The long and winding road

Everyone grieves differently. And no-one takes the same path through the minefield. That’s ok. There is no right way. There are no rules. You do what you need to do, I’ll do what I need to do.

For many reasons, scattering Matt’s ashes is something that his close family and I will not be doing together. So rather than keep it as a contentious issue we have, very politely, split that which remains. They can  now do their thing and I can do mine, without anyone standing on anyone else’s toes. It’s not ideal, but I get it, I understand, and it’s ok. Well it’s not ok, but it is how things are, and I’ve reached a place where I’m ok with that. In the big scale of things, it’s not important, and I’m glad we’ve reached a resolution that works for both sides. It’s a difficult situation and I have absolutely no wish to upset anyone any further. So having agreed such, I was going to collect from the funeral directors on Monday but, as it turns out, that is now when my Mum will be having her home dementia assessment, so I ended up rescheduling and collecting from them today. It was therefore not something I was entirely prepared for, but hey, no surprise there though, nothing in my life seems to go to plan these days.

As a result my head is, and has been, in a whole heap of weird places since then. I’ve had work to do. I then had drinks and a much appreciated conversation with Guy, a friend of long standing who I’ve not seen for a while, and which was lovely. I then went and had food in the Lamb because I had a voucher, needed to eat, and nothing better to do. And then I decided to come home because I figured I might as well be alone because there’s no-one around me, than alone surrounded by other people, and those who could have come and talked to me but didn’t. Did I mention I come with my own personal exclusion zone? Yes, I know, I probably looked absorbed in my kindle, and you didn’t want to bother me or intrude, blah blah… That’s supposing you even noticed me at all of course. I apparently do invisible quite well too.

Anyway… I was expecting to be home alone for a lot longer, but where the Lamb was busy, the Oakhouse was not, and Austin was home to keep me company way earlier than usual, so I had company to watch Death Race with. Got to love a Statham film. Lots of violence, flexing muscles, occasional wit and sarcasm, and absolutely no requirement to think too much. Distraction is a wonderful thing…

In amongst all of this a plan has come together for the scattering of his ashes. A small, invitee only plan, because I want it to be a positive thing, I don’t want any stress or negativity. I know what he wanted, and I now have a where and a when. I’m working on the who – but it’s something to be done with close friends and family, in a supportive and caring way, as he would want it to be. As I’ve said before, there is nothing like grief to show you who your friends are. It brings perspective to things, to what is important, and to what, and who, is not. I have met diamonds in the rough, been sucked in by grief tourists, and discovered rotten apples where I expected better. I know being friends with someone who is grieving is f*cking hard work, and I understand why some have fallen by the wayside. I find I have much more patience and understanding these days than I did before. I judge less, and I don’t let the little things stress me as I once would have done.

Scattering Matt’s ashes is something that means a great deal to me, and it is something I want to do surrounded by those who have risen to the challenge, by those who loved and supported Matt and I, and by those who love and are supporting me. Family isn’t just blood, it’s also those who you meet along the way through life, who stick with you, for the right reasons. There’s a quote – “Friends are the family you choose” – which works. Bonds are not just made by blood, or bits of paper, they’re forged through the battles you fight together, and by what you come to mean to each other. And now that I truly know who my friends are, I consider them to be part of my family and they are amazing. I can never thank them enough.

So I am going to do this, I am going to do it for him, and I am going to do it right, and do right by him, in a place that meant the world to him, and to us. It’s where he wanted his ashes scattered…we just didn’t know it would be so soon. As long as I am doing the best by him and for him, and for us, I can hold my head up high. It’s my way of honouring him. Yes it will hurt, and it will be hard, but it will also be lovely, because that’s how we will make it, together. It’s one more step along the path I now have to walk without him…and it is a step that needs to be taken.

