Storms, floodgates and other climatically-motivated emotional cliches

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Me, waiting for the shit-storm to hit

I’ll admit, I was perched on my settee yesterday, looking at my watch, just waiting for the shit-storm to hit.

It was the anniversary of His death, you see, and we all love a good anniversary to make us feel like we Ought to be feeling a Certain Way.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t miss Him every other day of the year. But the Anniversary of His Death is supposedly more saturated in pathos than all of those other days put together.

So I sat there, waiting.

Inevitably, it came. But it was as a result of an action, not the weighty significance of the day.

I went to post something poignant on His Facebook page. (For whose benefit, incidentally? Mine, or His 99 friends who needed reminding that today was, you know, The Day, and therefore they could think about Him again, raise a glass, and say R.I.P. wistfully into the air?)

Anyway, I tried to access His page via my I-pad, which took me not to the page, but directly into a trove of forgotten messages we had exchanged, and which I hadn’t looked at for over two years.

His voice suddenly leapt out at me from the screen. The voice I have forced myself to turn off, full of daft-arse expressions that have withered from my lexicon since His death.

The shit-storm duly hit. (Thank god. Imagine if it hadn’t? What would that have said about me, Him, and the significance of The Day?)

Of course, once the floodgates were opened, there was no stopping the storm. I have held it back by whatever means necessary for the past 24 months; it was bound to take any opportunity it got to wreak emotional devastation.

By eight PM I was so wrung out, knocked so far back in my grief ‘journey’, I could do nothing but stagger up to bed.

Today, the storm has passed. But I am asking myself: Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, the-date-we-first-locked-lips; He and I never felt the need to mark any of them. So why should the date of His death be any different?

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Lost in Translation

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Mirth and marriage

Here is the problem with admitting that you may be beginning to feel the gentle rays of happiness in your life again after the sudden and untimely death of your spouse:

You say: “I may be beginning to feel the gentle rays of happiness in my life again after the sudden and untimely death of my spouse.”

People’s internal Google-translate hears: “I am over my husband’s death and have finally moved on! Dig your wet-look leggings out of the wardrobe and let’s have a P.A.R.T.Y.!”

So I’m relying on you to turn your Google-translate off and really listen to the words I am saying.

I may be beginning to feel the gentle rays of happiness in my life again after the sudden and untimely death of my spouse.

Who knew, right?

I didn’t think the word ‘happiness’ would enter my lexicon again, but there it is, nestling in nicely alongside those old stalwarts, ‘misery’ and ‘devastation’, with its jaunty double, double consonants.

Perhaps I didn’t give the New Year enough credit for its capacity for ‘renewal’, but the further I edge into 2014, the more determined I feel to start living again.

It is almost two years since Mark died, and it feels like both a lifetime and the blink of an eye. But what would He say if He thought I were still here, stymied by grief, feeling guilty about making the next move?

“Haway, man, Pet,” He’d say. (You may refer to Google translate here).

Don’t get too excited, mind. This does not mean the ache goes away, nor the tears, nor the moments of worthlessness. In fact, I may be back to square one tomorrow.

Today though, I think what it means is that the grief and the trauma have taken enough. I just want to be happy.

Status report 2014: Husband still dead

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Happiness is…a shitting plastic dachshund

Despite the claims of my horoscope and Zara’s Spring wardrobe, 2014 has thus far offered nothing in the way of transcendental change. My husband is still dead. I’m beginning to think He always will be.

The festive season has been and gone, thank god, and I must send a shout out to those stalwarts who supported me through it.

It remains, however, a bloated turkey fart of a fortnight and I have come to the conclusion that it will never be the same again. The LED-lit jollity was bad enough when He was alive. Now it represents a poxy string of lights flashing around an empty wallet and an even emptier heart.

On the positive side, my daughter got the present of her dreams (yes, Santa delivered on the shitting plastic dachshund), and I was provided with evidence yet again – if any were needed – of the impenetrable nature of my human safety net. No matter how much shit I throw at these people, they just won’t leave me alone.

Over the festive fortnight they persisted in being there whenever my mood plummeted, armed with a salmon nibbly bit or a nice portion of Christmas pud. They sent me texts to let me know they were ‘thinking of me’. Even when I was hiding behind the settee at the strike of midnight at New Year, they sniffed me out and force-fed me champagne until I stopped crying.

And I logged into the blog to find messages of love from the ether too. People I don’t even know who wanted to say they were rooting for me.

Whilst I still enter 2014 with a heavy heart, it is comforting to know there are so many people out there who are prepared to take on some of the weight.

So thank you – and here’s to a Happier New Year?

A Little Post-Christmas Pep

English: A postcard from 1919, with artwork of...

English: A postcard from 1919, with artwork of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those in search of a little post-Christmas pep, please refer to another website. Possibly that of hardy pep-perennial Noel Edmunds, or anyone from Steps. This post is for curmudgeons only, so if that’s you, pull up a chair.

The Big Day is over, and thanks to good friends, five kids, three dogs and Tesco’s wine department, I’m out the other side.

I’m not going to lie – in those moments when I allowed thoughts of my husband to seep in, it was tough, especially as I spent the day within the Instagrammed glow of my oldest friend’s beautiful and very much intact family. Me, my daughter and the dog, amid what ‘should have been’.

I found myself gazing at my friend’s husband as he set about the tasks of a family Christmas – placing a Santa-sized footprint on the hearth, filming the kids as they opened their gifts, painting the new guinea pig hutch, responding patiently to the incessant calls of Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!

