27th Sep2011

My wife recently died and I…

by Dutchcloggie

I used to be perfectly able to say that sentence without breaking down in tears. It was a statement of fact, not the release of an emotion.

Lately however, I can’t say it without crying. In front of complete strangers. Every time.

What is going on? It isn’t the fact that it has suddenly hit me. It is the fact that it is slowly infiltrating every single part of my life. It pops up in everything I do.

I have realised this evening that there is a difference. When someone asks me why I am moving house, I can state a fact: my wife died and I need to save money.

However, when Jane’s death is an explanation for my ‘weakness’ or an emotion, I can’t say it without crying. Because it is not stating a fact. It is revealing something about my emotions.

This evening, just before Maths class, I walked up to two ladies with whom I had a little snappy exchange last week. I apologised for snapping at them (even when it wasn’t my fault). I just wanted to say I was in a bad mood.

Instead I said: I was in a bad mood because my wife died and I am trying to get my life back together and I am feeling pretty shit most of the time so I am sorry I snapped at you I am not usually like that.

And I was in tears as I said it.

Later on, I spoke to the Maths teacher and I wanted to ask about absence. I wanted to know what the repercussions are if I miss a class. He asked why I seemed to think about missing classes in advance. So I wanted to say that I might not always feel up to going.

Instead I burst into tears again when I said: my wife recently died and I am not always feeling up to leaving the house so if it happens on a maths night, I might not make it to class and I don’t want to get in trouble for it later.

I think this is all because it seems I have become more aware of the deeper emotional impact of Jane’s death. Impact beyond the loneliness and the physical absence.

The insecurity when making decisions, when the person you trust most is not there to help.

The fear of spiders and the knowledge that nobody will solve it for you and hug you afterwards.

I miss doing nice things for the person I love and seeing her smile. Making someone happy is a deeply emotional and satisfying thing. I miss it.

Maybe these things are emerging now, slowly, because I am trying to return to normal life. So I come across every day situations where I never really thought of Jane because she was just there. What to have for dinner. What to watch on tv. What to do on a Saturday.

Shit. This post is not very coherent. In my head I had planned a well constructed post but clearly the thoughts are not crystalised yet. Maybe more later when I know what I am actually trying to say.

The bottom line is that I am a lot more teary these days. And that I really would like more crying with friends. But somehow I have started to feel like I am burdening people if I still talk about Jane so much.

I used to enjoy listening to the Indigo Girls in the car. Jane and I would sing along in 2-part harmony. Just after Jane died, I could listen to the music and remember the joy. These days, I can sing along but all I hear is the emptyness of a voice that is missing. And so I cry. But I don’t stop singing. I usually end up shouting along to the music in tears.

The song “I believe in love” is about a couple trying to find common ground again and fighting for their relationship. It did not apply to Jane and me. But it had the following lines:

Most of what will happen now is way out of our hands
So just let it go, see where it lands

At that point, we would always take each other’s hands and smile at eachother. We knew what we were saying there. We knew what was waiting for Jane around the corner.

Cheesy video alert for this song.


24th Sep2011

Facebook dilemma: To unfriend or not to unfriend

by Dutchcloggie

Yesterday, the first two lines of a comedy song came to me.

We’re married on Facebook, but not in real life
When is it time to unfriend my dead wife?

Unfortunately that’s all I have…In my head I was going to write this funny, bittersweet song about the problem with social networking and death. In reality, I am rubbish at writing songs and I’m not that funny.

So feel free to take the idea and run with it.

Seriously though…when DO I unfriend Jane on Facebook? There are a number of relationship status options and none of them are acceptable to me.

Married: This is the current situation. I never really was married according to the law and since her death, I most certainly am no more. Yet this one means her picture is listed on my profile as my wife and it connects her to me.

Single: Not an option. I am not single by choice.

Widow: Would be the best choice. However, if you select your status as Widow, Facebook automatically freezes the profile of the person you previously listed as your spouse. And that means nobody has access to it anymore. It goes in to some state of limbo. It is frozen in time and nobody can send messages, post to the wall or anything. And I don’t like that either. Because sometimes people still leave something on her wall. Or send her a message. I do.

