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

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It is pretty obvious that I’m a thinker. A dweller. A ruminate-r. So, after reading the wonderful advice I received this morning, I didn’t know how to answer. I needed to think.

Luckily for me, my children were still asleep, the dog didn’t seem to want the toilet yet and so I just lay in bed, gazing at the sunlight peeking around the curtains and just thought.

As is often the case, things felt a little better this morning. I cringed inside at my behaviour (he hates it when I put the phone down on him and I haven’t done it in months and months and months.) I thought about his. I thought about my feelings and our ‘future’. I thought about the advice I had received and the absolute truth within it.

And then I called him. Yes – I know, I know. But I needed to. He normally calls me in the morning, but I needed to speak to him before my youngest came bounding in. It was gone 9am by this point and usually there would have been some contact so that didn’t help either.

He was asleep. I woke him. And as he turned his lamp on and I saw those big brown eyes looking at me, and heard his sleepy voice, he had me all over again. He asked me repeatedly if I was OK but it wasn’t long until we were interrupted.

The call ended and I was determined to heed some of the advice given to me. Today was about making myself feel better. Me time.

So I showered, I shaved, I moisturised top to toe. I spent ages on my make up and hair whilst my daughter chatted to me, lying on my bed. I put clothes on that she said made me look pretty and I tried to feel better. It worked a little. I certainly felt calmer.

I had another couple of calls from him then took my children to their Dad’s. I then MADE myself clean the house. No feeling sorry for myself and dwelling. So I cleaned. I made a fire. I folded washing. I put happy music on and sang and danced. I can’t tell you I didn’t think about him, because I did. But I tried not to.

Without making me ill, covid has affected me and my relationship in a number of different ways. It has stopped me from seeing him and potentially progressing our relationship. It has stripped me of doing all the things that I used to do to fill my time, as in when I first met him and when I was content with my lot. And it has given us so much more time that I think we have both become more dependent upon each other. I don’t know if that would have happened automatically as our feelings grew, or not, but having more time to do it certainly has contributed.

During my cleaning, I’d gone outside to the bin and heard the familiar sound of geese flying overhead. The sound automatically makes me think of my father. It’s not an unpleasant sound and it doesn’t bring back unpleasant memories but naturally it brings a sadness. On this occasion though it actually brought some creativity and I ended up writing a poem about my dad and about all the things that remind me of him at this time of year. I actually shared it on Facebook as I have family members that I thought would appreciate the sentiment.

I was beginning to make myself something to eat when I heard the familiar ping of my phone. When I looked, Wildcard had written two lines: ‘you love your dad’ ‘and me I love you baby’. I replied that I loved him too. He told me that he hated to see me sad and that he was here for me, I knew that.

This this is why I love him. He could have just liked my post. He could have checked in on me when he called not 10 minutes later as planned. But instead he messaged to tell me he loves me, to tell me he is here for me and that he wants me to be happy. This is why I love him.

He did call as usual as he set off on his daily evening walk. Tonight we reminisced about our time together, remembering things about that week that were so special. I felt calm and loved – the way it should be, the way it is when I’m not worrying.

When he got home, he prepared his dinner and I got mine. This is a new thing for me. I can count on one hand and the amount of times I’ve eaten over video chat in a year. Ridiculous I know, as I clearly ate with him when I was with him, but I really struggle with this. He however eats in front of me nearly every day. So this week I’ve been making an effort to slay that and although I’m a little uncomfortable I kind of like it too. Like we’re eating together.

The rest of the 2-hour call was spent with him making me laugh and laugh and laugh. I know him well enough to know this is his way to support me and make me happy. In return, I love the smile on his face and his laughter just as much.

So where does this leave me? I know I can’t leave him. No matter how hard this is at times – and it really is – I know it’s hard because of how much I love him. But I can’t give up on him. I also can’t change who I am. I am anxious I am insecure and I try my best everyday to not be like that, but I am. At the same time, I think my friend is right in that I need to spend some time focusing on me and my own happiness. Maybe when we come out of this lockdown in just over a week I will be able to do more independently. Maybe.

For now, I just need to carry on, I need to have faith and have hope and I need to remember that life has a way of working out the way it’s supposed to.

A lonely place.

Grief is a very lonely place.

