The house is quiet. Outside is busy. It’s market day today and there is hustle and bustle, but inside all is still and silent and my girls are asleep, but not through choice.
We were up half the night with the two of them vomiting there little hearts out, retching until dawn. We had been away the previous weekend, at a festival! How very brave of me, I thought, to orchestrate that. But the opportunity surfaced and my girls were desperate to meet up with their Scottish pals, so away we went, North to the land of midges and fine folk, joyous tunes and fun-filled abandon.
We had a glorious, colour filled time. The ceiling has been raised on my children’s world, especially my oldest who has discovered a magical, eccentric side of life to explore and look forward to – a new horizon.
I think they especially enjoyed the vintage car drive-in, with eight of them squashed into an old battered car, steaming up the windows. The funky disco was also pretty cool, and they danced and laughed and wandered about in their little pack, fueled by curiosity and fun.
I also had a good time – although social occasions are always challenging for me, these days. The girls are suddenly old enough to (almost) be out on their own. I didn’t see them for hours on end – even my youngest who was in tears before we left, at the prospect of going into the unknown, “but what will we eat… where will we eat… when will we eat?”
“How will we find our friends? How will we find you?”
A festival like this is the ultimate ASD challenge. The prospect of ‘going with the flow’, being fluid, spontaneous and making it up as you go is her idea of personal torture.
But, she was great and to my joy and surprise, managed her anxiety with grace. We discussed it at length beforehand, going back to druidic times, discussing the meaning of festivals and gatherings of clans at auspicious times and places, but really all she wanted to know was the details of meal arrangements.
I thought I managed my anxieties quite well: the fear of being without Kevin and without a close friend by my side.
I kind of lost myself and in doing so, always found a friendly face. Once I’d found my source of solace in the local swimming hole, I was quite at ease, empowered and fulfilled.
It’s been a year since I started writing and when I see the daisies in the grass and the linden blossoms and elder flowers in bloom, all of which I’ve documented in this journey through the seasons of my grief, I feel like I’m stuck in a loop, back where I started.
But then I reflect – it’s always easier to reflect after being away and I seem to be fleeing away at every opportunity – that I’m feeling better, lighter.
I know I am holding back from embracing life, caught in a tussle with survivor’s guilt, trying to be true to my husband, to the love we shared, to the life we lived, the children we bore.
Yet I am also really trying to honour life and breath and the living.
I’ve been attending counseling sessions, which have helped immensely, and I’ve finally made contact with Kevin, ‘on the other side’. He gave me permission to love, to live, and to forgive myself. This experience has opened my heart and I realize that I have been harboring immense pain and anger, with him, with myself and with life. I think I am ready to allow fear to leave this building and allow lightness and a horizon into my life.
The love I feel in my heart for him, for my dad who has passed, for my children, for my family, friends, friends-to-be, is expansive and beautiful and promising. I feel ready to move on, but more importantly, I feel complete eternal love for Kevin and acceptance of his fate. I can’t say how long this state of being will last, but for now I am grateful and give thanks.
My eldest said, in passing, during discussion about moving and leaving this house (it’s now officially on the market), that she would like to leave as it is painful for her, constantly revisiting places she’s been with him, daily bus journeys jogging memories of happier times. This surprised me, “Have you been reading my blog?” I say.
“No, why, do you also think that?” she says.
Wisdom from the mouths of babes… my mind is made up, we are leaving this house and the relief that I feel when I think this, is immense.
Sunday June 17th
Today is Father’s Day.
It’s come around quickly, well, quickish. I had vaguely taken notice of it, but my children said that they now didn’t need to take notice of it. I said they did, that they needed to spoil me instead; after all, I have to be mom and dad.
I could see their brains thinking, filing and dismissing this concept.
Well, Fathers’ Day arrived, I went to play tennis and I felt fine.
What I hadn’t anticipated and what hit me hardest, in that unexpected way is seeing other dads out with their kids, doing Father’s Day things. My girls were at home and I was out. I got home and my oldest had gone out, having caught the bus, on her own, to the festival in the park.
I arrived home to my youngest; she hadn’t been out all weekend, still suffering from the after effects of the festival vomiting bug. She was poorly and her anxiety had set in, she wanted to go out but her high-level risk assessing and self-protection measures were kicking in. Seeing her tussling with her inner anxieties, I did my best to entice her out.
I mentioned Father’s Day, lighting a candle, giving thought to her dad… she shrugs, “nah…” she says.
By any means, I managed to get her out of the house, indulging her familiar by the offer of shopping, distracting her, building her confidence, until she volunteered to come along to the festival, rather than staying home alone,
“It’s your call”, I said, “We’ll do as much as you feel up to “.
It was very challenging, battling her insecurities, I was blamed for everything, for walking too far, for not controlling the dog, for being too friendly, talking too loud, talking to strangers.
I was battling, suddenly needing to cry, scream, I was angry, frustrated, I miss Kevin.
Alone I am battling the barrage of my daughter’s fierce insecurities, in the backdrop of what was my husband’s favourite event of the year.
It’s hard work, being constantly positive, distracting, diverting.
Suddenly I was fuming. My heart was tight.
Maybe Father’s Day hit me harder than I had realised.
In a roundabout way we left the festival, I did not feel strong enough to calmly sustain her anger, I had to tell her that she was being unpleasant, taught her about being in flow, being lucid and allowing for life to offer surprises.
I told her about ‘agoraphobia’, and tried to encourage her to join me for a coffee, I was gagging for a coffee, but she was adamantly in defence of a quick exit. I used every persuasion in my repertoire; explaining that it’s okay to change one’s mind, allowing her, willing her to change her mind.
By the time we reached the car she had apologised, and remembering the reason for our excursion, to entice her out the house, I didn’t berate her behaviour.
“You should be real proud of yourself” I said, ” you did so well, you could have just stayed home nursing your fears and feelings of unwellness, but you gave it a go. It could have worked out and you could have felt fine, and you gave it a chance and it turned out that you didn’t feel fine. But the point is, good on you for trying. ”
So all was fine. No, I didn’t get to meet up with my friends, explore, and open up the spaces of surprise encounters. I went home, with my youngest, because that is my duty as parent and primary caregiver.
And it was okay.
Apparently, a wise person told me, these symptoms of anxiety are rather more based on grief than true anxiety and depression.
Another big day has come and gone, and sometimes grief hits you unexpectedly.
Another wise friend has reminded me of our impending wedding anniversary.
Oh no, it’s the summer, full of big days and emotional volcanoes.
Oh well, bring it on; with love in our heart, we are invincible!
Well almost… we’re slowly getting there…