Saturday, 17 June 2017

Try Again - Now What?

In spite of good intentions, this blog, although much on my mind, hasn’t seen any activity since the beginning of June. I could say that ‘tempus fugit’ and suchlike - we’re all guilty of using hackneyed phrases occasionally - but the truth is that mundane stuff just doesn’t cut it at the moment. Equally true is that I feel I should come back here, otherwise there’ll be no point. And, like I said in the previous post, getting back into some form of regular activity can only do me good.

No two days are the same.  Tomorrow it’ll be twelve weeks since Beloved died and five months since that awful day when he fell and was carted off to hospital, never to return home (until now, more of that later). Actually, here’s that phrase again: I can’t believe it’s been that long, I really can’t.

In a way he is still here; we never did live in each other’s pocket and spent much time during the day doing different things in different parts of house and garden. On countless occasions during my solitary days now I have to remind myself that, no, I can’t tell him about this little thing or that one. And, no, he has not just left a room when I enter it. I don’t know if that kind of denial is conscious or sub-conscious, but it is like the clever clogs say, denial is a large part of the grieving process. Anger is one that seems to have passed me by. Although I’ve been very angry with Beloved for leaving me, have cursed him, blamed him, I am not angry at anyone else, don’t blame anyone else. For me it’s been denial followed by depression followed by denial. On some days during Millie's walking me I’ve stood and watched her sniff and snuffle while sniffling and snuffling myself, tears running down my face, using soggy tissues to wipe them away and constantly blowing my nose. It’s OK to do that in Valley’s End, people know the reason why.

Depression is the very devil. I sit and stare, have a drink of water, sit and stare some more. Watch rubbish TV, hardly taking it in, sit and stare some more. On a good day I read, voraciously, nothing very demanding, but losing myself in an easily absorbed story; book after book. I eat microwaveable meals or easily prepared fridge/freezer meals with ingredients collected from supermarkets, like burgers, sausages, rice and pasta. Lunch today was pasta with tomato sauce and a small bowl of strawberries for pudding. Not to forget a glass of Chardonnay. It’s rather hot today, not really eating weather.

After a particularly prolonged bout of sadness and weepiness a week or two ago I pulled myself up one morning and more or less forced myself to ‘do’ rather than ‘feel'. Inertia is deadly, it turns you into a useless blob and would be self destructive in the long run. Although I do not believe in the value of “looking on the bright side” or “staying positive” - both can make you feel guilty if you fail to follow up - a whole day’s worth of ‘doing’ felt so good that I repeated it the next day. I sat for hours doing paperwork, did laundry, gardened, cooked a proper meal with vegetables and ate it, walked Millie, and watched an intelligent documentary on TV in the evening. The next day I got the car out of the garage and drove to Ludlow for some shopping, the bank, the clothes collection bins and the Oxfam shop to deliver unwanted goods. I came home healthily tired and feeling alive again.

Neglecting paperwork during a time when there are heaps of it is not advisable. I found letters from official sources which should have been dealt with weeks ago, all shoved to the back of Beloved’s bureau. It’s actually quite amusing, all the stuff he would have dealt with got bundled into his desk, all the stuff which normally falls to me sat on my desk upstairs. Neither got done until I grabbed hold of myself by the scruff and simply started; no, I didn’t want to do it, no, I wanted to sit and stare, but for once I was determined! And nearly all of it got done.

Official letters to the recently bereaved all have the same flavour. They are ever so carefully worded and all start with the same phrase: “we were sorry to hear of - name - ’s death and send you our heartfelt condolences at this very difficult time”.  Then a passage about the matter in hand, giving you to understand that although perhaps you should give it your speedy consideration they understand if it should take you a little longer, although you, the bereaved, may wish to settle it as a matter of slight urgency. Then the final phrase :"we hope that this has clarified the situation for you but if you have any further questions we will be only too happy to assist you if you ring this number", which is an actual phone number, not a computer generated question and press button x service. Do you think there are half-day seminars where staff is taught how to conduct themselves vis-a-vis people who might burst into tears if you talk common sense to them?

Yesterday, on another visit to Ludlow, again to visit a bank and some shops and a photographer for passport photos, I also finally collected Beloved and brought him home. My stepson in Massachusetts tells me that he has heard of green funerals but that they don’t seem to have reached the US yet. I have Beloved’s Ashes, in a green (i.e. recyclable), tubular, surprisingly heavy container. One of these days I shall sprinkle his Ashes in a favourite outdoor, maybe isolated, place. Or now that I’ve decided to stay here in the house until I really can’t cope anymore, I’ll plant a tree and feed it with his Ashes. Old gardener is willing to help, he’s done it for a previous employer who has become part of a rose border. I think it’s a lovely idea, it’s a way of keeping him around, close to me, until I myself have to leave this soil.


