Tuesday, September 29, 2009
As predicted, tonight especially, I am gulping back the tears because I can't phone him. It. hurts. so. damn. much.
Another relatively big step in my progress today was that I saw a spider scurrying across the floor in my hotel bedroom, and actually chased it, yes, I ran after it - and stomped very hard on top of it, so that I can sleep soundly tonight. And after stomping on the damn thing, I twisted my shoe around so that it got ground into the carpet (apologies to de Vere hotels) thus ensuring that it was well and truly dead. When I get home, I'm going conker hunting as I read in yesterday's Telegraph that if you put a pile of them in each room, arachnids are put off by the smell. We'll see ....
Off to bed now to read for a while, then sleep, ready for the meeting and flight home tomorrow. You never know, the gods may smile on me and send me hurtling into a huge thunderstorm.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Because I'll be away from home.
Because I'll worry about my dogs.
Because I'd prefer to be scared shitless of flying (like I used to be) as opposed to my new practice of laughing when the plane suddenly lurches, or makes strange sounds.
Most of all - because I won't be able to call him for up to an hour each evening,
because I won't be able to hear his voice.
Internet, I'll be back at the end of the week.
And kept waking up through the night.
Each time I awoke, he was there, holding me close.
I know he was. I even thanked him for staying with me all night.
It wasn't a dream - he WAS there.
Or am I losing my sanity again?
Then last night I had a nightmare about spiders
And called to him for help
He got rid of the spiders
But that WAS a dream.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Because I could not face getting off the train at the end of the evening, to find that Cliff would not be sitting there, waiting to take me home.
I. JUST. COULD. NOT. DO. IT.
Feelings washed over me, overwhelmed me ... I wanted to go so badly, to see those people who meant so much to me and still do, people who I still miss. I felt pathetic, guilty and sad that I could not face my demons and fears. I felt as though I was letting my old friends down by not going, when some of them had managed to fly over from Australia, the US and Canada. I felt the aloneness that you can only feel, having lost your soulmate. I felt the loss so deeply I could barely breath, working myself into such a state, that it was 05h00 before sleep came to me.
I woke up at 18h00 on the Saturday, feeling wobbly yet determined to make the reunion dinner in Dover. It took a while to do chores, get ready and get in my car, but I made it.
As I walked in the butterflies started fluttering around in my stomach, primarily because I felt shitty about not joining them all the previous evening, then I spotted someone right next to me who I recognized ... Debbie. And had just opened my mouth to say hello ... when Anjali wrapped me up in the most enormous hug and somehow knew when it was alright to let go. I was okay. Then one by one, more hugs, kisses, smiles, laughter ... I think before the main course was served, I had almost said hello to each and every one of them.
It was easy, and as though time had not passed at all, so relaxed were we in each other's company. Sure it was emotional, but it was for everyone. There were no tears, everyone being determined to have a good time. Old friendships slipped back into their old familiar ways. New friendships were made along with promises to meet up. And for me ... best of all was the fact that no one ignored the big fat elephant in the room and everyone acknowledged the fact that I had lost Cliff, so there were no awkward silences, thus ensuring I did not feel different somehow.
All night someone stayed by my side. I felt looked after, loved even. As they walked past, these old friends would simply pause to squeeze my hand, or put an arm around my waist. The boys (men now) supplied me with plentiful bear hugs and that felt so good too.
We caught up on news, we laughed and laughed and smiled and smiled. I realized that I hadn't felt that safe since the evening after Cliff's funeral when I was surrounded by his closest friends, who at the time formed a net around me, to ensure that I would be okay. It felt like I had come home, because, anyone who has gone to boarding school will understand, these friends are more like family.
I was shocked to realize that I was happy. For the first time since January the 5th. And didn't feel guilty. For the first time, the fact that Cliff was dead was not front of mind, even if I was talking about him when encouraged to.
It was perhaps 03h30 when the last of us vacated the bar and retired to our rooms in the hotel, causing me to oversleep the following day. After checking out, I drove to our old school, parked on the Close and walked around taking some photos, keeping an eye out for any of the Old Dovorians, to no avail. It was peaceful there, and I found myself humming:
(Madonna - This Used To Be My Playground)
whilst thinking about other old friends who had not been able to join this reunion, before heading up to Western Heights (the clifftops in Dover where we used to smoke, drink and get "up close and personal") to see if I could find everyone to say goodbye. Stupidly, I forgot to make a note of one of their mobile phone numbers. After being approached by the third man who resembled what I imagine a sadistic torturer/serial killer looks like, I headed back to my car.
