memories

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

It had to come

It had to come.

I thought I was doing so well.

Got gifts. Thru mail order to avoid all cheery people holding hands at huge mall.

Got neighbour to wrap all the gifts.

Put gifts in car ... ready to give when visiting friends and family over the holidays.

Then got ill - flu which developed into chest infection so slept for a week.

Then ran away from Christmas past by dreaming about Christmas future - this time next year - I'll actually be decorating my first tree since Cliff died. This time next year ... in Spain ... in our new home in Andalucia ... Me, Jayde, Amber, Theo and Scarlett. Familia. Cliff's blood. But they are mine. As well. I don't feel like a step-mother or step-nana. Perhaps a step-Boo? Actually no. Not step anything. Familia.

So ... yep ... been dreaming about "Feliz Navidad" in 2012.

Then I turned into an aisle at the supermarket to have my nostrils assaulted with such an evocative hit of fresh pine that I immediately started crying. For him. Two aisles later I had regained control. But it was bubbling.


Just beneath my skin I'm screaming. Salva Mea.


I rush to escape.

And fly out the door like a bat out of hell.

To promptly release a public outpouring of grief. Seriously primal. Loud. Those mournful animal noises that come out of me. But not in my voice. Noises I never made before he died.

People stopped. Mouths agape. Did I care? Fuck, no. I just got louder and louder.

And I felt better. After.

Those translucent faded watercolours are following me once more. Today. They've brought me to my knees. Literally. And they've brought a beginning of a smile too.

I've learned. I can't dwell in Christmas past or Christmas future. I have to live in Christmas present. It's called present because it IS a gift.

And so I'm celebrating it by making a proper homemade trifle for his best mate. Another first. And I'm celebrating that it IS less painful. I mean the tsunamis still hit. But. Less often. And they dissipate faster. Thank fuck for that. Another gift.

So, what's on your wishlist? Apart from Christmas past or future?

I'd like a pair of Louboutins. Or charms for my pandora bracelet. But Santa died back in 2009 so that's not going to happen. I'd settle for anything. Anything at all. With one caveat. All I wish for is that whatever I'm given shows that some thought went into it. That's all. Because I do. I mean ... I put a lot of thought and time into selecting what I give. And it makes me feel so very sad if I receive stuff that o know could have been thrown in a supermarket trolley. That'll do. Or worse. That'll do for someone. Then having it assigned to me. Ungrateful? Not really. It could cost five quid. It's the thought I wish for. The care. The selection.

I don't think it's such a huge ask.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I've got so much baggage ... you don't want to go there

I tumbled towards him, juggling cans of diet coke whilst frantically pressing the "lock" button on my car key, as he was (trying) to come into the shop. "oh, I thought I'd left my car unlocked. But I didn't. Whoops. Sorry!"

A nano-second of eye contact. A glimpse of his bemusement.

Marlboro Lites. Banter with Sri Lankan shop-owner.

Tired. Hair in need of wash. Makeup all but disappeared. Eyes tired and dry.

Almost tumble down steps to car and bleep car open. Throw stuff on passenger seat. Walk round to driver's side and become aware that a man in big car is talking to man in van next to me. So ignore him. His voice gets louder. And he's looking at me.

I hear the words, "have you got a husband or a boyfriend?". It's the man I almost fell into. And he's clearly not talking to the builder in van parked next to me, even if he is listening avidly, along with two other men in the car park.

And I open my mouth. Then shut it again rapidly. For fear that the words in my head will tumble out my mouth. Involuntarily. (My husband is dead.)

Instead I smile kindly. Because I feel sorry for him ... because of the words I have to say ...

"I'm widowed actually. And I've got so much fucking baggage. You really don't want to know me. You don't need me. But thanks. It's a compliment. For me."

And I flash him another smile.

"Fair enough," he replies, but he's maintaining eye contact. "What's your name?"

"Boo. It's Boo."

"I'm Joe by the way."

and I reach through his car window, "pleased to meet you, Joe," and he once again grins with amusement, as I shake his hand.

He has a good handshake. Firm. I hate wet fish or pathetic handshakes.

I don't think and the fucking words start tumbling out my mouth.

"hey you know what, why not. Give me your number and I'll get in touch."

He obviously knows. Knows that I won't. I mean to. At the time I really do mean to. But he knows I won't find the courage. So he convinces me he hasn't got a pen or scrap of paper in his massive vehicle. And I don't even think to get mine from my glovebox. Because I'm planted to the ground. Like a fucking rabbit in headlights.

Then I hear my voice telling him my phone number while he punches into his mobile. "I'll text you, Boo."

"OK, nice to meet you Joe."

And I screech off at my normal breakneck speed, but instead of parking in my drive, I stop at my neighbour's, fly in their door and tell Daniella what's just happened. She's grinning. I'm not. All of a sudden I think I'm going to puke. So I go and stand in their bathroom for a few minutes. For nothing.

Daniella feeds me potato and toast to settle my stomach before I head home to sob.

I don't want some Joe, I want you back Baba. But you know what? If he does text me, I'll go for a drink with him. He looked kind and he's got a sense of humour. It'll do me good.

I should have known some shit was going to happen. That North Star was shining so so brightly. All the way home. You still watching over me? You feel further away now.

I miss you baba.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Don't know ... just don't know

Up and down. All the time.

For some reason it's hard for me to blog and read others' words, let alone leave comments for them at the moment. I feel bad about it. But I don't seem to be able to give right now. That's a first. And it's uncomfortable. It doesn't sit well with me. But I know that to survive I have to follow my intuition.

I'm having a tough time. Fuck, this whole year has been a nightmare. Much harder. Oh, so much more painful than the year before. I miss you more, baba.

I've struggled with my health, finances, housework. Everything. To be honest work consumes what energy I do have. I'm fucked. And fucked up. But not.

How so?

Well, I'm living half in the past ... and half in the future. I've spent time reading books that have helped me and made plans for more memory books ... and found notes and cards we wrote for each other that have soothed and ripped me apart at the same time.

I've replayed scenes in my mind ... Sobbing or laughing at them. But in the end ... It's always the same result. I'm so grateful he chose me. My heart expands with love for him. And slowly it will banish much of the pain that still resides there.

Struggle. Each day a battle. I know friends and family are expecting more from me. But it is what it is.

I have stuff to blog - Camp Widow, the Angel I met on my journey on the flight home, who curiously took the shape of a young drum n bass DJ (who miraculously became the first person I managed to tell - without losing it - no holds barred - what happened that day) .... and healed me so much as we swishes across transatlantic skies. My plans to move to Spain. And my happiness that Cliff's daughter and children intend to follow me there. I can visualize myself there.

I ache to be there now. I can picture it. Yet, simultaneously I find myself leaning against the walls he built - almost vomiting at the thought of letting go of our home. Home is not here nor anywhere on this Earth. It is with him. I want to go home but the timing of my reunion is not mine to decide. So, I dream of a new life. And I will make it as happy as I can.

I'm just clocking in to say hello. And to say I still care about you all. I'll get there. Just in my own time. I can't do it any other way lest I am floored and cannot find the strength to try again. So I've switched off. And pretend I don't give a fuck that peeps disapprove or feel I've not been in touch. It hurts. Because there are days when it's too much to ask me to brush my hair, let alone visit them or phone. Really.