In the meantime, half of what remains of Matt is downstairs. And I really, really, don’t know how I feel about that. Because it’s ashes, it’s not him, he’s gone….but at the same time it’s all that’s left of him, and a part of me wants to cling on to that, because it’s all I have now. Ashes, and photos, and sentimental things, and memories. I’m feeling oddly numb… I’m pretty sure I’ve slammed up a massive wall to stop me thinking about it. When crying hits me, as it has on and off today, it’s come from a very deep place, and it’s been really hard to stop, and I’m tired enough already. It’s all just too hard, I’m very emotional, I’m in a lot of pain still, and I have a lot, maybe far too much, on my plate at the moment. So let’s just stick to one small thing at a time, one day at a time, one challenge at a time. I got through today. Tomorrow awaits.

 

Cold comfort

I worked a longer day than usual day, tired and full of cold. Then I came home to my empty house, and chores to do, and a bearded dragon to dispose of which, as I did so, without going into details, triggered a massive flashback. And so I sat curled into myself on the sofa and cried and cried and cried, and as I turned my head to the left to lean into the sofa it felt oddly, just little bit, like I was leaning on you. Like that bit of sofa was your shoulder, and if I kept my eyes closed I could feel, like a phantom limb, your arm there behind me ready to wrap around me, to pull me in closer, hug me, and hold me while I cried on your shoulder, as I have done so many times before. You were so good at that. You always looked after me and supported me. Your hugs were amazing. You said mine were too. Because we fitted. And we did. There was no better place to be in the world that in one of our hugs. And it was so tempting just to stay there. Not to move, not to open my eyes. To stay in that so near yet so far place and to pretend…

…and I did. For a while. But I could only kid myself, only dream, for so long. Sadly I’m too pragmatic and too practical and realistic, and there were things to be done, I knew better, and the sofa was still just the sofa, so at some point I gave myself a mental kicking, and got up, and did them. Because they weren’t going to do themselves, and no-one else is here to share the load any more, not really.

I miss your hugs SO much. And I’m in so much pain right now, despite all the painkillers, one of your hugs would make all the difference. Sure, I could go and get a hug somewhere else. But it wouldn’t be a Matt hug 🙁

Pressure Cooker

I think sometimes grief is like a pressure cooker. Or a volcano. Or some similar simile. Or possibly it’s like a similar metaphor. Whatever. I think getting into the particularities and peculiarities of language at this point would be somewhat missing the point. So I’ll move on. Bear with me, it’ll all make sense (hopefully) in a bit, even if I mix my metaphors, and like, don’t get my similes right…

I’ve spent this afternoon at Ikea talking with my bff Jo, and then this evening with Matt’s bff Liam, his fiancé Claire and their adorable son Rory. And for the first time in ages I’ve been able to talk about lots of things that matter to people that matter. Then I came home, met Austin at his work, and had a glass of wine or two. All of which is probably what led to a long heart to heart with Austin this evening, which was probably well overdue.

Why? Because a lot of the time, the only way I cope on a hour to hour basis is by kind of trying to pretend that the last four years never happened. By not thinking about it, by keeping my brain away from it, in whatever way works. Keep busy, sleep, drink white wine, work, read, anything, everything. It still leaks through fairly frequently, but it’s what I do. Because it all hurts so much that heading for it straight on to deal with it is just not on. It’s just not doable. It’s more like I scrape past the iceberg from time to time and hope I can just keep on going, and ignore the massive great hole in me that lurks beneath the surface. Sorry – been talking to Austin – a Titanic reference was inevitable. The trouble is that it did happen. And all that happens when I do that is that I put a lid on top of it all, and underneath there all my feelings and emotions sit, and fester, and build up. In the meantime, I’m still sinking…

Talking to my/our friends today, cracked the seal. Actually being allowed to say what I think and feel, and to be listened to and understood, was oddly liberating. It meant so much to have my feelings validated, and to be reassured. To be amongst friends. And being home after a long day, with lots of driving, being tired, having a stinking cold, being hormonal, whatever, just meant I couldn’t keep a lid on it all anymore. Whilst looking for a particular photo to show Tash on Snapchat, my phone chose to show me a whole heap of photos in bizarre order, including a fair few lovely ones of Matt, and of Matt and I, that I wasn’t really aware of, and voilá, the floodgates opened. And how…!