It was meant to be, I thought. You are not strong enough to say goodbye to them.
And drove home.
I have lost every evening since to Facebook.
We are planning on having mini-reunions in Brighton and London. One old-girl and I are going to meet for drinks in London. One old-boy and I are going to meet for drinks near where I live when he passes through. Many of them sent me messages, saying ... well done for coming, here's my mobile number if you need to talk, my door is always open to you, I'm proud of you, I love you.
And I love them. Not only just for being them. But also because they have given me hope. I was always happy when I was with Cliff and had got used to not being so. I had a taste of it again last Saturday, and it felt alien almost, but so so good.
So, I will definitely be keeping in touch, and to ensure that I attend the first of these mini-reunions, Lionel (who I have known since I was born) is picking me up en route.
I know I am going to crash and burn, but I know that I can be happy. That's hope.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
And so, for two solid days, I locked myself away in Jenny's office. She would come in to empty the ashtray and light another candle every couple of hours. She would come in to bring me more tea. She would come in to try and coax me to have a break and failed miserably. But when she came in to tell me I had to eat dinner, she wasn't asking ... and I knew it. Like I said, I knew own my limits.
At the time I was almost OCD-like in my behaviour. I only wanted one particular florist to arrange the wreath for the coffin, because she was Cliff's friend's sister and I didn't want someone else touching roses ... that were going to touch the coffin ... which therefore touched him, if they were't connected to us. I didn't want anyone touching/viewing him (unless they were very close to him) and two of his pallbearers in particular literally took charge of liaising with the undertaker to give or decline permission as to whether people could view his body on a case by case basis because I was FREAKING OUT. BIG STYLE. I wanted to protect him, even though he was beyond protecting. All I could think was, THIS IS THE LAST THING I CAN DO FOR HIM ... and I have to do it right. It has to be PERFECT ... like him. I approached the organization of the funeral as though I was project managing, and that worked fairly well I suppose. Lists, and more lists. Hell, I was even delegating, and as for micro-managing, let's not even go there. Vicki and I took turns reading the Eulogy out loud (she would take my place reading every time my voice broke) whilst Bobert stood there with a stopwatch. Yes, a stopwatch. "It has to be 34 minutes," I can remember fretting to them.
I love them all for many reasons, but today, mainly because they allowed me to be like this. They gave me permission to do whatever I needed to do ... just to help me get through those initial days ... when the shock, horror and pain was so dreadful that it honestly distresses me so much to remember, so I don't (very often).
Why am I talking about this today? Well, I felt ready to share that Eulogy ... written for the kindest, sweetest, gentlest man I ever knew. My beautiful husband.
(I'll upload the music and colour photos later).
Monday, September 14, 2009
Participating on Grief Healing Forum
Crying and screaming if I want to
Eating and sleeping when I can
Not being alone for the first month
Having support when dealing with death certificate, bank, undertaker etc.
