Saturday, 24 August 2013

Great Expectations...

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.


  1. I hear you Deb.
    Even though it's only coming up to 11 weeks for me, it's like you're speaking my mind on many things.

    One thing that I'm struggling with is that my late wife was the only true friend I've ever had.
    I'd always been a loner until I met her.
    Now I'm alone again.
    If I spend enough time with other people, they usually upset or annoy me.
    If it was just me on my own now, I'd probably disappear for several years travelling or something. I don't know.
    But I'm a single dad with two children, and it feels like I'm expected to be more sociable with other parents etc. At 45 years old, I feel it's too late for me to change.

    I went to a Christening about 160 miles away - for my late wife's sister's son.
    First time staying away with just the three of us.
    I didn't know most of the people there and had nothing in common with them.
    Most were couples. That felt lonely. But I got through it.

    I get sick of being asked what I'm doing tomorrow / next week / where I'm taking the children during the holidays etc. We've gone on some day trips and done quite a bit. But it's like people expect us to have stuff planned for every ****ing minute of every day.
    I love my boys, and I'm glad I've got them.
    But sometimes, just sometimes, I hate being "trapped" in the house, especially at night.
    After getting married we rarely went out much at night, especially after having children.
    We never used babysitters - not once. Just the odd sleepover at the grandparents.

    The exhaustion is incredible. My bedtime and quality of sleep vary a lot, but seem to have little to do with my energy levels.

    Some days I feel very positive, I'm quite chatty with people and it's like everything is great.
    Then, something will remind me of the true horror of what has happened.
    My thoughts jump about on the timeline. I can't stand the idea of being "alone" for the rest of my life, but I can't ever imagine being with anyone else. Even just from a practical point of view, I'd have to wait until the children are 10 years older, and by then I'd be ready for the scrap heap anyway!
    At other times, I almost - dare I say it - like being able to do what I want when I want. (Within limits of course.)

    I meant to keep it brief, but it looks like I was in chatterbox mode today...

    1. Hi Alan,

      I can relate to everything you said.

      Isn't it odd that people place these expectations on us, just when we're at our most vulnerable? "What ya doing today?" "Going somewhere nice with the kids?" Huh? We can barely get out of bed in those early days and just putting on the kettle is a mammoth task. Now, with a bit of distance, I can see they
      a) are trying to make sure we're not about to top ourselves and
      b) cannot ask the awful bleak questions of "how awful do you really feel?" or "does this really happen to people MY age?" etc.
      So they choose the safe route and ask the trivial questions.

      One thing I've learned (the hard way) is this Alan. Start as you mean to go on. Be confident and assertive in your decisions (even if that confidence is fake). Hold your head up high and know that the decisions you make as a parent are the right decisions for your family, on that day, at that time. So if you simply cannot get dressed, or cannot cook a dinner and you decide that today is a tv day and you're all going to flop around watching telly in your pyjamas and diall out for pizza there is nothing wrong with that. When people ask what you did that day tell them confidently "we flopped around and did nothing because that is ALL we had the energy for. I'm glad we did that".

      My problem in the early days is that I showed too much shame (when I couldn't get the kids to school because I couldn't see straight for tears; when I couldn't cook because my eyes were closing and I hadn't the energy to open a packet of pasta; when I left the laundry pile up to the ceiling because, again, the exhaustion was like being hit by a double decker bus). I shouldn't have apologised to family for that or felt ashamed of it. Jesus my world had just collapsed. They should try that life for a single day.

      I had phone calls between family members discussing my inability to cope. "She's not doing well at all". Imagine! My husband died and it actually affected me. Well holy cow!! What I should have done back then was stop feeling ashamed that I couldn't cope and hold my head high and say "I have fed my children. I got out of bed today". Those alone are mammoth achievements in the first year of grieving.

      Don't apologise and don't be ashamed that you don't have the energy to go places and plan outing. FFS it's enough for now to keep you and the kids alive. Next person who asks if you have any plans just say "yep, I plan on getting through hour by hour and I plan to keep doing my best to keep the kids safe - that's all I can manage for now and I'm happy with that. I am doing well."

  2. Thanks Deb
    Your words are more help than I can say.

  3. I ran people out of my life because of grief. I was an angry griever...I said things like, "I don't care about the wonderful meal you had, a person I love has died and I can't get excited about your burritos." When people said, "You should be thankful he isn't suffering anymore." I'd say, "Please don't invalidate my grief and loss by implying I lack gratitude." I could see people taking my emotional temperature when we would meet up. It all just felt so awkward for eventually I ended up alone to grieve. I don't think time really heals us, but we learn how to endure eventually. You are right, we become new people and need to redefine our terms. It stands to reason when you spend a long time with part of your identity tied to another person who is no longer there. My best too you. AMP

    1. Thank you AMP. I was most certainly an angry griever too. I read that years ago, after a bereavement, people would often lock themselves away for a year or more; avoiding society and staying alone just to grieve. I can see the sense in it if I'm honest!

  4. Dear Deb - reading your blog I think has helped me to understand some things. I've recently lost my partner of 13 years (he died suddenly 9 long months ago). So I guess I'm at the beginning of this journey. Its interesting to read that you never really "get over it" and that people who were friends will change - I'm experiencing that now. I guess I'm different now, to be honest most of the time I feel blind sided and angry, just barely putting on this fa├žade when really I feel like I want to just die all the time. Its tiring - but that is not why I'm writing. Just saying thank you for your thoughts, its helpful to know that I'm not crazy and that this is a long process. I wish you well, DDH