My heart ached for Mark, for all that He was missing – most notably the look of delight on our daughter’s face when she opened the most repulsive present ever conceived – a shitting daschund toy by the name of ‘Doggy Doo’. But also all the feasting and the festivities, which were the aspects of life He loved most.

At one point, glassy-eyed and full of fizz, I grabbed hold of my friend’s husband and snivelled into his neck.  It took me another flute of champers and a bout of Michael Buble-inspired mirth to pull myself round.

I’m bobbing along on the surface of the season like one of those turds that won’t flush, and still have a New Year and the 39th birthday of my husband to contemplate before I can fully relax into the countdown to the second anniversary of His death.

I did tell you to refer to Noel.

EUREKA!

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You see that? That’s the contents of my cranium, that is.

It’s taken 22 months of ardent chin-scratching, but I think I may have finally worked out why widowhood is so uniquely isolating. (I’m a slow burner, ok? It took me three attempts to pass Maths at GCSE).

For everyone else, life, fundamentally, hasn’t changed. Once the initial shock wore off, their concerns reverted back to their kids, their households, their hatred of that bloke in Accounts.

And why wouldn’t they? Mark wasn’t part of their everyday. They didn’t wake up next to him, kiss him as he left the house in the morning, listen to his lengthy explanations of how things worked, bid him goodnight and then spend the time ’til dawn willing him to stop bloody snoring.

Neither did they have their hopes and dreams for the future entangled with His. We were planning to move to France. Have another child. Get a dog with big paws and a long muzzle. Finally eat at The Coachman in Snainton. (I have a suspicion He was planning that for Valentine’s Day actually – I found their menu in His backpack after He died. Gah! Three days too late!)

When He died, everyone who knew Him was devastated. But now they miss Him intermittently, and reflect on Him warmly at moments when He pops into their heads.

But my existence has been turned inside out. I have had to relocate, physically and mentally. I have had to realign. Rethink.

And all that whilst trying to take in the fact that the love of my life has gone forever and simultaneously raise our child. I am the only person who has had to do this in the aftermath of his death. (Do I get a nice badge?)
Little wonder then that the contents of my brain feel like that Plastic Island in the middle of the Pacific – a whirling vortex of uncertainty and half-consumed, useless shit.

The Grinch who twerked before Christmas

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Fuck Off

According to Andy Williams “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Does Andy really believe that shit? If he does, he’s never been bereaved.

The festive season seems to twerk before me like a tinsel-strewn Miley Cyrus, a twinkling reminder that I am facing the second year without my husband.

Pre-death of beloved spouse, I hadn’t fully appreciated the couple-centric bent of the season. Now it seems to exist solely to taunt me: Endless rows of socks and soap-on-a-rope in the ‘what to buy for Dad’ sections, Iceland ads featuring fluorescent-toothed families enjoying quality time together, Mariah Carey, Nativity plays (yet another bloody happy couple), Christmas couples drinkies, mistletoe, Mariah Carey…it begins in October and twerks obscenely into January, ending just in time for Mark’s birthday on the 4th.

The decision, therefore, is whether to beat ’em or join ’em.

So I have decided to flip the bird to the season. I am not sending cards, I am not buying presents, on the day itself I’m going to my friend’s house to get shitfaced. I am the Grinch, and I’m twerking before Christmas.

My one concession has been the erection of a small spruce in the corner of the dining room. But even the simple task of decorating it seemed leaden with pathos. What was once an exciting part of the Yuletide schedule was reduced to fifteen lacklustre minutes of my daughter and me grappling with lights, extricating baubles, dusting off stockings.

In the end, my daughter wrapped the tree almost entirely in tinsel and now it seems to leer at me like some kind of camp Dalek reminding me once again that it is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

Most torturous time of the year more like.

Space travel, nanotechnology, Joan Rivers’ face

English: Joan Rivers at Musto's 25th Anniversary.

English: Joan Rivers at Musto’s 25th Anniversary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to elect the Top Worst Moment of a funeral, for there are so many to choose from.

Is it walking behind the box containing your beloved one, knowing the feet you used to massage are just a few centimetres from your nose? Is it having to endure a service which is all about your beloved one, whilst they lie there on display like a floral centrepiece? Is it looking out at a congregation of stricken faces as you, numbed by gin and beta-blockers and shock,  calmly read a page of memories about your beloved one?

Since Mark died, I’ve endured the funerals of three more beloved ones – all of my remaining grandparents have gone over the past 21 months. Four key family members, now extinct.

Of course three of them had ‘a good innings’ as the platitude goes. They all lived to see grandchildren, great-grandchildren, Louis Smith win Strictly Come Dancing. Their deaths were sad, but not a fucking tragedy like that of my husband. The sadness doesn’t abate around my heart though. They were all immense characters and they have each left an irremediable void.

Yesterday, it was the turn of the old boy mentioned in the post below. All the usual atrocities of ‘saying goodbye’ were present, but I am in no doubt of my Top Worst  Moment pick on this occasion (and it wasn’t when the aged pall-bearer stumbled on the church step and nearly dropped the coffin.)

Grandpa’s wish was to be committed to the ground, buried intact immediately after the event. Nothing could have prepared me for the image of him being offloaded into the bowels of the earth, and the box containing my Gran’s ashes placed on top of him. It seemed an unspeakably brutal, almost Neolithic way of dispensing with a body. We left him for the after-party, effectively to rot.

Surely a world which has achieved such feats of engineering as space travel, nanotechnology, Joan Rivers’ face, can come up with a less gruelling manner of dispatch?

Perhaps this is why ashes remain uncollected in funeral parlours across the world, why urns sit on mantelpieces, why my husband remains in my wardrobe. An acceptable alternative has yet to be invented.