61. Friends

So I know I have spoken about this before, but when your person dies a whole lot of things that you have never considered before change in a massive way. There are the obvious things – your person is gone and you are on your own. You may or may not need to (or choose to) move out of your home. Your financial situation changes…. all kind of obvious when you stop to think abut it. But there are other things that change that you can’t prepare for, and the biggest one for me has been the changes to my friendship groups. I have touched on the friends thing previously, and then again a little bit last week, saying how nice it was to have an evening out and fit some of my old friends with the new, and how easy they made it and how relieved I was about it. I meant it to be more or less a passing comment, but I have had a couple of people ask me about it, so I figured it needs talking about. I’m not sure if my explanation will make sense, but here goes….

Since Claytie died, I have found that a lot of my old friends have run screaming for the hills, at a pace that if it hadn’t hurt so much should be admired for its speed. They are people that I have been friends with for more than 15 years – probably closer to 20. We would see each other if not weekly then at least fortnightly. We did all kinds of things together and I would have thought that would count for a lot more than it did. It seems I was wrong. Others, also long time friends, have changed a whole lot in their interactions with me. Contact has drifted, and often unless I instigate it, I will not hear from them for a long time. It is hard to carry on one sided relationships, and its hard knowing how long to try for. I don’t want to be the person that gives up, but I also don’t want to be the only one working for it.

Once you are in this situation of having lost your person, and are talking to others who are also on this journey, you find out that this is kind of a common theme. No-one really seems to have a proper answer as to why this happens, other than people don’t know how to respond to your grief. I try to accept that as an answer, but it does rub me up the wrong way a little bit. We are all struggling with different things but surely we are all able to be kind and genuine. I know that you can’t do anything to make my situation better – you can’t bring Claytie back. That is not what I need from you! I need for you to not make it worse. I need for you to not add another layer of grief to this horror show by walking away when I need support. I don’t care if you don’t have the right words to say – there are no right words in any case. I need you to sit with me, to have my back like I would have yours. I need to know that some things in my world are able to stay the same when everything else has changed so much. I need you to be my friend, to be the person that I knew before while I try to figure out how to do this part of my life.

I am not placing all of the blame onto these people, that wouldn’t be fair… I know I am a different person to who I used to be and I know that is an adjustment for all of us – trust me I get it – I am adjusting too! But I am also not THAT different! I am still Robbie…. The person you have known for such a long time is still there, and the things that are different are surely not that bad! I understand that grief is difficult for everyone, and sometimes it is hard to know what to say – I have those same struggles too…. but I am not just my grief! I still laugh, we all know I have always cried – that absolutely hasn’t changed! I still live in the same place and I have lots of stories to tell about all kinds of things… I am interested and interesting (at least I think so?!). Yes I have made a whole lot of new friends, but that does not mean I have forgotten (or don’t need) the old!

I am so very grateful to those of my friends that have stayed the same, that don’t see me any differently, that treat me the same as always . – Ironically some of them are also the ones that were asking what I meant in my post last week. They are the ones that are journeying with me through the changes, that accept me for who I was and who I am now learning to be. They are learning as much about all of this as I am. They keep me grounded and they help me to process the changes that are happening. They are the ones that I am so incredibly relieved to have and beyond grateful for in all of this. Without them this horrible shit show would be so much harder. I have tried to accept that the ones who have left had their own reasons for doing that, and it’s ok and I’ll try to stop bringing it up so much because it only makes me sad! I keep reminding myself of that saying about friends coming into your life for a reason, a season or a life time. I guess they were there for a season, and I have learned a lot from them, each in their own way.