  1. Dear Friko, thank you for your description of depression. I recognize it as I think I've become depressed after a serious operation, which followed a series of ailments. And I am going to try--really try--to follow your lead and get busy and do things. DO THINGS. Thank you. I'm happy for you that you have journeyed this far in the healing process. And I think the idea of a tree with Beloved's ashes sprinkled there is one that will bring you great contentment and comfort. Peace.

  2. Doing things. As I read your words and hear them in my heart, I know they are right and true. I believe and have believed strongly for many years that doing things helps depression and grieving a great deal. Perhaps the greatest way it can help is to allow us to move forward until we are in a spot where we can deal with the heartache a bit more gently. Doing things helps us build our strength and our capacity for rest -- real rest -- as we tire ourselves out. And with rest and sleep comes just the slightest bit more capacity for our hearts to cope.

    We may all tell you that we feel your pain -- but really, we feel OUR pain, not only for your sadness but the pain of past losses, large and small. Only you -- not even Beloved's children or dearest friends -- will feel YOUR pain, your sadness. Each relationship is so unique.

    What I do know, from your words, is that your earthly world has been shattered by the loss of someone so dear and that healing will take a long, long while. Do as you do and feel and must each and every day. You have a love to celebrate when you breathe in your fresh, clear air, observe the wag of Millie's tale, and take in the colors and scents of your garden. Don't think Beloved is far away from all that. You simply can't see him, but perhaps feeling him will be of some comfort. Sending healing thoughts... And thank you for allowing us to accompany you on your healing journey. You are more brave than you think.

  3. Just today, I read this poem, then your blog post. It somehow seems to fit.

    There are in our existence spots of time,
    That with distinct pre-eminence retain
    A renovating virtue, whence, depressed
    By false opinion and contentious thought,
    Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
    In trivial occupations, and the round
    Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
    Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
    A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
    That penetrates, enables us to mount,
    When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.

    – William Wordsworth, The Prelude. Book 12. 208-218

  4. Heartfelt hugs.
    Depression is a tricky beast. And is likely to return.
    I am glad that you were able to fend it off doing things.
    This is a painful post to read (but much less so than to experience it) but I am very glad that part of your doing included posting. You have been missed and are held in many hearts.

  5. You've said it yourself as to depression. I know it well. I agree that simply doing helps. My suggestion is to exercise every day, promise yourself you will eat sitting down at the table every meal if possible, pray everyday (if that is your thing) and promise yourself that you will work on a single project daily. My experience with friends is that they never know when to call or not, because they dont want to intrude, so reaching out is sometimes the responsiblity of the grieving one. I know that seems counter-in tuitive but now knowing grief stricken friends after my recovery, I see the point more clearly.

  6. Do you have support....people who call you or call on you? I do hope so.
    How right you are about doing being an attack on depression...but doesn`t it seem to take all the energy you have to get started on doing...
    Look after yourself.

  7. when you are doing things you get out of yourself and that is the path forward. I act like I have experience but I don't. I did watch my sister though go through the same. cry when you feel like it. eventually you won't. but do do things that have given you pleasure in the past. exercise is very important, tiring yourself out. cooking and eating also. al those things that promote life. I think a tree is a beautiful idea. I have read that there is a service that puts ashes in a pod with a tree seed and you plant the whole thing.

  8. The many ups and downs keep you off balance. Take the good days when they come. there's a lot of complicated business that has to be done when someone passes on.

  9. Thank you for sharing. I value these dispatches from the front, and often think of you.

  10. I'm glad always when you post, even about depression, your feelings, grieving and doing. You are honest, and that is refreshing. I think putting Beloveds ashes in the garden is a wonderful idea and one of which he would approve. Take each day as it comes and know that you are thought of.

  11. Remembering Jeremy's 90th birthday yesterday by raising a glass of Shiraz....also to your birthday on Thursday....I was reminded of the small gathering we all enjoyed last year with a luncheon, balloons and of course ....friendship. Cheers! xx

  12. They actually have green burials in the US. There is a place near me in Florida. But I have my husband's ashes and when I die, I will want ours mixed along with our pets and spread somewhere lovely....just don't know where yet. I have moved and he never lived here and where we did live brings unhappy memories to me and would him as well, I my quandary...I think the idea of a tree is a wonderful one. I may do that as well. Thanks

  13. Dear Friko - it's just so difficult adjusting ... the memories, the wish to talk ... and I'm glad you've decided to stay put for now ... I think having Beloved in the garden with you makes a lot of sense. Yes Ashes are heavy ... surprisingly.

