It’s a difficult thing being widowed, or I imagine grieving for anyone, and coming up to big dates – holidays or anniversaries. You know that they are going to hurt… the feelings start early and weigh you down as you get closer. Some dates are really obvious – like all of the firsts, but others almost catch you by surprise.
Clayties birthday was the first first that we had, just two short weeks after he died. Claytie’s Dad, the boys and I decided that we needed to do something really big to mark that day. Claytie always said that if he was going to get a tattoo, he would get a picture of Daffy Duck on his upper arm. He never ended up getting any sort of ink, and would snarl at the kids when they came home with something new, but I think that at some stage he might have done it. With this in mind, we went into the city and each got a tattoo! Now we didn’t just get any old thing put onto us, this was a carefully thought out and proper tribute! The six of us all now have the same picture, taken from a t-shirt that he used to wear, and albeit in different places, we all now have a Daffy Duck somewhere on our skin.
It felt really good to do such a big thing for such a big first, and it got us through a really tough day. The German sausage hut just outside the tattoo parlour felt like a sign to say he approved, and the guy doing the ink had lived in Hamburg, (in a neighbourhood Claytie and I visited in 2019) and just recently came to Australia – another positive sign for us.
The first Christmas was shit. None of us wanted it to happen. The tree didn’t go up at all, and the whole day felt like we were dragging ourselves through but it was a case of fake it til you make it, and somehow we managed. Having small people (niece and nephew) who love Christmas definitely helped too!
I’ve already talked about my birthday – which I really struggled with! How unfair it is that I am now older than he can ever be. That was a real mind fuck, and I had such bad anxiety for the month leading up to it that I don’t think I slept at all. Everyday was tears and snot and it felt like nothing helped. I hadn’t expected any of that, but probably should have. I’m really glad I went on my trip and was distracted to an extent, but I am not sure that I can ever feel the same about my birthday again.
The hardest one for me, and in hindsight sight probably the most obvious, was our wedding anniversary. We had just celebrated 25 years married two weeks before he died. We were really happy and enjoying life. Things were pretty perfect… and then they were as opposite to that as you could get. In my head I had been worrying about the upcoming one year anniversary of his death, and had taken a week off work to deal with those emotions, thinking that this was going to be the hardest day. I kind of hadn’t thought about our wedding day which was a mistake on my part. It hurt in the worst kind of way.
I went to work, luckily in my safe space office, with the loveliest team who just let me be. I’m not sure I got anything done that day except for tears. It was probably a harder day in lots of ways for me than any of the others had been… and I didn’t see it coming!
The one year anniversary of Clayties death was a much easier day- and that feels weird to say! Lots of people had asked me leading up to it if we were planning to do anything – a question that felt a bit weird to be asked honestly – a kind of invasion of our privacy that I hadn’t expected. Possible a reflection of my openness in going through this process, but weird none the less.
The day started with a phone call from one of his best mates, who had been on a plane to Perth the day Claytie died and unable to come home until weeks later. There were tears from both of us, and not too long after the phone call ended, he was at my door. It was actually a perfect way to remember Claytie, and I’m really grateful that we spent that time together.
Clayties parents came for dinner that night and so did his Qld sister, his other sister being stuck in NSW (bloody Covid!). We had his favourite (my least favourite) dinner that he would cook when he had the shits with me in a true passive aggressive way – he knew I hated it, but I would never say no to him offering to cook! Tuna mornay – Catfood casserole, and Ice break iced coffee. He would drink at least 2l a day, so it seemed only fitting! It was pretty bloody nasty… but perfect! We scratched scratchies – with no one winning, and told stories and just remembered him.
His second birthday since he died, was uncomfortable for me rather than hard. We were in the middle of a lockdown and not supposed to go anywhere, but I broke those rules (senior person welfare check) so that I could go and see his parents and give them a hug! Of course there were tears, but it wasn’t the hardest day for me.
And now, here we are, heading into our second Christmas. This year the tree is up and there is a bit more excitement in the air; although since the tree has been up, so has my anxiety. I’m feeling his absence and the loneliness that goes with it so much more, a theme that seems reasonably common on the widow support pages too! I miss my Grinch and his snarky comments. He would pretend to hate Christmas, and then buy more prezzies than anyone, usually at the last minute! He would head to the shops about a million times on Christmas Eve – getting all the things I had left off the shopping list, complaining each time but secretly happy to do it… my boys are not quite so willing and helpful!
I guess this next is just like the others, a largely unknown thing to get through, and get through it we will. I am looking forward to meeting more new people, trying more new things and exploring what that looks like. There are some sparks that I’m excited by and new adventures to be had. I hope you and yours have a good one. Eat the food, drink the drinks and cherish every new memory…. Life is short, do the things that make you happy and tell your people that you love them every chance you get x