Bunny who?

Why? Who? What's this blog about? It's about MEEEE!

Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow

Astrocytoma

About Jane's brain tumour journey: Astrocytoma.co.uk
 

You no longer died this year

31 December 2011

Liefie,

In a few hours it will be 2012. The start of a year in which you were never even alive. That is a thought I can barely comprehend. A year where nothing will have any memories we made together.

From then on, when people ask, I will have to say "My wife died last year". That makes it sound like it was all so long ago. People will start to feel sorry for me but also start feeling that I must obviously be well on the way to 'moving on' because after all, it will be 'last year' instead of 'a few months ago'.

I don't care if it was a few hours, days, weeks, months or years ago that you died. Because part of me died with you. And like you never forget the day you were born, you also never forget the day you die.

xx
Keep Reading: "You no longer died this year"

I want to be loved...by you?

29 December 2011

Liefie,

Maybe this is not for public discussion but my ethos of this blog is: if you promise people to tell them what it is like to be a widow, then I believe I should tell them what it is like to be a widow, warts and all.

Lately I have been fretting over something. It is difficult to explain and in some ways, it tears me apart.

Right. I will just come out and say it. It has been exactly 7 months today since you died (Duh, of course I don't have to tell you this, you were there). I miss you so much. And I cry for you frequently. But I would really like to wake up with somebody again. Somebody to make me tea & croissants in bed. Somebody who sends me a text to check if I am having a good time. Someone I can call just to let them know I miss them.

I wish that person to be you. But since it can't be you, would someone else be nice? That is what I am struggling with. I know I miss YOU, but am I also missing love in general?

I am still so full of love that has no outlet right now. You were ripped away from our future at a time when we were closer together than we had ever been before. Like a car that comes to a sudden stop, the bodies inside keep moving forward until physics catches up and realises the car has stopped. I feel my love is still hurtling along. But is that just love for you that I am looking to project on someone else or is it also love 'in general' that I am ready to give to a new person?

No, I have not met anybody. It is not about having somebody specific that I would like to project my emotions on to. It is about determining what this feeling is exactly. Missing you or missing loving and being loved. Or both. Are they linked or are they separate? Can I miss loving and being loved by you at the same time as loving and being loved by someone else? Isn't that betrayal?

Lord knows I miss you. Every second of every day. Everything is measured in With Jane and Without Jane. Everything I see is judged by whether you would like it or not. Every joke I hear makes me think: Jane would/would not have liked that. But can I miss you this much and still think: I'd like someone to care for that is not Jane?

I guess the fact that I have just burst in to tears writing this gives me the answer. It is you that I miss. Your arms. Your smile. Your skin. Your hug. Your cuddle. Your wit. Your love for me. My love for you. And as far as I can see right now, it will always be you. You told me to go and find someone else and I am sure I will at some point. But how will I know that what I am missing is being loved and not just being loved by YOU? How will I know when I am ready to accept someone else for who they are, rather than projecting you upon them and setting them up to fail by comparison?

You used to smile your understanding smile when once again I was holding both ends of a conversation. When something looked like a discussion between two people but in reality I was not looking for advice but just someone to talk at whilst I worked things out in my head. Or out loud. With input from you actively discouraged.

See, at least that is something you can still do for me.

No idea what this entire stream of thoughts was for. But there you have it.

Love you.
Xxx

PS: I spent the evening being told all about Malvern Girls' College, playing Shithead, evading the motion sensors in the corridors and the back pages of DIVA Magazine. You'll know what that means.
X
Keep Reading: "I want to be loved...by you?"

Christmas without You: Doing OK

28 December 2011

Angel,

M and I went snowboarding again today. I'm afraid I have turned him against skiing. Sorry. I know you would not approve. I was wearing your jacket and your goggles. Your helmet does not fit me. Your head was too big! Your sister has asked if she can have your ski boots. Of course she can. I won't use them and I would rather they get used. She did not want your blades though. 

Anyway....yes...snow. It feels very strange to be in the snow without you swishing past at high speed at times. It is good for me to be here in New Mexico at Christmas but it also feels a bit weird because it is so separate from real life. I could almost pretend I am on a holiday and you just happened not to come along. I know, I know, we never went away without each other but still....it is the idea that you might still be there when I come back.

