Tuesday, May 26, 2009

3 plastic crates

I went to my Dad's house last weekend. It was long and tiring. So as predictable as clockwork, I felt a grey cloud settle over me on monday morning, and I spent the week fighting back tears.

I don't think I'll ever be able to put into words the sadness of seeing your Dad's legacy to the world, packed up in 3 plastic crates. The photos he kept, the poems he wrote, the bus timetables he hoarded. When someone at work asked me if I'd been helping "sort out his estate", I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

I can also never, ever describe the horror of imagining what is happening to his body right now. I went to his grave, and I stood by it. I was 6 ft away from him. What's down there? I have had quite a few dreams - one where he was ground up and made into soup. Another where his coffin was left open at his funeral and we could all see him, half decomposed. Although it's been half a year already, I still have moments where I feel an almost physical lurch, as my mind remembers, and then adjusts to the fact that my dad no longer exists. How can I adjust, when I know his body is still in the ground? I sometimes feel a compulsion to go and dig it up, so I can see him, say goodbye one more time.

So it was a long, hard weekend. Followed by a long, hard week. The weekend just gone (sunny, warm, and with no commitments) was much needed. The grey cloud has shifted a bit now. I keep reminding myself, I'll get there in the end.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Waiting to get back to normal

If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that the previous year (Spring 2007-spring 2008) had been the hardest and most stressful of my life.

What I didn't realise was that the worst was yet to come. Those 12 months were a picnic compared to following 12.

I can now say that the past 2 years have been the hardest of my life. Hmmmm. I really hope I'm not here in another years time saying the same thing!

When I take stock of what those 2 (and a bit) years have involved, it's not surprising I feel a bit wrung out by it all -

Promotion for me (most people would say "isn't that a good thing? Maybe, but I also found it really stressful)
Career change for R
Buying our first flat (in a painful drawn out process which took 8 months in total!)
Finding out a month after buying the flat that we were both to be made redundant from our jobs
R then moving jobs twice in the space of a few months
Me having to stay in my old job for a year getting rustier and rustier til I was finally given the chop too
Me reacting to all this by questioning my faith in the strength of our marriage. (And thankfully we came out the other side stronger for it)
Me moving into a job where machosim and bullying was the norm, hating it so much I became depressed, and decided to quit with no other job to go to

And just at the end of all that, my Dad died.

A few weeks later, I started a new job. It isn't perfect, but I keep telling myself it will do for now, I cannot have any more change in my life!

Tha daft thing is, I still think to myself often "I just want things to get back to normal". Yet I know that having gone through things like that, there is no going back to normal. Life has to develop into a new kind of normal. There is no way anything will ever be the same again.

Well, if I can't have things get back to normal, I'll just have to settle for "I can't wait for life to develop into a new kind of normal". Not so snappy is it!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I was really shocked at how difficult I found the aftermath of what would have been my Dad's 60th birthday. I am having to reassess a few things in life I thought were true and fixed.

  1. I thought I wouldn't miss my Dad when he died. Upset, angry, guilty, frustrated maybe. But I never missed him when he was alive, so how could I miss him dead?
  2. I thought I wouldn't ever be so irrational as to be affected by dates and anniversaries. If someone is gone, they're gone. Why should it being a certain date make it worse?
  3. I thought that I'd be upset when he died. Then I would travel through grief, in a linear process, until eventually, I felt better.

I also realise, hard though it is to accept, that I have felt utterly thrown at times, by the loss of him as a "point of reference" in the world. And also the loss of the ideal that one day he may have turned into a supportive, sane, sensible man. He's dead now. He can never turn into that.

So for 3 weeks after the 1st of March I was basically a mess. Interestingly that's when I took to writing a bit on here. Since then, with a little help from a bereavement counsellor, I have realised:

  • I have every right to grieve, and to feel like shit from time to time. It doesn't make me pathetic, or weak, or selfish and thoughtless.
  • The Dad I really really miss sometimes, never really existed. I'm mourning the loss of the chance that he might have one day changed.
  • No wonder, with all the change that has been piled on me in the past 2 years, I thought I was going a bit mad.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been feeling MUCH better for acknowledging this. It's radiated thoughout all aspects of my life. I've been more confident at work, more content with my home, just generally more at ease. So I was a bit surprised when at about 7.30 this evening, without warning, I seemed to fall into a pocket of grief. All the familiar feelings are there, present and correct. It feels a lot like homesickness. It's hard to describe.

And I can't believe, yet again, I was so dim as to think I was through the worst! I really need to remember that I am going to zig and zag through it in the coming months. There are no straight lines.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


There's a poem some of you may have heard of. It's called Footprints. It's not very well known ;-)

Anyway I've always thought it was awfully naff. At best cheesy, at worst totally irrelevant to my life as a non-religious person.

