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

Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow


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

The ball of grief

30 January 2012

Today is 7 months since Jane died. I have been extremely busy with work and my university applications and I have hardly had time to cry and grieve for the past 4 weeks.

I miss it.

Grieving, missing Jane, it is all I have left of her. I still love her but she is not there to love. So the only emotion I have left in relation to Jane is grief. Note how I am not saying I only have bad memories that make me cry. I have plenty of happy memories. But these do not evoke actual actute, physical feelings. Like when you look at someone and your heart skips a beat. Or when you wake up in someone's arms and you just feel utterly at peace and it brings you to tears. I don't have those feelings when I think of the past. I have happy memories and I can remember how I felt back then and those thoughts can make me smile. But that is like hearing the echo of a sound: you recognise it, you appreciate what the original sound was like but it is just not the same; it is a less powerful copy of the original.

And so the only physical, acute emotion Jane still evokes is grief. But at least it is an emotion. So I don't want to let that go.

This does not mean I want to spend every day, all day crying, thinking and dreaming about Jane. I think of Jane all the time, even when I don't know I'm doing it. Last week, on my way to my first Biology exam, I opened my mouth to sing along to a song in the car and without any warning at all, what came out was a cry and tears. No warning; I wasn't feeling sad or thinking about Jane specifically. Just like that I burst in to tears, my mind flooded wiwth memories of Jane and the overwhelming emptiness her death has left me with. Then I walked in to the exam room and forgot all about it for a couple of hours.

So what place does grief take in my life. I will use an analogy that isn't mine but is the most perfect illustration of how grief works.

Imgine a glass jar and 3 balls: a large one, a medium one and a small one. The ball is my grief and the glass jar is my world. The way people, including me, expect grief to go is that initially, like the large ball in the jar,mit takes over my entire world. It leaves no space to breathe, do or think of anything else. Then after a while, maybe after the first year, the grief shrinks. The ball is now a medium size and fits in the jar with some space around it. My grief is less, I have space to do other things in my world. After a while more, maybe after 2-3 years, the ball is now a small size. It fits in the jar that is my world easily. I could even ignore that it is there some times if I want to.

Does that sound familiar? Does that sound like your idea of grief? It certainly was my idea of grief before I lost Jane. Well, it is bullshit.

The ball of grief does not shrink. I don't want it to. It is the only thing I have left of Jane. What shrinks when you lose someone is your world.

So imagine this: at first, the ball of grief only just fits in the glass jar that is my world. There is no space to breathe or think of anything else. After a while, I am ready to expand my world a little. It is not the ball that shrinks, but the glass jar that goes up in size. As I venture out in to the world again, as I meet new people, do more things, the jar expands. There is now more space around my grief. It is still the same size but my world is bigger. As I continue to grow my world, the size of my loss, the grief, stays the same. But it DOES get easier to move around it.

Eventually, my world has expanded enough for my grief to not be in the way of everything I do all the time. It is not the grief that has shrunk, but my world that has grown. And that is the only way I can work around it, give it the place it deserves and still have a life beyond grief.

The original explanation of this is by Barbara Monroe.

So I will keep doing what I am doing. Growing my world. New job. New career. New friends. New place to live. Whilst inside me, the grief stays. And finds its own place in my world. But it will never get smaller.
Keep Reading: "The ball of grief"

Plymouth University Offer!

23 January 2012

Plymouth University told me last week it can take until March to know if they are going to make me an offer. Unless, they said, you are spectacular and we really want you. In that case, you'll know within a week.

It appears I am spectacular.
Keep Reading: "Plymouth University Offer!"

Where to go from here...

17 January 2012

I have had interviews at 3 universities so far. I have 1 offer already and I am feeling optimistic that all of them will make me offers.

So where do I go from here?

Until yesterday, Plymouth was my favourite choice. Great university, great city and beautiful countryside around. What more could I wish for in a new start? But as I was at the recruitment day, it began to dawn on me that Plymouth would also mean that I would be completely on my own. The area they cover for my practice placements is huge. Some placements can be a 3 hour drive away. So in order to make life easier, they asked us to choose a preferred area of practice and then all the practice placements in the next 3 years would be in that area.

This threw me. I had assumed I would move to Plymouth city and drive to my placements. However, they were suggesting that for some people it might be better to live near the area of their placements and commute to university on lecture days.

This would mean for me that I could end up being cut off from most of the university life, the student support, the nights out, the new friends I might make. As the practice placements are only up to 8 weeks, I would not be making firm new friends with the people I would be working with. In effect, I would be very much alone.