And so I'll sign off for now. It might be a while till I post more. Conserving energy. Emotional. Spiritual. Mental. Physical.

Wish me luck as I attempt to open our safe to retrieve cash that's been there since he died. He's stll looking after me. Surreal! The old door is stuck. Solid. I've almost cracked it. The can of WD-40 has taken a caning.

More and more shit seems to be happening and I'm unsure whether it's just life or another unhappy by-product of the Cliff-shaped hole left in my very heart and soul - or a mix of the two.

Like the fact that I'm sitting in Tesco supermarket car park writing this post, whilst charging my iPhone because the fucking plug at home doesn't work anymore.

It's endless. Relentless. Exhausting. Sorrowful. My tooth cracked last night. Just another thing to add to the list. My worry that I may have to euthanize my deaf dog because he bit my toe in protest at not getting his own way. He didn't savage me. But ... I worry. What if it was a child. More importantly Cliff's grandchild?

More to worry about. Alone. I know I have peeps to talk everything through with but stll ... the harsh reality is that it is all my decision now. As is the fallout.

I want to have a bath and lay down in clean sheets with him. Just hold each other and look in his eyes. See the love and sleep like a child for a night. That is all.

Instead ... I see my battery is now at 70% so I'll head home knowing I can chat on facebook as a reward IF I can open the safe.

Laters peeps <3


But I'll get there, baba. For you. For me. For love. For the future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grief

Grief is the price you pay for love.

The price is high ... but is it too high?

No it's not.

Those 15 years I shared with my magical beautiful husband, as well as the years before, as friends ... Oh, every second of this pain. The pain that feels like an amputation without anaesthetic ... Where I STILL feel as though I am bleeding everywhere. He is worth every second of this pain.

After a while ... you learn that time does not exist. Not when you love.

My heart is filling with love.

Little by little - the love is squeezing the pain out of my heart. Slowly but surely.

Love.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thank You Chelsea

Ohhhhhhh, these lyrics

and here's U2 singing it

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I've been in that deep dark place recently. Battling the darkness. These words have reached me.

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It's time to walk towards the light again. Clean the house. Look after myself properly. Only I can choose to do that ... only I am accountable .... only I can choose my attitude.

Never forget, you always have a choice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

a quote that I love













If, as I can't help suspecting, the dead also feel the pains of separation [...], then for both lovers, and for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.




~ C. S. Lewis

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This time ten years ago ...





... I started jumping up and down on the mahogany double poster bed at the lovely resort where we got married.



"I want to do it again," I said breathlessly.

"Boo, do you realize how much 'it' cost?"

"Baba, it was included in the booking, so it was free. Because this is all-inclusive. I don't mean it literally, you know? I mean, do it again, right now. Like rewind time and do it again."

"I swear to god you are trying to kill me."

"Never."

"Who loves you, baby?"

"You do, baba."

"That's right .... I do. You are so beautiful ... to me."





And he set the timer on our camera and waited for me to stop bouncing and gravitate towards him by nature ... gathering me up in his arms and kissing me. All safe in my la-la-land. So indescribably and deliriously happy.


The photo captured our feelings - our spirit - on that day so well, and I think it was the only photo we ever took of ourselves, using the self-timer.






And I find myself wishing once more on the day of our wedding ... wishing I could turn back time ... to this time ten years ago. Just for a few minutes with him. Even if it meant exchanging the rest of my life ... even if it meant going through all this pain again. He is worth every second of it. Every fucking second.






Only you, baba.


I want to do it again. Still. Always.



Thank you so much, from the deepest and most sacred room in my heart ~ to Megan ~ for creating this cherished piece of art, with so much love, empathy, care and, most of all, for getting angry and hurting on my behalf. There is no greater gift.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My body knows what my mind hadn't realized

uh-oh, here we go ...

our Wedding Anniversary is on the 21st.

It would have been our tenth ...



my body is mourning him
before my mind even realized the date was round the corner
is it any surprise?
when I can still feel his touch upon my skin?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wake up Boo

And this is how I fight.

I have always had to learn the hard way. Go to the bottom so I can climb back up.

So after hiding in my home and ignoring the world ... essentially pretending he's not dead, trying to give myself time out because I'm finally on top of things at work ... I finally woke up and noticed my Sky subscription and Internet connection has been severed (sorry for not commenting on your blogs) I finally stopped stepping over the pile of mail on my doormat. I finally started to take in the advice I'd gathered on diabetes.

So I'm feeling better. Work is good.

And tomorrow my girlfriend is going to open all the damn letters and bills and were going to figure out what I need to do. Cliffs still helping me. I have some money in the safe of his and some roof tiles to cash in. I might have to call in a debt or two - which won't go down well but that's tough.

I've woken up and it's time to take care of me now. If I don't take care of me I can't help anybody else, can I?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I want you more than I need you

I miss you so much baba.

There are such nasty people on this earth.

On Friday night I saw a man (and I use that term loosely) punch a woman. Several times. If you'd been there it never would have happened. I've never seen that happen before. I'm still in shock. I've not left my home since and shan't till it's time to go to work tomorrow.

My sixth sense came into play but really I was listening to what you'd have told me to do.

And so apart from being sad that people have no morals I'm reminded once more that you're not coming home.

Just moments before he punched her he'd spoken to me. Pretended to be charming. But I knew. He was looking in my eyes but I could see the madness in him. He said, "I'm not trying to intimidate you," and I replied, "no one can frighten me. You can't intimidate me. No one can. You have no idea.". I went cold and was calm. I saw a flicker of anger in his eyes as he realized, without understanding, that I was telling the truth and nothing but.

I think that sent him over the edge in his drink (and drug?) addled and clearly paranoid mind.

My reaction? I protected the dog in the room knowing it would attack him and that he would hurt him. Badly. So I watched the violence worsen as others tried to stop him hurting the woman whilst I covered the old dog - deaf now - ensuring I blocked his vision of this abhorrent scene.

When it was over I calmly walked home. But it's reminded me of how soft Cliff was with women and especially with me. A stark comparison.

And made me miss him more. And made me accept he's not coming home. Just a little more.

I hurt. Too much. Right now. I want you baba more than I need you. And that is how you measure love. To want someone more than you need them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Coldplay




I've had a fairly good weekend, only a few tears. There again I've snoozed through a great part of it.



Friday night I went down the coast to see Cliff's daughter. She laughed at me, because in my excitement at seeing Scarlett, I ran straight past her.



As promised, I'd printed out some photo collages I made on Photoscape of her and the kids. I'd also made one of Cliff and myself, and had it in the same pack, ready to show my BFF Vicki. Jayde caught sight of it and her reaction so touched me.



"ohhhh, wow, what lovely photos," she said.



"I chose those ones because they're really happy memories. Good times."



"I can see that. They're wonderful. I love this one, it's so beautiful," she added.



"Would you like this copy then, you can have it?"



"I'd love it, thank you."




Baba, your little girl has grown up so much. We still have that sisterly relationship. But she's become my friend now too.



Sitting there holding and telling Scarlett how beautiful she is and how she is loved so so much ... it grounds me. It gives me such peace. She just lays there looking at me, but she makes me feel so happy.




