Time to say goodbye

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Any florists or gardeners out there will not be as impressed of course. This little posy is made from the very few flowers currently growing in my garden.

It’s a symbolic little posy: I like symbolism.

The three red-pink roses are from a rambler that my Dad loved, growing on a fence that he and my uncle build 15 years ago. We placed some of these roses in my Dad’s coffin when he died 4 years and 2 days ago. The purple aquilegia – bright, cheerful and independent – sprout everywhere in my garden, self-seeded by the wind. I hated them at one point for their pesky weed-like determination to flower wherever they wanted. Dad loved them for the same reason. I do now, too.

The yellow iris is actually a water iris that has taken over 3/4 of my pond. My sister threatened to dig them out 5 years ago to my Dad’s protest. She never did and they’ve continued to take over ever since.

The little pink candy-puff flowers, as I call them, were planted by my dad. I think the plant originally came from my uncle, but I’m not sure. Either way, its fluffy cuteness made a welcome addition. Plus, there wasn’t much else I could put in.

The posy was wrapped in a wet piece of kitchen paper, then in foil and then a piece of chiffon ribbon. It went in my handbag.

Throughout the service, I kept checking it was ok..not too squashed as I delved in and out for my tissues. At one point, my son alerted to me to a small aphid crawling on my black cardigan, no doubt from this little bouquet.

At the end, as “Time to say Goodbye” by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli played, tears ran down my face and sobs threatened to erupt into hyperventilation. It was one of my Dad’s favourite songs too and the words were scarily poignant for more than the obvious. I watched the sheer curtains close and the lights dim. As the people in front of me – family – moved out of the crematorium, I pulled out my little posy and stared at it as I blindly walked towards the coffin. Looking up, I asked the funeral director to place it on my uncle’s coffin and I left the building.

He was the last one, the last of my father’s generation.

He was probably my Dad’s best friend and definitely his closest sibling. My Dad respected and trusted him and looked up to him. My uncle visited my Dad on his dying bed, a fact I had forgotten until sat in that crematorium.

My uncle was the hardest working man I knew. He was generous, intelligent and strong. For reasons unexplainable here, I barely saw him in the last few years and I regret that. I have many, many memories of him from my childhood. Memories I will always treasure, like the rose bush he apparently treasured, which I had bought him 10 years ago for his 80th birthday.

Today, I felt like I said goodbye to him and my Dad. I don’t really remember much of my Dad’s funeral and I am the one who organised it. More than that, I feel like I have said goodbye to a whole swathe of life – of my life. There are no holds now, no anchors, nothing left.

I’m too sad today to even know how I feel about that.

Grrrr

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is getting on my nerves today.

Like… the fact that I spend every day cleaning up but my house never gets any better.

Like…asking my teen son to remove the dirty dishes and rubbish out of his room- I don’t care what the rest looks like – and he won’t.

Like… my daughter has stolen my make up again and I swear that’s why I look so grim today. Not really.

Like…I ordered wood on Saturday and after days of excuses that I accepted politely, he still hasn’t delivered my wood or contacted me.

Like…I have loads of presents to wrap and I can’t be bothered.

Like…I went in to two shops yesterday and neither sold mincemeat for minced pies – really? They do know it is Christmas, right? Oh yes…I forgot that they started selling Christmas stuff in October, but apparently not a jar of mincemeat.

Like…I had to chop my own wood (poor cinders here) and some pieces WOULD NOT SPLIT no matter how many times I hit them in temper with my axe.

Like…I’ve had chapped and swolleb lips again for over a week. And it doesn’t matter how much vaseline/lip balm/various over the counter remedies I buy, it won’t go and I think it’s an allergy. And if it is, I’m going to have to do the stupid fodmap diet.

Like…my sister told me my mum was visiting today. I said she wasn’t because of self isolating. She said she was. I got my hopes built up. I made homemade Irish cream liquer for her, poisoning myself with gluten because I am stupid and forgot it is whisky and had to taste it to make sure it was right. She now isn’t coming.