Poor Austin has just been the victim of a huge emotional pyroclastic flow. With which he dealt amazingly well, unsurprisingly, what with him being him and all. And whilst still feeling massively emotional, I do actually feel somewhat better for letting out some of what was being kept in. I guess it was a little cathartic. I am clearly not even close to dealing with everything that happened, but it’s only been six months and, like it or not, that is perfectly normal for someone in my situation, who has been through what I/we have all been through, and are still going through. My (sadly now recently retired) Doctor described it as grief cubed. There’s losing my soul mate, my person, my love; losing Matt. There’s how we lost him. And there’s the being there through it all happening. And that’s without any of the other sh*t that has gone on since then. Mine is apparently what they call complicated grief. There’s always a word/term for everything isn’t there? Which reminds me, I need to take my anti-depressants now, before I forget, and go to sleep without doing so.

OK, pills taken. And painkillers. So I’ll be off to sleep soon. I don’t know whether to hope I dream about him or not. Either way, waking up to another day of the same shit is going to be no more pleasant than usual. But you get four photos today. Click on them if you want to see the larger versions. That was him, that was us, that was how we were, and we loved each other. To recap on an earlier conversation, however much you think you know, however much you’re told, you really, really, really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

The Oscar for best supporting son goes tonight, as ever, to Austin. Both my kids are amazing. I hope I don’t lean too hard, whilst at the same time knowing I couldn’t be doing this without them. You both rock. ⭐❤️⭐

There were dragons

Today is day three of a stinking cold, when I’ve spent most of the day in bed again, although it’s amazing how much work you can get done from bed, so it’s not been a complete washout. But I wasn’t feeling great, and as yet another tedious day slowly ticked by, my mood ticked down with it. Time came when Austin and I needed to go out, for whatever reason, and I thought I’d feed the lizards beforehand. Only to discover that Matt’s bearded dragon Reg, an elderly beastie who we’d rehomed for someone a couple of years ago, had passed away. He was a very old, and grumpy, man, and he’d not been himself lately, so it didn’t come as a huge shock but…that didn’t stop it upsetting me a lot. And I so wanted to tell Matt, and obviously I couldn’t, and I can’t, and that hurts. I know him being his shouldn’t make a difference but it just does. It’s why I couldn’t even consider getting him rehomed when I wasn’t coping with looking after the zoo, even though I did let the leopard geckos go. He was specifically Matt’s, and just like Matt, he’s gone. It’s another link broken… And I found a lovely photo of the two of them, which just made me cry more because, man, look at him? He looks so relaxed and happy, and it just feels like he’s looking right at me, right into me, the way he always did. But he isn’t, and it’s just pixels on a page, and again, that hurts.

I’m struggling at the moment. Grey days. Stinking cold. The endless grind of day after day of the same old stuff. Grief hurts. My insides hurt. It’s all draining. It’s depressing. It’s soul destroying…I feel like I’m being eroded.

Someone told me not to worry, it’ll get better, and I had to bite my tongue a lot. Because how the f*ck is it going to get better? Is Matt going to come back? Is my life suddenly going to be exciting, and full of sweetness and light? And someone else recently expressed surprise that I’m still crying every day and I was like, really? Like it’s been six months so I should be fine now, right? Whereas someone else made a point of talking to me in the shop this evening to say how sorry she was to hear about Matt’s beardie and how unfair it was to add that on top of everything I’m already going through, which was very thoughtful and just lovely. It takes all sorts, right?

I’m seeing friends every day for the rest of the week, even Saturday, all of which I’m looking forward to, because I’m hoping it’ll be the boost I need right now. And March is a new month and I need to make some changes around here, and maybe I’ll actually manage to do that, and kickstart some things. Time will tell, as ever…baby steps, things I can achieve, no pressure. The last thing I need now is to be beating myself up for not achieving unrealistic goals, right? At least tomorrow I have to get out of bed in the morning. That’ll be a good start.

