only solid walls are in the toilets. Do the risk assessment.

I have lost weight. I am eating properly during the week NOW, but I’m still losing weight, albeit at a more gradual pace more recently.

So, my black trousers now sit on my hips instead of my waist. Which means the hems drag on the floor unless I wear high heels. So I do.

Nonetheless, today, my heel got caught in the hem of my right trouser leg (clearly, I have lost quite a lot more weight) … and there I was, carrying a hot drink in one hand and my laptop in the other.

Dilemma – do I risk falling over, or drop the hot drink on a colleague and waste my laptop, or expose my bum to roughly 200 people?

Luckily for everyone, the only damage done was that I tore the hem.


I will go and buy some new outfits for work, but I don’t have the energy or inclination. NOT YET. MAYBE TOMORROW. NOT YET.

Games and Awkward Silences

The stuff I ordered for our Innovation Space (at work) arrived today. There was plasticine, lego, a rubik’s cube, an etch-a-sketch, a slinky, amongst other items.

One of the other items was an ice-breaker in the guise of a football.

So, Kimberly and I found ourselves playing with the ball by our desks. To and fro. To and fro. Whichever question your thumb lands on when you catch the ball, you have to answer.

Q. What was the last difficult situation you had to deal with at work?
A. Boo - Boring … move on.

Q. Where did you go on your last holiday?
A. Kimberly – Turkey … and it sucked.

Q. What major event has happened in your life recently?
A. Boo - Erm, that would be MY HUSBAND DIED.

Kimberly nonchalantly catches the ball, saying, “Oh really” as if she didn’t know and couldn’t care less, MOVING SWIFTLY ONTO THE NEXT QUESTION …

Q. What skills and experience do you most draw on when managing people?
A. Kimberly - I don’t line-manage. I’m bored with this now.


You could FEEL the place FREEZE, go silent as we carried the stuff to the Innovation Space. All the hubbub and background noise diminished. NADA. ZILCH. Everyone too embarrassed to laugh when we did. Almost holding their breath.


I really do enjoy inappropriate humour. But especially now. Its darkness seems entirely appropriate. Upside down. Fucked up.

Mysteries


Are fairies putting out my bin every week?

Because I am not.

Perhaps I should ask my neighbour Paul if he is doing it for me because he knows that Cliff always did it, and he realizes I won’t remember.

Or have the refuse collectors become more flexible?

Doubt it.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am scared. The door to the hot tub house was wide open this morning. Now I am worrying that someone is creeping around in the night, stealing, TOUCHING HIS STUFF that is stored in there. HIS TOOLS. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT’S IN THERE BECAUSE THERE ARE SPIDERS IN THERE. I’M SURE THERE ARE.

Mental note to self: ask Paul and Vern if the door was pad-locked.

Buy a heavy duty padlock and put it on the door, then DON’T LOSE THE DAMN KEY.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

God, I MISS HIM. I feel so useless and stupid all the time now. I don’t know ANYTHING anymore. I don’t know how to do anything. I’m not capable, I’m not ready for this.

Can I do this? Can I? Is there ANY chance of me getting my shit together? EVER?

I miss you.

Joke


I received a joke via text today from Kim.

A couple make a deal that whoever dies first will come back and tell the other about the afterlife. The husband dies first and makes contact with Gladys, his wife.

Is that you, Fred?

Yes, I’ve come back to tell you what it’s like. I have sex before breakfast. Then go off to the golf course, then more sex. Then I sunbathe, followed by more sex. Have lunch, romp around the golf course again, then have more sex. Then supper, then more sex.

Are you in heaven, Fred?

No, I’m a fucking rabbit in Suffolk.


Kim will have texted this to her entire address book. I picture her saying to Chris, OMG I’ve sent that to Boo. Oh god, do you think she’ll find it funny? Oh NO, how embarrassing.

And Chris saying, YOU’VE DONE WHAT?


I don’t make her suffer. I quickly forward onto her an even more inappropriate joke so that she knows it’s OK.

Five seconds later I receive another text:

Hi Boo. How are you, my lovely?


New Life


I look out of the kitchen window this morning and see it.

The tree has blossomed.

The tree that he moved and replanted.

He stood there three years ago, holding the whole tree with one outstretched arm, and asked if I could look up what he needed to do, in our Garden Encyclopaedia.

I ran around frantically looking. Can’t find it. It’s moved.

I can’t find it, hang on, I’m dialling Julie-Ann RIGHT NOW. She’ll know.

He smiles patiently.

I listen and repeat the advice.

He makes it so.

And today it blooms.

Another thing that he nurtured, gave a strong foundation to, looked after, and sought to understand.

It’s still alive … and every year I will smile when I remember.

Temporary and Partial Absolution


Jenny tells me that:

You were the way you were. It’s the way you were. You were both happy with it that way. Cliff was happy to be the way he was, the way he treated you. Look, if Cliff had wanted to give up smoking, he would have done. He did once before, YEARS ago. OK? And if he’d not been happy to treat you or look after you the way he did, he wouldn’t have. He’d have soon moaned about it. There’s no point thinking about it. It’s not your fault and you can’t blame yourself. He was happy with you. We were happy that he was with you. Mum even said that she wasn’t worried about him anymore. She stopped worrying that he’d end up dead in some alleyway after he met you.

His Dad tells me the best thing that Cliff ever did was:

moving away with you.

My friend Kathy phones me and I tell her some of my fears – my DEMON.

She tells me:

I’m sure he didn’t know that he was going to die. None of us ever do. But on a sub-conscious level, if we are in touch with our body, like the way he was, and because you were so close as a couple, I do believe we are aware BUT ONLY SUBCONSCIOUSLY, like on a different level. And this is therefore why you get intuitive thoughts and feelings and you feel that you were fore-warned. But it only becomes clear with HINDSIGHT, which again PROVES that he didn’t actually KNOW, but subconsciously our bodies know what’s going on and sometimes they send us signals.


But I still can’t expel the demon. He keeps coming back to visit me.

Unless I am angry. Or in that deep dark place.

The Commercials that follow me

Since Cliff died, in fact, immediately after he died, they have been running THREE commercials. And I swear they follow me everywhere I go. I seem to see these at least once or twice EACH DAY. Friends have asked me if I’ve seen them because they find them upsetting too.

F.A.S.T.

Face – can they smile?
Arm – can they move both arms?
Speech – is their speech slurred?
Time to dial 999 … (no shit, Sherlock)

It’s an awful commercial. Surely if anyone displayed those symptoms, even a child would figure that they needed an ambulance.

IT LIES TO PEOPLE. IT GIVES FALSE HOPE AND CANNOT KEEP ITS PROMISE. There should be a caveat at the end of the commercial … BECAUSE JUST BECAUSE YOU ACT FAST, YOU CAN’T ALWAYS SAVE “MORE OF THE PERSON” … SOME STROKES ARE SO DAMAGING, SO TRAUMATIC TO THE BRAIN, THAT THERE IS NO WAY YOU COULD SAVE THEM, EVEN IF YOU HAD YOUR OWN OPERATING THEATRE AT HOME AND YOU HAPPENED TO BE QUALIFIED AS A BRAIN SURGEON AND CARDIOLOGIST.

The Co-operative commercial with soundtrack of “Blowin’ in the Wind” (Dylan).

I have no idea what they are talking about because I HAVE to change channel when this rears its ugly head. This is the song that Jayde chose to have played at his funeral, and I can’t listen to it. NOT YET.