Most of the other candidates are 'local', that is to say, from Plymouth or from one of the neighbouring counties where the placements would be. This means they could live in Plymouth and, if they choose their home area as place of practice, live with friends or family when they are doing their practice. This is not an option for me.

They can not tell me where my practice area will be until after I have accepted my place at the University. Obviously I listed Plymouth as my first preference but there is no guarantee I will get that.

Is living near the sea so important that I would take the risk of loneliness and missing out on feeing immersed and included? I feel the answer might be No. I need friends around me. I need support. I need to feel study support is at the tip of my fingers when I need it.

Furthermore, hearing how all the other students were talking about discussing their options with their friends, partners or family made me feel very alone. I know I have friends. They will give me advice. And that is gratefully accepted. But I don't have someone to help me sort things out. Someone who will call the Student Loans people for me. Someone who will sit down with me at the kitchen table with pieces of paper and say: "Right, let's bash this out. This is your budget, this is what you need to do, do you need to sell the house, if so you need to do xyz..."

If I go to Coventry University, I would still not have someone like that. But at least I would still have my friends reasonably near by. I would move to Coventry but most of my friends would still be within an hour's driving away. Plymouth is at least 6 hours from anyone I know.

This is an unexpected development for me. I had not anticipated that this would be a problem. I guess seeing these other students with so many options and still have their friends, family and partners standing behind them like a safety net really brought it home that I am alone.

Loneliness is a different thing to being alone. When I am lonely, I know my friends will be there for me. But in the end, in my life, in this country, right now, I am very much alone.
Keep Reading: "Where to go from here..."

Lindt Bunny

11 January 2012


I got you your annual Gold Bunny today. I left it with some new flower bulbs. Maybe it is symbolic of something. Don't know.

Just wish you could eat the bunny like you used to do.

I love you.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.3
Keep Reading: "Lindt Bunny"

The Jane Memory Map

10 January 2012

I should be in bed or at least preparing for my interview at Coventry University tomorrow. But instead I worked on this: The Jane Memory Map.

Sometimes it seems to me that people around me don't understand how "everything reminds me of Jane" actually works. It seems they think I go around deliberately remembering things and locations. So I made a "Jane Memory Map" that shows how it works.

I am working as a home carer so I spend A LOT of my time driving around on my way to clients. And memories are around every corner. It does not mean every memory makes me cry, but it does mean I am reminded of Jane all the time, everywhere.

I think about Jane a lot. In fact, not a minute goes by that I do not think about her. Consciously or subconsciously, think about her. When someone says something, I remember Jane used to say that too. When I see something, I remember when I last saw it when Jane was still alive etc.

I don't do it on purpose. I really don't. I think this happens to all of us: memories flood our brains all the time but because they are not important to us at that moment, we don't even notice this process.

When I drive around, I notice every place we went to together and what happened there when Jane was still alive. I don't do it on purpose but memories just pop in my head. I am sure this happens subconsciously to everyone, whether they have lost someone or not. I just think that for widows, every memory is appended or prefixed by "when X was still alive".

For example, when Jane went to fencing every week, driving past the fencing club was not anything special. I just thought stuff like: Oh, it's Wednesday today, tomorrow is fencing night. And then my brain moved on.

But since Jane is dead, every time I drive past, I think: She used to fence here.


Without wanting to, the next few seconds, minutes are then spent thinking of things related to that place I just drove past. And then I drive past the next place that has a memory. And then the next place. And so I drive from place to place. Memory to memory.

So I made this map. It has pictures. And it has the thoughts I have when I drive past the places. It shows the memories I encountered today. Just today. And these memories pop up every single time I drive past these places. Which I do multiple times in the day as I drive around the area to my various clients.

A different day takes me to a different area with a similar amount of memories.

It turns out that most of the memories are not of specific big activities as such, but of feelings I had about that activity. When I think of Jane, a memory pops in to my head and the next thing I remember is what I was either feeling at the time of the event, or the emotion I feel about it now.

I am not explaining this very well I think. What I am trying to say is that without wanting to, everything reminds me of Jane. All day. Every day. I can not avoid it. It does not make me cry (well, most of the time it doesn't). All I need to do is to learn to give all these thoughts a place.

To see the map in its full interactive glory, visit the Jane Memory Map here.
Keep Reading: "The Jane Memory Map"

Still alive

09 January 2012

I am still alive. Due to working from 7am to 10pm every day, I simply have no time to post. This upsets me because there is plenty going on in my head.

