Monday, 21 August 2017

Afterwards - Part 1


After Beloved.

Everything is afterwards now.
There was an old lady's funeral in Valley’s End today; I had planned to go, was determined to go; she had been a friend of sorts and I thought I should pay my respects to her and her husband and family. Also, it would have meant joining a throng of villagers for the funeral tea afterwards, chatting, mingling, getting back into village life, rather than clinging for succour to the few friends I have. So, all things considered, surely a good plan?

I didn’t go. Sitting over my solitary lunch - the funeral was at 2.30 in the afternoon - I felt bad. I knew I wasn’t going to go, no matter how urgently I pressed myself to do so. When I finally hit upon the solution I felt great relief. 'I’ll say, I just couldn’t face it’, I told myself, ‘it’s too soon after Beloved’s death’. ‘I shall break down in tears’. That would do for an excuse I thought. ‘Nobody can expect me to attend.’ That’s what I came up with, and all that after I had promised myself that, from now on, I would never feel obliged to lie again for appearances’ sake. Without Beloved’s polite good manners to rein me in I can say what I feel. Not giving offence, hopefully, but not giving much of a damn either. As my good friend Andrew says: ‘It’s brilliant to mature beyond giving a damn’. "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go . . . .” Jenny Joseph’s ‘Warning' may only seem to concern itself with outward appearance but look a little deeper and she’s telling you to take yourself and your disapproval on a running jump from a short plank.

It’s frequently like that: I have every intention of coming out of my cave, blinking in the sudden light of day, joining others, accepting that life goes on. The other day I bought an expensive concert ticket. Some friends were going to take me and it would have been a pleasant evening. I let the ticket go using a dicky tummy for an excuse. True, I had had some rumblings and frequent loo visits during the day but I was feeling much better come evening. “Such a pity you had to miss the concert,” my friends said afterwards, “you missed a real treat.” Of course life goes on, I am here, am I not? At first I didn’t care to survive, alone, friendless, lacking family, lacking purpose. (There’s some self pity in there. ) Now I do. In fact I have made a decision: I want to survive for years yet, becoming a sharp-witted and sharp-tongued old woman. When I told a couple of friends on separate occasions, both said “Well, you shouldn’t find that difficult, you haven’t far to go to reach your goal.” How lucky I am to have friends who feel able to make that sort of comment, don’t you agree?

The wretched problem is that the recently bereaved become vulnerable, naked; being visible draws attention to that state of insecurity. It’s almost as if you have to take baby steps before you can walk out into the world again with any kind of self assurance. And the lack of focus on something other than grief, the lack of purpose that can fill the mostly empty days make survival questionable. I can’t even say that Beloved died too soon or unexpectedly, although the end did come rather suddenly. He was old and very ill and his mind had begun to wander. But grief does not depend on justification, it just sits there, like the elephant in the room, taking up all your breathing space.

Although Simone de Beauvoir was not speaking about grief when she wrote in her study on the ageing process: "the paradox of our time is that the aged enjoy better health than they used to and that they remain “young” longer. This makes their idleness all the harder to bear. Those who live on must be given some reason for living: mere survival is worse than death.” The survivor had better rediscover that life is for living.




34 comments:

  1. It is lovely to see you posting. Last week I was wondering how you were, and whether you would return.
    I have always loved Jenny Joseph's poem - a copy of it lives on our bulletin board. I too hope to become sharp witted and tongued. And you are at least half way there already.

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  2. Am so glad that you are saying something again, friend Friko ... I had been wondering about you and your wellbeing many times ... but I can see that you are doing just fine, considering ... Ich hab mich immer schon gefragt: "Wie es wohl Friko geht?" Gut von Dir zu hoeren ... Du weisst gar nicht, wie viel ich Deine posts liebe, und ich danke Dir fuer jedes Wort dass Du schreibst. Ich hoffe, Du weisst das, hmmm? Alles gute. Love, cat.

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    1. Many o so tight hugs, friend ... Love, cat.

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    2. Hi cat,
      Thank you very much for popping over to my blog and leaving a comment! I'm afraid I accidentally deleted it - so daft of me! Please feel free to visit and comment any time, you are always welcome.

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  3. Hi Friko,Plan train trips and outings alone and start a clean slate with all you meet. Wear disguises and invent identities as you go. You are absolutely right in your analysis of your current position. You see yourself reflected from other people's eyes. They're unintentionally holding you back.

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  4. Grief knows no schedule. Take care of yourself and let anyone else's expectations be damned.

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  5. I think I would have found it terrifically hard to go to that funeral, too. Instinct, perhaps more than intellect, is likely to be the best guide right now. I wouldn't worry too much about offering little fibs to excuse yourself from something you just can't bring yourself to do. Though my thoughts are probably worth less than the cyber paper they're written on, I'll say anyway, give yourself all the room and time you require. No matter what, it's good to hear from you.

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  6. I like what Susan, above, has said about letting instinct rather than intellect be your guide. Reinvent yourself as it suits you.

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  7. I have been thinking about you and hoping that you would return to Blogger. Your time is your own, you owe no one excuses and your grief has no experation date. Eventually you will make changes and I hope you will come out the other side wearing the red hat with a bit of purple and a joy of living life on your own terms. Keep those friends you have around because they will give you strength when you are ready. Take care, dear Friko, and be kind to yourself.