A Funeral Business commercial. I think this is the handiwork of the Co-operative again – the bastards. They make it sound like it’s easy. Even if they did everything for you, it would still be hardest thing you ever had to do in your life. WTF do they know? Has their husband or wife died?

WTF were ALL THREE OF THESE HATED REMINDERS put on TV almost the second I lost him? Huh, huh, huh???

And when will they stop airing them?

Handouts from my Counsellor


Bereavement Risk Assessment

Factors which may complicate a bereavement


Inability to discuss feelings opening
Uses “denial” to avoid painful feelings
Overly dependent on the deceased
Not attached to the deceased
Personality disorder
Alcohol/addiction in any form
Poor physical /mental health
Low self esteem/sense of personal worth
Multiple losses
Traumatic/violent death
Childhood loss of parent/parent figure/sibling
Loss of a child
Any complicated unresolved loss
Homicide/suicide
Abused as a child/within a marriage
Poor emotional care prior to death
Social isolation
Lack of participation in death/funeral rituals
Other dependants, e.g. children
Financial/housing/insecurity

Apparently, if two or more of these factors apply to a bereaved person, the bereavement can become complicated, ie complicated grief.

I asked if smoking counted as an addiction and Frances confirmed that it did not. I also pondered on the fact that I classed myself as too dependant on Cliff, but she explained that in this context, it means that the deceased was a Carer, i.e. the deceased looked after the bereaved in a fundamental way, e.g. had to bathe and dress them, get them out of bed etc.

So, the good news is … I’m not likely to “get” complicated grief.

IT DOES NOT BEAR THINKING ABOUT. THAT THIS COULD BE ANY WORSE. I CANNOT IMAGINE. THIS PUTS MY PAIN INTO PERSPECTIVE, only for a short while, but even so … THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO HAVE IT WORSE THAN ME.

I am going to do this. (perhaps) I CAN DO THIS.



Bereavement/Mourning and Grief

Bereavement is the state of having sustained a loss.
Mourning is the conscious and unconscious process evoked by loss; it is influenced by culture and society.
Grief is the process of letting go of what was and moving towards the future.

Phase

Numbness lasting less than a week to two months or more. Periods of panic. Persistant denial is common.

Task

Accepting the reality of the loss. May include “selective forgetting”, or denying death is irreversible.

Phase

Yearning, protesting, searching. Pre-occupation with the dead person (or places/possessions identified with the deceased). Anger and guilt.

Task

Experiencing the pain of grief.

Phase

Disorganization, aimlessness, apathy. Feeling powerless.

Task

Adjusting to an environment in which the deceased is missing. I’m trying my hardest.

Phase

Building a new identity and establishing a purpose in life. THIS MAKES ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE. I AM STILL ME. MY PURPOSE IN LIFE IS NOW TO MAKE HIM PROUD OF ME, TO DO MY BEST WITHOUT HIM, TO WORK, TO LOVE MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND ENJOY THEIR COMPANY. MY PURPOSE IN LIFE HASN’T CHANGED. I SEE THIS AS A JOURNEY THAT I HAVE TO GO ON. THE DESTINATION IS LESS IMPORTANT. ALONG THIS JOURNEY I WILL ADJUST TO HIM NOT BEING HERE AND WILL EVENTUALLY PARTICIPATE IN A SOCIAL LIFE AS A SINGLETON.

Task

Withdrawing emotional energy from the dead person and investing it elsewhere – new causes, new relationships etc. I DON’T THINK SO!!!! New causes may have a chance though.


Taken from: “Bereavement” – Penguin Press 1975 and “Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy” – Tavistock Publications 1984


Sooner or later, some of those who avoid all conscious grieving, break down – usually with some form of depression. (John Bowlby)


I have highlighted in pink the behaviours/feelings that I have already displayed or am currently experiencing. I am wrestling with the stuff in red especially the NEW RELATIONSHIP thing. Ain’t going to happen. EVER. Watch my lips.


The Loss Cycle

EVENT - Your loved one dies

Your energy levels rise

You experience GUILT, SHAME, BLAME
It’s my fault
It’s their fault

Energy levels drop

WHY ME?

ANGER – often unfocussed, repeated searching, bargaining, sleeplessness, unpredictable behaviour

Energy levels continue to drop

DESPAIR – What’s the point? Depression, Apathy.

Energy levels start to rise, eventually returning to normal

RENEWAL



Frances made it VERY clear to me that it takes YEARS to journey through the “Loss Cycle”, that it is NOT a linear process, that I may experience ALL of it, MOST of it, or SOME of it. Everyone is different and I should avoid comparing my “progress” with anyone else, no matter how similar the situation.

I’d concur. So far … at a little over three months since my world crumbled … I have bounced erratically from an ALMOST MANIC STATE where I was obsessing with the tiniest details, refusing to take a break from all the funeral arrangements – I WAS ON A MISSION - and could almost feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins – I could definitely feel my heart beating loudly and so, SO fast for that whole month (ENERGY LEVELS RISE), to GUILT, to ANGER, to a DEEP DARK PLACE (almost certainly DEPRESSION and APATHY), to IT’S NOT FAIR, WHY YOU? WHY ME? The day after the funeral my energy levels plummeted to an all-time record low. They are still very low, albeit a little higher than two months ago. It is a struggle to get out of bed for work every day. By Wednesday I am wiped out. I am dreading returning to a 5 day week. It’s a massive achievement to vacuum ONE ROOM for the first time in 3 months. Yep, I am most definitely bouncing around, as though EACH OF THE ABOVE WORDS WERE A TRAMPOLINE, and landing on them COMPLETELY AT RANDOM.

They should call it The Vicious (or Cruel) Cycle not The Loss Cycle




The Worst Demon

I gather up all the random things he said. All the random uneasy feelings I had during 2008. AND PUT THEM ALL IN A BUCKET. This compounds the fact that they may NOT have been random, in fact; perhaps I had been extremely remiss and ignored a clear, CRYSTAL CLEAR MESSAGE. And ignored it. How can I forgive myself for this? YOU DON’T DESERVE FORGIVENESS. This is the sentence and punishment that I impose upon myself.

MEA CULPA. MEA CULPA. MEA CULPA.

You’ll miss me when I’m gone, you know

I might not be bringing you tea in the mornings anymore

Don’t ever make the mistake of going round his house on your own. He may be friendly now, but he’s evil Boo and more than capable of pretending that everything’s forgotten just so that he can trap you. Hurt you. He’s capable of killing you and he’d kill me too if I EVER let my guard down. Do you understand, Boo?

His stocking one of the freezer shelves with microwavable meals for one

Him, seeming to miss our old home-town … or was this because he’d been working on our house on his own for the past year, and was naturally feeling the solitude that this brought with it while I was at work?

His determination and zealousness to finish the house and the fact that this seemed, to me, to outweigh his loss of earnings. My lack of understanding of this. The niggling confusion that this brought me. My reluctance to confront him over it. His spoken intentions to return to self-employed work after the holidays, but adding I don’t think I could do it again (referring to employing sub-contractors, taking on big projects vs. working on small projects on his own or with one labourer). AND ME BEING SATISFIED WITH THIS EXPLANATION instead of probing deeper to double-check that he had no hidden worries or demons OF HIS OWN.

You’ll feel bad later – when I protest that I HAVE to finish a project for work on my laptop instead of going to the builders’ merchants with him to look at materials for the house.

His stamina decreasing over the previous year, so slowly that it was barely discernable, yet I DID NOTICE and casually DISMISSED IT AS PART OF US GROWING OLDER. NATURAL. But it wasn’t, was it?