All in all I am having a good time. In fact, the only times I get upset is when I write these blogs. It is easy to keep busy with all kinds of things an new experiences ad impressions of a place I have never been to. But when I am writing you a letter, I am reminded again of the fact that you are not there and that you will never read these letters, no matter how many I write. 

I was going to write more but I can't as I am crying too much. 

I wish I could send you a text to say I am doing OK and that I miss you. And that you would text me back to say the bed is cold without me and that you are keeping my side warm. But I know you won't. I know you never will again. And it breaks my heart every day. 
Keep Reading: "Christmas without You: Doing OK"

Merry Christmas, Angel

25 December 2011


Keep Reading: "Merry Christmas, Angel"

Christmas without you: Snowsports

24 December 2011

Liefie,

You used to tell me how fantastic the snow in North America is. How it is much better than the snow in France and that you would take me some day to see for myself.

Today I went snowboarding on Sandia Peak, just outside Albuquerque. I took A & M with me, although A was slightly reluctant at first. We agreed that you would probably be disappointed that they were both going snowboarding instead of skiing. Tough.

I gave them some tips & hints for a bit and then they had a 2-hour lesson. During that time I ventured out on my own. There was hardly anybody out there between the trees on the un-groomed pistes. I missed you. You were right: it is beautiful in North America on the slopes and the snow is better than in France.

I sat down halfway down a nice run through the trees and thought of you. The wind blew snow off the trees. The falling snow looked like fairy dust in the bright sunlight. I was expecting to feel some deeply powerful emotional things, being there without you. But instead, I felt nothing. Just emptiness. I wanted to cry but no tears came. I don't think I was upset. It was just weird not having you to share it with.

The evening finished with a nice session in the hottub in the backgarden. You hated hottubs so I don't feel too bad about enjoying that.

So far this trip is good fun. However, I am starting to wonder if it was not such a good idea after all to run away from Christmas. I mean, I read from other widows having an excruciatingly difficult time at Christmas and I seem, once again, to be doing quite OK. Some general sadness but no big breakdown. Could that be because I have run away to the US instead of staying home and facing the music? Should I not be facing (any possible) pain and loss head on?

I don't know. I miss your company, I miss your jokes, I miss your smile, you touch, your kiss, your smell, your wit. Everything. And yet I appear to be functioning without you. And Yet I appear to be able to have fun without you. What does that mean?

I love you. Life without you is pretty monotonous. Yes I know I am doing loads of stuff, but emotionally speaking, it is all pretty meh... I wish you were not dead. I wish it was still last year. Or the year before that. Or the 6 years before that....

Jane in December 2010.
I love you

xx
Keep Reading: "Christmas without you: Snowsports"

Christmas without You: A walk through the snow

22 December 2011

Liefie,

Saw my first bit of proper National Park today. We drove to the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, about an hour out of the city. It was snowing heavily and at some point we weren't sure if it was safe to hiking once we got there. I am very glad we persevered though.
It was really lovely. Wrapped up warm, we hiked through the canyon for a couple of hours. You would have loved it. Although I know you were also prone to a bout of laziness so not sure if you would have enjoyed the long walk :-) I do recall a few times when we were on holiday when we drove somewhere for a walk, only for you to look around after leaving the car and saying: Seen it, now let's have tea somewhere, I don't fancy this long walk. I secretly loved your laziness because often I would think the same thing but did not want to say it :-)

Either way...the snow was lovely and cold. On the way back to the car, I walked ahead of A & M and had a bit of a cry. I missed you so much and I was so sad you were not able to share this with me. That I could not share my excitement with you. That I could not walk hand in hand with you whilst smiling and admiring nature.

A. caught up with me and silently took my hand. We walked hand in hand for a while. I guess we were both missing you.

In the evening, we went to a basketball game for the University of New Mexico. Quite the experience. The singing of the national anthem, people standing with their hands on their hearts. Certainly more fun than going to a university game in England!




M. is putting up tinsel and lights around the house, Paul McCartney is simply having a wonderful christmas time, there is snow on the ground, I am with your friend in New Mexico. I miss you terribly.