Like…I want to see and kiss and hug my boyfriend and wake up next to him and see his beautiful country and discuss our future. But I can’t go and I’m sure I won’t be going until April. And his ex girlfriends are circling like vultures.

Like…Christmas has never been the same since my Dad died and I got divorced.

Like…while I was writing this rant, my dog has chewed my vacuum cleaner attachment.

I. Give. Up.

My heart

Needless to say if you read last nights post, I was feeling low this morning and fearful of how Wildcard may have reacted to my very late night text (which I didn’t think he would see or respond to until the morning) and our subsequent tear filled phone call.

As always though, he called, he was fine and I remonstrated with myself for doubting him. I’m not sure what he needs to do to stop me thinking like that -and that is the answer. It’s me that needs to change.

Somewhat happier but still overcast with the gloom of cancelled flights and the unknown future, I went into my Dad’s shed to cut some wood for the fire. Apart from the addition of more wood, it is exactly how he left it when he died. I go in there only when I have to and that tends to be when I have ran out of bought wood so need to cut some. Dad wouldn’t be happy with either of those facts. In this large shed, I have memories of packing potatoes, Halloween parties, Dad’s flatbed truck and in later years, Dad’s beautiful wood carvings.

So, in I go. I balance a long, thin strip of wood so that I can hit it and split it with the axe. (Don’t try this at home). I managed to split a few before one stubborn piece leaves me panting and frustrated. I smack it a few times whilst it is on the ground, spraying soil and wood shavings around. And then, something springs up from the ground, uncovered by my frustration and ineffectual use of the axe.

I recognise its shape immediately. It’s a large wooden heart.

Dad made heart shaped necklaces (which I wear whenever I need him near me). He made me a beautiful wooden heart plaque made from 3 hearts from different stained wood.

This is bigger though. It’s covered in mud and I don’t know what state it is in underneath. It is now sat on my woodburner, drying out, before I can brush off the mud and see what is underneath.

Regardless, the sight of that heart appearing from the dark soil…hidden for so long, made me smile. Dad is watching me and he is telling me that love can survive the dark times – it is still there, even when it seems hidden or far away.

Thank you Daddy xxx

Sneaky grief

The first anniversary of Dad’s death and Father’s Day being a week apart was unfortunate.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe how the grief has worked over this time, particularly now – a week later – when my mind has resumed its previous state.

The closet thing I can think of, is the grief being like a balloon. A self inflating balloon. The balloon is always inflated, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

When Dad first died, the balloon inflated quicker than I could imagine. It inflated to capacity, threatening to burst. It obliterated and hid everything else in my life. Its pressure made me ache and cry.

Slowly, very slowly, the balloon has deflated. Little by little. Sometimes, it has reinflated again. Then it has gone down again. But it is always there.

In the lead up to that horrible weak, that balloon has inflated pretty steadily but much more than I realised. I knew it was going to be tough but just not how bad. And even worse, it’s deflation has been slower, more stubborn. The balloon feels stretched by its recent reinflation.

It’s only now that I realise that as well as the obvious grief and anxiety I felt in the lead up to this time, my body and mind were coping with the grief in a way I didn’t realise, until the time ended.

Today I feel exhausted but I feel positive too. I’m ready to focus on my life again and to lead a life that I know my Dad was proud of.

I’m not saying that balloon is gone. I’m not saying it won’t inflate again. But for today, I can cope. And that’s OK.

Anniversary

A year. A whole year. It’s beyond belief, because in my heart he died a week ago. It’s still that raw, that painful.

But it’s a century since I’ve seen him. I’m forgetting his smell, his voice. That’s the sad part.

Today we visited the crematorium and laid a wreath. I felt nothing. Numb. Blank.

We then went to the hospital. For a year I’ve thought about what I’d give, what I’d write in the thank you cards. But I couldn’t face it.

Today, one year on, I knew I must.

It was like a time warp. Like I’d travelled back in time. Memories flooded; familiarity stimulated my heart. The sound of my footsteps on the stairs. The noise of the canteen. The smell of the corridors.

We saw the nurses who still fondly remembered our dad. We handed over the cards and gifts, emotions boiling under the surface. I remained calm, said what I needed to, and left as soon as I could.