My own confidence at work had grown to the extent that I could RIDE MY BIKE WITHOUT STABILIZERS. I was sharing my day rather than asking him for his counsel now.

My old demons had been expelled. Confidence had taken their place. He had carried out the “exorcism” and so carefully managed my much earlier journey of coming to terms with how deceptive people, even friends I thought I knew and trusted, could be. He had healed me. He had taught me the most important lessons and they were now familiar and deeply embedded within me. Part of me. Copied and pasted directly from him. Although I still sought reassurance that he agreed with my rationale about anything, even if I felt sure, I was getting ready to listen to my own inner voice - because it was his. The one that had grown, through osmosis, to emulate his. His rebelling against this – you don’t listen to me anymore. BUT I DID. BUT HOW DID I LET HIM BELIEVE THAT I DIDN’T? WHAT DID I DO TO MAKE HIM THINK THAT? It kills me, breaks my heart. I feel like I have betrayed him. Treated him like dirt. He was my world. But I have done something to cause him to complain that I don’t care about his advice anymore. Perhaps don’t even need him anymore. WTF? You stupid bitch. I still want him, I still need him, I still love him. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE????? I CRUCIFY MYSELF.

I’ve lived three lifetimes during my life, Boo. But I want to live for YOU, because of you. It doesn’t matter so much FOR ME. If it was just me, I wouldn’t care if I died tomorrow. Did I make him think that I didn’t need him, or worse, didn’t want him anymore? OMG I can’t BEAR it. No, no, no, no, no. Oh Cliff, I am so, so sorry darling. It’s killing me. My heart is breaking. My beautiful strong husband.

I’ve never shared so much of my life, invested the time to explain everything, to ensure that we survived together. It’s important to me that you understand.

I saw someone today in Margate, and he told me he’d heard that I’d died. At least if we go out down there everyone will know that I’m not dead. YET. Me laughing at how ridiculous it is.

It’s important, next year, I’ll go to that shop in town and get you a decent Christmas card. That’s the only one they had left – alluding to the fact that he wasn’t happy with the card he got me. Usually he bought me one with lovely words inside, a WIFE card. But this bothered him more than it should have. OUT OF CHARACTER. Checking that I knew.

Don’t worry about cooking a big dinner. We can have anything. But I insisted and am so pleased now that I bothered to cook us a really nice proper roast on Christmas Day. Did I know it would be our last one somehow?

Driving home after he visits Dad and Jenny for the last time, the night sky is reminiscent of the clear night skies you witness in the Caribbean, magical almost. We have not seen such a beautiful one since the night we sat on a beach, apart, carefree, intimate, at ease with each other and enjoying each other, having a drink with a view of the full moon through the leaves of a palm tree. The stars were so damn bright and beautiful. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. Was this a gift? Another final taste before disaster struck? Or was it a warning? An OMEN. Look at the sky, Boo. Look at the stars.

Seeing Vicki and Bobert and talking about friends, long-gone, fondly. One of us saying, “I wonder who it will be next” and Cliff scoffing, “probably me”

You wouldn’t have any problem finding someone after I’ve gone, in this house – said in jest, but STILL SAID. Me, telling him off and being serious, “Don’t even say that. DON’T SAY THAT.”

Getting mashed together and listening to a song and him saying in jest, “you can play this at my funeral” and me admonishing him - DON’T SAY THAT.

Watching Forever Young (movie with Julia Roberts) and me crying at the end. Him laughing because I had reacted true to form, then saying, “Oh darling, would you hold my hand when I died? Would you do that for me?” And me sobbing that I would. Oh come here and holding me.

Please God, don’t take him from me – an unspoken but silent plea that I kept feeling compelled to say each time I got out of my car on the driveway, again and again during 2008. I love him so much. Praying for us to have a long, happy marriage together, and to grow old together. Praying more regularly than usual.

The god-awful dream that I had roughly six months before he died. I was at an offsite meeting in Derby. I woke myself up because I had been crying in my sleep. I dreamed that he had died. I’d had to call an ambulance, and he’d either had a heart attack or a stroke, I think. But he was definitely DEAD. And I was inconsolable. More so after I woke up. I had to fight the urge to phone him at 03h00 to check that he was okay, but called him at 07h00, and started crying when I told him about the nightmare, just at the memory of THE DREAM. He consoled me over the phone, and then I moved on. But I do remember him telling me that he was awake at 03h00 thinking and worrying about me, but he didn’t know why. In fact, he had wanted to call me but decided that I wouldn’t hear the phone, or I’d be ugly all day if my sleep was broken. The hotel I as staying in was opposite the Derby Infirmary, so I logically concluded that the ambulance sirens had permeated my dream. But I remember telling two colleagues about it. It shook me up. JUST HOW CRYSTAL CLEAR A SIGN DID I NEED???

Watching The Vikings the night before he had his stroke and almost crying with the emotion, the imagined, yet then; unimaginable loss, picturing it as though it had been my Cliff having the Viking Burial. Hearing the VIKING HORNS play and switching channels because I couldn’t watch it anymore.

Steve looking at me, stunned, when we are at the hospital, when I announce that I want him to have a “Viking Burial” and then telling me, that he and Marilyn had also been watching the movie (The Vikings), and that he had eerily commented to her that that was the way “he’d like to go”. He knows that I cannot know, but why do I seem to be aware of the conversation he has had with his wife?

Cliff telling me twice that it must have been so hard for my parents to let us go whilst maintaining strong eye contact with me (referring to the two times that he had been fostered) as though it was important that I remembered this, THAT I WAS PAYING ATTENTION. (Soon after Cliff dies, I will question, over and over again, if I am supposed to comfort his father with these words, DELIVER THIS MESSAGE, but decide not to bring the subject up “cold”, and only to share this if the conversation naturally lends itself to the opportunity).

Cliff recounting his dream to me about us being in serious danger - in a flood. A mo-fo flood. That he was completely beside himself with fear. FOR ME. Because he couldn’t find me and he knew I’d wait for him somewhere, rather than proactively find a safe haven. He remembered the relief, how happy he was when he finally caught sight of me, I WAS FINE, but he knew that HE WOULD NOT BE. BUT HE DIDN’T MIND. BECAUSE I WAS ALRIGHT. HE WAS NO LONGER SCARED. Another warning given to us in a dream? This upset me because I knew that he’d actually react that way … “so long as I was alright.” He was so selfless.

Me mumbling under my breath, I could kill him, when he has smeared butter all over the fridge and kitchen cupboard doors, hours before he has his stroke. How could I have said that?
That I had told him I couldn’t make his doctor’s appointment for him, just before Christmas, because I was leaving work and would miss my bus. Him asking me for the number and me rushing.

That I didn’t go to the Doctor with him because I was at work. WHY DIDN’T I BOOK AN EXTRA DAY OFF? WHY?

That I didn’t question why he hadn’t been prescribed the best statin on the market and I WORK IN THE PHARMA INDUSTRY.

THAT WHEN HE TOLD ME HIS STOMACH KEPT FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE – BLOATED AND HEAVY - AND MADE HIS BREATHING HEAVY. THAT WHEN HE STARTED NAPPING ON THE SOFA IN THE MORNINGS (AS I SLEPT IN DURING THE HOLIDAYS), INSTEAD OF HIS NORM - DOING STUFF ON THE HOUSE … THAT I DIDN’T FUCKING REALIZE THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG, THAT HE WAS SPEEDING TOWARDS THE CATASTROPHE THAT HAPPENED.