Is in an open relationship with Jane Daniel Death does that to a relationship. But I don’t like open relationships. It relates to monogamy and Jane & I always were completely devoted to each other.

It’s complicated:This might be the best option. Because it IS complicated. Well, it is for me. The good thing about this one is that you can still link to someone to be complicated with.

The thing is that if I end my relationship with Jane on Facebook, she will no longer appear anywhere on my profile. And since she is not making any new posts on Facebook, nobody will be reminded of her on Facebook. It will look like we were never in a relationship.

Like the list of recently dialled numbers or most used email addresses, she will slip down the list and eventually disappear completely.

I guess this is the modern day equivalent of deciding when to take your wedding ring off. One day I will be ready for it. When I can replace the wedding ring with something else. With happy memories instead of crushing sadness. When removing the ring or Facebook link means I am ready for something new to take its place. Rather than removing something and see a large gaping hole.

Ps: I need to say that the two lines of my ‘song’ popped in my head when listening to this brilliant Janis Ian song.


20th Sep2011

Healing is an odd thing

by Dutchcloggie

I left a comment on another blog about crying and healing.

We want the wound to heal but we seem to want a nice big scar to remind us how much it once hurt

Lately I have been crying a bit more regularly than before. About different things and with a different intensity. Previously the crying was mostly about the raw pain of the loss. The feeling of loneliness and the hole Jane has left in my life. Now it is more about specific things that remind me. A song, a tv show, a memory.

So does that mean I am healing?

I have addressed the strange conundrum of unwanted healing before. I want to heal. I want life to get better again. I want to be able to think of Jane without bursting in to tears. I want to think of a future without feeling guilty for even thinking about happiness that does not involve Jane.

And yet, I feel a sense of panic every time I realise the healing is happening. Not guilt really. But sadness. The healing train of life thunders on. I have no say in how fast it is going. I only know I can not get off because that would be disasterous. Sometimes it pauses at a station for a bit but it can not stay in the same place. I need to move on.

But seeing Jane not coming along on the trip, seeing her fall further behind, is distressing. I want the healing to stop. I don’t want Jane to slip away from me.

But wait, did I not just say I want to feel better? I do. So why am I distressed about feeling better?

I think it is the realisation that Jane’s memory is no replacement for Jane actually being alive and with me. A memory simply does not evoke the same feelings of love, joy, pleasure or sadness. And I miss feeling that. I miss the feeling in my stomach I used to get from just looking at her. I miss the physical surge of love, the overwhelming sense of adoration I used to get when I held her hand. So I have to say goodbye not only to Jane, but also to the strong emotions she evoked in me. And it seems I can not pick and choose. I can not say: I want the sadness to go away but hold on to the love and joy. It is all or nothing.

I don’t like feeling sad. But I don’t mind crying. Because it means Jane is not completely gone. It means she still evokes strong feelings. And in the future, the feelings her memory evokes will be less strong. Less overwhelming. The wound heals.

But I want a nice big scar. Just so that when I look at it, it helps me remember how deeply I felt for her once.

And how she will never be forgotten.

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for some tears as writing this blog post has made me feel very upset.

14th Sep2011

by Dutchcloggie

I am aware of the fact that regular readers of this blog may think I am depressed most of the time and crying lots. That is not the case. Yes I cry frequently and when I feel down, the blog is where I go. Either to write so I can sort through my emotions, or because I want to write a letter to Jane.

It seems that the only thing that makes me cry is a direct memory of something we did together. I don’t seem to be in a permanent state of sadness but when something reminds me directly of something we did together, I am prone to crying unexpectedly. Don’t get me wrong, I am ALWAYS thinking about Jane. Every single second of the day, she’s on my mind. She is in everything I do. But that does not mean I am always sad or crying when her name is mentioned.

However, for you, dear reader, it can’t be interesting to read about every single time I cry when something reminds me of Jane. So, here is a round up of things that have made me cry.

Thursday: Tears at the car dealer
Whilst chatting about a possible new car (I am considering a smaller, cheaper and older car), a song came on. “You to me are everything” by The Real Thing. Not a special song as such but I used to sing the first line of the chorus to Jane, and she would then answer by singing the violin-riff after (Listen to the chorus on YouTube and you’ll understand) Even when Jane was very confused, we would stand in a cuddle, arms around each other and I would sing in her ear, and she would respond.