Entering that ward, I felt like I was visiting him again. He was just in a side room, waiting for me, wondering where I had been and so grateful I’d arrived. A year disappeared in a heartbeat and my Dad was still alive.

As we left the ward, hearts over brimming with grief, I also felt a sense of pride. Dad would be so happy and proud of us for facing that, for passing on his gratitude. For handing over his beautiful hand carved ornaments, the last we own, to say thanks for his care. I felt his pride in my heart and I knew we had done the right thing even though grief was ripping through my body.

And so, it’s been a year. The hardest of my life.

I miss him every day. I wish for him every day. But I have a new kind of normal, one that misses him each day and feels his absence. The next stage of grief, I suppose.

I’m sending my love out to all those who are grieving. God bless you.

Silence and solitude, or, walls.

It goes without saying that I miss Dad every day. It’s a steady constant most of the time, a stream that runs through me and fuels my thoughts and feelings.

From pexels

And, just like a stream, there are times when the missing-him swells, just a little. Or other times when it cascades over rapids and I can’t breath with the force of it.

Today was a little swell.

It’s been a busy day. A busy couple of days really. My sister and her family have carried on staying here since my trip to France and whilst I love them being here it is hard work. Three adults, two teens and two fives and under, as well as two large dogs and a clutch of cute puppies, sure know how to destroy a house. Having gone on holiday quite quick into the Easter break, I haven’t done my usual holiday cleaning, tidying and sorting. I’m fighting a losing battle. Extra effort is not making a blind bit of difference. I can’t keep it clean and I can’t keep it tidy. Today my mum visited which was lovely, but it added two more adults and another under five for the day.

I walked into the utility room and folded some clothes, just to get a breather. I checked myself – what the hell was wrong with me? A week ago I was desperately missing my sisters et Al, but today I’m screaming inside for silence. I then thought of Dad and how he would completely understand this sentiment. He loved his family being around him, hated any of us being away, but he also loved his quiet time too. I smiled to myself as I imagined us sitting together talking about it. Like father, like daughter. It’s why we got on so well.

Part of my break-down recovery involved that quiet time for myself. I’d sit with a coffee and my cat and stare out the living room window. It was peaceful and I allowed my thoughts to flow. It became a ritual, a habit and one that I quickly saw the benefits of when overcoming burn out.

I know I’m needing a bit of that me-time at the moment. I’m craving the silence and the solitude. It sounds awful, I know, but I figure I’m allowed to be selfish sometimes. There’s no one else to look after me, so I need to look after myself.

However, this quiet time is not really happening at the moment and won’t for a few days. I’ve broken the norm and have ran myself an early bath in the hope of stealing a few moments respite from the bustle of my family. I’ve been disturbed three times already. Bless them. For now though, early baths and clothes folding will have to do.

Catching up with my sister and brother in law has been enlightening anyway. It was unfortunate that they were unable to come to France with us (and our other sister) but I think they have enjoyed the little holiday of living in my home for the week.

As life has it sometimes, there has been much discussion about Lost Soul but not involving me as such. It seems that my brother in law has fallen out with him a little and although my sister went out with Lost Soul and other friends in the week, he is clearly up to his old games and tricks. And like the scene from Pride and Prejudice, it is amazing how many people are now claiming they are not that keen on him. Move over Mr Wickham.

It has done me some good though. Following the ‘dear friends’ incident, I am trying to process and work through any remaining feelings or thoughts that stubbornly remain. I’m half convinced they are a habit more than anything now – I still haven’t cried over him and that for me says a lot. The idea of him remains appealing but it’s the thought of him that his games have given hints of and my romantic mind has elaborated upon. It’s not the truth and I am finally, finally, accepting that now. I did what I could to start what I hoped was there. It wasn’t and it didn’t and am truly coming to terms with that.

I’m not lonely. I have lots of people around me. I miss the mental and physical intimacy of a true relationship but I am beginning to think that is a part of my imagination also. I’m beginning to emerge from this stage of my life, slowly and surely. I’m not sure what path I will take or how the next part of my life will turn out, but emerging within me is a determination to enjoy my life whatever happens.