Not everyone is meant to journey with you every step of the way – that is not how life works and I do understand that. It has just been a unexpectedly harsh shock to the system to feel these peripheral losses on top of the big one. It is all an adjustment, and this post is not meant to be attention seeking or needy, but rather an explanation of what I’m feeling. I love all of the delightful people who are in my world, keeping me this side of sane (I know I’m funny!!) I am lucky and grateful that you put up with me! Thanks for walking this part of the path with me and for putting up with the chaos that comes along with that x

60. F-ABBA-ulous

This week has been another busy one in my world… the weekend especially! I went out for dinner and drinks on Friday with some old friends and the guy I have been spending time with. It was such a nice night mixing my old and new worlds, and best of all it was easy! I know not everyone in my friend circle will be so accepting or make it as easy as this was; and while part of me understands that – they all knew and loved Claytie, he is gone and I have to find happiness where I can. There have been so very many changes in my world in the last 28 months, especially in my friendship circles, it is really nice when I can make new pieces fit with the old. The picture will never look the same, but it is still a nice picture.

Speaking of pictures and finding happiness, Saturday night a group of widowed friends and I went out for an ABBA tribute show. Those of you who know me particularly well will know that I am pretty partial to ABBA, and I do love a theme! Our whole group decided to go dressed in our 70’s best and head out to dinner before the show! We had the best time!!! We were the only ones who put in the effort and looked amazing! Our fellow diners certainly thought so based on the number of comments and compliments we received! Even the band commented on our dedication when we paraded through the room to get to the dance floor! … it was fabulous!

Cheers to ABBA!

The downside of all the fun stuff tho is that Sundays are then also jam packed with all the things that haven’t been done. Hangovers and tired are not ideal when combined with groceries, washing and all those other good things… and then I have the ‘to go to work because tomorrow is Monday’ anxiety kicking in!

This week I am moving into another role at work (it’s a rotational roster) and my anxiety has been playing up because of it. I’m not worried about the role but rather the hours. It will be a late start/late finish, and I hate that! I am such an early bird – I’m usually awake any time from 3am at the moment, so it makes for a very long day! I’m also anxious about it because grand-baby number 1 will be here really soon (we have about a month to go now) and I want to be able to help out… that’s easier done with a 3pm work finish than a 5.30 one! I’m sure it will be fine, but it’s in my head! Verbalising it helps me to move through it easier, which is why I’m mentioning it here.

On another note, I can’t believe this is blog post number 60! I had no idea that I would have so much to say each week, or that so many of you would be interested in my rambling! I love that my ‘cheap therapy’ has become this thing that other people maybe get something out of. Thank you! I appreciate everyone of you much more that you could imagine.

59. Lucky

I went to a Widow support group catch up this week… I go to a lot of them. They are cheap therapy, and in that group I can be me. No one has to mind their words in case they upset me by mentioning Claytie or talking about death the way that people in my other circles seem to. I’m not anyone special in that group, I am not the odd one out, because we have all lost our person. I can just be me and that’s incredibly liberating.

At this weeks catch up there were four new people. It’s a weird feeling when new members join the group. We all have this huge interest in hearing their stories, but it is tinged with so very much empathy because they are only with the group because their person has recently died. You want to tell them that it will get better – but it doesn’t, you just learn to live around it. Talking to them reopens the scab on your loss, it’s hard and it hurts but it is also really nice to know that everyone in the group gets it. It sounds weird to say it -my kids think it’s the most miserable thing they could ever imagine, but it’s really really helpful… and for me, it helps to put my situation into perspective.

One new lady is now widowed for the second time! Her first partner completed suicide and her second (soul mate) died after a longer illness. How on earth do you survive this horror story twice?! How do you keep getting out of bed each morning? It is hard enough living this life now. It’s hard to think about finding happiness a second time only to lose it again. Maybe I should just be grateful for the fairytale that I had. Maybe it’s greedy to think that I could have another? I could live to be in my 90s I don’t want that to be on my own… the fairy tale I had makes me believe totally that it is worth the risk of trying again.

Another of the ladies that is new is only quite young. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly in a similar way to Claytie in the middle of the year. Here one minute gone the next. She has a two year old and is due with her second baby this side of Christmas. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for her…having a toddler and a new baby is hard in an ideal scenario, and this is as far from that as you could possibly get! We were so lucky that the boys all finished school, reached adulthood and grew up knowing who Claytie was and how much they were loved by him.