 

Whilst at the car dealer, the song came on the radio and I burst in to tears right away. The man was nice and did not recoil in horror because I had already told him Jane had died. I just asked him if we could continue the chat outside.

Monday: Tears at Doc Martin

I bought the DVD boxset of 4 series of Doc Martin. We had seen most of them years ago and even visited the place in Cornwall where they film it. I went back last month as well. In February, we sat at home, spending our days watching TV. We watched the entire boxset in about 2 weeks. Whenever they showed shots of Port Isaac, we used to smile at eachother and say: We were theeeere! Again, something we shared and loved. Together.
On Monday, the new series started. I was crying before the opening credits had even finished.

Wednesday: Australian tears
When we were in Scotland in January this year, the cottage had a collection of DVDs. One night we watched the film Australia. Jane did not seem to understand most of it but we sat together on the sofa, her legs across my lap and watched it from under a blanket. Together.
This afternoon I was watching TV and Film4 announced They will be screening Australia on Monday. I was instantly back in Scotland on the sofa with Jane.

And I cried. And cried. And cried. Not quite as much as I did in Cornwall but still…for about an hour. I looked at the photos from the Scotland trip. I looked at the Scotland video. Everytime when I closed my eyes and pictured us there together, I cried some more.


So as you can see, it is set off by very specific memories of things we did together. And usually only when I am reminded of things unexpectedly.

When I am crying, I feel extremely low and desperately bleak about a future without Jane. But as soon as I have stopped crying, somehow the fear of the future goes away. Just as well because it would be pretty rubbish to feel the deep despair all the time.

Interestingly, I seem to be much much more emotional when reminded of things Jane & I did when she was ill. I can think of our ski trips in 2006, 2007 and 2008 without any emotions at all. But recent memories are totally different. So let’s say from after March 2009. I think this is related to the fact that in that time, Jane became very depedant on me and our relationship changed completely, emotionally. It became a lot like having a permanently confused child. She was easy to please, easily happy with the simplest joys. She looked to me to make her feel safe and loved. And that is what I tried to do.

But no matter how much I loved her…it wasn’t enough to save her.

11th Sep2011

Sunday emptiness

by Dutchcloggie

Liefie,

I miss you so much. I just can not get my head around the fact that I will never see you again. Never hold your hand as we go outside. Never cuddle you in the morning. Never bring you croissants in bed.

I need your guidance so much in my life. The grief counselor said that I need to learn to find the person I am again, having been part of a couple for so long. But I know who I was before we met and I prefer the Me I was when I was with you. You never gave me feeling that I should know better than to say impulsive things or spend money on silly stuff. You helped me to believe I am not stupid and incapable but just not always to stop myself from doing things. You understood that what I needed was not someone that stopped me doing things but rather someone who helped me channel my weird quirks in the right direction.

You never judged and you stopped me from judging myself.

Look at me know. I am back to where I was when you found me. Can’t handle money. Can’t motivate myself. Feeling inadequate about it. Unwilling to accept responsibility. Too proud to admit I need my meds.

With you, I was an adult. Now I feel like a silly, incompetent child again.

I have so many plans for the future but I am so incredibly scared that it turns out I can’t do it without your support and encouragement.

The person I turn to when I feel lost. The person who gives me hope when I am confused. The person who gives me all the advice I could ever ask for. The person I need when I feel utterly desperate. That’s the person I need right now.

That person is you.

And you are dead.

The Me I was before we met had wild plans and hopes but gave up or lost interest at the first hurdle.

The Me I was with you only needed some encouraging words from you. A look that told me you believed in me, that I was able to do it.

I tried to remain that person after you died but I feel I am slowly regressing back to the person I was before. I don’t want to be that person. I need someone around me to keep me motivated to even get out of bed. Or to apply for that job. Or get the info about the student loan.

It is bizarre that your death has created a situation where I need you more than ever.

I miss you. I need you.