I have accepted that I may not have everything I’ve wanted and dreamed of. That there are so many things in this life that are beyond my control. I’ve accepted that I will hurt because of people and events that I can’t change. I may end up on my own and I actually think I’m at peace with that now.

The death of someone who was your rock, your foundation, initially threatens to unbalance and destroy you. Everything you thought you knew is false, everything you thought you wanted is tasteless. For a while you flit around, searching for something – anything – to prop up those failing foundations and the walls you have built to help you reach your goals. Then you realise that nothing can.

But then, suddenly, that’s OK too. The foundations are being rebuilt by me. I am my father’s daughter and I have strength because of him. My life has changed and although I would give anything to have him back, I’ve accepted that my life is different now and that I have the power to rebuild my life a different way. Most important, is to enjoy the building of it.

So, I’m going to enjoy my crazy house full of family and not feel guilty when I need my silence and solitude. I not going to let my ideals dictate my life but instead enjoy what I have and be open to whatever comes along. These new walls are strong but flexible and living – I’ve learnt they have to be.

From pexels

Shame

I’ve lived in this house for nearly all of my 38 years. The house and its grounds have changed a lot over the years and more recently, a housing development has started to creep down this rural road.

For now though, I’m still surrounded by trees and fields and footpaths which criss cross the lands around.

Today when I got home from work I just needed to get out. I ignored the washing and the dishes, the ironing and the vacuuming, the marking and the planning. I changed into my walking shoes, swapped my blazer for a warm fleece and ignoring the fact that my daughter had already walked him, took my dog out for a walk.

It’s what I needed: sunshine, fresh air and birdsong, the exercise to stimulate my body, heart and mind.

I walked a way down my road and then crossed over to what my dad fondly called the ‘cart-track’. It’s a public footpath, indeed the width of a cart or car, but without tarmac. There are two houses down this bumpy track who are truly unspoilt in their views of the countryside.

I have so much history with this track.The track was a favourite walking place for me and my dog when I was sixteen and me and my pony when I was even younger. One of the houses was abandoned and derelict throughout my childhood and Dad relished taking us on a haunted walk there each Halloween. As I walked past it today it was transformed – new plaster and paint on the walls, a garage and a grassy lawn where once brambles and overgrown bushes grew. I realised how long it had been since I had walked down this track. Years and years. Shame on me.

I walked further a saw the grassy layby where I once stopped with my pony, hearing an approaching dirt bike further up the road. The rider turned out to be a boy who was in an older year than me in primary school and I remember how that conversation in the layby lead to a mutual crush.

We carried on walking down the tree lined track, past the entrance to the wood which I walked in with my Dad when I was a child. Now it’s owned by a business who does not permit my entry, so I continued on past the second of the two houses I mentioned earlier.

This detatched grey farmhouse was as austere as I remembered but not as frightening without its pacing and growling dogs being the fences that are still there. I wondered if the same people still lived there, and remembered a brown haired girl on a palomino pony who used to make their dogs bark all those years ago.

Once past the house the trees disappear and open fields stretch on either side of the overgrown path.

We carried on and I remembered the times I would canter down this path imaging I was on an adventure.

It was glorious in the spring sunshine and I could feel my heart swell with contentment.

We carried on until we reached the row of cottages right at the other end of the track. This is where I would always turn round and head back, sneakily casting a glance at the second house for a glimpse of my childhood crush. Today I carried on walking until I came to a fork in the road.

To the right, the track curved round past the houses to lead to a familiar road which would eventually lead to the road I live on. To the left, promoted by a newly positioned wooden sign post was another public footpath, one I had never gone down. Can you believe that? 38 years and this place was on my doorstep.

I walked past another wood, through farmers’ fields, occasionally mystified at the direction of travel but lost of the time intrigued and shamed by this missed opportunity.

Eventually, we arrived at another known cart-track which I used to go down with my Dad to visit his farmer friend who lived down the way. Soon, we were out on to the main road and it was not long before I was turning back into my own road again.

