Thursday 31st August
My spirit lifts, the trees are dripping moss, my furry friend runs ahead, tail wagging, happy, I can breathe again.
Actually its more that breathing is not my usual conscious and concerted effort, I’m not counting it in for four and out again as I’ve become accustomed to doing, trying to get myself out of panic mode.
I am in the woods in the heart of North Wales, ancient trees, gentle rivers, green, lush, welcoming.
And I reflect.
This summer has been outrageously difficult and I’m trying to work it out. It’s the second year of no Kevin and people aren’t presenting themselves as much as they have been, offering support, being kind.
I’m trying to move on but really I’m all over the place. I’ve started shifting Kevin’s drums and clearing spaces. Whereas before I was just plain broken and exhausted, now I am angry and frustrated. Everything is all wrong and I feel helpless to make a change. I am growing impatient; all the stuff surrounding me is dragging me down.
I am afraid to throw myself into a new environment, yet I am suddenly aware that I don’t like my life. I don’t like where I live, the air smells bad, I can’t find joy in the grey and the concrete.
With my mother staying with us from South Africa, I was hoping to look at houses together. She’s been endlessly sorting, tidying, washing clothes, folding, getting to the bottom of our washing piles, I am already dreading her departure.
I was hoping, while she was here, to get a chance to spend some ‘unencumbered’ time with my lover, leaving her to some quality time with the children. Alas this has not materialised, my lover has not stepped up to the challenge or the opportunity. Time is passing and my suggestions become more urgent. I realise I am fed up with the drudgery of this life, the constant responsibility, the bickering of my children, trying to maintain order, trying to find fun holiday activities and the futile efforts of trying to get my eldest to tidy her room.
This alone is monumental.
Sternness, threats, logic, niceness, nagging, offers of assistance – all futile, her room remains in a state of upheaval and chaos.
The efforts to get my lover to spend a night with me outside of my personal life resulted in him putting the phone down on me. Not nice. I nearly left him, full of suspicion about his motives, his vagueness, his avoidance of this wonderful opportunity to spend time with me. Clearly he doesn’t care as much as he professes to.
I am not in a good place. I feel rejected, my heart hurts, I am stuck in this life that I want to flee from. I wake up with the same view, an angular patch of sky, unchanging layers of bricks and mortar on my horizon. How did I get to this? This isn’t what I ordered.
Oh well, trying to be thankful for what I do have… life, beautiful children, even if they are grumpy, my wonderful mother, I bundle them in the car and drive to their next holiday activity.
And I take the dog for a walk.
I think this is my saving grace, it takes me out of my revolving internal show, that plays over and over in a loop, unhelpful thoughts, alone, left behind, grieving widow, always unhappy…
I see the twinkle of sunshine in the water, the wagging tail, the joyful sounds of children carrying across the water, the clear blue skies, sunshine, warmth on my face, the wagging tail disappearing and appearing from behind rocks. My dog finds a friend, they sniff each other’s bits, gel immediately, and they’re off sniffing and exploring together. And I chat to the dog owner, which is a wonderful thing about dog owners – no introductions, no awkwardness, just straight onto the real stuff, sometimes deep, sometimes funny, pretty much always entertaining.
I made an instant friend and we walked and talked and I felt better about life, then we departed.
Perhaps we will meet again, but also, we may not. I accept and appreciate these transient moments.
Looking to the future is not working for me right now, it makes me anxious, I fabricate possible outcomes, I subconsciously risk assess (doom and gloom, not a good thing). I need to go back to being in the moment, not rushing it, living in the now. It’s the only thing that works for me and its all that I am capable of, right now.
Perhaps it’s time to seek counselling. Perhaps I need help to unravel because all I seem to be doing is chasing my tail and getting nowhere.
Not long after Kevin died, perhaps too soon, I sought help for my children. I didn’t want them carrying this monumental burden into adulthood and facing a crash in their thirtys, fortys even, so I sought help immediately.
Only my eldest took up the offer. The bereavement counselling centre was in the City Centre, a challenge, I felt, with the hustle and bustle, parking issues and distinct lack of kind familiar faces.
When I first booked her in by telephone, the kind voice asked me, ‘And what about you, mum, how are you doing, would you like counselling?’
I burst into tears, throat constricted, I couldn’t talk, I had no idea I felt like this!
At the bereavement centre I waited in this skinny, whitewashed corridor of a waiting room while my daughter attended her assessment. There were no pictures on the wall, just two chairs and a table with a homemade donation box, covered in light green paper with a little ribbon and a bow.
A lady came in, nervous, jumpy; thoughts of little grey mice entered my head.
She was evidently uncomfortable, and awkwardly sat down on the edge of a seat, her bag squeezed tightly on her lap.
I recognised her from the lobby, clearly it was also her first time at the centre as I’d helped her to find the right bell to press for access. I felt the need to talk to her but how do you make conversation with someone in a bereavement centre?
She was pale, even though it was late summer, I don’t think she’d spent much time outdoors, her hair shapeless, mousy coloured, stuck to her head, she looked down, made no eye contact, looked like she wanted to dissolve into the whitewashed walls.
‘Hi’, I say, (do you come her often) ‘is this your first time here?’
It didn’t take much, she wanted to talk.
Her husband had died two years ago, she couldn’t sleep, her youngest child had just left home, now she wasn’t coping, lonely, missed him so much, missed her children, didn’t know what to do. She was called in for her session and all I remember thinking was OMG, it’s only been three weeks for me, I don’t want to be like that in two years.
And here I am, two years down the way… perhaps I too am ready for some intervention.
I did try to have a go at the counselling. I was booked in, went to my first session. It was okay, I cried a lot, but mostly I felt my counsellor’s discomfort, I wanted him (I really would have preferred a her) to tell me about his life, who he was, give me some helpful tools for coping with all that was to come – I knew my journey was going to be rocky and sometimes insurmountable.
So I cried a lot and then was ejected into the busy uncaring congestion of the city, raw, broken and vulnerable.
Thankfully my beautiful caring and sensible friend was at my home when I returned, because not long after I got in, I was called by the bereavement centre, by the only paid member of staff – they rely completely on volunteers.
For what seemed like eternity (I couldn’t get a word in), she told me off, for wasting her counsellor’s time, her time, their time. There is a waiting list of many and I’ve completely messed up their schedule – I had happened to mention in the session that I was going to see my family in South Africa and would only return in the New Year when I would commence with the sessions.
At the time, my counsellor nodded and nothing more was said.
This tirade of abuse continued, she was truly angry and told me off, because, ‘A series of six consecutive sessions are booked and put aside for the client, a counsellor is allocated and that’s the way it works.’
When I asked if I could be put back on the list, she told me to call back in the New Year and they’d see what they could do. She was rude and dismissive.
I was aghast, speechless, this from a trained member of staff, to a client who has just completed her first bereavement counselling session, weeks after the sudden death of her husband.
I should have complained but I didn’t, I was just lucky to have the support of a loving caring friend to agree how unprofessional and wrong that behaviour was.
Needless to say, I have never returned to counselling sessions. I cringe at the thought of the consequences, if that behaviour had been directed at the little, timid ‘mouse lady’, I dare not think about it but I hope that she is coping.