It was great to see Vicki. I hadn't seen her for the past two weekends. We gave each other a huge bear hug, both getting a bit emotional really. Her daughter (my goddaughter) was sleeping there in between moving, and when she came home and went to bed, we went upstairs to Vicki's bedroom, lying down on all the pillows, chilling and chatting. It felt as though we'd gone back to when we were 18 again.



The rest of it? Playing on my laptop, reading, snoozing, phone calls.



Like I was saying, I was having a fairly good weekend, then I put the Glastonbury highlights on, and Coldplay played these three songs, almost in a row.



And I broke.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdBym7kv2IM (The Scientist)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI-o25K6B-E (Fix You)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Kf_6BWcOOg (Every Teardrop is a Waterfall)





It's just as well I didn't go this year.



But I'm going to go the year after next ... (next year Glastonbury isn't on) because I want to go before I'm 50, and before I move to Spain. Cliff always refused to go, saying that I'd start crying when I saw the state of the toilets and the food and that he'd have had to have found a hotel, thus doubling the cost of the weekend. I think that it was the only thing I ever asked for that he said no to.



So the plan is to hire a campervan (with toilet and fridge .... oh and a freezer shelf for ice cubes of course) and go in 2013. Maybe Jayde (his daughter) will come with me. I think we'd all like that.

Right now it's sunny and warm outside ... even though it's 20h30. I looked out at the decking and wanted to sit there, but I knew I'd break again .... he's not here to sit with me. When I move to Spain I'll be able to sit outside again without him.

Just one little problem, when I do move, I know I'll finally believe that he isn't ever coming home. On an intellectual level, I accept that he's dead. He's dead. But my heart ... my heart still doesn't believe. And it scares me. I'm scared I'll lose my mind. I'm not ready for it yet. NOT YET. Two years and counting ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Now You're Gone

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/floetry/nowyouregone.html

no explanation required.

Laundered linen sheets
Touch me their coldness
And thoughts I can’t repeat
Shock me with their boldness
Why did my mind and body believe,
That you would never leave them?
Now there’s parts of me that blame,
Or well they force me to deceive themS
o come back and relieve them
Who would steal you?
I still feel you
Now you’re gone
These are lies
They’re not real
This is more than I can feel
This is wrong [3x]
A bath so hot it almost scolds
And I let the warm surround me
I slide down
Till only my face shows
But I feel colder now
Than before you found me
When u used to pin me down
The clarity in your intent
But if your mind was somewhere else
I can better anything you can invent
I thought you understood how much you meant
Who would steal you?
I still feel you
Now you’re gone
And these are lies
It’s not real
This is more than I can feel
It’s all wrong
Now you’re gone
I work hard to carry on
If you could’ve seen
How I’ve been
Then you’d know how much you meant
Who would steal you
I feel you
Now you’re gone
Now you’re gone
Now you’re gone
GoneGoneGone
Don’t you know how much you meant?
Who would steal you?
I still feel you
Now you’re gone
These are lies
They’re not real
This is more than I can feel
This is wrong [till end]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jamaica Say You Will

Joe Cocker - Jamaica Say You Will






I feel empty.

And nothing can satisfy the emptiness.

The hunger.

only you ....

I hunger for him.

This pain ... it's unspeakable. It's too much. Every cell in my body. My mind. My heart. My soul. All in unison ... screaming and screaming for him.

It's been more than tough recently.

I bet he never thought that at 2 and a half years into this new world, made to appear ugly and unsure at times by his absence, that I would be quite so bad. Or maybe he knew. I'm amazed that after 30 months, more memories flood into my heart and mind, and take my breath away. Sometimes bringing a smile. Sometimes bringing me to my knees, mouth open - expelling breath ... no sound, even though I am making the sound, it doesn't come ... instead I expel air from my body ... which culminates in a need to start gulping air after a while. Too stunned to cry. It reminds me of when I held my breath as he took his last, and how I despaired when my body would not let me join him, there and then.


Yesterday I remembered him saying to me (right at the beginning - 17 years ago), "don't worry, it's only infatuation." He was trying to convince himself too. We both fell hard and fast. And I remembered how excited I got every day on my way home from work, because I was going to see him. After 15 years with someone, that's pretty cool ... and rare perhaps. I remembered him giving me a handful of 20p pieces the first couple of weeks we were seeing each other, as we said goodbye in the morning before work. I stood there and must have looked puzzled. So he explained, "you have to pay 20p for your drinks at work don't you?" I was stunned. Neither of my ex's would have even thought to do that. And he looked after me like that for another 15 years. Spoiled. Yes I was. Happy and safe. Yes, the happiest I've ever been. And I know for sure that I'll never feel the same again.




Angeline (Joe Cocker)


Angeline (Joe Cocker) lyrics.




But he is worth every second of this pain. And I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, just for 5 minutes with him. Just for a taste of him.


... and whilst searching for that song on YouTube, I discovered Cocker released a song (and album) back in 1975. No way can I listen to it yet, but it's called "Jamaica Say You Will" (where we got married). Never heard it before and don't think Cliff did either ... but I'm glad Cocker was such a big part of our lives ... our life together, and still is. Today, think Soul time, Let the Healing Begin, Have a Little Faith ...



I am beyond hurt. Sometimes it hurts too much to cry. Like when you're in so much physical pain that you daren't cry ... because the act itself will add to your pain.


and recently ... I've been feeling like he's around. Almost within reach. Trying to be visible. I see a shape in my peripheral vision ... then turn around and ... gone. But I can FEEL him here. Or is it because I wish it so ... and I'm imagining the whole thing? There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. It was suggested that spiritual places such as forests and canyons, places of wild beauty, were the best places to seek these magical-sounding spaces ... just to sit and remember, meditate or talk to your loved one. Well, you won't find me trundling around a fucking forest looking for somewhere to sit and be still. Not unless I can drive my car and tom-tom (GPS) through it. Because the universe would only laugh at me and I'd end up slipping in bear or bambi-poo, getting lost, and forgetting which side of the trees the icky slimy green stuff is supposed to be on if you're heading in the right direction.



I think my "thin" place is in my heart and in Stockbury. I find him here, in the picture above each time I drive down to the coast. I found it in the Blue Mountains and Uluru. I see him in sunsets and stars. I find him everywhere ... I don't think I need to go searching for that which I know better than anything or anyone else. I don't believe in god or heaven, but I do believe in goodness and an after-life. I know that there is something after this life ... something greater, more magical and beyond our limited imagination here on this Earth.


I'm struggling big time.


No one mentions anything positive. Only the negatives. So out of proportion. I'm sick of explaining stuff to people who have already formed opinions based on incorrect information, yet feel qualified to tell me what's wrong with me, don't listen when I tell them the actual facts, then repeat their original words to me, as way of letting me know that I'm wrong ... or my memory is ... or perhaps I'm stupid? Or worse, lying. It's insulting. I'm sick of being considerate to everyone, but most not returning the sentiment. I'm sick of politics and fucking games. Just because I don't play them doesn't mean I don't see exactly what they are doing. Since Cliff died I seem to have inherited his ability to predict what people would do before they even thought of it. Sad. Not nearly intelligent enough to see that though ... they want to be careful out there, or else

Don't sit down cos I've moved your chair

(the lyrics are here).

what else am I sick of? People talking to me like shit. People moaning I haven't been in touch or visited them. FFS. Some days it's too much fucking effort to brush my hair. I know I can't expect them to understand. I also know that I had an extraordinarily close relationship with Cliff, and they might not get that either. No, fuck it. You know what ... I don't go round making assumptions based on heresay or jackshit, WTF gives them the right to? Arrogance, delusions of grandeur? They wouldn't survive 10 minutes in my world, yet I can thrive in theirs. Come and play ... you have no fucking idea. None.