Isn’t it amazing what is on your doorstep and often what you miss in the complications of a hectic working life? So many memories, so many opportunities missed to enjoy this place which is just a walk away.

It reiterated to me so clearly that we must go through our lives with our eyes wide open and allow ourselves to walk a little in this fast-paced modern world. We miss out on so much of we don’t.

Dad

He walks in shadow

amongst the trees, the plants,

along the grass, the paths.

His memory hammers nails

into old wood and carves

beauty from the raw.

His sounds echo around

this house, this home,

awakening pain but fueling

love.

This home was him, is him

and although he’s no longer

here, his shadow and light

and love, remain.

Heart to Heart

Can I talk to you about Christmas? My memories, my reflections of the first Christmas without my beloved Dad?

………..…

“Well, it’s all over for this year,” as my Dad would say. Although I never really agreed. I suppose, due to my job, I feel like I’ve another week and half of holiday yet. It’s not over until I have to get the uniforms ready and my schoolwork out.

Or, I should say, that’s how I normally feel at this point in the Christmas holiday. Last year, my sister, brother in law and nephew stayed a week in the end and it was wonderful – a week of film-watching, game-playing, laughter and good food.

This year feels… Weird.

My sisters and I feel that it’s very important to create new Christmas traditions. We’re not sure what these will be but we know how important they are for us all. As children, we would all descend on my Grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve: my mum’s five siblings and their spouse and children. My sister and I loved it. We haven’t had that tradition for more than twenty-five years but we still hark back to it.

In my teens my Aunty – mum’s single, childless sister – would join us at home and stay over. We loved her being there and the fun she brought. One year my Dad, mum and Aunty were still awake (and drunk) at six in the morning and ended up going back to bed. I think that was the first year I made a Christmas Dinner.

Early in my marriage, my in-laws would come to us on Christmas Eve as we were so conscious of the imbalance between my parents whom we lived with and my in-laws in regards to sharing their grandchildren’s Christmas experiences. Then Dad would cook the turkey and we would have turkey sandwiches for supper.

In the years of my separation, my children would spend the day of Christmas Eve with their Dad before coming home to me and seeing their Nana and her new partner. I’d then spend the evening with my Dad, drinking wine and chatting until it was time to put out my children’s presents. I wasn’t alone, because Dad was there.

This year, for the first time, he isn’t.

This year, I spent Christmas Eve at my sister’s house whilst my children spent their first Eve at their Dad’s. I woke early, walked the short distance to his house and watched them open their presents. It was different but, surprisingly, OK. I then went home alone and started the dinner.

Before rolling my sleeves up and putting on my apron, I sat in Dad’s candlelit livingroom, put on some special music and allowed myself to let go. To think about him and speak to him. I told him how much I love and miss him and how grateful I was for the 38 wonderful Christmases he had given me.

I cried. I smiled. I grieved. But then, as the last song finished, a calm came over me. I can do this. Dad’s with me, one way or another.

There were fifteen people for Christmas Dinner this year. My sisters and their families, my mum and her partner, my ex and his parents. I wanted my house filled with people that we love and this was especially important for my three children who have lived with their grandad all their lives too.

I can’t say that I enjoyed it. But I can’t say that I hated it either. It was numbingly important work: to prepare and cook a meal for my family so that everyone could enjoy the day. I finished the meal with pride that I’d successfully created a family meal for a group of people for whom half were grieving someone important that was missing. For me, it just was. I’d got through it without mishap or breakdown and I was proud of myself as I knew my Dad would be. Sure, there were no annual conversations about who made the best roast potatoes (me) or gravy (Dad, always) but it was OK. I was busy, and my family were content.

Most people left a few hours later until my children and I, and my sister, brother-in-law and nephew were left. Then I felt more settled – perhaps because if Dad was here, by this point he would have settled in his own chair to watch TV, not join in with games like the rest of us. So, it felt normal, and I began to enjoy myself.

By midnight, my sister, bro-i-law and I had settled into Dad’s more cosy and warm livingroom by the woodfire. We’d played games and had drinks all evening: it was nice to sit and chat by the light of the fire and Christmas Tree.