Another person is still not entirely sure how his wife died, but it was a suspected reaction to the covid vaccine. She had her immunisation on the Thursday and was gone by Monday! He may never know for sure what the actual cause of death was, and I can’t imagine what that does to you. In our case, we had a very clear answer about the cause of Clayties death. It does help to know what happened and that we definitely could not have done anything to stop it from happening.

I know I keep saying how lucky we have been in all of the things that have happened to us. I genuinely feel it. I know it. I’m not saying that things haven’t been hard for us – they have been horrendous! But we have been lucky. We have had the most amazing people in our world to help us get through it – old friends and new ones and the absolute best family in the world. My heart breaks for some of the people I have met who don’t have what we do. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be for them to process their grief. I am hugely grateful every single day for being this lucky.

58. Baby Shower

This weekend is another one of those milestone moments that we all have in life. My oldest son and his wife are hosting a baby shower to celebrate the baby that is due in December (hopefully this side of Christmas). I am super excited to be Granny, and I know the boys are looking forward to becoming Uncles… but the whole thing has also been tinged with a whole lot of anxiety. It is incredibly bittersweet. It is another one of those things that Claytie should be here for. He adored babies and would have been the most doting, fabulous Grandad. It is just another thing that highlights the all encompassing-ness of our grief, and the way it sneaks up on you in different ways.

I am anxious about the baby shower, and it has taken me a little while to work out that the anxiety I have been waking up with this week is for this reason. It is a big day, lots of people who love us will be there. It is a family event, everyone will have their people there and while the boys will all be there too, I will be on my own, missing Claytie. Its quite a conflicted feeling, because I am super excited about the baby coming and I can not wait to be Grandma, but he should be here for it! I am feeling absolutely the unfairness of what is missing, what that means and what it looks like… and I don’t like that picture! I can’t change it, I have to live with it and that is really, really hard.

In lots of ways my life now is kind of compartmentalised. There are a whole bunch of things that are happy and exciting and new, and then others are wishes for how it should still be – with Claytie. Its messy in my brain and I can go from one feeling to the other and back again in a flash. Sometimes I can have both in the same moment. It really feels like I am two different people in lots of ways! It is exhausting, and I don’t know how to do it differently… or if it is even possible?! It is also hard to explain. We had so many plans for how our life was going to look. Plans we had made for travel and our house, work and the boys… and none of those things can happen now – and even if they do they are never going to be the way we had planed because Claytie isn’t here anymore.

I was having a conversation at work about the boys and some of the things they have gotten up to over the years (I am currently in a department with a lot of different people, not just admin but also ward staff), and one of the guys that is in the same section was asking me all kinds of questions about it all – comparing things that he did at that age. I said something about being happy that Claytie was there for a lot of the more dramatic things that have happened (car accidents etc) and the poor fellow welled up and you could just about see the lightbulb moment for him when he realised that Claytie isn’t just gone, but that he is not here for the big future moments that we all take for granted. He got very, very quiet and then needed a tissue. In a weird way it was actually really nice to have that acknowledgement of what we are going through.

The grief bubble is something that I guess we are learning to live with – there is no other choice! Sometimes it moves to the side a bit and life feels a little more like it used to, and then other times you’re right back in the middle of it and can’t see past it. There is no predicting which way each day will go, or how much anxiety will come along with it. There are things that you know are coming that will hurt, and then other things are a complete surprise and you have no idea why they are sooo hard! I am trying to feel more of the happiness for the positive, joyful things that are happening but it is hard! It is all a work in progress and I guess that’s what this journey looks like.

 

 

 

57. Hard conversations

This week I have had to have a couple of hard conversations. I’m not very good at them – who is tho?!… and there is a whole lot of anxiety leading up to and following them. I’m sure I am not the only one who goes through this stuff.. no one likes to have hard conversations, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it. The lead up anxiety to anything difficult like this is quite hyper for me… my heart races, my palms sweat, I feel nauseous and get butterflies and obviously there are tears – it is me after all!