Why are you dead…

11th Sep2011

Sunday emptiness

by Dutchcloggie

Liefie,

I miss you so much. I just can not get my head around the fact that I will never see you again. Never hold your hand as we go outside. Never cuddle you in the morning. Never bring you croissants in bed.

I need your guidance so much in my life. The grief counsellor said that I need to learn to find the person I am again, having been part of a couple for so long. But I know who I was before we met and I prefer the Me I was when I was with you. You never gave me feeling that I should know better than to say impulsive things or spend money on silly stuff. You helped me to believe I am not stupid and incapable but just not always to stop myself from doing things. You understood that what I needed was not someone that stopped me doing things but rather someone who helped me channel my weird quirks in the right direction.

You never judged and you stopped me from judging myself.

Look at me know. I am back to where I was when you found me. Can’t handle money. Can’t motivate myself. Feeling inadequate about it. Unwilling to accept responsibility. Too proud to admit I need my meds.

With you, I was an adult. Now I feel like a silly, incompetent child again.

I have so many plans for the future but I am so incredibly scared that it turns out I can’t do it without your support and encouragement.

The person I turn to when I feel lost. The person who gives me hope when I am confused. The person who gives me all the advice I could ever ask for. The person I need when I feel utterly desperate. That’s the person I need right now.

That person is you.

And you are dead.

The Me I was before we met had wild plans and hopes but gave or lost interest at the first hurdle.

The Me I was with you only needed some encouraging words from you. A look that told me you believed in me, that I was able to do it.

I tried to remain that person after you died but I feel I am slowly regressing back to the person I was before. I don’t want to be that person. I need someone around me to keep me motivated to even get out of bed. Or to apply for that job. Or get the info about the student loan.

It is bizarre that your death has created a situation where I need you more than ever.

I miss you. I need you.

Why are you dead…

10th Sep2011

An unexpected note

by Dutchcloggie

Today I gave a pile of books away. Lesbian trashy stuff that the hospice charity shop would probably not sell.

As I piled them in to a bag for my friend, I thought I might keep a few back to read again. They are rubbish little romance books so I figured they might help me go to sleep. So I kept a random few of them back to read again, eventhough I had not looked at them for years.

This evening I picked one up to read before going to sleep. A story of a young woman who meets an older woman who has lost her partner to cancer and against the odds, they fall in love, blah blah blah. Mills & Boon for lesbians.

After about 20 minutes I turned the page and found this hidden in the book. A picture and a note from Jane: “I love you. Missing you lots. Jane Xxxx” Clearly left there for me when were were apart for a night due to work or University.

It had been sitting there for at least 5 years and I nearly gave the book away. A book about someone who finds love after loss. Some would say it is a sign. I say it is coincidence. Either way, my heart gave a little (actually quite a big one) lurch when I turned the page and suddenly saw her face.

I love you. Missing you lots. Marieke Xxxx

09th Sep2011

If I didn’t have you – Tim Minchin

by Dutchcloggie

I miss Jane. She was my soul mate. What a cliche. Luckily enough for me, I don’t believe there is only one soul mate for every person. Let’s be honest, with 6 billion peole in the world, what are the statistical chances of your soul mate living in the same city. Or going to the same university. Or work at the same company.

Nobody will ever make me feel like Jane did. Because there is nobody like Jane. But that is not to say nobody will make me happy in the future by being who THEY are. It will be different.

To explain my point in more detail, here is Tim Minchin with his ode to mathematics (and love), If I didn’t have you.

08th Sep2011

Moving house or: Do you need a lodger?

by Dutchcloggie

After a day of hard thinking, I have decided I need to move house. I have been looking for work but it is fair to say there is nothing much out there for someone who has not worked for a year and needs more than the minimum wage.

I have spent a lot of money when Jane was alive because I did not want to refuse her anything that she might want and I probably have spent too much since her death. My excuse is that I was grieving and deserved the holiday, nice food and time with friends. I am really crap with money (ADHD-related) and have very poor impulse control (ADHD related). Jane always helped me to control this. But now, with no Jane and no medication, I have failed quite dramatically at budgetting and living within my means (although what is ‘within your means’ when you have no income, just outgoings?)

So it is time to get back to work because I am going through my savings at quite a speed. Savings I will need when I am a student again next year.