Pretty soon my sister was asleep on the couch whilst my bro-i-law and I – the more seasoned drinkers ☺ – talked into the early hours.

I’m very lucky that I get on well with both my brother in laws and I enjoyed talking to him. Something I don’t seem to have much opportunity to do any more – adult conversations where you can open up and put the world to rights.

We talked of Dad and grief and I was fine. Grief is funny that way – what can destroy you one moment can boost you another. I enjoy talking about my Dad. It brings him near.

We talked about my loneliness and how difficult it is to find real friends and companions in your late 30s. I spoke of my desire to rebuild my life after years of being unsettled in marriage and with Dad’s illness. (My sister is ten years my junior and is just starting her life it seems). My sisters and I have become even closer since I separated with my husband and Dad’s slow decline. But I do worry – I don’t want to be a burden on them. I can’t expect them to always be my social life. They tell me off when I say this if course, which is why I love them as much as I do.

As we spoke of my somewhat sketchy plan to meet more people there was a pause. My bro-i-law began to speak and then paused.

“Go on,” I said, “just say it.” I trust him and know that whatever he was trying to say would be thoughtful.

“It’s just I was thinking that the perfect person for you would be <Lost Soul>.”

This was not what I was expecting him to say. I listened as he explained why he thought we were right for each other. Music to my ears. We then discussed Lost Soul’s recent behaviour at their house. And I admitted my true feelings.

I explained that if Lost Soul told me, openly, that he still had feelings for me and that he now felt in a place to risk his heart, then I would risk mine. That there was too much between us – he was the one that got away and I would always wonder what might have been.

I didn’t get the sense that my bro-i-law has discussed this with Lost Soul and they are good friends. He acknowledged the hints that Lost Soul had made, just as I acknowledged the mixed signals that I had given over the years. Perhaps that the pair of us were too scared to give in to such strong feelings?

He discussed Lost Soul’s relationships over the past six years – not in detail or to betray his trust – but to say that the relationships often ended as Lost Soul felt something was missing and that his girlfriend ‘didn’t get’ him. Not a problem that we had. I can’t tell you how frustrating that is.

So the upshot? I’m no further on. Someone who knows us both well feels we would be good together. But to is unlikely that we will have the opportunity or the guts to see if that’s the truth. This game has been playing for six years and there still appears to be no winner.

I’ve got through Christmas. I held it together. I started new traditions that honoured the love I still feel for my father as well as for my family. The future is the future and it will come regardless of what I want or don’t want.

Irony

The irony of this blog has not been lost on me. I started it when I separated from my husband in an attempt to see this as a positive chance to start my life again.

The irony of course, comes from what happened afterwards. Seems like Life wanted to change anyway, regardless of my marital status.

In November last year I had a ‘breakdown’, although I much prefer the Teaching Unions’ labelling of ‘burnout’. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Once the tiredness had finally ebbed, I was left with a numbing darkness: a malevolent emptiness which reeked on my own self-dissatisfaction and sense of failure. In those burned out eyes of mine, I had failed at my marriage, failed to keep my Dad well, failed at my job because I wasn’t strong enough, and failed as a mother because I was weak and a mess.

Months later, sedated by antidepressants and the memories of counselling, I returned to work. The phased return helped and soon I was feeling like the old me again. Not the new me my blog had promised to recount, but the old me.

And then, only a couple of months later, Dad deteriorated further. We thought we were losing him in April but he survived somehow and we were told that he was at the end of his life and we should prepare that he would have about twelve months with us. I believed we would be lucky to have another Christmas with him, but I hoped. He was a strong man despite his illness.

He returned home frail and didn’t seem to recover the way we had hoped. There were more tests, doctor’s appointments, carers… And then the ambulance calls in the middle of the night, only for him to be sent home days later with more medication.

Then in May he was admitted again with severe anaemia. Within days, a chest infection started. Then a little heart attack. And still we had hope. We had til Christmas, didn’t we? We had a year! He’d pulled through before.