My first hard conversation this week was with my In-Laws. I love them. They have been and continue to be a huge part of our family. We need them in our world. They know that I write this blog, but have only read a couple of ‘episodes’ that I have shown them and they are not subscribed to it. We talk about all kinds of things all the time, but I have not spoken to them about starting to date and finding someone. I have not wanted to say anything, especially while I was unsure about the people I have been out with. I know they want the best for me and they want me to be happy. I am too young to live the rest of my life on my own – I don’t want that, and I know they don’t want that for me either. But letting them know that I am seeing someone was a really hard thing to do.

I think that I caught them by surprise. They came over for a cuppa (as they often do) and in the course of the conversation I kind of blurted out that I had something to tell them. I mentioned that I had started seeing someone that I have been friends with for a long time, who is also widowed, and that we are taking things slowly and seeing how it goes. I know that it came out of the blue for them, maybe I could have done it in a better way – but how do you lead into something like that?! I am aware that they have spoken about the idea of me dating with my parents previously, and while my mum knows what I have been doing (she reads the blog, and I tell her everything anyway), she kind of downplayed it to them, agreeing with me that ‘until it is something real, I maybe shouldn’t tell them’.

It feels like the right time now, and I am glad that I have had the conversation with them. I don’t like to feel like I am keeping secrets from them when so many other people know about this journey through the blog. They have said that they are not ready for an introduction yet – that is their choice, and it is completely fine… I understand that they need time to process their feelings about all of this. I know they want me to be happy and I know that is what Claytie would want too (it is absolutely what I would want for him!) But this is a big change and adjustment for all of us. I just don’t ever want them to feel like they are no longer important in our world or that they have been replaced in any way, because that will never be the case!

My other hard chat was with one of my kids who is having a super tough time at the moment. He is in the middle of a huge grief wave and is making some questionable choices… things that we have been through before between all of the boys, but it feels like a lot all in one go for this one. All of the boys are aware of the situation – we talk about everything all of the time, but it is hard knowing how to help. No-one likes to have unpleasant stuff pointed out to them – usually we are well aware of our own flaws and faults, and having them pointed out just makes us feel worse. There is a lot of disappointment and anger, frustration and helplessness – on all sides. We are working through it and have asked for help in the form of counselling.

For some reason, and I think this is the case for a lot of people particularly young men – certainly mine, there is a feeling that it can’t be helpful to talk to a stranger… ‘what could they possibly know or do about my situation that I can’t do for myself?! They can’t bring Dad back!’ A big part of my conversation with him has been around trusting people who are qualified, who have skills and strategies to help with managing anxiety and grief that I don’t have. I am just muddling my way through without a clue how to help myself, let alone the boys with their process. We all have such different ways of coping and the things that work for me are totally wrong for the boys and vice versa.

We have tried managing on our own… and while we are doing OK, we need help to get through this situation. It is 100% worth trying, and at some stage I will see a counsellor too – if not for myself then absolutely to learn how to help the boys! Again, as with all of this stuff, I have to come back to how lucky we have been. We were able to get an appointment for him very quickly with a highly recommended person, and I have high hopes that she will be able to help us – or at least point us in the right direction! I know that my son will get through this hard time. He is a spectacular young man who is working at finding his feet in a rough place. He has a spot in the world that will feel like his own, that will make him happy and comfortable – we just have to help him find it!

Its been a tough week in lots of ways, and I think it some of it will keep going for a little while yet. Fingers crossed the counselling is as helpful as we need it to be and things improve for my boy… I hate feeling helpless and to see him hurting so much. It is hard enough being a young person and not knowing what you want to do with yourself; then throw in the loss of such a pivotal person in your life and it becomes overwhelming. It really sux that there is no easy solution for dealing with such enormous grief…

56. Widow Brain

Last week I mentioned that I feel as though I am doing a million things, and none of them particularly well. Sometimes that feeling is incredibly overwhelming when I think about all of the things that aren’t getting done and the growing pile I have to contend with! I was talking to a friend about it, who reminded me that the person I am now is a very different one to who I was before Claytie died… and that is so true! I have changed in a million big and small ways and I need to make allowances for that. Its hard when I have so many days where I really don’t recognise myself at all anymore, and then I get glimpses of who I used to be and forget that my world is not the same.