And it hurts when old friends of his don't think of me when they must have thought of him. There is no such thing as a coincidence in this world. Because when one of them discovered that I wasn't interested in jumping in the sack with him, he's become invisible and mute. Nice. NOT.


I'm sick of duplicity and moving goalposts.


I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.


I'm sick of people not saying "thank you".










I've been searching for something, I don't quite know what. So, I've been going through drawers that I haven't really opened for the longest time. It was like taking a peek into my previous life. With him. A blissful time of happy and innocent oblivion. Amongst many other things, I came across these mini-Winnies and a lovely necklace that he bought me and ... one of Hammer's (our rottweiler who we lost 3 years before Cliff died) last cuddly toy, all safely wrapped in plastic. Of course it had its eyes, nose and mouth missing, along with one leg. A gorilla. I breathed in his smell ... and my heart called out to him and Cliff ... for that wonderful life. My two boys.




And then I did something really stupid. I thought I'd check out a dating site and while I created my profile, I felt nauseous. And when I had to upload a profile photo, I kept touching his face as I trawled through the images on my laptop looking for a suitable image. (Images of me before and after - in case you're wondering I chose an "after" picture. Anything else would have been subject to the trade description act.) I was going to have a look then delete my profile. And, I forgot that minor point. So each day I've been avoiding going onto the site to shut down my profile because then I'll see all the photos and messages. And I'm scared. WTF? It's not like they can see me, right? I wish I'd got that black cab driver's number.






Three things have had a profound effect on me this month:



1. Being reminded of what arseholes Margate Police are. They overtook me (I was doing the speed limit) and they didn't even break, just swerved a bit, when a racoon (or something ... do we even get racoons in the UK?) ran out in the road. I managed to avoid it by braking, letting it cross to the safety of the other side. But I think it was hurt. I saw the look on its face and started screaming, "no, no, nooooo you fucking bastards". They didn't even slow down at all and carried on driving to ... get their fucking coffee and donuts or whatever (because I saw them turn in to the place) without a care in the world. I wanted to go check on the critter, but was too scared in the pitch black to do so. If he'd been with me though ..... sigh.



2. The nightmare I had. Cliff told me that he was in love with another girl. I was heartbroken. He showed her to me. She was happy, confident, healthy, balanced. Everything I'm not. I hated her. Then I woke up and realized the other girl was me. Before. And I hated her even more. Was he telling me to go on and live?



3. The view of Margate seafront when I drove down a couple of weeks ago. I knew they were building an art centre there. But I somehow didn't think about actually seeing it. As though it would remain invisible to me. It isn't. And when I saw the seafront ... changed ... not Cliff's seafront that he was a part of in so many ways ... not the view his eyes drank in, it broke me. I was howling unashamedly in public for the first time in ages. I managed to reach the sanctuary of my friend's home and then broke some more. She got it. But then she's a widow too.



and I need to kick this behaviour ... for the past couple of months, when going shopping for essentials like milk etc after work, I've been sitting in my car in whichever supermarket car park for ages. I check facebook and blogs on my iPhone. I sit and stare. Sometimes wasting hours there. It's like I don't want to go home. I sob and shed those healing tears. Then exhausted, return to my dogs and my otherwise empty house. Home is with him. Not here. It's hard to engage in life when you don't have emotional investment in it. When the only thing you want is not here.



But I shall. I will. I promised him I'd be alright. And I can't let him down.



Just need to get over that little thing next month. Our wedding anniversary.



Jamaica Say You Will? Oh baba, in a heartbeat.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stay






































I had a dream last night



You were there



You held my hand so tight



I thought I'd just died



Do you remember?



When we used to have



So much fun



I used to cry sometimes



Those days are gone



Did you remember?



Do you remember?



I wanna go back to







Back to the days



When I needed



A little more fun



When I believed I



I believed



I could fly so high



Through the clouds



Tear down these walls



If just for one day



Tear down these walls



I need you to stay



Stay



Turning back time to



Times we made love



All day



Under the sun



When I believed I



I believed



I could fly so high



Through the clouds



Tear down these walls



If just for one day



Tear down these walls



I need you to stay



Stay






video

video

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Three Days Old

Scarlett Grace Mayhew





I didn't cry, baba. (Not till I got home and shut the front door behind me.)


Not even when I smelled that baby smell (you know, that amazing babyness/scent on the top of her head ... does nature make babies smell gorgeous as well as look gorgeous so that adults immediately want to protect them at any cost?), or even when I first held her.


She is a relaxed, content and beautiful baby. Most of the time she slept ... yet we found that fascinating ... finding ourselves leaning towards her, just looking ... we kept doing that. And laughing at ourselves.


I know this. I would die for her. When she wrapped her fingers around one of mine ... I knew I would always love her. She is part of you. As your daughter and other two grandchildren are. You cannot help but love those who are part of the person who you love so deeply. So I do.




When she held my finger, I nearly lost it ... because I remembered you telling me that when Jayde first did that to you, you felt a bond and you loved her from that very moment.




I'm so so happy to have them in my life. Another legacy. Breathing legacies with great personalities.


She is magical, baba. I think you held her soul before she came here. It's a shame that she will have forgotten by the time she can walk and talk. But I think she remembers now.


Magical.


They aren't mine. But I don't even need to wish they were ... because they ARE. Mine. Simply because I love them. We are all family in every sense of the word, bonded because of you.



Mayhew.





Thursday, May 26, 2011

You should be here

Scarlett Grace Mayhew



My beautiful husband, you should be here for this. Your grand-daughter arrived on Monday the 23rd May, at a healthy weight of just under 8 pounds. She is gorgeous ... adorable.



I'm going to see her tomorrow ... I can't wait till Friday and I could hear the happiness in Jayde's words when I told her I was coming a day early.



But you should be here. You should be holding her gently in those huge hands. Just for a while before I get an hour long cuddle ...



This is not right. The universe has made an almighty fuck-up.



Your blood is running through your daughter's veins, and your blood also runs through this precious new life, along with her two beautiful siblings. How can you not be here?



I shall hold her, smell that baby-scent on the top of her pretty head and I shall cry. Happy tears, tinged with sorrow. Did you hold her soul before she came here? Did you whisper to her that you'd be watching over her? Did you ask her to tell her Mum and I that you love us? Did she giggle? I keep remembering your face, the emotion shining from your clear blue eyes as they "drank" your daughter and me in. It was as though you were trying to take a mental photograph. We were singing along to something that had very explicit lyrics and Jayde was 14. You managed to ignore that ... and told us, "Oh I love you both so so much."



You had a heart as big as the house you built for us. You still do ... it's just not tangible anymore. I know you're here sometimes. We're going to be okay, but we're never going to stop missing you. How could we?



You should be here ... making me cry with emotion at the sight of her, the whole of her held safely in one of your hands. I miss your hands so much.