I am working on something interesting (and on getting a different, more social, job) so please bear with me. I will post again as soon as I have some time to gather my thoughts.

Keep Reading: "Still alive"

Christmas without You: Going home

02 January 2012


My bags are packed, I am waiting to go to the airport. Back home to England. Somehow it feels like once again I am leaving behind a piece of our lives together.

This has been good for me. Being with A. & M has been fun. I have heard new things about you from your time at MGC that I did not know about. I got to talk about you. I got to cry about you. I got to laugh about you. I got to write to you.

The hard part of learning to live without you starts now. This is crunch time for me. For the university applications, for the GCSE exams, for me to show the world and myself I can do this. For you. For me. For you to be proud of me.

I was listening to Crowded House again this morning. I always liked this song. I am sorry I did not play a Neil Finn song at your funeral but hey, I wanted to leave a lasting memory (or should that be a scar??) for everyone and the chance of them hearing "Fall at your feet" at times in their lives are bigger than hearing one of Neil's obscure but brilliant tracks. See, always the pragmatic kind, I am.

This has always been one of my favourite songs. I still enjoy listening to it. Even though when I do, I recall every second of the 3.15 minutes when it was played in the crematorium. At the end of the lovely service, when the celebrant said: "We say goodbye to Jane for the final time by listening to a song from her favourite band."

I bowed my head and whispered along with the words. Then the celebrant came up to me and kindly asked me if I wanted to lead everyone out the auditorium. To which I replied: "Not yet! I am listening to the nice music!"

I recall the exact moment in the song when I finally did get up. It was when the instrumental break started. I got up and walked past your coffin. I am sorry I decided on closing the curtains now as in hindsight, I would have liked to be able to see you one more time.

And so, whenever I hear this song, I am ok. Until the instrumental break. Because that specific part is when I had to leave you behind for the last time. I am so sorry I had to.

If you are looking out for me out there, can you please make sure I get accepted in to Plymouth University and that I get the C in Maths && Biology that I need. Taa muchly.

I love you. Always.

Keep Reading: "Christmas without You: Going home"

A new year, a new start?

01 January 2012


Last night was so much more difficult than I expected. I was worried about surviving Christmas but I should have been worried about New Year's Eve.

I got a couple of generic Happy New Year text messages. Although they were meant well, I was slightly annoyed by them as well. People must know this is not going to be a very happy new year and surely they know NYE must be excruciatingly difficult. So why not take a minute to realise that a general message that says stuff like: "May all your hopes and dreams come true this year" means nothing to someone whose hopes & dreams have been shattered.

Oh well, at least I got some text messages I guess. And I suppose it is up to me to educate people on how to deal with a widow; what is helpful and what isn't.

We spent the evening in The Dirty Bourbon, a Western-style dance saloon/bar. I cried before we went at the prospect of a new year without you. The evening was quite good fun. Watched many cowboys line-dance and many many couples having a good time on the dancefloor. Around 11, we returned home because I had warned A & M that I would cry at midnight.

And I did. As we stood on the roof terrace with bubbly wine in our hands, I cried and cried. Quietly at first, silent tears running down my cheeks. But then A. gave me a hug and I did some proper sobbing. I had some irrational comments about how I should have been able to save you and I told A. I was sorry she lost her friend. I was very glad to be around one of your friends. It made me feel less lonely somehow.

You are missed, you know. Not just by me.

I can not express how I feel about going in to a new year without you. I feel more desperately lonely than I have ever felt since you died. The change of the year is just such a punch in the face. A very definite end to the idea, the fantasy, the delusion that maybe, just maybe, this is all a bad dream and you are simply away from me for a while.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the hardest part is about to start. In addition to missing you, I am starting to feel a crushing loneliness more and more often. When I think of what would happen if I had to go in to hospital for some reason for example. Who would be my next of kin? Where would I go? Who would come and visit? Who would care for me after I'd come home? Bit maudlin I know. But things like that just remind me that, apart from a few friends and acquaintances, I am basically alone here.

Self-pitying perhaps but I am allowed, I think. I have managed to avoid self pity since you died but right now I am feeling very sorry for myself. I am starting to lose the momentum I had with college, university, work etc. I am caring less and less about it and am even considering not bothering with it. But I know you would be extremely disappointed with me if I gave up. And I would be disappointed with myself. But after caring for you on your deathbed, what else could possibly ever bring me any kind of satisfaction?

Oh dear, I am talking nonsense right now. Perhaps it's because I am just feeling lost without you. I miss you. I don't want 2012 without you.

Keep Reading: "A new year, a new start?"