After a week we started to doubt. He was not getting better. The hospital were not giving up, but our hope was fading. Our handsome, strong Dad was pale and weak and sleepy. He was black and blue from blood tests and transfusions.

And then, on June 6th, after discussion with the doctors, we made the decision to withdraw treatment – Dad’s non-invasive ventilator – the thing that was keeping him alive. He wasn’t getting better and we couldn’t see him suffer any longer.

Dad died less than twelve hours later with me and my two sisters by his side. And my life as I knew it ended.

I’m not the same person without my Dad. I’ve lost what little strength I had recovered after my ‘burnout’. A colleague has described me as a ‘broken woman’ and its stark accuracy startled me. I feel broken.

The clichés – a ‘part of me is missing’, ‘something has died inside me’ – how I wish they were metaphorical! I always thought they were but then I had never experienced grief like this before.

I write about my grief to cope with it. To remember it. Because it, in a slightly strange way, is also a part of Dad and I don’t want to forget this part either. And I hope these honest reflections can help someone too. Help them realise that they are not going mad, that these tumultuous feelings are a normal part of grief. Grief is not just crippling sadness – something I didn’t know until now. Grief is a very lonely place.

Change was a positive aspiration two years ago. It’s now a source of anxiety and pain.

My counsellor tells me that my grief is ‘healthy’. I’m told that it’s ‘selfless’ which is a good thing apparently. These are just words to me. I’m glad I’m not dipping back into depression again but these words mean nothing. I’m still grieving.

For six months I have tried to do what is expected of me. Carry on with my life. Keep being a mum and a teacher, a sister and a homeowner. As each month has passed, I’ve tried to hide the grief which is still as strong as it has ever been. (Maybe that’s it – you never get over it, you just learn to hide it better? ) Apparently, I’m not doing very well at this.

Last Sunday, after some Christmas shopping, I returned home and cried and cried and cried. I went into work Monday morning, frog-eyed and raw, to speak to HR in the hope they’d let me hide myself away in my office and work. Carry on, the way I’m supposed to.

An hour later, I’d let out my grief again. I’d discussed my pain, my fear about Christmas. My fear that people saw through my very carefully constructed facade of being OK.

My fears were well founded. My colleagues say that I am not the same, that I don’t have the same ‘gumption’ I once had.

How hard I have tried to hide this! I know I don’t have the same strength, but I didn’t want everyone else to see this. It was OK in the beginning, people expect you to be that way. But after a time, I believed that I should be back to myself, externally at least.

Although I feel like a failure, I’ve been told that I’m not and people don’t see me as one. I’m not sure I agree on either count.

Day to day, most days, my grief is a burning ember inside me. It’s a gossamer veil that covers me. Change is a catalyst though. It stokes the embers and the grief burns in my chest. Like today – simply preparing for Christmas with final shopping and cleaning and tidying has caused anxiety all day. Such a strange emotion as I’m not sure why it’s anxiety, but that is what I have felt and what I always feel when I experience change since Dad has died.

I know Christmas will be hard. Its a change. I’ve never had a Christmas before without my Dad: now I will never have one again with him. My anxiety is a symptom of this knowledge.

But somehow, this week’s grief and work revelations have created something new in me. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want people to see me as weak. How can I find myself again? I haven’t created these changes but I need to embrace them somehow. Use them as a catalyst for positivity if that is at all possible. That determination, the strength that has been bred in me, encouraged in me, from my Dad, is wanting to fight back. It was fine for me to pretend to be OK if I thought no one realised. Now I know that I have failed to hide it, I’m even more determined.

I can’t change my grief. I can’t erase it or end it. It’s there because I loved my Dad and will always love my Dad so it will always be there too.

I have no answers to this. It’s another irony. I share my grief in this blog because I believe that grief is personal but should not be private. And yet, I’m determined to find a way to hide it.

I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this.

So, to all of you that are missing someone this Christmas, I know how hard this is. I’m with you. We are not alone. I will be sending a prayer to you all, as I pray to my Dad, asking him to send a little bit more of his strength my way.

Merry Christmas xx