WTF DID I NOT INSIST THAT WE WENT TO ER AND ME MAKE A FUSS AND GET HIM THOROUGHLY CHECKED OUT? Why?

That I didn’t attempt to give up smoking after the last failed episode, three years previously, so that he could have had a fair shot at doing the same.

That I assumed he would go on forever because he was my rock, my beautiful strong husband.

THAT I DIDN’T DESERVE HIM.

IT’S MY FAULT. YOU HAD THE BEST MAN IN THE WORLD. THE MOST SPECIAL PRECIOUS GIFT AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN TAKE CARE OF IT.


MEA CULPA
MEA CULPA
MEA CULPA


The dogs don’t even come to me when my body heaves with the weight, with the sobs. They know it’s my fault too.

Then I turn almost paranoid and start thinking that he KNEW but hid it from me, to protect me, so we had more happiness together. Tried to get me ready. All the signs are there. CRYSTAL CLEAR.

Brave New World

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?

Talking
Eating – even small amounts
Sleeping enough
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
Counselling
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
My memories
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
Photos
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

www.lovefilm.com for us to watch together – therefore I have changed my selection of DVDs to ones I want to watch and that he’d have probably hated. Sex and the City is the most recent offering.
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
Contact CRUSE
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)
Friends
Malcolm in the Middle
South Park
My dogs
Kimberly
www.dooce.com
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
Christmas
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 smile
His sense of humour, sarcasm and sense of fun
His fearlessness
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
In bed
Feeling part of a whole
Knowing I’ll NEVER feel the same again
His intelligence and intellect
Cuddling
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
Our dreams
Our future
His charisma
How he made me feel
His love
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.

The first big drama – solo




It’s a beautiful day so I leave the back door open. The dogs are running in and out and playing outside. I am doing chores. Having quite a strong day, alone.

Barney trots in. My long-haired Jack Russell Terrier. Swaggering like an alpha male lion on the savannah.

A thought crosses my mind.

I don’t remember that teddy-bear.

OMG, it’s a squirrel. HE’S GOT A SQUIRREL. WITH A BIG BUSHY TAIL. It looks as though it’s asleep. OMG, IT’S A DEAD SQUIRREL.

ARGHHHHHHHHH.

Barney is stunned. Can’t understand why I am screaming my head off.

Goes to jump up and lick me.

Noooooooooooooooo, eeeeeee-uuuuuuuuuu-wwwwwwwww, gross me out. GET DOWN!

Arghhhhhhhhhh.

Rapidly escape through front door, slamming it behind myself.

PAUUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

Hyperventilating and adrenaline coursing through me, shaking.

Practically bowl each other over, almost head-butt each other at the bottom of my drive.

WHAT’S WRONG? WHAT’S HAPPENED? WHAT?????

B-B-B-Barney’s brought in a dead squirrel.

Where is it?

In there with him. Here’s the key. Deal with it please.

Have you got a plastic bag?

They’re in there with IT. You’ll have to find them. I’ll wait here.

What shall I do with it?

Put it outside in YOUR bin perhaps?

It’s gone.

Noooooooo, Barney, DON’T LICK ME. OMG!!!!

Then I look up and smile. Really smile.

Bet you’re laughing your head off at me now, aren’t you?

Barney, you really shouldn’t be so nasty. Poor squirrel. Don’t kill things. He might have had a wife and she will be so so so so upset now. Poor thing.


Oh jesus, you’ve probably got fleas off it. Better order some Stronghold.

16th March 2009 – Cliff’s 53rd Birthday



Upon waking, I immediately say “Happy Birthday, darling” and manage to force myself to get up and face the day.

I tell him that my present to him this year is to attend my first counselling session.

And I do.

I like Frances within 5 minutes of being with her. She is calm, thinks before she speaks and I feel comfortable enough to share my thoughts, feelings and demons with her.

The tears flow as I describe what happened on that fateful day and how good a husband he was to me. But these tears are flowing without the usual accompanying sobbing and despair. I am still talking as they fall down my face. I tell her how I miss him and how much I he meant to me. I describe the shock, and how I was surprised that I was able to be strong for him in his final hours.

She says that she feels like crying for me and that it does seem particularly cruel. She explains that what I am feeling is natural, it is part of the cycle or process that I have to go through and that I shouldn’t fight my feelings. She checks if I am at risk of suicide by asking some questions when I confide that I don’t want to be here anymore.

We agree a future session and I leave there feeling as though I have been relieved of something although I don’t know what exactly. I feel lighter somehow and am positive about meeting with her again.

The sun is shining and I don’t resent it for doing so, for the very first time.

When I return home, I speak to him for the longest time. I tell him that I plan to be as strong as possible and that I will do this for him. I will make him proud of me in all that I do. That it is incredibly hard, but I will remember everything that he taught me, and not give up. That I might not always get it right, but I will persevere, and that it may take me a long time to get there. I tell him how much I love him. I vow that no one could ever replace him and therefore there is no “death to us part” caveat applicable to OUR wedding vows. That I will live the best life I can until it’s time for me to join him. That I hope he is proud of me so far, that I did all the funeral arrangements the way he would have wanted them. I tell him how good his family are being to me and that I wish I had been stronger when he was still here. I thank him for all that he did for me, all that he sacrificed and for his patience, understanding and for being the best husband in the world. I vow to finish the house and not let all his hard work go to waste. I promise to be careful. I tell him that I am so sorry that I didn’t go to the doctor with him and question the meds he had been given. I tell him I’m sorry that I didn’t give up smoking, thereby encouraging him to give up too. I tell him that I hope that I become a good a person as he was and that I will always love him. That I will run into his arms when it’s my time to join him and that I can’t wait. That even though I want to go with him right now, I know that I have to carry on.

Then I clean the kitchen, bathroom, do chores round the house.

Oh dear, there are still about 5 hours till Paul and John are due to come round to keep me company. I wonder what to do. I need to get some snacks and coke but that won’t take long. I have to fill up my time. Must keep busy or it’ll go pear-shaped.

I decide that my car is now my lifeline to the world. For a while I have been losing confidence in the car. Worrying that it will break down while I am on the motorway. I have no illusions about what would happen. I WOULD NEVER GET BACK ON THE HORSE. I have to do something about this, so decide that with my free time I will have a look around the car dealerships – at the second-hand cars – where Cliff took me around just over a year ago, the last time we were looking for a car. I can’t remember where it is, so look in the local paper and the Thomson’s Directory. I find it and plug the location into my Tom-Tom (sat-nav) and off I go.

I feel alien in this place without him. Oh god, I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I don’t know anything about cars and Car Salesmen are NOTORIOUS for being untrustworthy. I feel like a child. I wander around the forecourts alone. No-one comes out to talk to me or tries to sell a car to me and I wonder if they don’t do that anymore.

Deep breath, walk into Audi, heart banging and feeling as though I have a sign over me: SINGLE, FEMALE, WIDOWED, CLUELESS, MUG. I think that he can smell the vulnerability on me. He’s pleasant and takes my information, but doesn’t bother to show me any cars.

I walk around Toyota aimlessly. I don’t know anything about Toyotas.

Swerve round the Skoda forecourt. Don’t think so.

I find myself being pulled, like a magnet, towards the BMW dealership. I feel bad because I can’t help thinking that he might not approve. Then I remember our deal and start smiling.

“If you manage to go a whole year without scratching this car Boo, you can have an SLK or something else decent.”

There’s no harm in looking.

In I go.