Words

I’m tired. I’m finding life hard. I’m still in a lot of pain. And I don’t really have the energy to say much tonight. At least I have the words he sent to me to cling on to. But I do want to say thank you to those of you who have commented here lately. To those of you who have pmed, or dmed me, or whatever works for whatever method you have chosen to get in touch with me by. To the friends who have pinged me, to the friend who popped by this morning just to give me a hug and say hi, to the one who ended up messaging me and being the thumb, to those of you who are thinking of me but don’t know what to say. Every single little bit helps. I know it’s hard to know what to say to me. I know it’s awkward. I know even thinking about being where I am is horrible, and it’s easier to say nothing at all. It’s hard for all of us. But I need all of you. I need to know I’m not doing this on my own. I need to know you want me to be here even if I often don’t want to be. And yes I know that sounds needy and desperate, and I don’t mean it to. I can, and will, thanks to my kids, do this on my own if I have to. But I really appreciate any support that anyone gives me. It all helps. I’d like to be more eloquent but, as I said, I’m tired, and I don’t really have the words that I’d like to have this evening. So I’ll just wrap it up by saying thank you. Two words that don’t convey half as much as I’d like them to. But thank you.

Dichotomy

Dichotomy. It’s a good word.

There are parts of nights like tonight when I’m out, on my own, “single”, with friends, my kids, whatever, that are just like nights were post divorce, and before I met Matt. PM. Pre Matt. Up the pub, a few drinks, banter, laughs, music, a few games of pool. It’s almost like the last four years never happened, and someone hit the reset button on my life. Again. And I can carry on, pretend everything is ok, paint the face on, play the game, because none of the bad shit has happened. It never happened. Someone wiped the whiteboard clean.

And then as part of that night, you will talk to people, and someone totally and completely unexpected will talk to you and express sympathy and hug you, and suddenly his absence is acutely in the room, and it’s like he’s there but he’s not. Like he’s just one step away, on the other side of a barrier that I can’t get through. And that hug has broken down all the barriers you’d carefully constructed, and your defences are down, and it’s really time to go home, and to grieve and to mourn and to acknowledge that you’re AM, after Matt, and after his death, and to sleep…

So I’m home. And it was a good night. And it was not a good night. Much though I really don’t want to live the rest of my life on my own, I cannot imagine anyone ever, ever, replacing him in my heart. I had my soul mate, flaws, faults, and all, both mine and his. I never thought I would, I can’t believe I did, and I don’t think I will ever be that lucky again. And tonight I could almost feel him there, with me…

Tonight is a really painful night. Literally. It is the first time since he died that I have had to resort to oramorph on top of all my usual medication. And it’s still lurking. To not have him to curl up with, with his hand on the place where the pain is; to know that someone was feeling for me, even though he couldn’t fix me, however much he wanted to, hurts as much as the actual physical pain does, and then some.

On the upside, the chances are I’m going to sleep really well, thanks to the combo of alcohol and analgesia. I will run away into the world of my technicolour dreams, and then sadly I will wake up again tomorrow morning to the cold light of day and to painful reality, and I will cry and cry and cry again, and wish this wasn’t my life. But it is. I miss my beautiful boy more than words can say, even though I keep trying to put it into words, because that’s what I do. I just want him back. That’s all there is to it. Please, can I have him back now?

Tough week

It’s been a tough week. The six month mark, however arbitrary it may be, hit me hard. And I’m starting to recognise the signs of when things are worse. Life feels flatter. I cry more. My anxiety gets worse. I stress about everything more, work, chores, whatever. I care even less about what I’m wearing, what I look like, what I eat, drink, smoke, how much or little I do of any, either, or all. I just want to curl up in bed and stay there. And I stop writing. Never a good sign.

But here I am. I’m sort of back. I had a good session with my counsellor today, mainly from a venting point of view, but also because it’s good to talk to someone, since no-one seems to want to talk to me anymore. I swear I have a goddamn f*cking exclusion zone around me. But even with work stress, and many other things not going according to plan (surprise, surprise), I have managed to get through the week, and I have some half formulated plans that are taking shape, and that will hopefully come to fruition and help with the moving on process. Every little plan, every little thing booked into the calendar, helps to keep the wheels turning, to keep me moving forward. It’s weird, because it’s not like I actually look forward to stuff, but it’s just that it forces me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I am massively grateful to those of my friends who have been in touch this week. Amidst the whole Caroline Flack thing, and the #bekind, and the don’t knock other people’s crowns off and post a nice photo of yourself thing… Really??!! Actions speak louder than a million facebook posts. The card that George dropped through my letter box. The messages from Jo checking in to make sure I was ok. Mark doing the same. But as I said in my rather pointed FB post, I could have counted the number of people who’ve been in touch lately on one hand, and I wouldn’t have needed the thumb. That’s probably not strictly true, and it’s probably not totally fair. It’s not far off though. How many people just like a post, share a meme, join a #trend and think yep, go me, job done?

