On Monday evening I received the news that a good friend had died. It was not altogether unexpected as he had been in and out of hospital quite a lot in recent months and always came out cheerful and looking ready to continue with his place in the world. But not this time.
And yesterday I spent time with the widow. How that brought back those early hours and days when my husband died. And even though I have been there, in that self same situation,there was no way I could really understand just what she was going through. We have to come to terms with the death of somebody so loved, and so close , each in our own way.
I phoned early in the morning and got the answerphone and it brought this poem by Michael Laskey to mind.
“After he died he went on speaking
On the ansaphone: he’d apologize
For being out and ask us to leave
Our names and messages after the tone.
At first we couldn’t, we just hung up, ….”
From Life After Death by Michael Laskey
English poet. 1944 –
How often in the months following my husband’s death did I find something that was so full of him that it brought a fresh wave of grief and tears? A slip of paper on which he had written himself a note, a card I had given him on a celebration day that he had used as a bookmark, his notebook with his writing, his Cross pen that always went everywhere with him.
It is always the little things that undo us. We think we are strong and coping and then something small happens and we are right back into that trough of despair that we thought we were climbing out of.
So what could I do to help? I cooked a fillet of beef so that it could be there for when people call in to express their condolences. I remember my daughter-in-law saying how much she appreciated those gifts of ready prepared food in the days and weeks following my husband’s death.
It was too soon to exchange remembrances of her husband and so I could only sit with her and hold her when the tears came.
I found that those friends who just came and sat with me, speaking only if I wanted them to, were those that helped most at that time.
So I shall go back today to see what I can do, if anything, to help. And sit with her while she processes what has happened in her mind and somehow gets herself ready to face the months and years ahead. There will be time for memories to surface and for laughter to accompany most of them in the months ahead. But for now I shall just be with her.
The rioting in London and other parts of the UK is still dominating my thoughts today. I read this insightful blog and wish that more people and particularly those in power in the United Kingdom would read it.
This woman, a deputy headmistress in a State school in London, is not afraid to say what the politicians fear to. She is black and proudly proclaims the fact. She comments on the fact that many of the rioters are young, uneducated black men. And she decries the practice of making excuses for this behaviour.
There can be no excuse for this mindless vandalism.
I make no apology for a second blog on the subject and for sounding off about it. I feel very strongly and grieve for my homeland as it goes through this terrible time.
“IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
There shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.”
Rupert Brooke 1887-1915.
“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.: ~Colette
For some time now I have noticed a definite shift in my feelings about grieving for my late husband. After many years I am able to look back and see just how far I have come from that ghastly day in 1998 when my soul-mate was declared ‘dead’.
Of course, at the time I didn’t know how I was going to live without him. I had grown up with him having met and married him when I was 19. And now 41 years later he was gone.
The few days following his death are still even now, a blur. I do remember seeing my two adult children sitting with a man (who later turned out to be the funeral director) under a tree in my son’s garden. Those two adult children made all the arrangements necessary for us to move to the next stage – a funeral and the function afterwards. I declared to anybody who would listen that I was not going to the funeral. Of course, I was ignored, nobody believed me and of course, I went.
Those of you have been there know that at the beginning you can tell how many hours since your loved one died. This moves into how many days, then weeks, followed by months and then (as for me now) years. I would not say that any of the stages through which I have passed have been easy. Time does not heal regardless of the old adage, but it does make living without that special one easier.
I learned that I can go on – it doesn’t come with a choice. I learned that there is still life without that special person and that given the opportunity friends and family will be very supportive as one goes through the stages of grief. My family still support me on those ‘mean blue days’ that sneak up on one when one isn’t watching.
As part of my healing, I wrote. I wrote how I was surviving, what I could do and did to get through each day and I found this exercise cathartic. this was published in a small book that I gave to friends and clients who found themselves in a similar situation.
And one day I realized that in fact I was growing and learning to live in this changing world. I also changed the focus of my life coaching work towards people who found themselves alone through death, divorce or separation. And I founded a group that I call ‘Together”. This is a loose group of people who come together regularly, or not as they choose, to support each other in their loss. This has proved to be very helpful for a number of people.
And so the learning and coping go hand in hand and no doubt will do until I too die.
Posted in Fear, Grief, Living, Memories, Uncategorized
Tagged Gratitude, Grief, Grief Loss and Bereavement, happiness, Life, living, living each day