If I was to find a nice room to rent, I could more than half my costs. Yes there would be virtually no space for me but on the other hand, I would have people around me which I would enjoy. It would be a massive step back but if I am going to be a student, I will have to accept this anyway. And once my costs are reduced, I can simply take a job that pays the bills.

Having looked around online, I have noticed quite a few nice shared houses for professionals that I am interested in.

This is all brought on by the fact that I am about to sign a new 6 month contract for my current flat and if I can not afford this, I shouldn’t sign for 6 months but go on a monthly rolling contract instead. Then I can look for a room without the pressure of being on the street soon.

I wish I could talk this over with someone (read: Jane). Why does this only come to me in the evening when I can’t call people.

The thing that concerns me most is the fact that all those rooms are furnished. Where will I be able to store virtually the entire contents of my house for months? For free? Once I am a student again, I shall hopefully have a student loan to help me pay the bills.

I am seeing Jane’s mother tomorrow. She has a large yard with storage. Maybe she can help?

Anyone have any suggestions? Or a room to let?

06th Sep2011

New tattoo

by Dutchcloggie

I got myself a nice new tattoo today. It is Jane’s signature and a horse. She used to doodle this horse on lots of things. I thought it would be nicer than one of those In Loving Memory ones.

They mixed a pinch of her ashes into the ink as well so now she will always be with me.

 

04th Sep2011

What’s wrong with tears?

by Dutchcloggie

I am a member of a number of messageboards for widows and widowers. A recurring theme is about showing sorrow in public. Widows writing how they have to hide their grief for the outside world and pretend they are doing fine. They smile when someone asks how they are and hide when they feel tears.

I really struggle to understand why they do this. And even more so, why is it that other widows frequently congratulate each other on being able to hide their true feelings from the world. “Today my boss asked me how I was. I forced a smile and said I was ok. I put on my happy face because I did not him to see me cry. To the outside world, it looks like I am coping well. If only they knew how my evenings are spent crying alone on the sofa.” “Oh, that must have been hard for you. Well done on keeping the tears back though.”

Why not tell him you are struggling? What is wrong with showing tears? We want understanding and sympathy from friends and colleagues but how can they know how to respond unless we give them something to work with?

Maybe it is because I am not English so my upper lip is not very stiff but I just don’t see why so many people are trying to put on a happy face in public.

This only serves to make people think you are doing well when in fact you are not and could do with help. How can they expect people to offer help when they show them a face that says they are doing well?

I often shed tears in public. Several times a day, for a few seconds, tears roll down my face. On the days that I don’t allow this, I find I usually need to have a big whailing cry later on. And they make me much more sad and exhausted than little ones throughoit the day.

And I don’t care where I am when it happens. If people whom I don’t know ask me where my wife is, I will tell them she died recently and if that brings tears to my eyes, so be it. I don’t see why I should lie and just say: “oh she is not here tonight”.

Last night I was at a gig in Swansea and I got talking to a lady at the bar. I was wearing my Salmony Goodness jumper and she asked where I bought it. I told her I made it myself and she said it was funny and did it mean anything special.

So I told her it was what Jane once said, shortly before she died and how it made me laugh because it was sweet when she said it. I said it in a kind but rather matter-of-fact kind of way. As I tend to do. And the lady smiled and opened a conversation about Jane. Exactly what I wanted. I did not cry but had tears in my eyes but that did not matter. The conversation continued and there was nothing uncomfortable about it, for me nor for her.

I am not saying everyone is wrong and I am right but I really don’t understand the problem with crying in public. I also realise that there are moments when it simply is not ‘appropriate’. For example, last week I was at a rehearsal for Invocal. They played a song Jane used to love. In addition, they played that song for her in the hospice. I burst in to tears when they started and I left the room. Not because I wanted to hide the tears but because they were never going to be able to rehearse the song with me wailing in the room. And it was not about me. I was watching their performance.

When Invocal played that same song again during the gig on Saturday, I sat in the back of the room and during the song, silent tears fell. No loud crying, nothing intrusive. Just silent tears. Had I hidden my tears on the Sunday before, I would have had a much stronger reaction during the gig. But managing tears is not the same as hiding and pretending you are fine.