When it boils down to it, it’s just me and Austin. Who didn’t get the job he went for, and for whom I am totally gutted. Just because I’d kinda like him to stay here doesn’t mean that I don’t equally want him to spread his wings and fly away and go and live his life and not be stuck with mine. That’s what he should be doing. And with his usual pragmatism he is on to Plan B, and C, and D…and sooner or later, one of them will come through. I will say this though, the guys that turned him down for the ECA three year training course? They don’t know what they’re missing, and they have turned down a gem.

So here’s the weekend. A quiet one. Which means that, if I want to, I can sleep all day tomorrow. My dreams are, thanks to all my meds, even more vivid than ever they were, and they were pretty mental before! And they’re so much more interesting and exciting that my actual life is. For the last few days I’ve woken up, and then burst into tears as my black and white painful reality replaces my technicolour dreams, and I remember just how shit things are, and what my life is now. To add insult to injury it turns out the my doctor has retired and as I’ve known him for many years as my Dr and a cyclist, and he knows all my history and was massively supportive and being helpful, I feel a little as if someone has pulled a rug out from under me. That’s like 20 years of my medical history down the drain. There just isn’t enough support for anyone anymore. Our overstretched NHS can’t cope with acute demand, let alone me, or my folks. There are waiting lists for everything, from Mental Health Care to Social Services. The thought of having to start over with someone new, for my endometriosis, my grief… To be fair, the lady doctor who did call me today sounds lovely, and has asked me to give her a few days to go away and find me any other available specific support there is out there and also chase up my referral to Mental Health Services, which may well never have been made in the first place. You’d have thought being considered a suicide risk might flag you up somehow…?

But that’s the way it is. And to be honest, if I got to that point, I wouldn’t be calling anyone anyway. I know I’d know what I wanted to do, I’d have made my mind up, and I wouldn’t want to be talking to someone who might stop me from doing that. I wouldn’t call anyone. I sure as hell wouldn’t do that “call me if you need me” thing. That’s not how it works. Even if you really meant it when you said it, which SO many people, as it turns out, don’t. Stop posting meaningless but well meaning messages on social media. Meaning well isn’t enough. Reach out. Text or DM people. Call them. Drop them a letter, a card, a bunch of flowers. Do something human. Having been on the receiving end of all of those, I can tell you that the smallest REAL things can make the biggest different.

So this seems to have been more of a rant than a post. There’s more stuff I can’t talk about yet, but I’ve blurted out enough already. The rest will come another time. And if you’ve made it this far, thanks for listening. Thanks for reading. And thanks for being there for me. It means more than you know.

Once upon a tom…

Austin is away tonight. Soon Austin will be away all the time. So I worked late since, hey, what else was I going to do with my time? And it’s not like there isn’t always work to be done. Then I took my kindle off to the pub afterwards and hid in a corner and read my way through a couple of pints. And then I came home, ate some food, and sat in front of meaningless TV, half watching, half reading, half keeping an eye on the cats, half not knowing what to do with myself. And I know that’s too many halves, but all those halves add up to two. And I’m just one these days, just me, and I’m really feeling that right now. It would be fair to say I’m a tad emotional this evening. Loneliness is not nice…

I’m off to bed now. Not because I want to go to bed. Not because I’m particularly tired. I’m going to bed because I know that that’s what normal people do at this kind of time of night. So that’s what I should do. Tick the right boxes, go through the motions, play the game. Because this is going to be what my life is going to be. Work, and empty nights, interspersed with occasional times when I’m seeing friends. Luckily I have a few of those nights coming up, so I can stick my fingers in my ears and go “la la la” and ignore the real world, and be seeing people and be out and about and not here. But then again I suppose actually that’s also the real world now. Times when I see friends, and times when I will have nights home alone, at a loss as to what to do with myself.

