Friday, 10 January 2014

The Good The Bad & The Sucky

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?


  1. Oh Deb, what can I say.

    Everything I think of writing sounds patronising. I want to say well done for managing to do as much as you have. It is so exhausting, isn't it?

    It's funny how people want us to be normal, our old selves again, e.g. I have people trying to push me into going back to work. I think it's because they can't handle things that are not "normal".

    That 24 hour period reminded me of a 20 minute period when we went to see a different oncologist for a second opinion. First, they said there's another type of chemo they can try. Then they came back after 20 minutes and said sorry, they can't do it after checking the blood tests. Our last hope lasted for 20 minutes.
    A few days later, a letter came, including an appointment card for the chemo - but they'd sent if by mistake!

    Alan x

  2. Thank you Alan. I'm feeling a bit better today. Raising two teenagers is draining so I was running on very low energy reserves yesterday! Don't get me wrong, the boys are lovely, as is my girl, but raising teens gets intense as I'm still adjusting to solo patenting.

    Ah, WORK! Don't let their discomfort with your new status rush you into going back to work. You'll know yourself when you're ready and able time-wise, parenting-wise and energy-wise.

    Onwards and upwards :)

  3. I've learned since my husband's sudden, accidental death that there is no going back to my old normal. I tried so hard to get back there. I realize now (after 5 years) that there is now a new normal, the old normal is gone forever. I am finding a new normal and am finally okay with my new normal. I wish so much that I could get my old normal back, but that is not possible so now I am learning who I am now, and learning to find joy in little things . . . . new friends, new experiences, the wonderful joy in my young grandchildren.

  4. My husband died of cancer last year - he was 37. As I have just survived my first year of widowhood - i too asked myself what have i achieved and it doesnt seem much - why do people always put emphasis on achievement?? To me just surviving, getting up and showing up has been an achievement and I am content with that. I hope the second year is not as terrible - i am hoping that those final heartbreaking days will fade over time. I have written my blog of widowhood after cancer. I am leaving a link to it incase it may be of interest. I have tried to focus on the positives and explore my emotions.

  5. Hi Deb, I felt compelled to write because your story hit home with me. I am five years on from losing my husband to cancer and I look back at the first two years bringing up two teenage boys with dread. I constantly felt that I had failed them - one turned a little wild getting in with a bad crowd and trying substances that shocked me, the other put all his efforts into studying and leaving home to go to University. I felt many times that I was so caught up in grief that I failed them. However, now I look at my boys with such pride. The youngest turned himself around and is now employed and doing an apprenticeship and the eldest got his degree and has set up in business for himself. It's easy for others to judge when they don't see what happens behind closed doors. We have to do the best with what we're given - and when all we're given is a load of crap, that is hard. 5 years on, I am happy, loving life, grabbing it by the short and curlies and running with every opportunity I'm given. I will always love and miss my husband but I won't let grief define me - and neither will you.

    1. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. The timing was amazing as it's been so long since I posted on here but just about an hour before I got an email about your comment I'd decided to start blogging again. Not this particular blog. My newer one. I feel I've moved on now from grief although of course it's always there.

      We do beat ourselves up about parenting eh? It's hard not to though when the kids are troubled or upset. Onwards and upwards for you and me I hope xxx