I hate feeling like this! It is a combination of huge anxiety, hyperactivity, some sort of dementia and just a heaviness that sits over me. I make lists of the stuff that I have to do in my head, and forget almost all of it in 5 minutes. Even when I write things down I struggle to remember – or I remember in the middle of the night or super early in the morning when I can’t do anything about it – especially when I’m thinking about people and who I need to call to catch up. If you haven’t heard from me for a while, it’s not that I’m not thinking about you, it’s that I’m sure you don’t want me to call in the middle of the night when I do! The whole thing is starting to drive me a little bit nuts! There are so many things that I feel I have lost control over and while part of me worries about it, another part kind of just can’t be bothered – and that’s the part really bothers me. My motivation for so many things is very light on the ground – and I never used to be like this.

I used to be that person who was super organised. I had my lists for everything and knew exactly what I wanted to do. Birthday parties and gifts, Christmas… organised weeks in advance. Groceries bought according to meals planned for the week, often cooked on the Sunday ready to heat and eat; and if we were having a party, everything organised ahead of time and contingency plans made just in case. I’m not that person anymore and it’s a weird feeling. Part of me really misses being so organised and in control and then another part just thinks MEH- what’s the point?!

In the widow community it is called widow brain. People have done research on it. Apparently it is a physiological response to trauma. In a way it is your body protecting itself from reliving the trauma of your person dying and it is a very real thing. It makes sense, no one wants to have the horrible memories of their persons last moments at the front of their thoughts, but is hard to live with when the rest of the world thinks you’re ok – its been long enough by now right?! (That was sarcasm and does not need a response, I know its ridiculous!). I actually feel like its getting worse rather than better for me tho – or maybe I am just more aware of it now… I don’t know?! What I do know, is that I don’t like feeling out of control! I don’t like feeling overwhelmed by the things that aren’t getting done, or that I just don’t have the motivation to do – but there is only so much that I can realistically outsource.

It’s a really conflicted mess inside my brain, and hard to explain to others when it doesn’t always make sense to me. In some cases I have had to give up or at least step back from people and things- some situations require input from others as well as me and I can’t always be the one to chase. In other cases I am really determined that I will get that control and motivation back – I need to for myself and the boys, and to make sure that my world doesn’t implode any more than it already has. I know now that I can’t rely on my memory at all, that my calendar is essential, and to check any lists that I come across to make sure I have done the tasks on them. If you haven’t heard from me for a while, feel free to get in touch and I will try not to be a slack arse and call or text you back if I don’t answer – but if I do forget, please, please don’t take it personally!!!

55. Just an update!?

I’m not really sure what to write about this week. In lots of ways it’s been crazy busy in my world, and in other ways it’s been same-same. I was saying to a friend just today, that I feel like I’m doing a whole lot of things, and none of them particularly well. Everything feels a bit overwhelming and chaotic, even though it’s all the same.

The boys are mostly good, although we have had some emotional ups and downs. It’s hard when everything feels off and anxiety piles on, which is what seems to have happened for one of them. He has struggled with his job for a little while- he likes some parts and hates others, and there is a whole lot of time on his own which is not great for him. He is a people person, so too much time in his own head is not great. His girlfriend has recently moved in with us too, and while there are not any problems, it has been a big adjustment sharing his space and feeling like he doesn’t have a getaway when he does need downtime….. and then there is the all encompassing missing Dad. it all just piled on and was not great for his mental health.

It’s hard as mum, when there isn’t a whole lot I can do to help him feel better. We have been talking a lot (we do that anyway) and he’s thinking through options for work, or maybe going back to Tafe to study something, although not knowing what he wants to do makes that a bit challenging. The thing that has been really nice to see, is all of the boys looking out for each other. Everyone is much more in tune with the others and are taking more time to talk about hard things. We have always been a close family, but losing Claytie has absolutely tightened those bonds.

