Sunday, 21 January 2018

Yet More Rumaninations

An old acquaintance's funeral was held today and although I promised the person who told me of the death that I would present myself punctually at 2pm at St George’s I failed miserably to keep my promise. At 96 the friend was old indeed, his wife died several years ago and he had been in a nursing home for some time. I have yet to formulate a reasonably valid excuse; suffice it to say that it’s been a cold and miserably wet day, with snow and rain, the church itself is bitterly cold, there are always people in the congregation who are nursing winter chills and flu, apt to pass them on, funerals rarely do the deceased justice, and they are no longer on my list of must-attend occasions, particularly the formulaic Church dos, except in the case of people who matter to me. Call me what you like, weak-kneed, lazy, mean, selfish, all of those could apply.

Nowadays I find it hard to force myself to do things I don’t want to do. Perhaps I don’t try very hard? And I really, truly, definitely, do not mind if nobody comes to my funeral, which is going to be a very basic, simple and quiet affair.

In Victorian times things were very different; they shrouded grief in elaborate and complex rituals.

The depth of the band on a man’s hat and  the width of a black border on a piece of writing paper indicated to the world the precise stage that mourning had reached. Whether this made sorrow any easier to bear is debatable. Perhaps all that can be said of these fashions in mourning is that their intricacy kept people occupied when they most needed to be and provided an elaborate facade behind which to conceal their sorrow.” (Debrett’s Etiquette)

Lately I have started to think of the future. It’s still very hazy and rather than making plans for what I might want to do, I have clearer ideas on what I certainly don’t want to happen: having lost the most important person in my life I do not want to replace him; there will never be an unconditionally welcoming space within friendly arms again, all I can hope for is a companionable hug from a male or female friend to say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’. There are advantages to living on one’s own, i.e. without a co-habitee, house sharer or lodger. We cannot know what the future holds but I prefer not to have my space invaded, I prefer to be without a dependent being, or someone who tries to look into my mind and soul. I do not want to be disturbed or disarranged, and I do not want to be a caregiver again. I have brought up two children, taken care of my parents in their final years in different ways and looked after and cared for Beloved’s every need in his last year. I tell myself that I would love to be able to take care of him still, but I am not sure how keen I would be as his illness and confusion progressed into total disability. As it would have done had he lived. I miss him dreadfully, but maybe ten months later I see him more as the man he was before he fell ill.

Today I can make up my mind about what I want to do and when and how and why I want to do it. I don’t need to make compromises, I can arrange every day as I want it. Not an unalloyed pleasure, of course, it is a privilege which could easily bring loneliness and boredom and a descent into self-absorption. One can have too much of a good thing, as they say. I expect with time will come a way of finding activities that will fill the empty space.

I am not done with mourning. Strangely, grieving for Beloved has stirred up the pain of old losses. I find myself missing my parents all over again, thinking of them and their way of departing this world; I am even mourning the loss of my home country, something I have only ever done in the shape of temporary Heimweh. (Home sickness is not entirely the same) I also mourn the loss of my daughter who is alive and well, but lost to me all the same. I mourn my callow youth, the loss of friends here and in the old country and I mourn opportunities I missed and roads I have not taken.

Perhaps, with grief not as deadening and all-encompassing as it was, with finally accepting Beloved’s death and learning to come to terms with it, a period of calm reflection will bring relief and renewed hope for a bearable future. Darkest winter must turn to spring eventually.


  1. To me, grief is a long journey. My Dad passed almost four years ago. Grief visits me for spells here or there, then abates. The few days right after he passed I did not sleep. It was a jolt to my system, one I did not expect. It is hard to describe. I don't know what your beliefs are, but I think we were not meant for this. It is unnatural for us to die, which is why we grieve. It hurts.

  2. Hi Friko - you do write eloquently ... and mull deeply over your life ... I'm glad there are some good things - too often we dwell on the challenges, that then make life more difficult. It seems to me you're on the right track and are able to be yourself without succumbing to others' wishes. Sadly we all do things we shouldn't be doing ... I've too often not got up and gone out because it's cold, or I don't feel like it ... then I regret that ... sometimes I learn - other times the lazy being takes over.

    The mulling and mourning will allow your thoughts to filter through ... with all good wishes and thoughts from here - Hilary

  3. I am not sure grief has a time limit - the hole left by a loved one's passing is never filled in. We just walk past it or around it with a little less intensity as we continue with our lives. Your writing is as delicious as ever.

  4. I don't believe that we ever 'get over' grief. We find ways to live (mostly) with the changes it has made. And of course it triggers reminders of other losses. Which we also didn't get over.
    And if one of those changes is for you to consider your own wants and needs, good. Very good.

  5. Welcome to the tornado country of grieving, friend Friko ... Love, cat.

    1. ... because their are no steps of grieving and then there after Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen ... is there? ... c.

  6. A beautifully written post from your heart dear Friko. I believe we will grieve, but with less intensity, the rest of our lives for the loss of our dear husbands. You are still fresh in this new journey, it is all so raw, but you are growing as a person, finding ways to deal with your loss and finding positive things to help you along.

    Each day is a gift, may we see the beauty and joy of living in each one.

    Love, hugs & prayers ~ FlowerLady

  7. In grief therapy I learned that every departure of a loved one opens up every single loss in our lives anew.

    I commiserate on Daughter. I, too, know that pain, that vacuum.