The large congregation at the funeral and the respect they showed at the wake
Discovering that I wasn't going insane and that all that I felt was normal and natural
Learning to embrace the pain instead of fighting it
Vocalizing what I am going through
Someone taking Cliff's paperwork and sorting out his tax
Not doing anything I'm not ready for
Not making any major decisions for the first 6 months
Learning to be patient with myself
Learning what triggers the blackest days
Accepting that sometimes nothing triggers the darkest days - they just are
Identifying my support network
Planning things to look forward to
Writing the Eulogy myself
Knowing that I was with him (and strong for him) when he died
Not comparing my journey to anyone else's
Understanding that people don't mean to hurt you when they say stupid things
Being graced with empathy
His scent on laundry
Realizing that even though he is gone, it doesn't mean his love has too
Having his clothes made into a comfort quilt
Wearing my locket (which holds ashes and a lock of hair)
Being surrounded by familiar things
Recognizing that red wine sends me into a downward spiral, and fast (so I stick to vodka and coke)
Raising funds for widows less fortunate than myself
Planning to dispose his ashes in fireworks
Writing precious (and more personal) memories in a Moleskine notepad
Talking about him and laughing at memories with others
Knowing who I can visit or phone at any time of the day without having to give them notice My faith that reassures me that I will be with him again one day
Recognizing my own fears, thoughts and emotions when reading other people's blogs or posts on the Forum
Making him proud of me
Working on my feelings of guilt
Accepting that I wasn't capable of doing tasks as easily - lack of focus, loss of vocabulary, loss of confidence
Accepting that some people are not really friends and moving on
Understanding that grief is not a linear process, that my grief is not identical to anyone else's and everyone's timescale differs
Having a reliable car and sat-nav
Letting myself grieve every day
Talking to him lots
Working out my monthly budget and arranging for all my bills to be paid monthly via my bank account
Connecting with other widow/ers
Not being treated as though I have leprosy because people don't know what to say
Laughing with me ... or laughing at me (when my reactions or thoughts are the result of widow-brain
Conversely, some things did NOT help me, and some examples follow (apologies for the caustic attitude and harsh language, but all of this had a very bad effect on me and I am still smarting from it):
1. Comparing your mother, father, brother, uncle, dog, friend, colleague or anybody other than a spouse to me losing my spouse. (On the other hand, if you have suffered the unimaginable (to me) loss of a child ... I will readily admit losing a child has to be even more devastating.) I feel qualified and able to make this statement, having lost both my parents. That was dreadful, without any doubt. However, in comparison to this ... it was chicken feed.
Please don't go there. It makes me want to scream. It makes me want to pick up his samurai sword so I can chop your head off so you can't say it to me again.
It's offensive, ok. Until you have walked in my shoes, you can't know. Instead of insisting on identifying with what I am going through. Don't. Please just be grateful that you can't. And go and give your spouse a hug and tell them you love them.
But don't ever tell me you know how I feel because you have lost your father. You don't.
2. Please don't ask me if I'm feeling better now. I didn't have the flu. I may appear to be "better" but believe me, the pain does not dissipate over time. Time only allows me to adjust to this horror ... and cope. The pain remains
3. People letting me down. The only thing that gives me any semblance of normalcy or stability is planning something and executing it. If the plan goes awry ... my brave new world seems even more unsteady.
4. People "helping me", when in reality, they were helping themselves, literally. Agreeing to dog-sit and stuff going missing. They think I don't know. Not only that, they left the house in a disgusting state. These days, the dogs go to boarding kennels if I go away overnight. The worst episode was when my Rolex went missing, and to add insult to injury they have not even offered an apology. These days I only talk to them if I want a favour. And I have no intent of returning any favour. Cold? Calculating? Yes. But I have to protect my mind. And being calculating is nowhere near as bad as their behaviour or attitude. Don't mistake kindness as a weakness. And never assume that because I'm vulnerable that you can walk all over me. I don't have enough energy to influence Cliff's friends' reactions indefinitely. Bad luck.
5. Being told that it's ok to get married again. Right now the mere thought makes me want to puke. Please don't go there. It makes my ears ring. It makes me feel sick. It is unthinkable to me. I am still married to Cliff.
6. Cliff's daughter taking her grief out on me when I was at my lowest.
7. Being told, "It could be worse. At least you're young. Everything happens for a reason. He's in a better place. You've got to move on. Time heals everything," or any other inane glib statements. Because I will be thinking, "Do impart your wisdom and tell me what could be worse than losing my love, my heart and my world. Why is it good I'm young ... are you expecting me to run to the nearest nightclub to seek out his replacement. Please do tell me what this reason is. How do you know he's in a better place .... why couldn't I go with him. I'll remember your advice when you are broken. Time heals jack shit."
8. Please don't say, "you know where I am". Yes I do. We both know this. What's your point? It always feels dismissive, it always feels as though you are saying it to make yourself feel better.
But I can't find him.
And if I do briefly, it's like the image is out of focus.
I am scared I will forget.
How can I forget? He was ... he is my world.
It makes me feel bad.
It makes me feel unbearably sad.
It makes me feel like I don't care enough if I can't remember.
It terrifies me.
I keep running to different rooms, grabbing photos and looking through them to reassure myself that he actually existed.