The receptionists make me feel at ease and offer me a drink. I ask for Ribena which makes them smile. I explain I have recently been widowed and need a car that I can rely on, but that I have a budget. They ask me to take a seat and tell me that they will ask Grant to come and speak to me.

Grant is good at putting me at my ease. I tell him that I won’t – can’t – make any decision today, as I need to speak to Cliff’s friends about any options. He’s fine with that, and we talk about what my lifestyle and requirements are. I need to be able to put in a dog-cage. No I don’t know the measurements but I can show him. I tell him my ballpark figure – the one I have plucked out of nowhere in reality. I tell him that I don’t want a brand new car because Cliff wouldn’t like it because they depreciate so much in the first few months. I tell him that I have to be able to afford to run it and keep it.

He has two cars that would fit my requirements and we go outside to look at both of them. The first one is the one I will end up buying. It is 8 months old and has only done 2300 miles because it is a demo car. I love it. No, I don’t want to test drive it today. I am too nervous. Next time. NOT YET. He prints off the information, staples it and his card to a brochure, and I tell him I’ll be in touch after taking advice.

I leave there feeling almost daring, COCKY. As though I have just carried out a dangerous commando raid behind enemy lines. I did it on my own. But I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Go shopping and get showered ready for our friends’ visit this evening.

John turns up first and we discuss the car. He gently mentions the van on the driveway and advises that I get a part-ex price for it. He’s only too happy to help clean it and drive it down there for me. He suggests I check how much the insurance will cost on the BMW and I am really grateful that I have people to talk to about this decision, because neither of those things had crossed my mind AT ALL.

Paul arrives and we have a few drinks, talking about Cliff as well as other things. We raise our glasses to him. When I go to replenish my drink, Paul follows me into the kitchen and asks whose drink is sitting on the side already.

“It’s Cliff’s” - and he acts as though this is entirely normal. The drink stays there until they leave me at half past midnight, when they can tell that I am starting to feel tired. I pour it down the drain with immense sadness.

I say “Happy Birthday Cliffy” again; kiss his ashes goodnight and go up to bed, so that I am rested, ready to return to work the following morning.

I. CAN’T. GET. NO. SLEEP.
It’s now 04h00 and I am getting frustrated because I am so tired but I cannot sleep. I try a warm drink, watching TV, reading, doing nothing. NO SLEEP WILL COME TO ME.

By 06h00 I am starting to get really stressed and upset. I am due back at work and there is no way I will cope, even if I fall asleep now.

I start sobbing. The loss is so palpable. I miss him so much and feel so alone. I feel scared, tired and exhausted. DEFEATED. This journey is like climbing up Everest after chain-smoking 50 cigarettes. The doubts and demons and sadness overwhelm me. I can barely breathe due to the hysterical state I am in. I am half expecting the neighbours to bang on my door to ask if I have been attacked. My dogs can’t settle either now and are skittish. When it is late enough to call my boss, she doesn’t answer so I leave her a barely decipherable voicemail and make a cup of tea.

Lay on the sofa. Suck my thumb. Sob, cry, wail, start repeating my mantra of, “it’s not fair, I miss you, I can’t do this … please come and get me” until I mercifully fall asleep for HOURS. I next wake at 16h30 and I am freezing. It’s dark outside and there are no lights on, nor TV. Total deathly silence and pitch black. I whimper, but force myself to move. I WANT TO DIE.

I make myself eat some cereal, have a hot drink, shower, sort the dogs and take myself off to bed so that I can get up for work in the morning.

I must go to work tomorrow or else it’ll become an issue albeit one in your own head, I warn myself.

And I do. And I have learned a valuable lesson. Don’t try and fill your day so that you can ignore what you HAVE to go through. You only delay it. Perhaps make it even worse. Accept the emotions because you can’t delay them forever. I make a mental note to book the day after my birthday, the day after our wedding anniversary and any other key dates, off as annual leave.



The Second Attempt



March 18th 2009

I struggle but push myself out of the house and into the car. Back on track. Back to a sense of normalcy. I GOT BACK ON THE HORSE FOR FEAR THAT I MIGHT NOT OTHERWISE.

Everyone is pleased to see me back and I tell them that I have had to admit that perhaps I had returned to work too soon, but that I’m glad I did because it has made it easier foe me to return to work today.

I feel stronger. I know that this time I am back for good even if I still can’t work as quickly as I did before. YET. Even if I am on a four day week. FOR NOW.

My copy of Companion Through the Darkness has been delivered by Amazon. I put it in my bag so that I can start reading it that evening.

I post Jayde some photos and keepsakes and hope that she also wants to smooth over the harsh words that we have said.

Someone asks me if I am eating because I have lost even more weight, and I ask her if milk is food.

I go back to my routine of eating my main meal at lunchtime, and even eat some porridge for breakfast.

People start to call me skinny ribs.

I acknowledge the hurt. I confide in a colleague that I have been to hell and back, but that I now understand that there is no quick-fix, that I HAVE to go through this. I share that I have promised Cliff that although I will allow myself a 24 hour session of wallowing and luxuriating in the pit of despair when there is no option, that I have also promised him that there will be no more 5 day sessions.

I understand that reality had to take its own effect, like the aftermath of a hurricane, but that I also need normalcy, people around me, and on the reverse of the coin, I equally need solitude to allow me to mourn and let it out. I comprehend. I need to embrace the emotions when they come crashing down on me. Welcome the tears. It’s the only way forward. There is no avoiding. There is only delay.

Kimberly tells me how proud of me she is.

I am exhausted when I return home but I know that I have overcome another hurdle. I know that eventually I will overcome bigger hurdles but NOT YET.

When I see my front door tonight, I don’t see it as a symbol of pain. It is now my refuge, my sanctuary. It is a relief. It welcomes me again. I can go in and let go. I can cry, mourn, scream and rant.

Perhaps I can do this. Perhaps. I will try my best, darling. I promise.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Realization

I suddenly have a lucid moment.

What would he say? What would he do? What would he think?

I think he would be extremely worried about the state of me. I think he might even be getting a little irritated with me by now. I know that if he were here, he would have physically picked me up and carried me upstairs and put me in a bath. Then he would have made me egg and soldiers to eat. With the eggs just right.

I know what I have to do. I have to stand up, empty the overflowing ashtrays on the coffee table, throw away the empty coke cans and air the room. I have to brush my teeth, wash and put on some clean clothes. I have to phone Vern and get him to come and fix the heating and hot water.

Before I do this I walk in the garden with the dogs and start crying when I look at shrubs he has planted, the lawn that he grew from seed and the hot tub house and decking that he built from scratch.

I'm suddenly aware of the sun shining on my face and sharply tilt my head back to face it. WTF are you doing shining in MY GARDEN. Fuck off. How DARE you shine on me or my garden. WTF are you DOING??

Right, I've dealt with THAT, off to get washed.

I drive down to pick up Vern who gets the hot water and heating on within a few minutes, and this brings home to me how USELESS I am without Cliff. I feel like a child, yet I am mourning more than ever, the fact that I could never have his child.

Panic grips me and I have to run upstairs. I grab the first photo album that I find and frantically search for photos of him. I have to reassure myself that he actually existed, and yes, there I am with him, and look, there we are HAPPY TOGETHER. I am NOT losing my mind.

Vern appears and announces that he thinks he will stay the night. There is no food in so perhaps a takeaway is in order. There is however, plentiful coke, cigarettes, cookies, milk and vodka, so that's ok. This will turn into a weekend routine - on Saturday nights. I like that we can sit and talk about Cliff, about anything, but initially it will be about my favourite subject - CLIFF.