I love you.

xx
Keep Reading: "Christmas without You: A walk through the snow"

Christmas without You: I'm here.

21 December 2011

Liefie,

Aidan & Matt have a very nice spacious home with a pool and hottub in the garden. Both are covered with snow at the moment but I am sure I'll get to use the hottub before I leave.

Their three cats are really rather cute. You would love the snow. Today we are apparently going for a little drive around the area. I can see the mountains from my bedroom. It looks very exciting. Remember how you said you would take me skiing in North America some day? Well, I'm here now. And you are not.

I know you would never forgive me if I went to snowy America and not go out to play on the slopes. Aidan wants to learn to ski but I can not teach her. So I'm afraid I will have to turn her in to a snowboarder. Sorry. I know that is sacrilege in your eyes. Tough. You are not here to stop me. Hahaha! I am victorious. I am looking forward to the snowboarding because it will be a little easier to do it this way: as part of this trip, rather than having a full-on snow holiday on my own for the first time. Then I would just feel so alone all the time. Hopefully next time when I do go on my own, it won't feel so daunting.

Things I have learned about America already:

- It IS possible to have towels that are both soft AND absorbent
- Packaging really IS a lot bigger than in Britain
- Cars are not cars. They are trucks. And they are enormous.
- People really Do say: England, is that in France?

I know, so far that is not much to have discovered. But there will hopefully be more to write about soon.

I know I have said this before but I really really miss you. You would so have enjoyed the adventure. Aidan said that she would like to think that if you were still alive, we would still have come over for Christmas together.

Tonight I will be finally sending you the Chinese lantern we got for your birthday. There is no wind in this country and I brought it along. I know it is not your birthday anymore but I hope you don't mind.

xx
Keep Reading: "Christmas without You: I'm here."

Christmas without You: The Trip

20 December 2011

Liefie,

I am waiting around Gatwick Airport at this unholy hour of 4.50am, waiting for my flight to the USA to board. I just could not face Christmas with family this year. Not yours, not mine. Of course if you are 'out there' you already know all this so not sure why I am writing this down. I now understand why people are desperate to believe there is something after death. Some way to answer all the questions that have remained unanswered. All the questions that have popped in to my head since you died.
We both never believed there is anything after death. We put our faith in science. But that does not mean that I don't wish sometimes that you could hear me. Or better, that I could hear you.

Anyway... I must thank you for your good taste in friends. I guess going to Malvern means you have friends for life, even if you did not see them very often. Well, your friends are taking good care of me. I have been to see Vicki in Manchester, had dinner with Abi and on your birthday earlier this month, Vicki and Laura came to Northampton to raise a glass to you.

And now I am off to the USA to spend Christmas & NYE with Aidan & Matt. They invited me before I even knew I needed to go. And I need to go. Away from home. Away from here. But not away from you. I will be away from everything but because I am with someone who knew you, there is plenty of space and opportunity for me to think of you and to talk about you. I just did not think you would mind if I did all that thinking and talking whilst sitting in a hottub in New Mexico.

Bear and me in the bear cardigan
(not to be confused with your bear jumper)

I take you with me wherever I go. Not that I carry your ashes around with me. But the next best thing: Bear. Remember Bear. He has been with us since we met. When I first gave him to you when your nan died and I could not be with you. You held Bear when you were ill. You held him when you died. And now I hold him every night. Sticking with the bear-theme, I am wearing the cardigan I bought you in Scotland in January this year. The one that makes you look like a bear. Although you said it made you look like a giant brown poo.



I am shattered before I have even set foot on the plane. I hope Aidan does not mind me sleeping right away once I arrive.

I miss you. It is completely wrong to be making this trip without you. Since you can not be with me, I will just tell you all about it as the days pass. I love you.
Keep Reading: "Christmas without You: The Trip"

Christmas without Jane

19 December 2011

When Jane died in May this year, Christmas seemed a century away. I was looking at surviving hour by hour, day by day. Losing my 27 year-old wife to a brain tumour after 8 years together was enough to handle. I thought that by the time Christmas came around, I would be over the worst and more than able to deal with it.

