Him and her

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This is Him, and her.

Hello. I’m having a glass of Rioja at the end of one of those ‘Oh sweet Satan’s ball-sack, I’m a TERRIBLE mother’ days. Will you join me?

I have had the emotional resilience of Wensleydale cheese today (crumbly, for all you non-Northern-English people). And I’ve been unable to toughen myself up.

And my child has both a) witnessed it and b) had to stay at my Mother’s whilst I spent time collapsing on the bed at home. It sounds melodramatic, but I swear, today, I’ve not even been able to THINK about, you know, Him, without going all Wensleydale.

I don’t know why it hits you like this. Anyone? Anyone?

If I’d even tried to compose a post earlier I wouldn’t have had the energy to press the buttons on the keyboard. Fortunately, Rioja has the same effect on me as spinach has on Popeye – it makes me strong to the finich.

It’s the school holidays and I’m up to my ears with the sound of kids shouting for their daddies. I’m sick of people rambling on about going on holiday together. I’m weary of people complaining about the forthcoming fortnight they’re going to have to endure with their husband and kids. I’d sell a kidney for the chance of a holiday with just Him and her.

“Are you cryin’?” My daughter asked me, as tears powered down my cheeks.

“Uhuh.”

“‘Cos you miss Daddy?”

“U”- snort- “Huh”

She doesn’t say anymore than that these days. She just goes and gets a length of toilet paper from the bathroom and clumsily tries to stop the flow.

And I thought to myself today – with no level of profundity whatsoever – I thought, nothing really matters. Nothing.

All I want is you, Buble. Can you hear me?

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A Head Full of Funk

The Inconsolable Widow

The Inconsolable Widow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are certain things that only widows know. And like any exclusive group, we like to keep our knowledge to ourselves.

This is mainly because people outside the group don’t have a clue what we’re going through and rather than get irate about their reactions (last post notwithstanding), we don’t bother them with the detail. But really, there’s an underground revolution going on. Widows are communicating via closed fora and private coffee meets all across the world. It’s like the Resistance, with cappuccinos and Kleenex.

At the risk of being cast-out, I’m going to share one pearl of received widow-wisdom. It is known as…’The Six Month Low’.

It is the point in widowhood when friends have stopped their cross-country pilgrimages to see you, their daily pep-texts have dwindled to once a week. This isn’t a criticism. Lives must go on and just because M was a central part of my life, I can’t expect the loss to be felt with the same sense of perpetuity by anyone else.

Six months is the point at which you feel at your lowest ebb. You have to reach into the pit of your resources for the last remnant of strength to pull you through.

Except, here’s the thing – for me, it didn’t happen. Six months was no worse than four months or nine months. In fact, I’m about to propose a new timescale theory: how about eighteen months? Because actually, today, as I approach eighteen months without M, I’m feeling a mixture of rage and heartbreak, and wondering if I can carry on.

I’m so fragile you could break me with a breath, and so angry I could kill someone. I’m feeling the loss in that space between my shoulder blades and in the joints of my fingers. My bottom lip won’t stop wobbling. I’m scrabbling about in the pit of my resources and emerging with nothing.

I am aware this is liable to change. After all, two days ago I was all for living it up. I guess what I’m trying to say is that timescales don’t work. It’s not an illness from which one recovers. This will go on and on.

Today I’ve got a head full of funk. Tomorrow it may be the musical type instead.

The Cynical Imp

A stainless steel frying pan.

A stainless steel frying pan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know on Tom and Jerry, when Tom gets hit by a frying pan and there’s that ‘doiing-ng-ng!’ sound, followed by Tom’s teeth dropping out one by one?

That was me, today, after my counselling session.

The idea was to talk through M’s last day on Earth in the present tense, responding to prompts by my counsellor. The conversation would be recorded so that we could listen back to it.  The cynical imp who has occupied a space on my shoulder throughout most of my life snortled: This is going to be a total waste of time. What’s for lunch?

Yet despite him, the Exposure Therapy began.

“What’s the date?” the counsellor asked.

The cynical imp was slightly affronted. He didn’t like being taken back to that date. “It’s Saturday, February 11th, 2012.”

“What are your plans for the day?”

“We’re going to Durham. My Grandma died on Tuesday, (yes, in a tragi-comic twist, my beloved Granny died 5 days before M) so we’re going home to support Mum.”

“Are you leaving on time?”

“No – we’re messing about.”

