I’m going in…

I’ve spent the morning cross-legged under my letterbox, awaiting a delivery from the postman.

It's all the words that are putting me off...

It’s all the words that are putting me off…

And lo! Said delivery finally dropped onto the doormat (Inevitably just after I’d given up hope and left my vantage point in favour of Facebook.)

The first, long-awaited copy of Me After You, my memoir about life since Mark’s death.

Thing is, I hardly dare open it.

It’s all the words that are contained within it that are putting me off – the ones which raged from my broken heart onto the keyboard over five fraught months. They’re as precious to me as little pearls, those words; they are fierce, tender, raw, profane, downright dirty in parts.

But most importantly they are truthful, which is all I really wanted from them in the first place.

But what if they don’t look right? What if, now they’re out there, you don’t like them, or the calamitous tale they recount?

The book has been a labour of love. It has permitted me to spend time with my husband every day, to exhume Him and all the memories that go with Him.

It is also proof that if you believe in and love something passionately enough, with all of your heart and every sinew, you can achieve anything.

Ah fuck it. Mark, pet – this is for you. I’m going in…

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‘In the Event of my Death…’

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

English: Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are lucky enough to still have your spouse intact, I have a question.

Do you ever discuss, you know, the D word? Is ‘death’ part of your warm, couply vocabulary, or is it one of those subjects like exes and the fact that it took him SO FUCKING LONG to propose that is never broached?

Even after He was critically ill, and the click-whoosh of His mechanical heart valve kept me awake at night, my husband and I never discussed what would happen in the event of the other’s death. It was taboo, I guess because it had almost been reality and neither of us wanted to think about the what ifs.

Besides, that Registrar in the hospital, the little fella with whom I high-fived like a fucking cheerleader when I saw him months later in the heart clinic, stated quite clearly that Mark ‘would have a normal life span’ post-surgery. So why would we spend time as a couple talking about, you know, the D word, when we had three Mad Men box sets to get through?

After the unthinkable happened, I spent a considerable amount of time and money amassing books on the subject of grief and how to deal with it. I wanted an answer to this devastating conundrum I was suddenly faced with and I convinced myself that titles such as ‘I Wasn’t Ready To Say Goodbye’ and ‘After You’d Gone’ were key texts in achieving this.

Whilst they work for some people, I quickly realised that they weren’t going to do much for me. In fact, no book can tell you how to grieve, or how to get over the death of your spouse. There is no antidote.

One book which remains well-thumbed though is entitled ‘In Loving Memory’ (sent to me by a friend in the aftermath). This morning as I was hunting for some sage words to help me get through the day, I opened it at a quote by Winston Churchill. It is an excerpt from a letter to his wife and is entitled ‘In The Event of my Death’.

“Do not grieve for me too much,” he writes. “…If there is anywhere else I shall be on the look out for you. Meanwhile look forward, feel free, rejoice in Life, cherish the children, guard my memory. God bless you.”

Oh to have been Churchill’s widow upon reading those words! He had given her a steer, given her permission to move on. Stated his wishes for her life from beyond the grave.

Stuck out here as I am in this vast ocean of grief, I can’t help wishing Mark and I had had that discussion, that he’d lent me that guiding hand.

For I’m lost. What would you want me to do, love?

A slippery little customer

English: Comfort in Grief

English: Comfort in Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grief, eh? Slippery little customer. It won’t be defined, no matter how you hard you try to pin it down.

Yesterday I was handed a bejewelled box and a book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross by my daughter’s counsellor. The ‘intervention’ had come to an end and these were the legacy of the sessions.

The box had been hand-decorated by my daughter and had previously housed shoes. Now it was wrapped in brown parcel paper and covered in sequins. It contained a selection of brightly-coloured toys, stickers and pens, supposedly to comfort her in those moments when she was missing daddy. All I saw was flotsam which would invariably end up strewn about my living room floor. I asked her about the pink elephant.

“It’s a pink elephant,” she said.

“Would you like to cuddle it when you’re missing daddy?”

She looked me as if I’d just shat on the carpet. “……….It’s a pink elephant.”

Six weeks well spent then.

Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist with an interest in dying, who coined five ‘stages’ which are apparently typical of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I came across her soon after M died – those early days when I sought a ‘solution’ to my grief by spending a fortune on books on the subject.

Some books contained ‘road maps’ to recovery. Some were heavy with case studies and testimonials from people who had gone through it and survived. None of them made any sense to me though. I didn’t want to ‘recover’. I didn’t want to hear about other people’s losses. I wanted to stop retching every morning, I wanted the jags of anxiety to stop. I wanted M back and for Him not to be dead.

So my conclusion is this: Grief cannot be corralled or boxed or arranged into stages. Grief is different for everyone, as are expressions thereof.

The only solution is to put your head down and push through it. And of course, drink wine.