Jane in the snow. Christmas 2010.
Wrong.

Grief is not about how long it has been since I last saw Jane. How long since I last held her hand, that morning in the hospice when she took her last breath. It is about going through this new life, having to do everything on my own again. Every day brings a new 'first'. First dinner party without Jane. First camping trip without Jane. First evening of coming home after work to an empty house.

First Christmas without Jane.

We loved Christmas. We knew last year it would be Jane's last and having a white Christmas was so perfect. The photos of Jane in the snow are incredibly dear to me now. I want to be with Jane this Christmas and if that is not possible, I want to be with someone who was close to her. Unfortunately I have very little contact with Jane's family so they are not an option. My folks live in The Netherlands. They want to give me comfort and warmth and share my pain. But they only knew Jane through me, from our 2 visits per year.

I have found a compromise. I am spending Christmas in the USA with Jane's best friend who moved out there a few months after the funeral. Away from everything that reminds me of Jane, this friend has new stories to tell, photos to share, tears to cry. Yes, I will have to face it next year, but for now, escaping into memories is the best I can do.

(This is the text I submitted for an article in DIVA Magazine about surviving Christmas this year. It was published in their January/February 2012 issue which you can order on the DIVA website.)
Keep Reading: "Christmas without Jane"

Grief or sick?

15 December 2011

I am a little over 6 months and I have noticed something rather odd lately. I have gone back to looking at info about brain tumours, reading about cancers, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, Astrocytomas, life expectancy etc. Like I used to do when Jane was still alive. I have also started listening to the music we played at Jane's funeral again, specifically BECAUSE it was played then. It does not make me any more sad, nor am I trying to make myself cry. I don't really know why I am doing this or what purpose it serves.

In some weird, sick way, I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that life was incredibly hectic in Jane's last 5 months and since then, emotionally at least, it seems to have just... well...stopped. Could it be that I am trying to regain some of the feeling of 'excitement'? Am I trying to recreate the state of heightened mental alertness or something, like adrenalin junkies do?

Not sure if this is related but as someone with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), I function quite well when I am in a state of permanent alert. Which of course I was with Jane. Always on my toes, always aware of the need to care for her, always making sure everything was fine. Bot mentally and physically, I am was constantly responsible for something.

I would have thought I would want to forget the period of Jane's illness as soon as possible, or at least deal with the emotions from that period and move on. Instead I find myself re-living parts of it. Not in an obsessive way or in a way that is upsetting or traumatic. But in what way exactly I don't know. I know it is not 'reliving' in the sense that people say they do after an accident or when they have nightmares about something that has happened to them.

I just think about it a lot. Does that mean I wish I could have those days back? Those days of illness, sadness, fear and pain? Those days of feeling almost one with the person I love most. The days when everything I did, I did for her, out of love for someone who needed me. Is that what I miss? It is all of it and more.

But I am confused by this. If I am not reliving this period in order to feel upset and work through my tears, why would I want to do it? Could it be as simple as 'it is an activity I used to do a lot and suddenly that activity has stopped and just like with anything that was a huge thing in your life, you have to wean yourself off it somehow?

It would make more sense to me if this need to re-visit was somehow driving me to get active in the fight against brain tumours or something. But that is not it. It never was back then for Jane and me and it isn't for me now.

Am I some sick person who thrives on other people's terminal illness because it is 'exciting'?

What the fuck is going on here?

Update: After a bit of thinking and discussing this with my Facebook friends, I have gained a little more insight in this, I think. I have realised I have not really described properly what I am feeling.

The time of Jane's illness was so hectic and I was always on the go. I love being like that. Now everything is calm and quiet and I feel flat and uninspired. Does that make sense? What I miss is not the time Jane was ill but the fact that I had a single purpose in life and felt in a mode of 'hyper focus'. It just happened to be caused by Jane's illness. I guess I thrive best on drama, whatever kind it is.

Although of course I did not want Jane to be ill, her last 10 months were also the most touching and loving time I have ever spent with anyone or ever could have hope to spend with anyone...such conflicting emotions.
Keep Reading: "Grief or sick?"