J-in-Wales, on her blog http://bethrwan.blogspot.com/2009/09/ten-years-on.html, has been concerned that her husband R will be left behind and forgotten by the world. Same subject - different tangent ... and she gives me the reassurance that it will be alright, but still ... I worry.
I think I need to JUST CALM DOWN
Sunday, September 13, 2009
and because I cannot bear the thought of throwing away his clothes, or donating them to a charity shop (for fear that I may see someone wearing one of his shirts ... which would freak me out), I have also made a decision on what to do. I'll keep a few of the clothes that I particularly loved him in or that hold special memories, but the rest? Well, they are going to be turned into a quilt, perhaps something like the example shown here, but I will listen to the quilter's expertise on this.
I have found an extremely gifted quilter (is that a word?) who makes memorial quilts, and she is a widow too. Not only that, she writes a really eloquent blog about the loss of her "dragon" (husband), and somehow the thought of another widow, who walks this path, who knows what I feel and fear makes it even more meaningful.
As I've mentioned before, I have some laundry preserved in plastic, JUST IN CASE, as a security blanket, and occasionally I'll wear one of his shirts to feel him near, or to sleep in. But I really like the idea of a quilt that I can curl up in, especially in the winter months.
Hopefully when I open my in box tomorrow at work, there will be a reply from her. Now all I need to do is get ready to start cutting fabric from his clothes, and that may take more than one or even two attempts ... but I'll get there.
Here are the links to her blog about her loss, as well as her blog on memory quilts:
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Found this on YouTube last night and although it's not really my "style" of music, I thought it was lovely. Poignant. We also got married to Van Morrison's Someone Like You, but that's so different again. A world apart. Which shows how talented he is really, that he can sing such varying styles.
One of the widows on the Discussion Board said something that completely resonated with me ... that she has not left her husband in the past, but that she is moving towards him, one day at a time. I like this and have adopted the same sentiment. Hope that I remember to let her know how much comfort her words have given me.
I've gone into shutdown mode again.
Shut the front door.
Turned off my phones.
I need to just be at home with my dogs and be near him ... because it feels like I am when I am quiet and alone. I couldn't even sleep in our bed last night for some reason, and crashed on the sofa, making noises that I didn't even think sounded like they came from me. Not my voice. Not one that I know in any event.
Like some kind of animal howling.
I'm sorry that I've not been in touch and should have been (you know who you are). Just can't. NOT YET.
Let me be still and breathe and it will pass.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Sometimes I forget that ... or simply don't have enough reserve of energy and strength to pursue that choice.
Yes, I miss him and it hurts. Sometimes the pain is unspeakable.
But how does he feel? Maybe he misses me and he hates watching me suffer like this. He always hated it when I cried.
I need to reflect on this and perhaps that will give me a boost of strength to push on ahead.
Another thing ... every time I put on my hairshirt ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cilice) and almost start chanting ... mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa ... perhaps I should contemplate if he harbours any grudge or resentment towards me over the issues I berate myself over. In all honesty, my initial reaction is he almost certainly doesn't. We were happy. Believe me, he was very vocal and would have pointed my shortfallings out to me, loud and clear. I know, beyond any doubt whatsoever that he loved me as he left, just as I loved him.
So WTF do I continuously have to battle the demon? Because it's part of the grief/loss cycle that we go through. Like death itself it has no rhyme or reason to it.
Irrational. Random. Bollocks.
Feeling stronger today if you haven't noticed ;-)
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I still can’t quite totally accept, even though I thought I had previously, that my world has gone. I still almost expect him to come walking back through the door. It’s too painful to totally accept and I’m not strong enough. I feel like being reckless. I feel like booking myself on flights, never ending, till one of them drops out of the sky like a stone. I can’t do it myself, but I want it to happen to me. I just want to be with him.
Yesterday I went through loads of photos and pulled out many of Cliff, so that I can scan them and upload them somewhere, perhaps on here. I prefer to be at home even though I know it makes me worse, because I feel closer to him. I speak to him all the time. I am at work yet struggling to keep my shit together, really struggling so much that it makes me panic, breathless even. I yet again wonder if my sanity is leaving me. Sometimes I feel him near me, I swear I do … but never when I am angry. So I try very hard not to be. However hard I try I cannot stop the "Mea Culpa" syndrome returning to visit me recently. I excel at this, really excel. I just want that time with him back and I want to be a better wife this time round.