I drive Vern back the next day, and go to visit Dad and Jenny, then Vicki. Jenny asks if I have collected the ashes. I have NOT. Would I like her to collect them? Yes please. It will be two further weeks before I am strong enough to bring them home with me.

When home again, I cry and wail and practically ululate, working myself up into a frenzy until I am completely spent, saying the same things over and over again. I flit from bargaining (I would do anything, ANYTHING for you to come back) to the darker (I don't want to be here anymore) to pure unadulterated crying and raging about the unfairness of it all (you deserved better, you shouldn't have died, it's not RIGHT) to sobs that rack my entire body until I am exhausted. I wander around the house without purpose and the tiniest things will set me off. I cannot last longer than 5 minutes without crying for the next week.

I finally return calls, texts, Facebook. My boss suggests that I take a further week off but begs me to get help. I tell her that I have joined a Forum, a Discussion Board, but she wants me to get some counselling as well. She makes me promise.

So I do it. I make the phone call and book a session. The counsellor's name is Frances and she lives at the bottom of my road. My first session is booked for March 16th which would have been Cliff's 53rd birthday. I decide that my birthday present to him this year will be to go to the session.

Having made this phone call, I attempt some others. I also open my mail and put it into actionable piles: PHONE, PAY, EMAIL, LATER (NOT YET). I am still delaying those things that are emotionally difficult for me to do.

Then I remember others that have hurt him, right back to when he was three years old and one home where he was fostered, they beat the shit out of him, and RIGHT NOW ALL I WANT TO DO IS SOMEHOW FIND THESE EVIL FOSTER PARENTS AND HURT THEM BACK or maybe just tell them what arseholes they are.

I'm sorry but I'm not strong enough now.

The next day I manage to cry, eat cereal and stay relatively balanced emotionally. I screen my calls and only answer the ones that I know will be supportive.

At least I am now:

making the bed
cleaning the kitchen and bathroom
doing laundry
dusting
showering, getting dressed, brushing my hair and teeth
going to the small convenience store to buy:

milk
teabags
figrolls (that my Mom used to buy when I was small)
canned ravioli (once a week)
coke
Marlboro Lites
Vodka (if people have visited and I need to replenish my stock)
Kellogg’s multi-packs of cereal (that you buy for kids)

I find it hard to eat more than this. When I initially returned to work, I’d eat lunch there, and cereal at night, so at the moment I am surviving on cereal. At one point I wrestle with myself over a packet of soup. HE bought those and there is only one left. Am I hungry or do I want to KEEP that?

I am dreaming more about Cliff now. I like this because it seems to be alright. Right from the beginning I was terrified that I would wake up thinking that he was still here, and something is protecting me. Is it him or my own mind? In any event, I am aware that he is gone, even when I dream.

I am exhausted and go to bed at 8 every night. The dogs don’t seem to mind.

The few friends that are still calling soon learn to ring me before then if they want an answer.

One day this week, I start working out my finances, because I know I absolutely will NOT have the energy to do this when I’ve returned to work. It takes me SEVEN WHOLE HOURS to do this. I have to hunt for the calculator because my brain will NOT add up properly. I can’t seem to find all the information that I need. Information that he would have known automatically. It used to take him seconds to work stuff out, and it takes me seven long, frustrating and exhausting hours.

I do this for him. I do this because he’d be worried sick that I wouldn’t bother. I am so proud of myself that I smile.
FINALLY! My lips are no longer cracked and sore. I wasn’t aware of it, but I had been licking them constantly, perhaps with nerves, until they’d bleed when a rare smile stretched them across my face. So, I’d been making a conscious effort not to lick them, and kept applying Vaseline.

Then I wonder if I have done it properly, if I have omitted anything and have to email it to Karen, a friend in Savannah, and she duly checks through it for me. Hurrah! It appears that I haven’t forgotten anything.

Then I worry about Cliff’s tax return, immediately remembering that a friend’s husband has taken this off my hands and will deal with it when I am ready to do so. This makes me cry with gratitude and I think about the support I am getting.

An old school-friend calls me from Singapore. She lost her two year old son on February 14th 2000 and is therefore over-qualified, if anything, to talk about grieving and bereavement. We talk for an hour and 20 minutes and she recommends that I read, “Companion through the Darkness” and promises to email me “the NOVA piece” which details the different emotions and behaviours I can expect to encounter along my journey through widowhood.

She does this straightaway, and adds:

“I didn’t know I could feel such levels of emotion, that my heart was that big, that devastation could be so expansive and complete … over time, that huge vast bottomless hole just fills up with love and then the feeling is almost sublime … but it takes a good long while and oceans of tears to get to that point.”

I love this because it is in language that I can understand at the moment.

The NOVA Piece that she sent it pasted below. When I initially read this, I cry with relief because I now know that I AM NOT GOING MAD. EVERYTHING I AM FEELING, DOING, SAYING AND THINKING IS NORMAL IN THE GRIEVING PROCESS. I keep reading this over and over and it occurs to me that when people die, instead of giving you information about Funeral Directors (which you can find in the Yellow Pages in two seconds) they should give you a copy of this.

This spurs me on to go down to the Coast the following day to see Dad and Jenny, Vicki, Gaynor, and Roy. It is so good to see Roy but it is also so hard. We both struggle to keep our emotions under control, but we do it even if it is done with a huge amount of facial “leakage” to the point that I’m sure I look as though I am gurning.

I bring Cliff’s ashes and the flower cards back with me, along with two of the red roses, now dried, from his wreath. I speak to him all the way home, as usual, but this time, I really do feel like he is with me. Hilariously, I strap him into the back seat with a seat belt AS IF THAT MATTERS but it does to me ENORMOUSLY at the time. I like having his ashes with me at home, and kiss him goodnight each day. I decide:

Steve and I will spread some in Stockbury, where they were fostered by a lovely older couple.
I will spread some in my garden, so that he and Hammer are together.
Some of the pallbearers and I will spread some on the beach where he ran his pedaloes all those years ago
His family and some close friends will send the rest up in a mo-fo firework at the end of this summer, from my garden.

THEN HE WILL BE FREE JUST LIKE HIS SPIRIT WAS.

My mind is still not functioning properly so I can’t remember where people live, half of my vocabulary has disappeared, and I have to ask colleagues what people’s surnames are. Everything is taking at least three times as long as it normally does. I start to learn to be gentle with myself and not push myself too hard.

It occurs to me that I lived an entire lifetime with Cliff in fifteen years. Most people don’t experience what I did with him in an entire lifetime.

Then I remember what one friend at work had said to me:

Just because the person dies, doesn’t mean that the love dies with them.

And I find myself agreeing.


---------------------------------------------------------------



Stress and Trauma
Your Day-to-Day Life
Individuals exist in a normal state of "equilibrium" or balance. That emotional balance involves everyday stress, both positive and negative - like being late to work, getting a promotion, having a flat tire, getting ready for a date, or putting the children to bed.
Occasionally, stress will be severe enough to move an individual out of his or her normal state of equilibrium, and into a state of depression or anxiety, as examples.
But most people most of the time stay in a familiar range of equilibrium.

When Trauma Occurs
Trauma throws people so far out of their range of equilibrium that it is difficult for them to restore a sense of balance in life. Both "acute" and "chronic" trauma may be precipitated by stress:
1. Acute stress is usually caused by a sudden, arbitrary, often random event.
2. Chronic stress is one that occurs over and over again - each time pushing the individual
toward the edge of his state of equilibrium, or beyond.
Trauma can come from acute, unexpected stressors such as violent crime, natural disasters, accidents or acts of war. But it can also be caused by quite predictable stressors such as the chronic abuse of a child, spouse or elder.