    Feeling down is just such a nuisance, but one just does feel that way ... but I'm glad you pulled your socks up and dealt with a lot of 'bumph' and ancillary things like the charity shops, and dump etc ... clearing out and getting on certainly does help a little.

    Home cooked food is so much nicer than even the good stuff one can buy - having lived on some of those when I had my hip done, I was grateful to be able to get out and buy fresh food once again.

    Take care and with lots of thoughts - Hilary

  14. Yes. I guess there comes a time where it's finally a good idea to just start moving and doing even if you have to force yourself to do so. Life has an annoying way of pushing you along when you don't want to be pushed. Even if it does help in the end to be getting things done.

    I love the idea of Beloved being near you in the garden or waiting at a secret spot. Being constantly nearby in the garden sounds perfect, actually. So glad old gardener will help. :)

  15. A book that might help you is Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. About the loss of her husband.

    I think of you often dear Friko. I hope you're gentle with yourself. And not too demanding.

    I'm very glad you're posting here.


  16. I love the idea of the tree with his ashes. My heart aches for you.

  17. Friko, I think you are handling an unbelievably difficult situation very well. Each of us deals in our own way, but writing out how you feel and gradually getting to what has to be done seems right to me. No one can tell you how to grieve... or for how long. And 3 - 5 months is not a very long time. I wish you well and know that you will find the right path. I also believe that your Beloved is still near... and hope that this nearness brings you some comfort.

  18. Dear Friko
    I have read your last few posts and feel like such an inadequate friend as I finally leave a note. What you are navigating is not something that those who haven't lost a beloved can understand. I am glad to see that you are getting out to town and that you are able to find comfort I some of your regular activities. There is nothing like a rainy day for a good walk-and-weep.
    Perhaps those passport photos will be put to good use for a trip. Sometimes returning from away can help make a now-strange home seem comfortable again.

  19. Grief/depression is a process and until one is ready to move on, it can be difficult to cope with the everyday things in life. I commend you for taking charge and finding ways to normalize your days. Bless you, dear lady, and please keep on blogging. The honesty of your writing touches many of us.

  20. You do write so beautifully. Forgive those of us bloggers who struggle with cliches and tired and well worn phrases While reading I was there patting you gently on the shoulder and bringing you a cup of tea while we sat and sorted the paperwork. Your rhythm of life with your husband is much like mine so I saw a bit into the future of what I must prepare for, if it happens that I leave first. Being sorry is not enough, but I am.

  21. Fortunately, I completely skipped the depressive phase(s) after my husband died. But those moments of "I wish I could tell him this" or "I wonder what he would say to that" are still there now, 7 1/2 years later.
    Thumbs up on your ability to have pulled yourself up by the scruff and done so many jobs around the house! I, too, find that this helps enormously.
    The idea of having your Beloved's ashes nurturing a tree is comforting and fitting. Unfortunately, in Germany something like that is not allowed, which is why I took Steve's ashes to Yorkshire (that involved quite a bit of paperwork and money, but I felt it was the right thing to do).

    1. My daughter's ashes are in the Atlantic ocean between Europe and North America ... At that time, I did not care about any authorities' permission to do so , and I still don't care. One day I will join her by Pictou Island, NS, Canada ... I made my family promise ... Love, cat.

  22. You are facing this chapter in your life well and at a good pace. It's good to hear that you are attempting to push through the tough stuff bravely and with common sense. Depression can dull the common sense part of life. The idea of planting a tree and Beloved being a part on your lovely estate is a beautiful idea.
    I picked up that you bought passport photos and am wondering if travel is in your future?
    Carry on blogging. You share so much of value to us.

  23. I am so glad you collected him and that you are together again only differently. One day at a time, I am glad to hear you are having a few good days :)

  24. I knew you would take hold again. Well done! I'm sure there will still be down days but now you have the key. Love and blessing to you.

  25. I was at an old boyfriend's childhood home when they planted a tree with his mother's ashes. I thought that was a beautiful idea and hope someone will do that for me.

    I am glad staying busy is helping and know you also need time to just feel the loss.

  26. I once asked a woman acquaintance when it was that her husband had died. 'Ten minutes ago', she said. It had been ten years, in fact, but that summed it up for her.
    I'm very, very glad that you've been able to get on with doing. I have never experienced depression to the degree that I believe you have, but I do know that doing nothing makes it worse. You're in my head quite often and I'm always wondering. Good that you've written, letting us all know. Love.