Grief interrupted

12 December 2011

The past 4 days I have been completely slammed with work. I mean: start at 7am and not get back home until after 10pm with no real break at any point. I have been too busy to think of anything.

I have realised how important it is to have time to myself.

Time to grieve.

I have not cried in 4 days. I have not felt sad in 4 days. I have not felt happy in 4 days. I have felt nothing in 4 days. Too busy working.

Only 4 days and already I hate this emptiness. I guess this is how people hide from their grief and pain. They bury themselves in work so that no other thoughts can enter their head.

Me, I prefer 'active grieving'. I miss grieving. Does that make sense? I know I need to feel the pain in order to learn how to live with it. Feeling nothing in the past 4 days has felt wrong. I want to feel something but I have simply not had the time or opportunity.

Luckily my rota is better for next week. A few evenings at home, alone. That will give me a chance to let my emotions catch up a bit. Not so much that I want to spend some time crying, but I have not had any chance to think about Jane for the past 4 days. And I miss that. The quiet contemplation, the happy memories and the sad ones.

What a weird feeling to feel absolutely nothing. I am very uncomfortable with that.
Keep Reading: "Grief interrupted"

Useless things

08 December 2011

Sometimes it does not take much to bring on the feeling of total loss and loneliness. How the simple sight of a ski helmet can remind me of "Never Again" and the pointlessness of everything.



France 2006

I am sorting through stuff to take with me on my Avoid Christmas trip to the USA. As it is snowing overthere, I had to open the box with all our ski and snowboard gear. Jane was an excellent skier. Now I am sitting here in my chair, wearing her ski jacket and her scarf and I am just crying and crying. I desperately want to feel in touch with some part of her but there just is nothing there....
Keep Reading: "Useless things"

Aunti Jane is a Star

04 December 2011

We used to visit Holland a couple of times a year. If that. My sister's two daughters however, knew exactly who we were. She had made a conscious effort to show them pictures of us so they would recognise us when we did come over. When Jane died, my sister explained to her that Aunti Jane was very ill and that people who are old or very ill die. And when they die, they become little stars. This tied in neatly with the cemetary that is near their house. My sister explained that when people become Stars, a cemetary is where we bury their pelt*

After Jane's funeral, I went to visit my family in Holland for a week. The eldest of my neices, F. ran to me as soon as she saw me and said: Aunti Marieke, Aunti Marieke, Aunti Jane is now a star.

She then went on to explain that Aunti Jane could be seen at night in the sky but that she was unsure which of the many stars was Aunti Jane. She looked at me and said: Now you are all alone. Are you sad?

Throughout the week, she kept mentioning Aunti Jane at times and asking me about being alone.

Last week, I was in Holland again, 6 months after Jane's death. My eldest niece once again asked me about Aunti Jane, that she is a star etc. As we were playing together, she looked at me and said: are you still all alone without Aunti Jane? I told her I was. We played on and she mumbled, whilst drawing a random picture: Now you have nobody.

A few days later, we were outside in the dark. In the sky was a single very bright star. Without prompting, she pointed at it and said: That is Aunti Jane there. The other stars are not very bright so they can't be Aunti Jane.

For a little girl of 4 (5?) I find that very impressive. Not only is she aware of death (in her own child-like way), she also realises death means Gone Forever. And that this creates emptiness and loneliness for those left behind.

It is very touching that she cares and remembers. The first few times she brought this up, especially on the first trip, my parents and my sister winced. They were worried the direct approach would upset me. In reality, I really like the disarming honesty of children. They are full of questions and just want to ask them. They are not yet hindered by social conventions about things like death. They don't worry about upsetting me when they ask their questions. Sometimes that is bad but most of the time, in my case, I quite like it. A direct question means I can just talk about Aunti Jane for a bit :)

I wish more people would just come up to me and ask: Are you feeling sad because you are all alone?

* The word my sister used for pelt was 'velletje'. This is a dimminutive Dutch word for skin or thin membrane. Velletje is most commonly used when referring to the pelt of a small animal. Using this term neatly avoided using the more confrontational word 'bodies'.
Keep Reading: "Aunti Jane is a Star"