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  8. It is with sheer selfishness that I read your thoughts which tell me so much, so simply, about the very things that draw my attention as I age. And of course I've come to care about you and appreciate your dispatches, Dear

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  9. As the others here have said, I am glad to read from you, and I completely agree with them in that grief has no schedule or expiry date, and that you should really just do as you please and not feel the need to justify not going somewhere, even if before you said you would.
    If I accept an invitation or arrange for meeting friends and then at the last minute decided not to go, it would be hard to find a proper excuse - my friends would not believe me, as I am usually out and about with them a lot, and my husband died nearly 8 years ago, so no fresh wound there.
    But it is different for you, and your friends do indeed sound great for making such comments as the one about you not being far off from the sharp old lady.

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  10. Dear Friko ~ just take each day as it comes. You are in the early stages of grieving your deep loss. It does grow less, but we will always grieve, it's part of who we are. It's been 4 years and 8 months for me, and the last two months I have been in a real down funk, missing my dear husband.

    Getting out does help, but we have to do that in our own time. Grief can sneak up on you at any time, and you just have to go with it. If people can't stand to see you/us cry, out of the blue, then that is their problem.

    Your friends are treasures to tell you like it is. Hang in there dear Friko. Keep your sweet memories tucked into your heart, and get out and live when you feel ready.

    Love, hugs & prayers ~ FlowerLady

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  11. Hi Friko - it sounds like those friends will be there with their shoulders for you to cry on - on the few occasions you'll need a shoulder, and have a welcome arm when needed. However it seems you are slowly coming to terms with life ahead - there'll always be the backward glances and those wonderful times remembered ... it's life.

    I'm glad you will be coming back into the fray of life, rarely do our threads remain as one ... the train trips, or days out visiting a castle or house, or museum sound ideal to start with ... something to do, something to write about - without any stress ...

    You will find a way ... it won't be easy - but it'll be better to be busy at times being out and about ... I expect Millie is helping ... and then life will settle as much as you wish - with many thoughts - cheers Hilary

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  12. So good to read your words today. I'm thinking, "Take care of you, and let your intuition be your guide."

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  13. so good to see you back. not much I can add to what's already been said. life changes and we do eventually get on with it. it is baby steps and maybe you aren't quite ready to walk yet and that's OK.

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  14. It's good to hear from you again. Allow yourself to grief and be yourself. I fear the day where I am all alone here in the US with my family in Germany.

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  15. Hello! Embrace the little things, whatever they may be, that you have always enjoyed, and embrace them fully and entirely.

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  16. You've made a decision. Good. May you rejoin on your own terms!

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  17. Good to "hear" your voice again. I think your plan for the future sounds just right.

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  18. It sounds like it is hard to find balance. You will get there. Be thankful that you know so many people where you live. I truly know only a dozen or so. I wonder if I would go days without talking to anyone if I was alone. Hubby is the one who is out the door often. I am having a time of deep problems in my life right now. Just putting one foot in front of the other and waiting.

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  19. "The survivor had better rediscover that life is for living."

    It is. And you'll find your way.

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  20. So very thankful to"hear" from you! Good suggestions here. As we age, I think most of us feel free to wear red hats! Please do take care of you. You need never feel friendless; you have many friends here who treasure you and the unique insights you share with us. I have great confidence in you; you will make it through. Meanwhile, patience with yourself.






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  21. You have wise friends both near you and here in blogland. I can't add to the wisdom that has already been expressed. This may well be your first step to wherever you are going next. I like that expression, "Small steps". Take care.

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  22. Like you I am a recent widow, and now "everything is after". I need lots of rest and quiet time on my own and sometimes, as you wrote about, I say no to things or events that might be enjoyable. We have to make our own pace and way forward. I am sending you a hug from California.

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  23. Dear Friko, your post comprises one of the most magnificent personal essays I've ever read. It is part one. I learn from it. I'm sure I shall learn from its further parts and will be attentive. Its subject is important to all of us, and I can think of no better teacher than one of gentle heart and undefeated mind --you. Thank you.

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  24. Dear Friko, thank you. Your honesty refreshes me. I haven't lost my soul-mate, but I did have a seriously major operation in March and I find myself grieving the woman I used to be. Slowly, ever so slowly, I am accepting my new way of being--sleeping nine to ten hours each night, napping during the day, making a list of two things I will try to get done each day, and saying on the phone, "I need to go now, I'm not equal to talking any longer." Slowly I accept myself as I am today.

    I so look forward to the next part(s?) of your realizations. They will, I know, help us as we journey on. Peace.

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  25. Nice to read you venturing back into the blogging world. Just listen to yourself, not what others may say. My experience was sometimes I welcomed being alone, other times i wanted to be in settings with others around with whom I did not have to interact as didn't know them, and sometimes with a friend(s). I could be out and feel an urgency to come home, so did. Other times the reverse would be true. My attitude toward attending funerals has always been unortthodox compared to traditional views so regret you feel you must come up with an excuse -- some slight personal gesture, if just a written message, can let the person who matters know you cared. Often contact later can be more welcome. We each journey in our own way, so taking each day as it came was all I could do. Thinking of you.

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  26. One day at a time, life goes on and so must you. I have been speaking my mind for some time now, just the way I am. I was tired of not saying it like it was...so you go gal...do what you want when you want :)

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  27. Oh, you give such a vivid description of this state of mind. I am glad you are returning to blogging, even if slowly. You know you need to get out and do more, and as long as you hold on to that, you will heal.

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  28. So good to seer you back
    most has been said.
    I understand about funerals
    do not go anymore
    a note or later lunch or something baked
    I do not feel ashamed about this
    we need to take care of ourselves
    Now that I am in my 80' more important then ever.
    My thoughts are with you...

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  29. It seems rather early for funeral teas and everyone will understand your absence . The next time you meet the widower you can offer your condolences privately , secure in the knowledge that he and the family understand perfectly how you feel .

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