My dad and my father in law have both had some health stuff going on too, which has been hard. They have been well looked after and will be fine, but it has been a not so fun situation. Any big health stuff sits differently for us since Claytie died and it’s hard to adjust to.

Some of my friends have also had big, hard things happening in their worlds recently. Mostly I don’t know how to help, or can’t do anything to help other than be there and listen. I’m in a very different place to them, due more to luck than anything else, so any advice I give is absolutely from the outside looking in, which is not always helpful. It’s a tough feeling when you can’t fix other peoples problems and make their situations easier, but it’s definitely a good being able to talk and listen to lessen the load.

I’ve also been spending a whole lot of time with a good friend which has been really nice for me. We have known each other for about two years and have always enjoyed each other’s company. He was in a relationship which recently broke up, and we are now dating and seeing what happens. It has been just so lovely. He is also widowed, and we really understand each others down days. It’s been an easy friendship from the first and we have always talked about everything – he gets my crazy! I can’t wait to see what comes next for us!

54. Vulnerable

I’m a bit late with the blog last week/this week.. avoidance levels have been pretty high! I had some friends over at my place for a long overdue “woine toime” catch up – which was a much nicer night than last time we did it (see earlier post – WTF), went on a wine tasting tour with a group of widowed people and then spent the next day watching and supporting a friend at a sporting event (that went for 14 hours!). I had a really lovely weekend, but a couple of things that happened did make me think about how hard it is to feel and be vulnerable. 

One of the people that we were interacting with, had a moment in the group (alcohol may have been a factor) where she shared a whole lot of stuff about her life and her situation that she has never shared before. She broke down in tears telling some of us her story, and it is a harrowing story. She has been widowed for a long time now (10 years or so) and has been so busy maintaining her life, raising her children and putting a façade over the reality of her life, that she has not really done any grieving for her loss – which was very sudden and unexpected (much like mine). She has had some pretty full on issues with her kids who apparently have also not done a lot of processing, and just needed to let it all out. She was so incredibly apologetic for breaking down and crying in front of the group. She was worried that we would all judge her for not having her shit together, and she was scared of her grief and of being so public with it, and she was just so vulnerable in that moment.

I think we all worry about how people perceive us, especially when we are feeling weak and exposed. When we are emotional, it is a hard place to be. And while I know that it is the same for everyone, being widowed adds a level to that feeling that wasn’t there for me before. I always had Claytie to lean on when I was feeling low, I had him to bolster me and reassure me. Now I have to either somehow deal with those feelings on my own, or find someone I trust enough to share it with. I know I have people who are there for me, but it is hard to ask for that support, and depending on why I’m feeling like that determines who – if anyone, I will talk to.

Being widowed and missing Claytie, makes me feel really, really needy in lots of ways. I have to outsource my emotional support in ways that I have never had to before. It’s hard making yourself deliberately vulnerable and trusting others to catch you falling. Vulnerable is another one of those words that has taken on a much bigger role in my world than it used to. It’s not one I particularly like, especially when other people use it for me or about me… but it actually applies a whole lot more than I would like.

Being incredibly lonely and on your own makes you vulnerable. It makes you accept things and situations that you would not have previously. It is scary. It makes you question and second guess things that you would have taken at face value before, and it has been particularly true (I think for me) with dating. It is constant questioning of motivation – is this person interested in me for me, or are they looking for a quick scam because I am a widow who may have received a life insurance payout – something that you get warned about and see on TV all the time. Am I the only person that they are interacting with (and at what point do you have the ‘exclusive’ conversation). How true are your feelings or are you clutching at anything to avoid being on your own, and when do you mention that there are feelings. I know other people have a lot of the same concerns, especially if they have been hurt before, but for me they are a new thing and they do make me feel a bit weak and helpless in a lot of ways.