She is so beautiful, baba. And tomorrow will be the only time that I cry with happiness and sorrow. I shan't be able to stop the tears, if I do, I'll end up even worse ... after the first few seconds of that first cuddle, there will be only happiness. It's just the first few seconds.


I'm so excited. And you know ... over the past couple of months I've really not been doing well ... getting stressed, working silly hours, diabetes tiring me even more, so I had no energy to look after myself or the house, and working silly hours gave me an escape from the reality of you not being here. A vicious circle, spiralling downwards, out of control - the pilot completely oblivious ... until her boss marched her to HR and read her the riot act.


So ... a new life in our family. Already loved. A new start for me - working towards some balance in my little world. You were my balance and my safety net.


You should be here. I love you. I want you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blog to win!



Widowed Bloggers -- win a ticket to Camp Widow! Write a post sharing WHY you want to attend Camp Widow 2011.



LINK your post below to make sure we see it (you can also send us a note when you post it, to supa.dupa.fresh AT gmail.com).



Camp Widow is a exceptional weekend for widowed people of all ages.



We will choose one (possibly two) bloggers to receive a PARTIAL scholarship that covers Camp registration and some incidental expenses.



NO ACTUAL CAMPING IS INVOLVED. Learn more about this event, which is in its third year, at campwidow.org.



How do I enter?



Please write and publish a blog post telling the world WHY you wish to attend.



You can include topics such as how you expect to benefit, or share about some of the widowed people you've already met. You do not need to demonstrate financial need though if you wish to write a separate note discussing your financial circumstances, you may do so. Those notes should go to supa.dupa.fresh AT gmail.com.



Who is eligible to compete? Widows and widowers of all ages who started blogging before 4/1/11 and who are interested in attending Camp Widow 2011.



Please note: you should be prepared to pay for and arrange your travel to and from, and your lodging in San Diego. (We can help you find a roommate to reduce costs). If our generous donors can pay more, they will, but please don't apply unless you are prepared to make the trip (including arranging child care, taking time off work, etc.). You must publish your blog post AND notify us by midnight EST, Tuesday, May 31.



We will notify the winner within 2 weeks. Camp Widow will be held August 12-14. Details are at campwidow.org.



Winner MUST schedule and pay for his or her your own travel and hotel reservations.



Scholarship covers Camp Widow registration fee plus some incidentals.



Questions? Want to help fund this scholarship?



We want to hear from you.Supa.dupa.fresh AT gmail.com.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting through Easter, my Birthday and two bank holiday weekends




I decided to celebrate Easter at work by being the secret Easter Bunny. Having to meet some New York colleagues on the Sunday at work, I managed to leave this (and one just like it), unobserved, at two shared areas within our office. It felt good to join in. It felt even better when I saw my colleagues' reactions to them.



OK, it's not Christmas. But it's a start.




I celebrated my birthday along with my god-daughter's (she was born the day after mine) with a lunch at a favourite Italian restaurant. Eating al fresco with a view of the sea on a sunny day in the company of my BFF, goddaughter and BFF's youngest sister was good for my soul. The simple things. In life. I remember how we used to sing along and understand Joe Cocker's tribute to that very subject.



After lunch we went for a walk down to the harbour and people-watched, chatted and philosophised about life. Goddaughter headed off for a night out and BFF and I returned to her home for numerous cups of tea and some heart to heart conversations. She is my rock and confidante.



This card brought nothing but laughter to me. I think my team at work is trying to tell me something.



The shoe man came into work on my birthday, and he appeared bemused by my reaction upon seeing him. "Yay, it's my birthday, and you appear with your shoes .... as if by magic!" whilst clapping and bouncing up and down like 3 year old. He grinned and showed me shoes he thought I'd really like. He beamed when I openly showed delight upon seeing him ... followed by what I imagine was confusion ...I wondered afterwards if he thought I saw him as some sort of masculine version of Tinkerbell.

Talking of fairies, I was so touched by one of my gifts. A Fairy wind chime from Roy and La-la. Some friends have told me that they think of me as a Fairy (with Tourettes? LOL) and it reminds me of the magic and connection I still have with Cliff. That nothing is impossible. You just have to believe. And he is the gentle breeze that makes the chimes sound. Maybe there are fairies or angels. Who knows whether they exist or not? I know love is real. And you can't see or touch that either. But it's real. Real enough to be stronger than death even.



(not actual gift but very similar)


And for the past 6 weeks, I've been stocking up on baby stuff. Focusing on the new life about to join our family instead of what has been lost. Cliff's third grandchild will be joining us on May 23rd. The c-section is booked. I really had fun shopping for her arrival. The evidence of my enjoyment resulting in four huge canvas shopping bags full.



*one of everything I could find in the baby care range - disposable diapers, and a diaper that is designed to last until they are potty trained - you just have to buy the cheaper option of slip in pads which are sold in increasing sizes to match baby, nasal decongestant, gripe water, nappy rash cream, teething gel, q-tips, baby wipes, disposable bibs and changing mats for days out, and one of each in the Johnson's Baby Product range - baby oil, baby lotion, baby soap, baby powder etc etc.








*baby girl clothes. 0-3 months, 3 - 6 months, 6 - 9 months, 9- 12 months. My personal favourites (apart from the Winnie the Pooh range) were a 0 - 3 month white cardigan and a 9 - 12 month raincoat in pink with black polka dots, and a 3 - 6 month denim dress with matching striped tights and long sleeved t-shirt.



*baby paraphernalia. A bouncer for her to sit in (the seat resembling the shape of an egg ... a womb like shape) which vibrates at the touch of the button ... to soothe. It is of course pink and girly and comes with a mobile that has stuff to stimulate her sight, curiosity, touch. Another bouncer type seat designed for using in the bath. So her mum can enjoy bathing her, and bath time will result in hopefully playtime, as opposed to a slippery, squirming, tearful battle of wills. I think I bought the whole Tommy Tippee range, with magic mat, bowls, bottle, training beaker, weaning spoons that change colour if her food is too hot, and some Winnie the Pooh dishes and plates too. A Winnie the Pooh blanket (which I think they will ALL be sharing).


*toys. Her first doll. Her first book called, "That's not my bunny". A bunny to cuddle (whose feet are designed to chew when baby is teething!) a teether that can be frozen or microwaved to provide some pain relief, a hippo that swims, to keep her company in the bath. And a rubber duck which changes colour if the water is too hot. Baby Roo who plays a lullaby.






Amber


And a gift for both of her siblings. Theo is only three (although he wears age 6 - 7 clothes already, and I can see so much of Cliff in him, not just because Theo is clearly going to be of a similar build). His love of animals. Being such a boy. But equally sporting the softness in him. I decided upon Aquadoodle for him, because he recently had an "accident" with paint in his bedroom.



Amber is older and would not be affected by sibling rivalry, but how could I leave her out ... so she was given cash to spend on her own choice.



And Jayde - the mum to be - a scrapbook designed to capture the baby years, and a wooden photo frame - with 3 spaces to show off her 3 children.




Jayde - only 2 weeks to go



I got such pleasure watching her look through everything. She was so touched and kept saying, "you've got me everything I need. oh wow! Look at this!" At the end, she looked around the lounge and remarked on how it looked like she'd held a baby shower, but it was only me.



