You never stop learning in this life and one of the things I have learned since my soulmate died last August is that many people are totally grief illiterate. No, it’s not that they don’t know what to say but rather they say too much, when in actual fact there is nothing to say.
What people need, especially in the days and weeks following the death of a loved one, is practical help, a shoulder to cry on and empathy. What they don’t generally need is people trying to make them feel better. Because someone who has lost the most important person in their life cannot feel better. What they do is actually make bereaved people feel worse.
People generally mean well so I am not criticising individuals for doing the wrong thing, but the problem was the fact that they were trying to fix my pain rather than acknowledging it. They were trying to offer me solutions or make me look on the bright side ‘look now you are free and single and you can travel’. They were making plans for me, ‘move back to your mum’, ‘find a job dealing with the public’ etc.
What happened is that I lashed out, became angry felt like there was something wrong with me because after a week I was unable to make long term plans. And after three weeks I was still crying. What a failure I was. And I lashed out and was rude to genuinely good people therefore I felt guilty as well. I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was selfish and a bit mad, that the only person who could tolerate me had gone and I couldn’t do what all these lovely people were telling me to do. I didn’t appreciate what all these lovely people thought would be good for me. It’s only after I talked to other bereaved people that I realised I wasn’t abnormal at all.
I might travel one day, it’s extremely unlikely that I will move back to my mother’s, but whatever I decide to do will be my decision, when I think it’s the right time. What bereaved people have to understand first if they still want to go on or they want to give up. Yes, another elephant in the room, but basically every bereaved person I spoke to have wanted to die. They might not go to Beachy Head and throw themselves in the Channel but they might drink too much, stop eating properly or hope not to wake up in the morning.
That’s the reality but it’s also a taboo subject, as soon as you mention something like that, ‘normal’ people will start saying but ‘you have so many reasons to live for’ ‘ you could travel’ ‘you could live in the Caribbeans’, ‘you could study or learn another language’. Without acknowledging that at this very point of time none of these things look appealing at all to the person who hopes not to wake up in the morning. The person who still hopes this is all a nightmare and will wake up any minute now is not interested in learning Swahili or Polish, sorry.
Again, most of us bereaved people will wake up every morning, get up and eventually do things. We might even study Swahili and travel the world, but it will be when we are ready to do so. I was told some of these things a day after my husband’s death. One day.
What people need to understand is that we need TIME to grieve, time to be sad, time to cry and time to be completely distraught. They have to be there for us, without judging us and trying to fix the unfixable. It would just make us feel less misunderstood and lonely if people just let us be sad and a bit deranged for a while.
As this video explains so well
A day in the life of a slightly deranged widow… The Ice cream
It has been cold , rainy , miserable and days since I have seen a human being in person. I think for the sake of my sanity I need to pop to the shop and buy ice cream. I will get essentials at the same time of course but right now all I can imagine is ice cream. The problem is I don’t keep much in the house anymore, gone are the days visitors would arrive and I’d frantically whip up some scones or brownies. Gone the days Andy would say I fancy a brew , do we have any cake and Id say so what do you fancy and if there was nothing in the tin I’d make him something quickly.
I don’t do sweet stuff, but just occasionally the human body seems to crave things and science proves this is to do with the state of our emotions.
So donning clothes suitable to be seen in public I tug a brush through my hair and decide not to check a mirror in case I decide it’s too much work before I can leave the house.
Smugly remembering to pick up a shopping bag – seriously I have a retirement fund’s worth of bags under the sink but I regularly forget to take them – I grab a couple of dog treats to throw for my babies and yell ‘’ bye! See you in a while, be good! ‘’ and head for the car.
I start my usual routine, bag, check, purse, check, keys, check mask… bloody hell. I dig in my bottomless handbag and pull out a mask that really needs a wash. Ok…that’s not good, i am sure I have some disposable ones in the glove box. No… they are now strewn on the floor in the back from when I entertained my grandchildren while my daughter shopped the other day. They are now drawn on, ripped into animal shapes and screwed up to be pretend birthday presents.
Ok…do I go back into the house and upset the dogs or try something else first, I’m starting to go off the idea of going out but I really do need milk ,bread and just to see another human so I dig in the boot. Yay! I found one. It’s damp and smells a bit like mildew because its been under a bottle of screen-wash but it will do. ok…I can leave at last.
Eventually masked up, trolley sanitised and a pound coin found in the depths of my purse I wander into the shop. I weave my way through the few people in the aisles, its odd to think this time last year we thought nothing of slipping past people or bending past them to grab things, now we are shuffling like wary crabs to keep distance and as I allow people past or they stand aside , I smile forgetting they cant see my mouth so think I’m probably just staring manically.
I grab the things I need and decide that will be enough, I’m not enjoying being in public, it feels weird and uncomfortable somehow and I am not sure if it is because of the situation we are all in or I am just becoming very antisocial and uneasy, I make my way to the ice cream and look at the array on offer, All I want is pistachio but as I have never found it for sale anywhere I will have to make do with honeycomb.
Food bought and back in the car, home and unload. I’m so relieved to be back. I can’t imagine why I had been so desperate to get out in the first place. I grab a spoon and sit with the tub of ice cream and cuddle up with the dogs on the sofa. I turn on some music and can feel myself actually calm down . The sweet frozen yumminess is like a burst of sunshine and a jolt of something akin to actual pleasure goes through me.