The fact is, no one fully understands your grief. Before I lost my Dad, I was sympathetic to my friend who had lost hers, but I didn’t understand.

And even now that we have both lost our fathers, our grief is unique to us just like we are unique as individuals, our dad’s were unique and therefore our relationship with them was also unique.

The same can be said of me and my sisters. Whilst we understand each other’s grief for our dad better than anyone else, our grief still differs because our relationship, our memories and experiences and our personalities differ.

Grief is a lonely place.

I need you to understand, those of you who are lucky enough not to have lost someone close to you yet, that grief never goes away. That pain, that loss… The emptiness and the overwhelming emotions that come with it… They never go away. They don’t get easier.

What happened for me is that I learned to deal with it. I found a way to lock it up inside so that I could carry on with my life. But that comes with a promise – a promise that at the right time, I open it up and allow myself to feel.

The only issue with this is that sometimes you are forced to feel when you don’t want to. Grief has its own strength and power and can never be entirely tamed.

Sunday is the second anniversary of my dad’s death. The grief has been building for days, unknown, in the background. Others have noticed but I haven’t… Until I did. Until it was too much and its threatening to take over. And I have still got three days left until that day.

Be patient with those that grieve because they are trying to fight a war they will never win.

Heartbroken

I’ve never had a Christmas without my Dad until last year.

I coped when I split up from my husband and we planned to share the children because my Dad was there. One year, he was supposed to go to my evil step sisters but stayed at home when he knew that I would be alone.

Since moving back to/buying my childhood home, I have cooked Christmas Dinner. There would always be a combination of people and my sisters and their families would often be there too. Even one year when I told my Dad it was not my turn and that we should await and invitation from one of them, he somehow persuaded me to invite everyone.

Last year, my children were due to spend Christmas Day with my ex. Knowing that this first year without our Dad would be difficult, and wanting to fill this grieving home with people and laughter, I invited everyone here, just as Dad would have liked. This included my ex’s parents and family and my in-laws’ families. Not everyone who was invited came but my house was full: for me, my children and my sisters, it meant our childhood home was full of love and laughter as well as the grief.

This year then, it was definitely my ex’s turn to have the children. It was also the year where my sisters would go to their in-laws.

I’ve told everyone that I’m more than happy to be on my own. I’ve painted a picture of a hot bath and clean pj’s, chocolate, wine and a Christmas food. ‘I’ll relax,’ I say.

Truth is, I don’t want anyone to feel obliged to invite me. I have never wanted to be a burden to my sisters: they have their own families. I have to live my own life.

Sure they’ve commented that I ‘can’t spend Christmas alone’. But that is very different to, ‘I want you to spend Christmas with us’ or ‘we want to spend Christmas with you’. If I can’t have a Christmas with my kids, my Dad, my sisters or a man who loves me then I would rather be on my own.

Tonight, I have found out that my youngest sister in not going to her in laws. She’s actually going to our evil step sisters.

I am heart broken.

This is the step sister who refused for my mother to be mentioned at my Dad’s funeral. It’s the woman who, one week after my Dad’s death, sent me a text message saying that my Dad hated living with me and that he felt like a prisoner. None of which was true, but she is so evil and jealous that Dad lived with me she would do anything to hurt me.

My three sisters and I have barely spoken to her and my step brothers since Dad’s funeral. Last year, my youngest sister tried to build a bridge by visiting her on Christmas Eve but was met with anger and bitterness.

Clearly I’m wrong. Clearly my two sisters have been in contact with her.

All the years that I have cooked and prepared family Christmases for everyone. Just because I wanted us to all be together. My ex used to be mad with me, saying it shouldn’t all be me and that I always ended up exhausted. I don’t care because my family was together.

I feel like my sisters don’t want to spend Christmas with me. That was OK when I thought it was because it was right that they spent it with their husbands’families this year. It’s not alright now. And no, I didn’t get an invite to my other sisters who is having all of her in laws at her house for the first time. And that was OK too.

Now I’m heartbroken. I’ve never felt so alone or unwanted or taken for granted in my life.

If my dad was here, I wouldn’t feel this way.

Holiday blues

Being the first day of Half Term, and considering I am exhausted and lucky enough to have the house to myself, you’d think I would be pretty content today.

As my title suggests, I’m not.

