Two years today (10th January 2012) we 'celebrated' the news (from D's oncologist) that D was back on track (after a nasty infection in the stent site in the liver) and that he would be starting chemo in a couple of weeks but would, most likely, be going home "tomorrow". Of course, we still knew he was terminal but he was back on track to have a comfortable 12 to 18 months before a decline. Later that day, having broken the news to the kids, A. made a beautiful 'Welcome Home Dad' card. On the front she drew a picture of an empty tidy hospital bed with a nurse standing alongside it smiling. I asked what it meant and she said "the bed is empty now because Dad was sent home and the nurse is happy that he's better". Well the next day D's hospital bed was indeed empty but only because he was sent to the hospice to die. I don't think I will ever comprehend the 24 hour period between a senior oncologist saying "you'll be going home tomorrow" and then a senior hospice manager saying "we think you'd be more comfortable in the hospice" and then, 24 hours after that being told he would die soon.
What have I achieved in the two years since he died? And, on that note, why is life all about what we achieve? Why is it never enough to just 'be' or just 'get by' or just 'exist'? But it's not. Getting by is never enough.
Well, I'm glad nobody's critiquing my life (not officially anyway though no doubt people do judge). What can I do now that I couldn't do two years ago? I can drive. I can cook dinner for three kids (two adolescents and one kid really) alone and do it almost every single day. I can (mostly) get two kids to school and back all by myself. Woohoo. But I still can't keep the house tidy; still can't pay all my bills; still can't get on top of the mortgage (designed for two but being paid by one); still can't keep up with the laundry; still can't make my children happy or make their grief go away; still can't get rid of my anger; still can't cope with my exhaustion. What's changed for the worse? My eldest boy has given up school and, in turn, will not be going to college like he wanted. My second son is not coping. My 9 year old is doing okay but, of course, missing her Dad like crazy.
I feel ashamed that I haven't done a better job with the kids. I did set out with the best intentions i.e. put my grief on hold and look out for the kids. Sadly, while they're still here and they're fed and clothed (just about) their education has taken a battering and their lives aren't healthy and two out of three of them are unhappy.
I'm trying very very hard to act normal. It's exhausting. But I 'get' it. It's either be alone and turn into a hermit or pretend to be normal. I tried the hermit thing. It didn't pan out. So I try the acting thing now. We had visitors over Christmas. To everyone else that was nothing unusual. For me it was huge. It was our second Christmas without him and I made the effort to have people here visiting, food, drinks etc. three different evenings. I'm proud of that. It was lovely but exhausting. So much work.
I'm visiting my two older friends later. I love them but I also dread seeing them. I'm filled with anxiety. They don't get my grief. It's been two years. They expect me to be my "old self". That person is gone. They cannot adjust to my "new self" so I smile, make small talk, try very hard to listen to their issues and then pat myself on the back that I didn't cry, I didn't mention him, I didn't go on again and again about my problems, my kids depression, my loneliness, mortgage default etc. Like a good girl I sat there and listened to their problems. Heaven forbid I should mention by dead husband.
Perhaps in two years I'll have moved on. Even a little bit?
Saturday, 31 August 2013
It's a slow and tiring day and another one that has caught me by surprise. I regularly decide to knock grief on its head - it's been 19 months after all. Yeah, I know grief has no timeline, it's different for everyone, it can't be rushed yada yada yada. But on a regular basis I say "I'm done. Grief, listen up. You do *not* define me, you will *not* hold me back, I am better now, I am healed, I will *not* be a martyr to you." I mean it when I say it. Who wants to be in a permanent state of sadness and bewilderment? There has to be some light after 19 months. So I shake myself and say "to hell with it". What if I just accept that I am single and this is my life? Yes it's sad that he's gone and I'll never forget him. But what if I start here? Right now. Start fresh.
So I try. I briefly get excited by the motion that I can fix my financial problems by starting my own business again, working my ass off, taking the kids on holiday (well my youngest anyway at the very least as the two boys would probably puke at the motion). So the excitement lasts a while, I feel good, I feel Diarmuid would smile his approval. And then BANG. Out of the blue, no warning, no build up, Grief comes back uninvited and throws me back down again, spinning me around violently not too unlike Gandalf doing 360s in Saruman's gaff. Grief is a sneaky bastard.
I'm tired. Tired of being tired, tired of being knocked back down, tired of being positive and having it fail fast, tired of constantly trying to re-invent myself. Tired of wading through molasses. I'll just have a quick lie down in it.
Grief won't win. I know that. But for now I'm just a bit too tired to tackle that monster again. The score for this particular battle, here and now, today, - Me 0, Grief 1. Grief won this battle but I intend to win the war.
Saturday, 24 August 2013
I don't really understand the co-relation between grief and social problems, but it's there and it's bothering me. A lot. I'm going to write it out and figure it out if I can.
There are people who I've known for many years who now fill me with anxiety and dread. When they text or ring me my whole body goes rigid with stress and I get a knot in my stomach. Most days I don't even bother answering the phone. I just want them to go away. The anxiety has different levels - low level for some people and through the roof for others.
My discomfort with those friends doesn't feel logical. It's not something I consciously choose. In some instances it's because they simply weren't there for me when I needed them last year. So am I bitter? Angry? I don't know. I try not to be. Anyway, there's more to it than that and not all of them were distant last year.
I'm starting to think it all comes down to the fact that these people were part of my former life - the life where I was married and we were a 'complete' family of 2 adults and 3 children. Most of them were friends of Diarmuid's too. Is there room for them in this life? I don't think so. Not yet. It's too hard. Too painful. Does the friend they had back then still exist? My life was shattered into a million pieces. Those friends were there, on the parameter. They were affected too but to a limited degree. Their day to day lives remained the same. Can I bear talking to them in the same way, about the same things we always talked about before he died? That's part of it. When I try to slip back into those old ways it hurts because I've slipped back to the old me and then it's like a fresh bolt of pain because he's not there. Yet I cannot constantly say to them "stop, this hurts too much".
Part of it too is simply tiredness - long chats, extended phone calls, meeting up... it's all exhausting.
Mostly though, I *think* it's all about their expectations. They expect me to be the same person I was before... but I'm not. I can't be. Not their fault. Not mine either.
Funnily enough, there are others from my old life who I really do want to stay in contact with. I think it's because they have adjusted their expectations of me. They aren't surprised when I'm tired or struggling; when I'm confused or stressed. They might not have lost a loved one but they have enough empathy to imagine that it has changed me without asking "hey, what's wrong?". With the others, every time I see them we revert back to those old days, *they* revert back to the old jokes, the old anecdotes, the old habits, with no allowance made for how much I've been forced to change; no time given to my new feelings and my new status as a single parent. It stabs me in the heart. I simply don't have it in me to force myself to 'fit' that old structure any more.
Should they change their expectations? Should I tell them to do that? Or should I suck it up and just 'be' that person I used to be? I don't think that's possible actually.