The Crisis Reaction
The normal human response to trauma follows a similar pattern called the crisis reaction. It
occurs in all of us.

Physical Response
The physical response to trauma is based on our animal instincts. It includes:
1. Physical shock, disorientation, immobilization and numbness: "Frozen Fright."
2. "Fight-or-Flight" reaction (when the body begins to mobilize):
· Adrenaline begins to pump through the body: heart beat increases, perspiration starts, hyperventilation and hyper-alertness
· Increased sensory perception
3. Exhaustion: physical arousal associated with fight-or-flight cannot be prolonged
indefinitely. Eventually, it will result in exhaustion.

Emotional Reaction
Our emotional reactions are heightened by our physical responses.
1. Shock, disbelief, denial accompanies by regression
2. Cataclysm of emotions
· anger, rage or outrage
· fear, terror or horror
· confusion and frustration
· guilt or self-blame
· shame and humiliation
· grief and sorrow

3. Reconstruction of equilibrium - emotional roller-coaster that eventually becomes balanced,
but never goes back to what it was before the crisis - a new sense of equilibrium will be
developed


Trauma and Loss

Trauma is accompanied by a multitude of losses:
1. Loss of control over one's life
2. Loss of faith in one's God or other people
3. Loss of a sense of fairness or justice
4. Loss of personally-significant property, self or loved ones
5. Loss of a sense of immortality and invulnerability
6. Loss of future

Because of the losses, trauma response involves grief and bereavement. One can grieve over
the loss of loved things as well as loved people.

Trauma and Regression

Trauma is often accompanied by regression - mentally and physically.

1. Individuals may do things that seem childish later. Examples include:
· Singing nursery rhymes
· Assuming a fetal position or crawling instead of walking
· Calling a law enforcement officer or other authority figure "mommy" or "daddy" – or at least thinking of them that way
·
2. Individuals may feel childish. Examples include:
· Feeling "little"
· Wanting "mommy" or "daddy" to come and take care of you
· Feeling "weak"
· Feeling like you did when you were a child and something went terribly wrong


Recovery from Immediate Trauma

Many people live through a trauma and are able to reconstruct their lives without outside
help. Most people find some type of benign outside intervention useful in dealing with
trauma.

Recovery from immediate trauma is often affected by:
1. Severity of crisis reaction
2. Ability to understand what happened
3. Stability of victim's/survivor's equilibrium after event
4. Supportive environment
5. Validation of experience

Reconstruction issues for survivors include:
1. Getting control of the event in the victim's/survivor's mind
2. Working out an understanding of the event and, as needed, a redefinition of values
3. Re-establishing a new equilibrium/life
4. Re-establishing trust
5. Re-establishing a future
6. Re-establishing meaning

Long-Term Crisis Reactions

Not all victims/survivors suffer from long-term stress reactions. Many victims continue to re-experience crisis reactions over long periods of time. Such crisis reactions are normally in
response to "trigger events" that remind the victim of the trauma. "Trigger events" will vary
with different victims/survivors, but may include:

Sensing (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting) something similar to something
that one was acutely aware of during the trauma
"Remembrance dates" of the event
Holidays or significant "life events"
News reports about a similar event
When recounting one’s story (e.g. to a therapist, social worker or judge)

Long-term stress or crisis reactions may be made better or worse by the actions of others.
When such reactions are sensed to be negative (whether or not they were intentional), the
actions of others are called the "second assault" and the feelings are often described as a
"second injury." Sources of the second assault may include:

· the criminal or civil justice system
· the media
· family, friends, acquaintances
· health and mental health professionals
· social service workers
· clergy

The intensity of long-term stress reactions usually decreases over time, as does the frequency
of the re-experienced crisis. However, the effects of a catastrophic trauma cannot be "cured."
Even survivors of trauma who reconstruct new lives and who have achieved a degree of
normality and happiness in their lives - and who can honestly say they prefer the new,
"sadder-but-wiser" person they have become - will find that new life events will trigger the
memories and reactions to the trauma in the future.


Long-Term Traumatic Stress Reaction

When someone survives a catastrophe, they often experience stress reactions for years. Long-term stress reactions are natural responses of people who have survived a traumatic event. Long-term stress reactions are most often a result of imprinted sensory perceptions and
reactions in the brain and body. The most common types of long-term stress reactions
include:

1. Re-experiencing the event both psychologically and with physiological reactivity.

Intrusive thoughts
Nightmares and distressing dreams
Flashbacks




2. Numbing, avoidance, and isolation
avoidance of thoughts or activities that remind one of the event
avoidance of previous habits or pleasurable activities that the individual engaged in
before the event
estrangement and isolation
reduced affect or feelings of "emotional anesthesia"
partial amnesia
a sense of foreshortened future

3. Behavioral arousal
inability to concentrate
insomnia or interrupted sleep patterns
flashes of anger or irritability
startle reactions or hyper alertness

It is not important to know all the symptoms for the stress reactions mentioned above. If you
become concerned about your reactions or how long they last, it is useful to talk to a mental
health professional who is a specialist in working with people who have experienced
traumatic events.


© 2002 National Organization for Victim Assistance, Washington, D.C., USA.






Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A deep dark place

I don't want to be here anymore. I want to be with you. Please come and get me Cliff. Please. Please.

I try whispering it, saying it, screaming it, crying it.

I try, over and over again, pleading and begging him, for five or perhaps it was six days.

But he doesn't come.

I cannot speak to anyone else or see them, because I am channelling all my energy into getting him to hear me or to understand how serious I am about this.

I don't eat. I don't wash or change my clothes. I don't brush my hair. Or clean my teeth.

The only reason I do move is to feed the dogs, let them in and out, fetch more coke or pee.

But still he doesn't come for me.

I understand that he cannot come back. It's not his choice and it's not fair, but it's final.

Therefore the only solution is for him to come and take me so I can be with him.

Please Cliff, I'm not scared to die, I just want to be with you. PLEASE.

I can't understand why I am still breathing when he is not. WHY won't he COME? I KNOW that he will because he has never left me alone or let me down, not once.

The phone rings, the doorbell rings, but I cannot and will not stand up for anyone else. I am waiting for him to come and get me.

I speak to him. I tell him that I would still trade in EVERYTHING, just like I have been saying for the past weeks. My dogs, my home, my life, my job, my soul, everything I own, just to be with him. I would live in a mud hut in deepest darkest Africa, even if it had spiders in its thatched roof, IF I could be with him again. But I know he can't come back now.

So, please come and get me. We weren't meant to be apart. I want you. I love you. I need you. I CAN'T DO THIS. IT HURTS. RIGHT HERE IN MY HEART.

But still he doesn't come.

The First Attempt


February 3rd (My first day back at work) - Till I lose it

My first day back goes well. My boss Sue is totally protective of me and says that she just wants me to settle in, see people, and find my feet. I don't actually do any real work but I AM taken for lots of drinks in the deli and find that each time I do so, I have a few tears. This is because I can with these colleagues who are more like friends after working with some of them for 9 years.