I’ve been having a Dad day. I think about my Dad everyday in one way or another, but often they are fleeting glimpses of a memory or a recollection of his loss. I acknowledge the hurt but I tell myself to move on: I have too many people relying on me to dwell.

But today I can slow down: no school for a week. So the flood of emotion I have held at bay breaks its dam and consumes me.

I sat in my living room, oh so still, the only movement the rise and fall of my chest and the trickle of tears. I let it take over me. I pictured him in my mind… In hospital and at home. The funny things he’d say and do. And I swear, as I cried, I could almost feel him hugging me – the memory was so strong.

That was this morning. My eyes are still stinging and puffy from the tears. I feel even more tired than before. And the anxiety-ache has taken residency in my chest again.

You cannot escape grief. You can’t ignore it or out run it. Because just as the strength of your love for your loved one with never wane, neither will the grief. You just learn to build a dam around it.

In our grief we are not alone.

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.

Second the worst

Officially this is the second Fathers’ Day without my Dad.

Last year my dad had been gone barely a week. I was numb, in shock, grief exhausted… Trying to plan a funeral whilst trying to keep the peace and hold it together. We planted a rose bush in Dad’s new garden and ate Toblerone.

This year has been devastating. My grief has been renewed. I’ve cried and ached and missed. I’ve been solemn and quiet and locked in my grief.

I know it’s commercial. I know today is just another day without him. But that’s what makes it painful: another day without him.

Father’s Day for us was a chance to focus on our Dad. To buy him a Toblerone. To make him a nice tea and spend time with him.

Today’s Fathers’ day was a symbol of loss for me. It’s been a hard couple of weeks.

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.

Sitting on the bench

I can’t remember if I’ve told you this, but I’ve recently moved into my Dad’s old bedroom.

This is a big thing for me. That room has almost always belonged to my parents. Not long after he died, in a fit of grief, I emptied drawers, washed bedding.. And then left everything in bags in the room. A few weeks later the bed was taken out, and at my daughter’s insistence, became the holding bay for most of my belongings when we decided she would move into my room and I would move into hers (with its single bed) whilst I decorated Dad’s old room for my use.

It has remained a disorganised storage room for four months with the door firmly closed so I didn’t have to deal with it.

As fate would have it, a friend in need is staying with me for a little while, so two weeks ago I got stuck in and I am now in my new room. It’s not decorated and there is still a large box of Dad’s clothes that I can’t part with yet but I moved furnature and cleared out the clothes that Dad hardly wore.

Perhaps it was the right time, maybe it was because I wanted to help a friend, but after the initial struggle to get started on the room as tears steamed down my face, I feel comfortable in the space now.

What I find most striking about the change (I was in my old room for thirteen years) is actually the view from the window. As a child, long before the extension was built when I bought the house off my parents, I slept in the two back bedrooms at various times. Both looked out at the back yard and the outbuildings of the farm.

As an adult, my new bedroom was in the extension and looked out at the fields at the front of the house: the same fields that helped me process my depression each morning as I sat drinking coffee with my cat on my knee.

In my new room, the window looks out over the front garden as it is the old side of the house.

The garden has so many memories for me. Playing in it as a child. Dad showing us the tadpoles and fish in the pond. Helping Dad garden. Dad pointing out the many birds that would visit his hand built bird table. Building snowmen. Dad ill but sitting in the garden in his pyjamas, his daughters fussing around him like a flock of sparrows.

Last spring we worked hard on the garden to make it a nice space for Dad to look at. It had been a long time since he was fit enough to garden and it had become overgrown.

As I look at it now, it looks a little overgrown again but Dad would have loved it. The periwinkle has reestablished itself in the borders. The snowdrops and daffodils have come and gone but tulips and other flowers are dotted around.

Each morning, I wake up and look out of the window. My eyes are always drawn to the bench in the corner of the garden, looking out at the pond, and I wonder every day whether I should replace it for a new one or continue to enjoy the faded paint but prominent memories of Dad.

Today, when I finished work, my sister visited. She told me that she had been to see a Medium who had told her that Dad was always with her. She mentioned many things she could not have known: gestures Dad always made, things he would say and understanding of personalities she didn’t know. As I have written before, there have been many incidents in the past year where I have felt like Dad has been communicating with me, somehow.

So when my sister said that Dad often sits on the bench, I gave a sigh. The bench is staying.

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