My beautiful husband, you would be so proud of your little girl. She is a superb mother and knows that she is rich and lucky to have her 3 children (including one not yet born). She's finished growing up now that you've gone. She's been subjected to some darkness in her life. But like you always did, she's moved on, discarding bitterness but kept the learnings. I've been sharing some of your childhood memories with her now her children are at the age(s) that you were when your most formative memories occurred. The imminent arrival of your granddaughter has got me through the past few weeks, which would have been very dark without her to look forward to ... I had my 3rd birthday without you. Two more bank holiday weekends, including Easter. I kept falling into that deep dark place, but instead of dwelling and wading through a treacle heavy grief for days on end, I kept focusing on this new life, her blood shared with, and because of, your own.



You'd have had (mock?) annoyance with me on this shopping spree. Each spree resulted in a checkout girl oooowing and aaaaaahing over the cute outfits I'd taken so long to select. Was it soft enough, was it faulty, would Jayde like it, did it look cute? I tried to remain grounded and remember the practical things like bibs, socks and babygrows, and succeeded. I bought for different seasons. I didn't frequent the out priced baby designer shops. I was good actually ... for me. But even I, in the end, thought to myself, OK you've amassed a selection for her first year - to wear. You've set her up with everything a baby needs in consumables, and chucked in some stuff purely for fun and pleasure. That's enough. Don't venture into that ground of trying to compensate for your absence. I think I was close to stepping over that line. This baby doesn't replace you, but she is a living descendant of yours. Just as Jayde, Amber and Theo are. How could I not love them and spoil them every now and again.



Were you there? Were you there when we went through all the stuff, laughing and aaaaaawing at the cuteness of some of the outfits? Did you feel pride that Jayde could "see" intuitively, no need for the instructions, to assemble the bouncer? Did you feel happiness at seeing how Jayde and I are still like sisters (I still love her for saying, "she's not old enough to be my stepmother" every time someone asked years ago). Sisterly still. But now friends as well. Comfortable in each other's company. A shared humour. She has become a beautiful woman. In and out. I love you with every breath and every cell in my body ... so she and your grandchildren are remarkably easy to love ... impossible not to love to be honest. I love seeing them and laughing with them. Another legacy. You left legacies in so many shapes and forms, some tangible, some not. But this legacy is more special than any ... and I am grateful that they are in my life. I promise you that I will do my best to be there for them when they need it. Being there for them is a given. What I mean is do my best if I can help them in any way as they face their own trials and battles in life. Not as well as you would have done. There was only one you and there will never be another like you.



Someone told my BFF that I'd be okay but I had to realize that I'd never find another you. FFS. Has he only just realized? I was aware of that fact when you were still here with me.



I felt you there when an overwhelming sadness shrouded me on that last baby shopping spree. Sorrow that you were denied the pleasure of meeting your last grandchild. Injustice that she wouldn't meet you. I was battling with emotions at the till. The middle aged lady who was manning the checkout remarked on how lovely my choices were and asked who the baby was. I told her, "my late husband's third grandchild. We know it's a girl and she's due in a couple of weeks." She looked me right in the eyes and said, "I'm widowed too. Twenty years ago next week. How long has it been for you?" I told her and asked how she was doing at 20 years. She said that mainly she was fine, but significant dates or a trigger would bring the grief tumbling down on her again. She would never stop loving or missing him, but it had become normal to sit with that, the ache was no longer noticeable - it had become part of her very being. I nodded and agreed that I saw myself following her footsteps in time. She shared that her husband had heart problems and endured painful life-saving surgery, only to be subjected to cancer as he recovered from this. And the cancer stole him from her. She said she still found it hard. That he suffered with heart surgery - post op. for nothing. Except a fate worse than what he had already borne. I started shaking my head, "not fair, that is NOT fair". She said it was their wedding anniversary the following week, and I reached out and squeezed her hand. We looked at each other. There was a couple behind me and they had (without my noticing till that point) been observing our body language I guess .... which caused them to tune in to what we were saying ... and their feelings were palpable. No words spoken, but their faces said a lot. It took two hours in the shop's car park till I was in a fit state to drive. But I felt you there. I felt your love more than I felt your death. But still I cried. Making those noises that didn't sound human. Primal. Animal like. For when we grieve we return to that state, and remember that we are animals. Upon returning home, I played these songs by Joe Cocker, who along with dance music (when we used to go out) was very much the soundtrack of our life together. I remember you playing me two songs specifically when we were first in love. You played them again and again - we played them - until you left. We shared those lyrics, we knew they were about us. We knew them to be true, just as we knew our love was. You are so beautiful. Have a little faith (this one speaks strongly to me today, viewed from a different perspective). How I wish it were not so. It's only recently that I've been able to listen to Joe Cocker again.


Well, I've realized that he still is part of our lives, even though I can't see you, you are still here somewhere, just out of my reach and sight ...








Now that you're gone (Cliff would always associate the beginning lyrics with me)


Monday, May 9, 2011

Just breathe

Yes I understand
That every life must end
As we sit alone
I know someday we must go
Oh I'm a lucky man
To count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Yeah others they got none
Stay with me
Let's just breathe
Practised on our sins
Never gonna let me win
Under everything
Just another human being
I don't want to hurt
There's so much in this world to make me bleed
Stay with me
All I see
Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
What if I did and I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
'cause I come clean
I wonder everyday
As I look upon your face
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
What if I did and I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
I come clean
Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Hold me till I die
Meet you on the other side

(Pearl Jam)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Will you join us in helping a sister widow?



We are a close community. Some of us have never met, and may never ever meet face to face ... but I feel such strong ties to everyone in this circle. This community. You are family, actually you have become as important to me as my family over the past two years.



I would not have coped this far or this well without each and every one of you. Fact. Because of having you there beside me, cheering me on, understanding and feeling what I feel ... I have felt less alone. I have realized that I am not losing my sanity. There have been days when I would only open up to this community, shutting the rest of the world out.



We've laughed together and we've cried.



Many of us refer to each other as sister-widows. I have many times.



Well, one of our sisters needs help. Right now. Her name is Cadi and she was born to be a mother (IMHO). She has beautiful children and she is a gentle soul. Cadi has not asked for help. But she needs it now. Some of my favourite sister-widows got together and asked for help on her behalf, which makes me proud to know such huge hearts. Hearts that despite their unspeakable pain are full of love and caring.



Please visit her blog and donate a few dollars/pounds. Any amount ... $5 ... £5 ... or whatever you can give ... will be gratefully received.



The lovely Debbie Thomas (Sudden Widow) is also asking for a contact for a Lawyer in NZ, please let her know if you know of someone who would work pro bono. Please.



here's the link to Deb's blog: http://suddenwidow.blogspot.com/



and here's the link to Cadi's blog where you can read Jackie Chandler's guest post ... and donate via PayPal.






Please send her light and love. We are all devastated by our grief, overwhelmed and struggling ... fighting our own private battles. But I for one know that I can afford to stay in my home, heat it and eat 3 meals a day. Not all of us are so fortunate.



If we can't help each other, well ... who can we help?

Monday, May 2, 2011

He's dead

Osama bin Laden is dead.

I'm feeling quiet and reflective today.

Thinking about Kim and Abby.

Thinking about 9/11 and all those people who died and their grieving families.

Thinking about friends in and from the Middle East.