    Self absorption is intrinsic to grief.


  8. I'd give you that hug again, more gently, perhaps.

  9. Not so strange that you are grieving old losses, which I'm sure you're counselor has told you is common after the loss of a loved one. And this is good. Not fun, not easy, but good, I think. And I feel strength and healing in your words and this makes my heart very happy indeed for you.

    Rick and I have been together 23 years. We see each other every day or at least talk -- sometimes ten minutes, sometimes the evening, and the weekends are much more together. And, we live two blocks apart. For both of us, our private space is essential and we were both pretty used to it before the other came along. You can have both if you ever decide you want it. Someone else just has to want that too, and I lucked out there!

    Gentle hugs from me, too.

  10. and so you should do only what you want and not feel any guilty about not doing what you don't want.

  11. Thank you so very much for responding to my sharing on my journal.
    Your kind words made tears flow. Not experiencing the loss of a loved one
    but the loss of all I have loved to do in my lifetime, trying a new way and
    it so far it is not me. I do now know that once you hit 80 years so much changes
    just my mind not where the body is - if this makes sense. The mind is moving, planning
    and the body can no longer keep up...

  12. I love your honesty. Grief is a lonely journey. Others can relate but do not have your individual pain and never will. We all go through it at our own pace and in our own way.

    I would have not gone to the funeral either.

  13. There is a point to family funerals. An assortment of neighbours catching 'flu together isn't quite the same. He'll be remembered by all in the village .

  14. Friko, your writing is very insightful. I too think you are on the right path... not an easy one, but you seem to be going in the right direction. I have not lost my husband of 50 years (we have been very lucky there), but I have had losses (mom, dad, brother, sister, and a very dear friend) so-oo although these losses are different from the loss of someone you've shared your hopes, dreams, and life with... they still change something deep inside you. And I have to admit that I fear that 'ultimate loss' so much that I often pray that it will be me that goes first. Then I think how selfish that is... as DH would have to go on alone. Women are generally stronger than men when it comes to enduring losses... or so it seems. But giving yourself as much space and time as you need seems to be the way to go. Going to a funeral during this phase of your grief might not have been a good idea, so I wouldn't feel bad about it.

  15. I see no crime, or even misdemeanor, in choosing to do what you deem important, or even simply self-protective, and not what others expect. You have more than earned the right to spend your time in the ways that are most valuable to you.

  16. Your wording is exquisite and profound. Loss begets loss, stirs up those memories of others. God bless you and now and always.

  17. Reading your musings, I was reminded of Hopkins's poignant poem. In time, all of us begin the un-leaving process, as friends, loved ones, pets, and even our own abilities and strengths begin to fade and fall away.

    Just today, I received word that a dear friend from Liberia had passed away. He and his wife were family to me during a difficult time, and even though we haven't seen each other for years now, I feel the sudden absence. Perhaps, in such circumstances, we truly are grieving for ourselves, as well: each departure a memento mori.

    But even where grief intrudes, it intrudes into life. I'm glad to see you moving into your new life with grace, and making the kinds of decisions that are right for you: e.g., not attending the funeral. No need for guilt, there. Sometimes a funeral can be interesting -- such as the family funeral where we learned one of my cousins was married to two women -- but those occasions are rare. I wish I could write about that one, but since all parties still are alive and perhaps reading my blog, I've chosen discretion. :-)

  18. Once more you are the trusted one ahead on the path whose testimony means so much to me. I'm taking notes, and already nodding my head at the first intimations of what you so well describe. Thank you for posting. I'm going home to Honolulu in a few weeks after 2 years in N. Calf. A strange sensation.

    "here are always people in the congregation who are nursing winter chills and flu, apt to pass them on, {agreed] Nowadays I find it hard to force myself to do things I don’t want to do. Perhaps I don’t try very hard? " Nor do I.

  19. It isn't strange to think of past losses or do a sort of life review when grieving. Grief counselors and therapists have told me these things can be part of the process. You are much more aware of your choices for yourself which is a good thing, no cause for guilt. Best to you.

  20. Just catching up with your latest posts here and finding them full of wisdom. I can't imagine rattling around in our house, alone, without the OC but, if I had to, I'd certainly give myself a long time to grieve and adjust before I'd dream of moving. He mentioned recently that he was now officially too old to do things he didn't want to do (in answer to my wanting him to go with me to an event I was interested in.) Good point, as you mentioned. But, in thinking I shouldn't go without him, I decided that I was too old to NOT do the things I wanted to do! As for exercise, we agree on this: that yoga is the best exercise, both for physical and mental well being. It really is true that you're only as old as you feel so anything that makes you feel young is a go! I wish you happy times and serenity....

  21. Dear Friko, as the song or poem--not sure which--says, "if winter comes, can spring be far behind." But, oh, grief can make the days feel long--almost hopelessly long. I think you have been in what Emily Dickenson called the "an element of blank." Now perhaps hope is taking root again in your heart. And out of that, who knows what possibilities for life may emerge.

    After three years of illness, I find myself once again taking up the reins of my life. I can no long drive, so i am in a sense somewhat of a recluse. I'm not the person I used to be, I find a new self emerging. I'm finding new ways to be independent. Just as you are. And I find myself opening my heart to growth in the human spirit.

    I hope that you are taking time and making the effort to like the Friko you are becoming. Peace.


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