Yet again I am shocked at how physical grieving is. I miss him so much it is a physical pain. I ache everywhere. My bones hurt. My eyes hurt. My heart hurts. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be here. This is cruel.
And another thing, I hate the way it sounds like I’m whining, I hate the fact that there are a million “I”’s in this post, because all I think about is him, but when I write about it, it comes out as me, me, me … although that’s not what I feel.
Monday, September 7, 2009
It's funny, and then again, it's not.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
How can the feelings still be so acute, so raw.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I just came back from Mtarfa. It's about 6.30 in the evening and I thought I would get this on 'mail' straight away, so that it's as if you'd come along. And it was.
As we'd all been there before, I knew where to go and I'd found out that there's an evening mass in the hospital chapel every day, so I figured that if I timed it right, I could light a candle AND do so in the right place.
As I drove up the gate was open and a kindly lady, knitting on a bench, gestured large parking instructions at me as I was trying to park right in front of her bench. I got out and trotted round a bit (found everything but the main gate I'd just gone through, locked) and then as I came by the bench for the 3rd time (trying to look for the Parochial office), I decided to go up to the ladies there and ask in slow Mtarfa-(non)-English where the sign over their heads (local parochial office) led. Surprisingly, turned out the Lady With the Knitting, spoke rapid fire English and that the offices were by the bell tower, visible but still a good drive back.
Actually all the ladies on the bench spoke perfectly good English.
'Why do you want to know?' She asked, so I told her and the other ladies sitting out there in the evening sun, why I'd come. For a moment they were very quiet, then this lady said, 'Well then you should speak to Carmen here, Carmen takes care of the chapel'. So, most fortuitously, Carmen in her pink top stood up, fished out a key and took me back into the hospital grounds and opened the little Church for me. She gave me a candle and I lit it and I sat down on my own in that small, quiet place to say a few words inside.
I wanted to pray for Cliff and I told him this was for him but I couldn't say more. Not because of me but because of what I felt. Cliff felt 'strong'. I don't really know how to put it into words but actually the prayer came out for you.
Carmen pottered about and asked question while preparing everything for the Priest and evening Mass and she then told me that 'Vittorine' the lady with the knitting and white hair band outside, helped out in the days of the hospital. That she was probably around when Cliff came into the world. Not many people spoke English at that time, especially not in Mtarfa and she would translate between Dr's and patients.
So when I left, I went back to her and thanked her and asked if I could take a photo of the whole line up. They were so sweet and so kind and so concerned and I realized, as I drove off, that I won't be here as 'keeper' of Cliff's Place any more, but they will be. Every day (bar the truly cold or rainy ones) Vittorine is out there (literally, 'gatekeepers') kindly, cheery, smiling, caring and now they know.
They told me 'God Bless' as I waived good-bye and I'm passing that Blessing on to you.
God Bless sweetie and much love
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Yes, we have a date! And we brown shirts would love to see you back in San Diego for more laughs, more great workshops, a dance floor at the banquet, a Sunday morning breakfast...and another chance to participate in the Widow Dash! Don't miss the fun, mark your calendars now!
We are taking the many things that worked, and tweeking the few things that didn't, to create a program called Camp Widow. One of you said this..."My daughter went to camp, and I did too!" Which got us to thinking about giving this weekend a name that speaks to the uplifting spirit of our gathering. YOU made this weekend amazing, and we are determined to plan an even better event next year.
So tell your friends, early registration will begin November 1st. Camp Widow merchandise will be on sale at www.sslf.org beginning October 15th...everything is really cute and please send me stories about the looks on people's faces when they read your shirt.
Short commercial: We will need sponsors to make this all happen, and could use help in locating them! So spread the word...Camp Widow needs you! As always, your gratefully accepted donation is tax-deductible and can be mailed to the address below. We also accept donations by Paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org Any amount helps us reach our goal of raising $100,000 to fund the programs that we currently run and to expand our reach in the future. It is time for widows to have a voice, we can do this together!And the 2009 mailing list is available for any interested attendees.
The list also includes blog addresses for those who have provided them. Just send me a quick note, and I will forward you the list. Next year we will improve the mailing list process!
Yours in hope,
Michele Neff Hernandez
Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation
2828 Cochran St.
877-671-4071 ext 706