Thinking and wondering about what is going to happen now.

I wish everyone in the world could watch this video ... would it even make a difference? Hatred is such a waste of emotion and energy, but it is so so powerful and frightening.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUEGHdQO7WA

I wish you peace, all of you.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Inspiring

I read this yesterday, and although it made me cry, I also found it so inspiring and wanted to share it.

http://drowningsupportnetwork.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/meeting-james-ventrillo-the-boy-earl-rescued-in-the-los-angeles-river/

The radio clip here is especially worth listening to:

http://www.scpr.org/programs/madeleine-brand/2010/09/20/




(other links for support for the bereaved - if they have lost someone through drowning - can be found here: http://nasbla.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3409)

It made me look at an old schoolfriend - Mark - in a whole different light because he is a search and rescue helicopter pilot. A quiet hero indeed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Not lying down in the ashes of a forest fire







People who don't get it just want to see you getting better ... they don't understand the length of time that it takes to start a new life when your old life has been completely annihilated ... they probably don't see that your old life has been completely destroyed ... they probably think that, "well, you lost a husband but the rest of your life is still in tact so you just need to carry on," ....










but, in fact, even if the framework looks on the surface like it's still there (you have a good job, a nice house, etc..), the entire landscape (inner landscape) has been destroyed ... how do you carry on walking through the woods after the woods have been burned to the ground? You can walk ... but it is sort of aimless walking ... well, at least it's walking, not lying down in the ash ...







but real walking and enjoying the forest doesn't happen for a long time because you have to wait for new trees to grow!







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Thanks Kendra for your support, as always.

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My old school friend who selflessly helps me through her own pain. She walked through the ashes for a long long time, and as you can see ... the new trees did grow again in her forest. Here she is in that very forest, doing even more than walking.







riding our own waves of grief - together - on a day of calmer seas (Singapore 2010)


Monday, April 25, 2011

enough already


Goodnight baba. Thank you for the glorious sunset.

I forgot something. You taught me never to give up. Never. So I shall not give up. Ever.
To do so would dishonour you. It's okay to grieve. But not for days and days on end. I also promised you that I wouldn't do that again. And I promised you, as you were dying that I would be okay, that it was okay to go. I need to deliver on that promise to you. It was the last promise I made you. How could I break a promise to the one person, the only man who never, not once let me down.

The sun will rise again tomorrow and I will shed this attitude as it does so. For you. For me. For love. And Light.




and I shall remember these words, written in Zulu ... and honour you.


(Go well brave warrior woman, for the sun will rise again tomorrow.)


And rise it shall.

And rise I shall.


... for Love is stronger than death.


Easter Monday





Today I'm despondent, missing you and lethargic.




Laying on my sofa with our dogs, still in my PJ's.



The house is a tip. The mail remains unopened for a week. Phone calls un-returned.



I opt for solitude because I can cry unashamedly and often. I can speak to you. With you even. I opt for solitude because it feels as though I am with you.



The leg of lamb I bought at a reduced price (you'd like that) as a treat for the dogs still remains in the freezer, for I cannot bear the smell permeating our home, as it would have done, had you still been alive.



Subjected to a fourth night of sleeping on this sofa because of the spider in our bedroom.



I've stayed in since Friday morning when I spent those hours in Stockbury, and missed all that lovely weather. Just as I have missed you.


I activated our old AOL email addresses on my iPhone because I finally realized that I still had those even though I changed my internet provider. It hurt to see the business address there. Your construction firm's address. Another reminder of broken dreams. It hurt to see a couple of emails received from friends addressed to both of us. Us. Before. My old life.


I look in the mirror these days and don't even recognize myself. The sparkle in my eyes has turned to a deadness. My smile is forced. My cheeks sunken. I look like a fucking heroin addict. I don't look like your Boo. It would sadden you and worry you so much and it makes me feel like I've let you down.



I've done a lot of grief work which is reflected in the amount of posts to my blog. It's exhausting, it bares my nerve endings again whilst healing me some more. It brings me some peace, but at a cost.



Time to have a break from grief work now.



Back to work tomorrow.



I miss you so much it's unspeakable, baba.



Is that why you keep coming to me in my dreams? Please don't stop. Not yet.

The Grief Recovery Handbook

yeah, right I hear you say.

Because that's what I said.

But I was willing to work through this book and give it a go ... and wanted to share my experience of doing so with you. I've completed some of the assignments and already feel more peace for doing so. And after my BFF and I have read each other our letters (at the end) I'll let you know if it helped.

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

This book approaches the subject from an emotional viewpoint, rather than intellectually. And I liked that they immediately explained that Kubler-Ross' concept of stages applied to dying, not grieving, which reassured me, along with the fact that both authors had experienced deep loss themselves. They explain that anger is an emotion that not all of us who grieve experience. I know that I've only felt anger, true anger, once ... so it made me feel a little more "normal".

But what really kept me reading the book were these words:

"Not forgetting" becomes incorrectly entangled with the idea of "not getting over". This crippling idea keeps the griever's heart eternally broken, does not allow for recovery ...

they suggest that we say, "when I am reminded of his struggles and death, my heart feels broken. Other times, remembering his wonderful qualities, I feel happy and pleased to share my memories about him." instead of "I have a permanently broken heart."

That closure is an inaccurate word. That a lawsuit cannot help you become emotionally complete.

That instead of using the word Guilt, we use different, better, more

That using the word survivor isolates you even more in our society, that every relationship is unique and therefore every loss is unique.

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The lessons:

1. What we have been taught about loss/things people say to us -

Don't feel bad (don't cry)
Replace the loss (you can marry again)
Grieve alone (go to your room and cry - as a child) (others react uncomfortably to tears)
Give it time (time heals)
Be strong for others (being told to be strong for your mother if your father died)
Keep busy (it's only a distraction)

Even a well-meaning friend who has a parallel loss does not know how we feel. It's only an intellectual fact, not an emotional truth.

2. How people react to our grief -

they are uncomfortable or even afraid of our feelings (be strong / be brave)
they change/shift the subject from you to the deceased (I feel so sad .... but she's in a better place now)
they intellectualize (she led a full life / you'll find someone else because you're young / the living must go on)
they don't hear us (we don't need to be fixed by them, just listened to)
they don't want to talk about death (he passed away / Dad's gone)
professional distortions (grief is normal reaction to loss, it is not a pathological condition or a personality disorder. PTSD / Depression - incorrect use of these words is misleading)
they want us to take pills to make us feel better (grief is painful and sometimes in the short term benefits the grieving, however in the end approaching grief naturally is shown to have more long term benefit. Our society deals with upset this way when we are children: "Don't cry, have a cookie."
they want us to keep our faith (you shouldn't be angry with God)

We are taught that we must act "recovered" in order to be treated in an acceptable manner. Putting on the "I'm fine" smile. Intellectualizing increases our sense of isolation and creates a feeling of being judged and even criticized. So we focus on only fond memories, even enshrinement (keeping large numbers of objects that represent the person lost, and look at the relationship as only positive, not remembering anything negative at all ... or we focus only on the negatives ... and it is critical that we are honest with ourselves and others about the person and our memories.)

Unresolved grief tends to separate us from ourselves. It saps all the energy from us. It takes everything to get out of bed and go to work.