But these past few weeks, when I've been struggling to cope with my dad's death as never before, I realised it's very relevant to me. I have said a few times that grief can make you feel abandoned, unloved, alone, isolated. In fact, like you are walking alone along the sand.

I have looked down at my footprints a lot recently and felt angry and alone - because there has only been one set of prints there. Abandoned when I needed help the most.

I can now see that R has been carrying me every step of the way.

The poor man, I think he must really be feeling the strain by now!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tonight, I talked with my mum for the first time in years. Of course I have spoken to her lots. But not really talked.

My family doesn't really do boundaries very well. So anything told to one of them, will be passed round the rest soon enough. Usually this annoys me, but as a result of my sisters blabbermouths, my mum phoned to tell me she is aware she made a lot of mistakes when she divorced and in the years afterwards. She's sorry she wasn't there for me more, or more aware of what was going on with my dad back then.

I couldn't believe it. I have never felt able to have an honest conversation with her. Because when we were children, if you said something you didn't like, she'd give you the silent treatment for anything up to 3 days at a time. Even as a grown woman, I am afraid of getting the silent treatment. But here she was, openly soliciting feedback.

It was the hardest step either of us could ever take I think. It has made me aware there is hope out there. A glimmer. That people can grow and learn. That because something feels bad today, it doesn't mean it will forever.

I know I will get through this.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Thoughts and the "little voice"

Sometimes (and since long before my dad died, in fact for as long as I can remmeber) I am plagued by horrible thoughts. The thoughts can vary but the end result is usually based around "It will all go wrong. It will be all my fault. I will never be able to put things right, because this will have been my Last Chance".

These thoughts can be incredibly self-fulfilling and looking back now with a (slightly) older wiser head, these thoughts are the reason I left university after 6 weeks the first time round. The reason I spent the whole of one doomed-before-it-started relationship telling the poor man that he would surely get bored of me soon and want to chuck me? The reason I quit my first proper job after 3 months, and my second proper job after 6. The reason why, when I was 15 years old and working in a cafe on a saturday, I used to feel sick every friday night. The reason I was convinced after a few months that my now husband was surely getting bored of me and was just too chicken to say it. (I was obviously wrong there). The reason why when being told I was to be made redundant, instead of feeling liberated, I felt bereft. The reason why now, when that has clearly led to interesting opportunities for me and I am clearly doing well in my new job, I still feel like it might all unravel any minute now. For my entire life, that little voice has followed me around.

Anyway, I have always tried to deal with these thoughts by imagining the worst case scenario, mentally preparing myself for it, and then carrying on, waiting for the worst to happen. It is a horrible way to live. I am only now seeing how much this has tinged my life until now.

Recently, after another awful weekend that shouldn't have been awful, I was grizzling on a sunday night. My husband and I between us came to the conclusion that I shouldn't even be giving these thoughts justice by trying to combat them. I should dismiss them when they start to creep in. We thought of a phrase - "my little man's an idiot". (It's a line from Seinfeld...) And you know what, it's worked pretty well.

But since last week, the volume of incoming thoughts has been much higher than normal. They are coming at me from all directions. It's been much harder to dismiss them because they are just so ..... voluminous! I can only conclude it's because last Sunday, the 1st March was what would have been my dad's birthday. I went to see some family, and was given a few bits of his. Not much, some photos of buses (!), an old french dictionary I used to love to borrow, and some thigns he had kept from me - a school play programme, a cross stitch I made him, and a letter I sent to him when he first moved away, In it I wrote "I miss you. Don't forget me". Then I told him a load of terrible jokes. What on earth must have been going on in my 7 year old head? I had no idea he had kept these things.

I like to think the most emotionally healthy of people would have been tested by that. It is really normal for me to feel winded by it. And it will get better with time. It will. It will. I just struggle to feel it now.

This has made me want to write about how a divorce, even 20 years ago, will still affect a family like ripples on a pond, when a death occurs. But I have to goto work now, so that will have to be another time.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Grief can make you feel....

Like you are being smothered with a blanket

Completely alone, even when you are surrounded

Like looking at the world through the wrong strength glasses - everything is a little different to the way it was before, and it makes you feel sick

Rejected. Even by those who are really trying to support you

Intensely jealous of anyone who isn't feeling what you're feeling. Yet completely unaware of anyone out there who is feeling what you're feeling, or worse

A need to get away from it all, in the most inconvenient of circumstances

Like you will never want to put food in your mouth again - what's the point?

A need to get out of your own skin. Because that might be the only way you'll ever stop feeling like this.