It doesn’t help that I’m ouchy at the moment. It doesn’t help that my work review is coming up. It doesn’t help that there are lots of things that I am not on top of. But that’s all just gravy. Icing on top of the shitty cake. Matt is still not here, and I just feel flat, and lonely, and sad. This is not how my life was supposed to be. And the life I’m living doesn’t really count as such. Isn’t it great, isn’t it swell? Nowadays, not so much…

In the meantime Max became a once upon tom today. You’d never guess, as he’s just been chasing both the other cats around my bedroom in less than restful for anyone fashion. At least I got a decent photo of him before normal service was restored… And hey, who doesn’t need a cute kitten picture to look at and pretend everything’s ok? Besides right now he’s curled up and purring on my tummy, and that’s pretty cool. He’s not Matt. But then he doesn’t snore like Matt did either. Silver linings…

 

Poems & Songs

I can write you a poem, I can sing you a song, I don’t know if that’s important, might not pay the bills for long, But I’ll still write you a poem, I’ll still sing you a song, When you’re tired and lonely and it’s like you can’t go on, I’ll sing for you.

He sent me that. Just like he sent me many other songs, and I sent him mine in return. I used to write poems. I’m not sure I can these days. It would probably be pretentious to try. But I know I have a head full of words. I think about the letters I would write to leave behind me, should I choose to follow in your footsteps, to tell certain people exactly what I think, what you thought, how they let you down, how they are letting me down. I dream of saying the things in those that I would never have the nerve to say in person. I think about what I would write to those I would leave behind me, as if putting it in a letter would make it ok. I think about what I would write to you now, if I could, if you could read it. I think about all the things I want to say to you that will remain forever unsaid. All those words are in here in my head and my heart, and if you’re out there, you know that. We both pretty much always knew what each other were thinking, although clearly there were things you were keeping from me. But if you were here I wouldn’t need to say anything. You’d know. And you’d hug me, and I would cry on your shoulder, as we curled up together, and I would feel understood and safe and secure and loved. But you’re not here, and all those thoughts and words are here but unshared. I sometimes think the tears falling down my cheeks are just unsaid words and feelings, with nowhere to go, escaping the only way they can.

I want to tell you how things are going with my folks. How I’m actually way more patient, most of the time, than I thought I was. I want to tell you how I got the new TV that my brother and I bought them to work, after much trial and error. You’d think it was hilarious, but you’d be proud of me for getting it sorted. I want to tell you about Austin’s job interview, and how well it went, and how hopefully he will have got the job, and how proud I will be if  he has, and how heartbreaking it will also be as he heads off into the world to live his own life. I know everyone talks about the empty nest thing; I think my nest is going to be emptier than most…

I just wish you were here to share everything with, just like we always did. And yes, there’s that pointless stupid “I wish” thing again. And we all know how that works. It doesn’t. Aladdin’s lamp is nowhere to be found. There is no f*cking genie. To state the bl**dy obvious, and I know it’s repetitive, and I know I’ve said it before, and I will say it many many times more, because it will always be true; I miss you. I miss you, I miss you, I miss you. I can say it a million times, I can click my heels together three times, three hundred times, but I’m still going to be here, and nothing is going to change how things are. It is what it is. And what it is sucks.

Six months

So.
Six months today, Matt died in my arms.

I have no idea where those months have gone.
I have no idea how I’m still here; I have come so close to joining him so many times.

I know the world is turning, I know everyone is moving on.
I know I still feel like a part of me is missing, I know I still feel broken and lost.

I miss his smile, his sense of humour, his support. Everything about him.
I miss us, our intimacy, our innate belief in each other. Our everything.

I still don’t understand what happened.
I still don’t get how we went from that to this.

I don’t think I’ll ever be ok.
I don’t think I can ever be ok without him.

I know it’s ridiculous to blame myself.
I know it’s not how life works. But…

I feel like I was given my soulmate.
I feel like somehow I f*cked up, and so he was taken away from me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.
I don’t think there will ever be a time when I won’t miss him.

I love him.
I still love him.
I will always love him.

And holy f*ck it hurts…