The life of a young widowed father with the will to help others with advice and positivity.

Archive for: July 2013

Force a Smile in the face of Adversity

 

The last few posts have been a little sad and depressing so thought I would mention something I use to do all the time when times were not so great.

Forcing a smile.

Smile

 

I use to make Helen do it all the time. When she was down and we had finished talking about whatever rubbish we were sad about I use to try and get a smile out of her even if she didn’t want too. I just kept on and on and on telling her to just put a big smile on that face. She use to get annoyed at me because I wouldn’t stop until she did smile. After a while I would start acting stupid and she knew I wouldn’t give up so that in itself would make her smile. Even if it was a ‘oh shut up Mike you’re just annoying’ type smile. But once that smile was on her face she would always instantly laugh and feel much better.

It doesn’t solve anything or make things go away, it just makes you feel better inside which in turn makes things that little bit easier.

I use to do the same with high fives… When something was good I use to try and get Helen to do a high five. Again I think she thought I was just acting like a kid when I wouldn’t give up. She would do it and it would always make her chuckle.

The power of a smile is amazing no matter what you are going through. For me it just seems to make me feel different inside, almost lighter in a way and just makes me feel better about things. Like I said it doesn’t solve anything but just changes your mindset a little. After all if you have to deal with something you may as well deal with it with a smile on your face rather than be totally desperate and miserable.. Not always easy I know and timing needs to be right. I wouldn’t recommend smiling and laughing during a funeral ceremony… Others may think your a little mad.

Also….. Even when times are bad it’s a good idea to try and make sure you have some good times and laughs. The way I see it is that you don’t want to have to remember all bad stuff. It would be nice to have some good times to remember plus there is that added benefit of how it makes you feel at the time. Helen and I use to just stop indulging ourselves in whatever crap we were dealing with, Park it away for a bit and try for some normality. Our normality wasn’t your average normality but it was normal to us. So we took what goodness we could from it and enjoyed it.

 

Initial Grief

 

I wanted to try and step back a bit to re-think how I felt the first few days / weeks after the event, what I did and the initial Grief.

Firstly though I do know that I am glad I am not still living in that time and am past that initial phase. I remember clearly that it kind of felt like life just stood still but at the same time the clocks still ticked and time continued on regardless.

I am sat here trying to remember what I did in that first weekend but I can’t remember. All I know is I spent my time with the kids helping them start their own grief journey. That bloody word ‘Journey’ is starting to annoy me. Its the best way to describe this but at the same time the word to me is a good word meaning a nice holiday or something not anything to do with death or grief…

Anyway the Monday after I went in to my usual ‘Lets get this sorted mode‘. So I organised appointments to pick up death certs, register the death and started to sort out the affairs. I was also keen to keep the kids routine as normal as possible. Losing a parent is obviously crap at any age but for them if I started changing things around I thought that would upset the apple cart even more. So they continued on at schools and nurseries as usual. I made sure to speak to the teachers about what I had told the kids for continuity and actually they were great.

The days were OK. I had the kids to focus on and things to sort out. The evenings however were another world of pain. Evenings as far as I can remember back were mainly just me and Helen but suddenly I was alone and it was quiet. Deafly quiet apart from maybe hearing one of the kids snoring. I remember having to keep the lights on as I walked around the house. Probably said it before but I was really scared that Helen was going to pop out behind a door or something. Blimey.. as much as I would love to see her that would’ve probably broken me. I even had to have the light on all night when I went to bed like I was a little baby boy… thankfully now I am OK with the lights out.

So with the evenings quiet and without having to watch Eastenders I spent the time looking through all our pictures of the last 7 years trying to remember what we had and make sense of it all. I also wanted to get the kids some pictures of mummy in their rooms and fill up some photo books I bought for them so her face was never far away. The evenings of the first few weeks were mainly spent filling out forms and organising the funeral. I just kept myself busy. I really struggled to get to sleep though and would do all I could to stay awake but once I dropped off that was me until the morning. Actually the going to bed bit was horrible. I always half expected Helen to be in bed when I went to our room but it was always dark, cold and lonely.

I do remember a time though the day I went to register the death. I had collected all the forms from the hospital and drove over to Bath. I had time to walk around the shops and grab a coffee before my appointment. I even bought some new chinos and a shirt…. The guilt I felt was unbelievable. There I was.. the sun shining and out shopping in Bath. Kids were safe at school or nursery and I had a bit of me time. I knew Helen would have loved to be there with me and all I kept saying was sorry…. “Sorry”.. that’s for another blog post

The appointment to register the death brought back some crazy memories of when I had to do the same thing after my father passed away. Same questions, different person.

Q: How was the deceased related to you?

A: My wife…..

I am sure I had a look of amazement when I said that. I sure felt it.. How can this be? what on earth did I just say?