“What are you doing?”

“M is in the shower and I’m drawing rude shapes in the condensation and telling Him that I’m apprehensive about the funeral of my Grandmother. It’s the first funeral of a family member that I have attended, and I’m scared.”

“What does M say?”

“He says, ‘don’t worry pet, I’ll be there with you…'”

We continue for 13 minutes. We go through loading the car, listening to Neil Young on the car stereo. We go through leaving the village and heading west on the A64 towards the A1 north. We don’t even make it to my Mother’s house before I’m weeping into a tissue.

The cynical imp is WELL fucked off at this emotional turn of events.

The tape is stopped and rewound. This is the point when the frying pan comes swinging into full force. I close my eyes, I listen to myself and I relive that day.

M is there, in His black-grey M&S Italian-cut jacket. We’re in the bedroom of our home: our little nest, just off the A64 – opposite the church, 100 yards from the Coach and Horses. We’re shooting the shit, talking about something and nothing, like couples do. Like couples do. Like couples do.

I sob and I sob, and the counsellor says she’s going to stop the tape.

She asks: “What was it that prompted the emotional reaction?”

“It’s the conversations which only happen between two people who have known each other intimately inside and out; who are best friends and lovers in one. The sort of conversations you can’t have with even your closest friend. I haven’t had one of those for eighteen long months. I’m never going to have one again with Him. It’s another layer of my sorrow, exposed.”

I call for a halt and leave the session.

The cynical imp is chastened and exhausted.

Round two next week. Doiing-ng-ng!!!

Death Mask

English: open padlock icon

English: open padlock icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Exposure Therapy starts next week. You know, where my counsellor and I take the ‘traumatic event’ out of its padlocked cell whence it is stored, deep within my cranium, and inspect it closely.

There are so many elements which contribute to the ‘traumatic event’, I wasn’t sure where we would start with this inspection. But I read something in a friend’s blog this morning which served to clarify my thoughts.

The salient memory is of M’s face, immediately after death.

It lurches out at me if I let it, trampling all the other joyful images associated with that face. I’ve said before that I didn’t allow myself to believe, initially, that He had died, but in retrospect, I knew. How did I know? The face told me.

The skin changed almost instantly from pink to grey. The eyelids were unbalanced – one open, one half shut. There was an expression on the face, one which I hadn’t particularly considered or tried to decode before reading my friend’s post.

She used to work in the funeral business and writes an excellent blog about her experiences within the profession. In her latest post, she discusses the worst things she saw as part of her job. Here is an extract, where she describes tending to the bodies of air crash fatalities:

“Sometimes(…) it is impossible to avoid thoughts of that person’s final, agonizing moments on this earth. The faces are frozen in time, showing extremely disturbing expressions in which incredible pain and terror are easily read. Usually, though, there aren’t faces…” (www.morguemouse.wordpress.com)

I found it both heart-breaking and comforting to read her words. Because it made me realise that M’s expression revealed He died in neither terror nor in pain.

Though His life was cut unfairly, excruciatingly short, I honestly believe He died a happy man.

Northern Exposure

Sisyphus

Sisyphus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the bawdiness and the bravado, I am, today, wondering how I’m going to get through this.

Like Sisyphus, I’m pushing my boulder of grief up the mountainside only for it to come crashing down once it nears the top.

Insomnia has set in again, not through lack of alcohol, but because of the heat. It has reached the woozy heights of 19 degrees in the village, and both my daughter and I are still rolling about the bed at midnight trying to find the cool patch. Insomnia allows Bad Thoughts to roam free, and also draws attention to the wardrobe, at the bottom of which is the casket containing…well, Him.

Sunny days are, in themselves, catalysts for sadness – they make everywhere look full of hope, even grey-rendered, pebble-dashed Northern villages such as this one. But part of me doesn’t want hope to blossom (the stubborn, self-pitying, foot-stamping toddler part), because M has been denied it.

My counsellor is starting a round of Exposure Therapy next week. This does not involve us flashing our bits at each other across a crowded room; rather, we will be breaking down the traumatic event (Husband, intercourse, “socks!”, pillow, dead), recording it like chapters in a book, then ‘exposing’ ourselves to it and the onslaught of emotions it elicits. By deconstructing the trauma, its power to destabilise is weakened, therefore I can allow myself to think about it occasionally without hyperventilating.

It sounds like psycho-babble, but I’m trying to be hopeful.