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The Road to Recovery

What do you wish had been different / better / more?

e.g. you were unkind to the person the last time you spoke to them.

Write down what you wish had been different / better / more.

I wish that I'd had more time with you. That I'd helped you more renovating our home. That I'd realized I was depressed about losing our dog and talked to you about it. That I'd been more proactive about taking you to be checked out instead of telling you to see the doctor. That you felt you shouldn't worry me about your deteriorating health, that I either didn't see or sub-consciously denied. I wish I could have had your son. I wish we could have retired in Spain, or that I'd thought of my plans for living in Spain before, so that you could have retired ... and you might have lived longer and stress-free.

Realize that others are not responsible for our feelings. We cannot change others' actions but we can choose how to feel/react to those actions. We turn ourselves into victims. We are advised to let it go or to move on, but as humans we simply don't work that way. We cannot recover until we stop seeing ourselves as victims.

Choose whether to work alone or with a partner (who is also grieving a loss - any loss is fine). If working with a partner, lay some ground rules:

agree a safe meeting place, bring tissues, crying is natural, so is not crying, agree whether hugs are acceptable (but wait till the end of the exercise to hug as this can stop feelings coming out), treat this as two friends having a conversation). Be totally honest, maintain confidentiality, respect the uniqueness of their loss - do not compare losses.

I'm intending to complete this with my BFF who has lost her mum.

Homework:

Review the myths and cliches you have heard:

e.g. don't feel bad and she led a full life

At least you're young, it could be worse.
He wouldn't want you to be sad.
Life goes on.
Time will heal.
At least you experienced real love, I haven't.
Everything happens for a reason.
Be strong.
Be brave.
You should be getting better now.
Why don't you take anti-depressants? So what if you are on them for the rest of your life?

Discuss the misinformation you have been taught or told. Discuss the impact it had on you. Discuss how you have been using some of these concepts to deal with your loss.

Short-term Energy-Relieving Behaviours:

these give relief in the short-term but are damaging in the long-term. Examples of STERBS are:

Food
Alcohol
Drugs
Anger
Exercise
Fantasy (movies, books, TV)
Isolation
Sex
Shopping
Workaholism

Some of these are not harmful in themselves, only when you use them for the wrong reason.

Identify your use of STERBs

Food
Alcohol
Reading
Isolation
Shopping
Travelling
Working
Internet use - Facebook, Blog etc
Refusal to change anything in the house from the day he died
Minimizing my loss in comparison to widows in the Third World
Focussing on others' loss instead of my own

Create a loss history linear graph of your losses, starting with your birth year and ending with this year. Write down all your losses along this chronological line (e.g. dog died, divorced, mother died, spouse died). Then draw lines downwards for each one. The longer the line (downwards), the greater the pain associated with the loss.

Share this with your partner. Don't interrupt your partner if it is their turn to talk. If you cry, try to keep talking, don't choke the feelings off. Remember to include any STERBs you used during these losses, the myths or cliches you were told and how that influenced your grieving.

Now choose one loss that you want to work on.

Cliff

Create a relationship graph in the same style as the last graph. The difference this time is that you include happy memories (above the line) and negative stuff (below the line). Again the length of lines above or below denote how positive or negative these experiences were.

Start the graph on the year that you first met and be totally honest.

Share this with your partner and as before, don't interrupt them etc.

Using your graph categorize all the events into the following:

Apologies

for being impatient and ill-tempered after working too hard
for not noticing that your health was deteriorating
for not being strong, so that you always had to be
for not vocalizing how I felt sometimes
for not giving up smoking
for making you feel that I didn't listen to you anymore. I did but I am sorry that you thought I didn't.
for being jealous sometimes
(Note: there are more apologies but they are private and will only be shared with my partner)

Forgiveness

I forgive you for being nasty to me for the first two days of our cruise.
I forgive you for ruining a Christmas because you were angry that you couldn't buy gifts for everyone and you took it out on me and got drunk.
I forgive you for the birthday when you inexplicably turned on me and really frightened me because I couldn't understand what I had done wrong, and I still don't know.
I forgive you for always "picking on me" when you were uncomfortable in anyone's company because it must have made you feel better. You were never really horrible but it made me not want to visit some people with you after a while.
(Note: there are more notes but as before these are too private)

Significant Emotional Statements

I love you
I think I have loved you since I was 18
I shall always love you
You are my "one"
I shall never feel the same
You let me retain my innocence and made me safe
You gave me everything
I remember your words and lessons. I listened.
You made me feel beautiful and special for the first time in my life
You loved me more than anyone could
You knew me better than anyone could
You taught me so much and still teach me
I shall never stop missing you
I'm so proud to be your wife
You are a man.
You healed me.
You gave me confidence, support and a safe environment in which to grown.
You sacrificed an entire life for me and never once complained.
You worked so hard for us.
You are so smart and patient.
You would have died for me.
I would die for you.
I've never been as happy as I was with you.
You are my world.
You gave me the best days and memories of my life, and more fun than I ever had in my life.
I still want to be with you, but I'm learning to cope.
I promised you as you were dying that I would be alright, and I need to deliver on that promise.
You never let me down, not once, and that is why I find it so hard to believe that you can't come back.

Read this out to your partner, without interruption or hugs, whilst reading it. Try to carry on reading if you cry. Don't discuss this with your partner afterwards. It is what it is.

Now write your completion letter. Review your assignments already completed first. The purpose of this is to say goodbye to the pain you associate with this relationship, including unmet dreams. It signals the end of this communication BUT NOT THE END OF THE RELATIONSHIP. It is crucial to end the letter "goodbye).

One format to use follows:

Dear xxx

I've been thinking about our relationship and want to tell you some things.

xxxx, I apologize for xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (how many you want to include)
xxxx, I forgive you for xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (whatever you wish to say)
xxxx, I want you to know (emotional statements)

I love you, I miss you. Goodbye xxxx
(Note: I have decided that when I write this letter I will not publicly share it)

As the listener, be a heart with ears. Do not interrupt. Do not touch. If tears well up leave them there. If you wipe away the tears you give the reader the message that tears are bad. Do not judge or analyze. As soon as the reader says "goodbye", hug them. Hold them as they cry.

As the reader, close your eyes and get a mental image of the person whom you have written to. Open your eyes and read. If you cry, keep reading otherwise you will swallow your feelings. Before reading your final sentence (say goodbye), close your eyes and imagine the person again.

You have said goodbye to unfinished business, emotional incompleteness, pain, isolation and confusion and the physical relationship that you had.

You are not saying goodbye to fond memories. It doesn't mean you will no longer feel sad, it just means you don't have to go over the same things that were bothering you, especially feelings of guilt in my case.

It's ok to add a P.S. to your letter if more things come to mind.

After completion you may find you want your external environment to match your internal thoughts. e.g. cleaning up and sorting through physical reminders of your loved one. Don't rush this. Having a friend to help you is recommended. Tell them (or talk out loud if alone) about memories attached to the clothing. Place it in three piles: keep / dispose / unsure. Put the keep pile back in the closet. Dispose of the dispose pile appropriately (give to friends/relations/charity), box or bag up the remainder. After a month, bring out the unsure pile and try again. After 3 months, try again. Eventually you will make up your mind about everything in the unsure pile. Eventually you may choose to put the "keep" pile somewhere else in the house.