Actually some memories are flooding back… See it’s good to write stuff down..

I remember one of the first things I did was to bag up all Helen’s medication. I hated the stuff and I wanted it out. It filled up a black bag and I took it straight to the local GP to sort through. That in itself was a relief. No more drugs to think about….  Also I cleared out all the medical equipment we had in the house which helped Helen do stuff. That all went in the garage and I arranged for the company to come and get it all. It felt strange getting rid of it all but I just needed to get that in order.

A key thing I remember was 2 weeks after was my 35th birthday. My Mother in law arranged for us all to go out for food… I guess to celebrate but I think we were just all going through the motions. It was one of the weirdest experiences of my whole life. Sat there with all of Helen’s family for a family do and she wasn’t even there. What was even more ridiculous was afterwards when I was getting in the car alone with just the kids to drive home and then walking into a quiet, empty, dark house just the 3 of us. It felt so wrong.

Like I said I am glad this time has passed. It’s just a very difficult confusing stage. All your emotions are flying around your head and you have no idea where to start. Also I guess it’s the start of adjusting to a new way of life.

So what can we all take from this… I guess that we all have to deal with change. We may not want that change in our lives but sometimes we don’t have that control. We have to start somewhere. Also life goes on no matter what happens.. Time will just continue to tick away without a care and without looking behind. One second finishes and another one starts… What happens during those seconds time itself just doesn’t give two shits about. Simple as that.

 

My Daughters 1st Birthday without a Mum

 

A bitter sweet day today as it was my daughters 1st birthday without a mum. Princess Olivia’s 5th Birthday party and the 1st of the kids birthday parties without Mummy. Even writing that makes it hit home even more.

My daughter had her 5th Birthday party and Mummy was no where to be seen…

I stood and looked around and she was not there with us. I couldn’t hear her voice, her laugh. I couldn’t see her smile or gorgeous face. I couldn’t even hear her bossing us all around in her attempt to make the day as perfect as possible like she would’ve done.

Even when I started organising it she wasn’t there to talk to Olivia about what she would like to do, who she would like to invite. She wasn’t there to help write the lists, buy the presents, the food, the decorations.

She wasn’t even there to prepare the food or decorate the room. She wasn’t there to watch her children play, watch them laugh, watch them dance. She missed seeing our precious daughters face as we all sang happy birthday and she blew out the candles.

She’s gone… gone forever because I know damn well that if she could’ve been there today she would’ve been.

Mum and daughter

 

It’s cruel that’s what it is.

But…….. We all had a great time. Olivia loved being centre of attention with all her friends and family. Even though Olivia…. that innocent little girl who lost her mummy nearly 5 months ago was still very happy. It was perfect, everything went to plan and everyone had fun. I know Helen would have been so very proud and happy that we were all able to have these special times.

So even though my wife wasn’t there I realise I am very lucky to be able to watch Olivia dancing and playing with all her friends so very happy.. and watch Marley play with his cousins while laughing hysterically. I was lucky to have been able to organise this for our daughter and try and make it as special as possible. The kids are lucky to have been able to have the party and lucky to have had this special times.

So a bitter sweet time indeed but with just that little bit of extra sweetness.

I cannot let the sadness of the past destroy the happiness of the present and future.

We missed mummy but we had a bloody good time.. no other option.

A Carer

 

A Carer? Really?

During the last few years I was on and off a carer to my wife and when I said this to people I would sometimes receive a strange response. A kind of surprised look. I think it was more because it was given a label rather than anything else.

There are 2 reasons why I mention this.

First reason is that there are many people out there who don’t even realise that they are a carer. Again maybe they don’t realise the label it’s given rather than not knowing that they are helping someone.

So what is a Carer? (Text taken from http://www.carers.org/what-carer)

A carer is someone of any age who provides unpaid support to family or friends who could not manage without this help. This could be caring for a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems.

Anyone can become a carer; carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age. Many feel they are doing what anyone else would in the same situation; looking after their mother, son, or best friend and just getting on with it.

Carers don’t choose to become carers: it just happens and they have to get on with it; if they did not do it, who would and what would happen to the person they care for?

The second reason is that during my time as a carer I did use the services of http://www.carers.org/ and had counselling which taught me many things I would like to share.

The counselling sessions for me was the one place I could go where someone actually understood fully the pressures I was under. I mean I had a full time job, 2 young kids, a house to run and a wife to look after; not to mention my own emotional turmoil of watching my wife go through this awful journey. Granted I had some priceless help from relatives but most of the time when I was not at work I had all this to contend with on my own. It was very hard, very tiring, very stressful and put extra strain on life.

Also what made the caring more complicated was that I was caring for the one person that was closest to me; My wife and best friend. But through the sessions I learnt some valuable lessons.