Vulnerable also applies to my boys. I think they feel as though they have to be strong and emotionally tough, both for me and everyone else and that’s a hard place for them to be. They lost their dad. They lost a man that they absolutely adored and looked up to, and their grief is still really raw. I think they try to hold it all together, but every now and again there are huge cracks that show up. It’s really hard seeing them being so vulnerable and hurting, trying to support them as they process their grief. It makes me feel helpless because there is really not a whole lot that I can do to help them, other than being there, listening, hugging and supporting them as they go through it.

I hate feeling vulnerable, it is a hard place to be and it is hard to know how to make yourself feel strong again. Sometimes leaning on a friend helps, other times it makes you feel pathetic and weak. It is easier to be empathetic and understanding for a friend or stranger where you are yourself removed from the situation. It is much more difficult being kind to yourself and letting yourself fall when you’re feeling like this. It is having hard conversations and being honest about your feelings, and it is just putting one foot in front of the other and seeing what comes next. It is part of being human and it is all part of the journey I guess.

53. Highs and Lows

Something I have had to recognise as part of this new life, are the hard lows that come after brief high moments. It seems like every time I have a good weekend or happy connection with people, there is some sort of low mood and depressing inner dialogue that is almost guaranteed to follow. Sometimes it is just a brief pang, but other times it’s like a punch to the gut. It can scream at you relentlessly about everything that you used to have that is now gone. It can be brutal… But it doesn’t stop me looking for those good times, I want to find the things that bring a smile to my face, the things that do make me happy. They are the things that keep me going…. The lows are just something I need to keep in mind for my mental health.

This week I was super excited to catch up with a friend that I haven’t seen in person for ages. She lives at the Sunshine Coast, so it’s hard to see each other as often as we would like. She is a school teacher and currently on holidays so was able to come and be part of our trivia team for the evening and then spend the night at my place. We went out for breakfast the next morning and had the loveliest time catching up and talking about all kinds of things. It was so comforting having a person with me, who gets it all completely and who I don’t have to pretend with in any way. We laughed and I cried (surprise!), we talked absolute rubbish and we planned our next catch up – something I am really looking forward to but am also nervous about because she has dubbed it a “Debaucherous” event …. But when she left to head home, I crashed. I was just so very, very sad. Having those times that feel great are incredibly bittersweet because they just highlight everything that is missing for me. I want to tell Claytie all about it and have him roll his eyes at my storytelling. I wanted him to laugh at the funny bits and comfort me for the things that hurt. I just want him to be here!

So that night was a giant pity party. It didn’t help that it was also the anniversary of the first time Claytie and I met 31 years ago. The anniversary of our relationship starting – a date that is not important on anyone else’s calendar, but hugely significant to me. It was one of those nights where the tears just start and just don’t stop. Where it is physically painful to just breathe. I know those moments are important to have and to acknowledge, they are all part of learning to live this new life, but god they are hard. I had a friend call me in the middle of the tears and snot show, checking in to see how I was going and that is hard too. My immediate response is to say that I am fine, which is a complete lie – and he knows that, he is on the same rollercoaster.

We are so conditioned to be fine that it is hard to verbalise when we are not. I am very good at being the shoulder for someone else, I am happy to be that person. I am not good accepting that sometimes I need a shoulder too. People as a rule (myself included) are not great at knowing what to do when you say that you are not ok. It makes things awkward and you end up being the one to offer them comfort. It’s really hard in this case too, when there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to make me feel better, when the tears just need to happen. The one thing I want is the only thing that I can’t have. All the tears in the world aren’t going to fix that and no-one can help, but it did feel really nice to have a friend in that moment and to know that he really truly understands what it feels like as well.

II have found that it has been the same thing with dating and relationships. There have been some really lovely moments for me since I started this whole process, fun outings and nice dinners, interesting conversations about all kinds of things, and one of my very favourites just sitting on a couch together, holding hands watching movies on tv. It just feels soo lovely and normal and easy – and really hard when its time to go home, especially when it is a new relationship and you are still unsure of what (if anything) it will become. It just serves as a reminder of what you used to have.