But other than situations where tears might need to be managed, what is wrong with the truth and with tears? The more you do it, the less of it you will need to do. It will also make it easier for people around you to see when you are really doing ok or when you are in need of some extra help and/or friendship. If you never cry in public and always say you are ok, the moment you have a day when you can pretend no more, people will be completely shocked and they will not have a response for you. And you yourself will be shocked by your own outburst, making it embarassing for you and compounding the difficulty of the situation.

And finally, hiding your emotions makes it harder for people who are also grieving for the loss of your partner, be it as a friend, colleague or family member, to talk with you about it. And isn’t that what most of us want? To talk about this wonderful person who gave us happiness?

03rd Sep2011

Finn Brothers Everyone is here t-shirt

by Dutchcloggie

Long shot but worth a try so please ask anyone you might know.

As all Jane’s friends knew, she was a massive fan of Neil Finn, and as a result a fan of all the stuff he did in all his other incarnations. At her cremation, her final farewell was to the sounds of “Fall at your feet”.

Jane’s favourite t-shirt ever, as far as I know, was a green shirt she bought at a concert of The Finn Brothers in Wolverhampton, back in 2004. She wore the shirt all the time. And then last year, it was left somewhere in a hotel, together with some other things. No idea where it went, no idea where it might have been left. But it is gone. Jane was so forgetful already back then that she did not even remember to take her favourite shirt. Can’t buy it anymore either. Well, not in a Medium size which means I can wear it.


So, does anyone know of anyone who might have the same shirt and is willing to give/sell it to me? Pretty please?After Jane’s death, I went through her clothes and noticed the t-shirt was missing. I had made a list of clothes I wanted to keep and this one was high on that list. I looked and looked, asked friends, cried, cried some more, found sweet love notes she wrote to me. But no t-shirt.

UPDATE: I LOVE Finn Fans! Although not in a size Medium, a lovely person sent me the t-shirt from the USA! I can not express how much it means to me. Both to have the shirt, and the fact that people are so kind to a complete stranger. I shall make sure I gain enough weight to fit into the Large shirt. Thank you!

01st Sep2011

I’m done with Phase 1. Time to move on.

by Dutchcloggie

I have decided I am done with Mourning – Phase One.

Three months after Jane’s death, I am ready to move on to Phase Two. Things that are still part of Phase Two:

  • Unexpected crying
  • Feeling excruciatingly lonely, especially in the evenings
  • Feeling like my heart has been ripped out
  • Missing Jane
  • Getting upset when thinking of all the things Jane never got to do
  • Talk about Jane all the time and managing to sneak a reference to Jane in to just about every conversation
  • Crying when thinking of all the pain and anguish Jane had to suffer in her life, living with death hanging over her for 6 years

Basically nothing much changes. Apart from one thing.

From today on, I am done with wastinng my time doing nothing. For 3 months I have given myself permission to do very little in regards to the future. Yes, I have enrolled on my GCSE course and done some holiday things etc. But there is more to do.

So Phase Two includes a return to normal life. In the next few weeks that means:

  • Completing my UCAS application
  • Completing my job application form to be a home carer
  • Looking around for jobs in case I don’t get to be a home carer
  • Buying the books I need for my course
  • Making lists of questins for the University open days
  • Research funding for university in 2012
  • Making more effort to cook myself decent meals at least twice a week
  • Make a bigger effort to show interest in other people’s lives
  • Keep more on top of the whole probate situation
  • Organise a benefit gig to raise money for the Cynthia Spencer Hospice

Actually, it seems to me that Phase Two might be harder than Phase One! It includes everything I did in Phase One and simply adds more responsibilities but with less sleep.

Once again it is clear that grieving is not a linear process. I’ll still need lots of help and support from all my lovely friends and family. BTW, I know I am not the only one mourning Jane so please don’t feel like you can not talk to me about her because you feel my pain is worse than yours. It’s different but not less valid. In fact, it is nice to know she is missed by others too. I am planning a birthday gathering on Jane’s birthday, December 2nd, so if you want to come and celebrate Jane’s life, put it in your diary now.