  27. Cliche, I know -- but truly, one day at a time with life gradually coming into focus.


  28. Dear Friko - Good to have you back - keep on "doing" whatever you are doing - it helps - lots of loving thoughts

  29. Dear Friko, for weeks I have been a stranger to the land of blogs, and only today actually sat down to do something myself. I posted a quickly put together blog and felt better for it. And then, I came right over here to see if you might have posted an update. I am very glad to have read the post. How well you write. I am very thankful to be able to connect with you, an apologize for my own clumsy writing. xo

  30. No two days are alike, nor even two hours. These are Constable’s words which sprang to my mind while I was reading your post. If my memory doesn’t fail me, he said this when studying cloud formation. For two years, can you imagine? What I definitely remember about him is how his colour pattern and style changed after his wife passed away.
    Time is a great healer, dear Friko, no matter how hackneyed this phrase may sound. And doing things does work better than anything, you are right.
    With best wishes from Russia,

  31. I love the idea of fertilizing new growth with the ashes of beloved ones. A lot more appealing then throwing those ashes to the wind - to then end up on one's furniture as I always imagined happened with those ashes of the mother of a friend that lives in the country. I have no words for your grief, only want to express my condolence and my eagerness to keep hearing about your experiences. Lacking tolerance for the mundane is much appreciated as is your truth, mundane or not. Your writing nourishes me, us, and can nourish you too, if you turn to it.

  32. I've just spent an hour on the phone crying with my sister over our mother. I don't think I am in any of the stages of grief except the one that hurts. I hope your good days come more often and I am so sorry for your loss.

  33. Dear Friko!
    I'm very late to say you that I'm sorry your Beloved died and I did not know, forgive me. Depression is so hard thing, it can damage you, I know it believe me. It's good you do your everyday chores, sure Milly helps to be back to the usual life alone.

  34. It is good to hear from you. How courageous you are (whether you feel that way or not). Keep writing, keep pointing us forward with you as we journey onward.

  35. I hope you are doing better, Friko. Thinking of you.

  36. Not on the computer much
    problems with it
    I read your words and like Tabor
    sit with you, listen, a cup of tea
    I will share about the ashes
    what you plan is what I have planned
    and told my children to sprinkle among my flowers
    I love this idea.
    Take care of yourself....

  37. I recently started keeping a simple journal based on an idea of Lynda Barry's: each day write down 7 things you did and 7 you saw. These can be very simple. Some examples. I got up at 4:33 am. I wore my red sweater. I saw a cloud.

    I've found this approach to be easier and more interesting than I'd expected.

    In any case, best wishes from across the pond.

  38. comments not going through
    take care...

  39. I can't think of any words at all that would work. But I'm so grateful for your courage to share your experience as it comes along. We are all in this thing together, even when we feel entirely alone.

  40. I'm so glad to read that you're Doing. Thank you for letting us know where you are in this never-ending journey. All good wishes to you

  41. Just stopped by to let you know I was thinking about you. Take care.

  42. Just wanted to post a quick comment to let you know I was thinking of you. Sending good wishes across the pond.

  43. Wow...I can so your entire post. Kind cards, caring words often miss the mark somehow. God Bless you

  44. I find that the stages of grieving are just an idea ... Truth is, friend Friko that grieving is like a tornado, which can and will continue to touch down here and there and every so often ... So be prepared and a pick a good shelter, hmmm? ... friend? ... Thanks for writing ... You are in my thoughts. Love, cat.

  45. Come back, Friko, come back.

  46. Thinking of you. from Dalamory

  47. Hello Friko, I've read to here from your latest blog. I've spent so little time reading blogs since the start of 2017. I didn't know your Beloved died, though I do remember he was getting more frail, and you were more his caretaker. Bob and I have been married for 51 years and recently have begun making end of life preparations, though both of us (today) are well. It's hard for either of us to imagine continuing life without the other. We are private people and though we both enjoy friendships and activities that don't include the other, at the end of the day, we cherish our private time. You seem to have an understanding of your grief, and I do believe you are now mourning. I always think of you as intelligent and acerbic. You seem to care more about telling the truth and less about false appearances. It's what I like about you. I am generally a positive person - I always search for good and usually find it. However, losing my husband might put me in a much darker and lonelier place. I don't think you ever "get over" missing a person you love. However, perhaps life eventually can hold both joy and grief - allowing memories to help sustain a life without the other. I send a hug to you from CO - I'll think of you now at random times and hope my good thoughts reach you and make you smile.


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