You don’t realise how many of the little things are missing when your person is gone. Its easy to see and imagine the big things, but you forget about the million little things that are so totally ingrained in your life that you don’t notice them. The random touches as you walk past, the smell of your person, the smart-alec comments about something on tv, scrunched up socks in their shoes, the noises they make as they drift off to sleep…. They are the things that will bring you to your knees every time. They are the things that make this loneliness the biggest thing you will ever have to accept, and you don’t really have a choice but to accept it.

It’s hard, this process of acclimatising to living with grief. It is everywhere and takes up every tiny bit of space in you. It makes it hard to allow yourself happy moments without some sort of misplaced guilt. I make a conscious choice everyday to find the good things around me. I am not going to let the lows swallow me, but I have to acknowledge their existence and I have to accept that they are going to happen. The hope that I need to have, is that there will be more happy times to counteract or balance the lows, that somewhere there is a middle ground that I can live with.

52. Funeral

For the last two weeks, it seems that all that has been on TV has been the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the lead up to and wind down from her funeral. I understand it… she was the most well known woman on the planet, and she made history, and it was always going to be a huge thing, this coming to the end of an era. Regardless of how you feel about the monarchy (I’ll be voting to become a republic when the time comes), it is easy to get caught up in the pomp and ceremony of it all. I have to confess to staying up ridiculously late to watch it all… but as I said to my mum, I have watched all of the weddings and things up until now, as if I would miss this!

All of this relentless coverage has had me thinking about death and funerals (again) and how hard all of that is to get through when you’re a “joe average” person, let alone famous and constantly in the public eye. When a person you love dies, your brain actually shuts down. There has been all kinds of research done around this subject – not that I can quote particular studies for you. Your body shuts off trauma parts of your brain so that you can manage day to day stuff , and the shut down parts can take a long time to switch back on. Poor King Charles was mocked in all kinds of ways for complaining about a leaky pen on a couple of occasions, and while it could be that he is a complete dick (time will tell) it could also, and more likely be a grief response. His world feels out of control, his mother just died, and complaining about a leaky pen is something that feels like he has some kind of control. I know that when Claytie died, there were things that I said and did that probably seem stupid in hindsight, but felt really important at the time.

And then there is the funeral… your last chance to publicly honour your person – a final event just for them, and oh so important to get it right! This funeral has been in the planning for years. The details were incredible and on a massive scale, but I wonder if there was a personal eulogy for her majesty? Did they tell any of the funny stories that we all have about our person or is that something that they are able to do with their week of personal mourning? – as if a week is enough!!

I actually enjoyed Clayties funeral, and I know that enjoyed is a weird word to use in this context. But I did. I was really happy with his funeral and how we did it… some parts were absolutely out of my control, and were incredibly frustrating for members of my family, but in an odd way they make sense to the big picture. It was super important to me that we didn’t have a stranger speak for us about Claytie. He was ours, and his story was for us to tell. The boys chose the music that we played and I loved the unorthodox -ness of their picks .. Beasty Boys, Cows with Guns, and Kasey Chambers… as well as a couple of my choices for his slide show. It all felt like him! I am insanely proud of how well the boys all did on the day, particularly our oldest son who spoke on our behalf. I loved that Clayties school friends accepted my request, without hesitation, to be our MCs and that we were able to celebrate after the service at a good friends home instead of a random venue. I’m also grateful that we were in a window between covid lock downs that meant we were able to invite 100 people, and that technology allowed everyone else to be able to view his service on line. It all made for a day that was absolutely a celebration of the awesome human that he was.

The funeral tho, while signifying an ending is also a beginning. It is the start of a very different life with out your person. It is learning to live in a world that you no longer recognise. It’s hard! I can only speak from my own experience of losing my husband – I hate that phrase by the way… I didn’t lose him, I know exactly where he is! Luckily for me, I don’t know what it is like to have a parent die, and in the case of the royals both in a very short time span. Any death leaves a huge hole in your world, and adjusting your life around that hole is hard. I hope that they get the time and support that they need to grieve, and to work around the queen sized hole in their world.