I have a cup of tea with an old Manager of mine, also called Sue, and break down when I describe what happened on that day. I tell her that my worst fear has been realized, that at least I know that he is safe now, no one else can hurt him, and that I will never get that dreaded visit from the police to tell me he has been killed in a road crash BECAUSE HE IS ALREADY DEAD.
Everyone keeps telling me how much weight I've lost and I am surprised because I haven't noticed. They are all telling me how good I look. Erm, yes, I know that I was content after getting married and gained some weight.

EVERYONE KNOWS. This is a relief to me because there is no way I am strong enough to say the words. The people in the deli, the toilet cleaners, everyone just stops what they're doing to give me a squeeze. I feel like all the squeezes and messages and words are giving me strength.

I work on clearing my emails and before I know it the day is over. On the journey home, I feel so tired and Faye tells me that David wants to keep picking me up and dropping me off everyday. It makes him feel like he's helping, so please just accept the help. I am secretly relieved to have one less thing to do each day and say thanks.

I am home. I put on a cheerful front and say bye to Faye and David and my heart grows heavier with each step up my drive. His white van is on the drive. That normally makes me happy because it means he is home! But he isn't home and I dread opening the door. I do though and the door becomes the trigger for the next three or four weeks ... the catalyst that starts the tears, reminds me that he's gone, and it is amazing to me that I can go from outwardly normal to a "mess" in the space of a nanosecond AND BECAUSE OF A DOOR. The door now symbolizes PAIN.

Added to this, I have no heating or hot water and there is still 12" of snow outside. I turn on the blow heaters and it makes me so sad, that I would never have been this cold without him. It really magnifies the fact that he looked after me in such a fundamental way. I feel so alone in this world, even when I am in the presence of other people.

Then something startles me. The phone is ringing. It's Vicki, then Jenny, and it doesn't stop ringing till 21h00 that night. At one point my cellphone and my landline are ringing and I have to promise to call someone back. There are also loads of texts and messages on Facebook. It's lovely to talk.

I decide to go to bed, instead I wander around the house feeling as though I am not me anymore. I have been shattered. I am fragmented. I AM BROKEN. I am not sure of anything anymore. I touch walls that he built, walls that he plastered, I kiss walls because his hands have touched them, and I stand, completely leaning on a wall that he has built, plastered and painted with his own hands for the longest time. It is cool on my face, on my body and seems to calm me a little. Wandering in and out of rooms aimlessly, looking for something but I don't know what.

I take a bowl of cereal and hot drink to bed with me, and my dogs, who are now used to their routine, head straight for the stairs, instead of their basket. Then I remember that I have no hot water, and go back downstairs and fill a kettle and take it back up with me, so that I can wash in the bathroom sink. This brings the sobs back to me. I spill some scalding water on my toe but don't even react to it, instead I blindly grope around in the laundry basket to find one of his unwashed shirts, and stand there for I don't know how long, sobbing into it and holding it tightly. This calms me down - HIS SCENT - and I settle down for sleep. Exhausted. Can't sleep. Ring Brian for a tele-marathon.

The next day I ask my boss if I can go and have dinner with one of Cliff's oldest friends Saeid, instead of with the team at our Team Meeting the following week in Manchester. She says that I don't realize how much the team wants to see me, and suggests that I fly up with her the night before, have dinner with him then, so that I can have time with the team the following night. It takes me an hour to book her flights and my flights - it would normally take me 10 minutes. I can't concentrate and am therefore not confident that I am doing it properly.

Saeid is now married with three children, their fourth expected any day and therefore he could not attend the funeral. His wife has diabetes and I told him that Cliff would be cross with him if he left her on her own when the baby was due. I can't wait to see him and meet his wife and have to think of a gift to take, eventually deciding on a Mecca Compass because of their faith. I send my flight and hotel information off to him by email and I am surprised to find myself smiling and actually LOOKING FORWARD TO SOMETHING.

My routine is much the same for the next couple of weeks, except that at weekends I stay at Vicki's or with Jenny for one night.
I do notice however that the phone calls start to dissipate, slowly but surely. Life goes on. For them.
The trip to Manchester goes fairly well and I manage to function as "normally" as possible. It is good to see my whole team and I feel very at home with them. My boss had already asked me if it's ok for us, the whole team, to choose the charity that we will support through 2009 as the charity that I asked people to donate to (if they didn't want to send flowers at the funeral). I obviously agreed to this as it's a lovely thoughtful idea and she plans to introduce games at our offsite meetings (which are always two days long) in the evening. The time has come. As I walk down the stairs at the hotel I start to DREAD it. I can't do this. I can't do this. I am shaking and panicking and find Ann and blurt at her, "please tell Sue not to mention his name tonight or make any speech or anything because I won't hold up." Then I run outside and smoke and have a cry. I compose myself and go back in. They are throwing pennies at a target on the table and basically, most of them are losing their money. It's alright. No one mentions it, they just have a little fun with healthy competitiveness and raise £50 for http://www.bullying.co.uk/

I don't have a go. I cannot stomach it, but I give Anna £2 and ask her to have a go for me. She understands and takes my place without any fuss.

Seeing Saeid and Mona, as well as Adam (his son from his first wife) and meeting their three adorable girls is a real tonic for me. When Saeid picks me up I run along the road and into his arms. He hasn't changed. What can I say about Mona? I love her. I speak as much Arabic as she does English, which is not a lot. Yet we communicated all night, and if we really struggled, Saeid translated. Despite being heavily pregnant, she has cooked me lamb, couscous and chickpeas (my favourite Arabic cuisine), as well as delicious soup, pastries and fruit. Eat EAT EAT she keeps telling me. Saeid asks me if his friend cried when he died. He wants to know that he died a good death. I understand this culture and am very happily esconsed in it. I know that it is not etiquette, but ask if she will open my gift now because I want to see her reaction. They love the compass and are extremely touched. I will wait to get back to the hotel to open my gift from Mona. Saeid asks if I will be alright financially and tells me I am to go straight to him if I cannot manage because he says, it is his duty to look after his brother's wife. And besides, he adds, I have always been like a little sister to him. I don't want to leave them, but notice that it is 01h30 and I have to be up for my meeting in the morning. We agree that every time I go to Manchester for a meeting, I will fly up the night before so that I can sleep at their home for the night.

I seem to be coping fairly well during this time period, outwardly at least. My boss tells me that my Director is worried because I am acting "like normal" and he is getting very concerned. In all honesty, I have a split persona - at work I am fine, at home I cry and cry and cry and cry ... ad infinitum.

I have always had a tendancy to delay anything "unpleasant" emotionally. True to form, I have been ignoring the life insurance company's demand for the original policy. I have tried looking for it so that they will put the money in my account, but I can't find it. The more I look, the more upset I get ... an endless viscious circle. In reality I don't give a shit about the money, I don't want it - I WANT HIM. And the unspeakable? Oh, that little matter of IF THEY PAY UP THAT MEANS HE IS REALLY REALLY DEAD. AND GONE. NOT COMING HOME. EVER. So, true to form, I ignore the whole matter as if it will go away. Yeah right.

Eventually, with a lot of coaxing, gentle probing and support, I email them to say that I can't find the damn policy. They send me a form that a Solicitor has to sign and then they will send me the money. I ask one of our corporate lawyers if she can take a look at it and she turns up at my desk 10 minutes later and it is done. SORTED. I post it off. And I wonder why I work myself up in these states about stuff that really isn't that hard to deal with.

Two days later I get home after work and there are two letters on the doormat. I am making myself open these letters upon receipt, even if I don't do anything about them.

Letter One tells me that they have put the money in my bank account.

Letter Two tells me that Cliff's ashes are ready for me to collect.

And, that's when I lose it. BIG STYLE