1. How to separate the roles

I learnt to make sure I made time for us as a couple and not always about looking after Helen..  Helen loved Eastenders so we would always watch that together. I think over the course of my time with Helen she somehow drugged me to like that utter rubbish so I was hooked too. Thankfully I weaned myself off of it these days but at the time it was something nice we both enjoyed with a nice Cuppa. I actually miss those times.

Sometimes though I would, make some nice food for us or I would switch off the TV and we would just talk. Talk about anything and everything. Or maybe play a game together on the iPad. Just anything that makes you both interact with each other and enjoy each others company. Those times were so important because we could both feel a bit normal again without all the other pressures of life. We just enjoyed each other and that was key in getting us through. During those times Helen was no longer ill, I was no longer stressed out caring for everyone and we were just being Mike and Helen. I would pay big dollars to have that time back.

We laughed a lot….

I was sure to savour those moment and are now priceless memories that will live on with me until I myself have to kick a big red bucket  (don’t know why it’s a red one), grow some wings and fly up to the Haven holiday camp in the sky. Hopefully Helen has secured a nice luxury Caravan for us over looking the clouds.

2. Make time for yourself

Now this is a very difficult one because that bloody awful emotion called guilt raises it’s dirty orrible little grubby face. It’s also difficult because I was always so blooming tired by the time the kids were in bed so just sitting down was fine with me.

But….  It’s very important to make that time because you need to be on form with your patients in tact and can’t just keep carrying on without it. I found that going to work was my outlet. Sometimes getting in the car in the morning for work leaving my wife and kids behind with someone else to look after them was amazing. Sounds bad saying that but it was true. I big jug of coffee nicely nestled in the cars coffee holder, radio 1 on and a 45 min drive to the office in peace. Then at work I was just a normal chap doing his day job. Often Helen would pop into my head especially if she wasn’t too well or we were waiting for results but mainly I would just get on with my work.

I also had went out for a few beers now and then with mates which is never a bad thing.

These two pieces of advice helped me get through and more importantly made the time Helen and I had together a much better place.

Questioning Myself

 

I know I have made it clear on The Aim  page why I have started doing this blog but I have no idea why I suddenly had the urge to do it. It just seemed like the right thing to do and before I knew it I had developed the website and I was ready to write my first blog post. I hesitated at that point wondering what to do…. 2 reason why I continued.

1. Because I had got this far I may as well give it a go

2. I figured something was pushing me in this direction so I should just go with it as I knew I had something to give

So, I wrote some blogs, launched it and the response has been fantastic.

So why at the weekend have I again questioned myself about it. Questions like..

Why

1. Why am I actually doing this?

2. Should I continue to focus on it?

3. If I do continue how do I reach out to more people? After all the point of this is to help people so I need to find the people who may think this could help them.

 

After thinking it through I realised that a lot of it boils down to the fact that I don’t want this to be about my story. About my wife and her struggles. Obviously that is the background but I want to steer this towards how we dealt with adversity in a positive way with humour and laughter and how that has continued on. This is obviously in my power to take it in the right direction.

With that my goal is to try to help people but I didn’t even know if I can help people with what I have to say. Should I focus on helping others when my own grief is still so raw?

But then I think about the updates I see from the WAY foundations Facebook page with often regular questions popping up from people. I have my answers to these question. Not necessarily the right answers for people but a different perspective with that positive twist I usually give.

I also questioned whether this is another thing for me to do to stop me thinking about the reality of what has happened. I often just find stuff to do in life to keep my mind occupied though I knew I would still write stuff down as I do that anyway because that helps me. Many times have I spent long nights just tapping away trying to extract some of the thoughts and emotions in my head. Even this post started taking its shape at 1am in the morning.

With all the writing I have been doing I already have about 30 blog posts themes ready to piece together. So why not share this?

I guess we all doubt ourselves sometimes and any new venture will exacerbate the doubt.

So still with these doubts the answers were given to me in I think an amazing way.

Last night I took some of my family out for some food to thank them for their help with the kids. I popped to the toilet with my daughter and on the way back the lady who owned the restaurant came to talk to me. She told me about someone she knew who found my site and who is going through some hardship of her own right now. She said my site was helping her get through these difficult times and that she checks it daily for any updates.

I was astonished. All those doubts faded away and it made me realise why I am doing this and that actually I can help people. In fact I know I already am and if this blog helps just one person then it’s met its target. Any more is a pure bonus for me.

Of course I should keep doing this and I should work harder to reach out to more people who may benefit from what I have to say.

I know I want to help people and I believe I can. I know Helen would approve as she was like me and would always lend her ear and help where she could.

So I shall continue to post blog updates and I will try and work out ways to reach out as far and as wide as I can.

If anyone out there can help me reach out further please get in touch.