This is why I am the size of a whale, I seek comfort in food. Food has probably always been akin to happiness to a certain extent for me but now I can accept it is what I am turning to for that quick fix, food you can replace easily, You can have without feeling guilty,( unless you are dieting but that’s a problem we won’t go into at this point) and it doesn’t die on you…
A day in the life of a slightly deranged widow… The Knickers
I think as I drive. Far more than I should and since I have been alone one of my main thoughts as I drive into town is that if I was to just veer into that tree for any reason I wouldn’t have to keep doing ‘this’ whatever ‘this; is. Now I am NOT suicidal or about to do anything silly so please don’t imagine I’m about to ! It just seems to be a thought that is compelling but very scary at the same time. I’d never do anything to cause my children and family pain and apart from that I have my dogs to get back to but still common sense doesn’t seem to come into my brain any more.
I digress… so today I was driving along the country roads and as usual I imagine the car hitting a patch of ice, a deer running out and I have to veer, the wheel suddenly flying off, a plane hurtling out of the sky towards me and I have to swerve…you get the picture Im sure and then I think, but what if I survive! I will be taken to hospital and they will have to divest me of clothing and …OMG! I have recently not been mindful of one piece of advice I think we all need to follow, wear decent undies in case you get run over by a bus. My care when dressing has been woeful, I’m not even sure I get dressed some days unless I have to go to the shop which is itself quite rare but worse..
I need new knickers. The ones lurking in my drawers are well past their best and my ‘best ones’ are now my everyday ones. Now please do not think my best knickers are little wisps of silky lace…oh no. I’m not the size or shape for that sort of frippery! I look in admiration at the images of beautiful pert bums partially swayed in gorgeous items of lingerie and then scroll past to granny knickers. My folds of flab need some serious swathing and nothing less than something akin to a sail will do. I was brought up to believe that comfy knickers are the way to cope with life.You can’t concentrate and work well if things are not ‘sitting pretty’. Unfortunately in my case comfy knickers means apple gatherers or as Mum would have said ’harvest festival knickers’ all is safely gathered in!
I spent the rest of the journey driving more carefully and with caution as I contemplated the horror of arriving at A and E , horrific injuries ignored as the staff look at each other in horror and whisper about the state of my undies.
Finally home I waste no time in logging in to my usual clothing sites, and view the offerings with a heavy heart. I really want to see things in person as I’ve made many mistakes buying knickers that are just not ‘right’ but with the way the world is I will make an online purchase and hope for the best.
I look at lingerie , I scan sensible, I peruse pretty and eventually I decide, what the hell…I’ll order a few pairs of ‘nice’ but decently serviceable and a stupidly priced ( ok there is enough silk here to have keep an entire silkworm factory in business for a year) pair of silky sexy decadent knickers that I will never wear because there won’t be a situation I need such beautiful undies for . But I will know they are there and I make sure my daughters know that should I ever be in a car crash please please make sure you go to my house find the perfect pants and wrestle me into them even if I have a broken spine before the casualty staff are allowed to examine me!
A day in the life of a slightly deranged widow… The Perfume
I have a scent that I always wear. I have tried others and I have been bought beautiful perfumes in the past but I always go back to the same one. Ghost.But the last bottle is nearing its end. It was bought for me by Andy and I am strangely scared about it being empty. I think I will have to buy another bottle before it runs out and leave a little in this bottle to be kept by my bed. I know he would think it ridiculous if he was here or could talk to me. It’s just a bottle and he didn’t make it. He didn’t blow the glass bottle or make the scent. He didn’t even go to town and pick it out carefully. It was like so many things just an online purchase. I don’t think he even touched the bottle. When it arrived it was gift wrapped and popped under the tree with a printed label. But it was from him and the silly sentimental person I am clings to the fact it was a present from him and so beyond value.
I do wonder if I have a smell ( hopefully not sweaty smelly or stinky!) because of my scent. Does it permeate the skin over time and become part of you? Some people wear a different scent for different occasions but I am not adventurous and so is Ghost part of my DNA now? My grandaughter picked up her tshirt the other day and declared to her mum this smells like Nanny Darling! I had laundered it so maybe it was my washing powder or was it that she had been cuddling me whatever the reason her little brother grabbed it and declared it was Nanny too… Should I worry?
When I was working in the classroom the children would often divest themselves of their sweatshirts during the day and we would have a stacker box in the room and at the end of the day a monitor would give them out before home time. It was common for the children to smell them if there was no name tag and declare oh thats Tims or Katies! They just knew each others ‘smells’ so well. I am sure laundry comes to play in this but not completely.
I know there are certain smells that conjure up memories of people. A slightly musky undertone with Chanel number 5 and cigarettes is my mum. Pipe tobacco and suntan oil seemed to be my dad and even my dog has a certain lovely smell that is just his own. Andy was soap and something safe and just him. I often think I can smell him when I am half asleep and close to dreaming.
So now I have the dilemma, do I waste part of my bottle of perfume and leave it so that I can keep it forever and buy and use another bottle now or do I stop being so ridiculously sentimental and just use it up before I buy more. I know what Andy would say, But I know he would also humour me and just buy me another bottle and smile.
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