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
 

On new love

31 May 2012

These past few days have been very much filled with thoughts of both Jane and New Girlfriend. Girlfriend is brilliant and understanding about my baggage. She gives me space to cry when I need it. She laughs at my flippant jokes about death. But no matter how great she is, there is always an underlying issue.

She never knew Jane. So she will always feel like an outsider to whatever I do in relation to Jane. She is there for me but I am very much aware that in effect, none of it means anything to her, beyond the fact that she wants to be there for me. Like when I went to Malvern to mark the anniversary of Jane's death. I wanted Girlfriend with me because it would be nice not to be alone. But then again, she would be acutely aware of the fact that I only went there specifically to think about the love I used to feel for another woman. Or what about this Saturday, when I have organised a charity gig in Jane's memory. How will that be for her? To be there to support me and yet be surrounded by people who will be talking about Jane and how lovely we were together.

Is that fair? To drag someone along to something that is so personal and deeply upsetting? To bring someone along on a journey that is all about the sadness of losing someone she never knew, someone she feels she can never compete with, even if in her mind she knows it is not a competition. (And even if it was, since her opponent is dead, I would say Girlfriend is already the winner by default!)

We had a long talk about this. She admitted to having mixed feelings about Jane. We all have feelings about our lover's ex partner. Nobody likes hearing how we loved doing things with previous lovers. Nobody likes hearing how certain things were great and how we wish we could still do some of those things. But at least if it is a relationship that broke up, our new lovers have the consolation of knowing that despite all those great things, the relationship failed so it can't have been *that* perfect.

But if your lover's partner has died, where does that leave you? If they never intended to leave their partners, had it not been for death? How can you not feel somewhat jealous? How can you not feel in some way resentful towards this person who is making the woman you love so sad? How annoying must it be when so many people keep talking about how wonderful her previous lover was? How can you ever feel anything else but second best?

There are things I did with Jane that I will not be doing with Girlfriend. She doesn't like sport. So the part of my relationship where I would sit at the side of a rugby pitch, cheering on my mates, or where I go to Twickenham with my girlfriend to watch England in the Six Nations, that part will be lost to me. As will the part where I go to the pub with my Girlfriend to watch the football. Or F1 on tv. Those things will forever bring up memories of Jane.

But in return, there are things about Girlfriend that I never really had with Jane. Music, which has always been important to me, never played a big role in my relationship with Jane. It quietly vanished. But now, with Girlfriend, it is back. And I love it. I did not realise how much I had missed it. It is very much part of this New Thing.

For Girlfriend, it must be hard not to be afraid that I will decide I miss too many things and that what she brings to this relationship is simply not enough to keep me happy. This is complicated because if Jane was still alive, her fear might be that I wanted to go back to Jane. There would be a focus for her fear. A reason to be jealous and dislike Jane. But Jane is dead. So the things I miss about Jane and me are gone forever. There is nothing to go back to. And yet, the same emotions surface. And it makes her feel bad. But to me, it is perfectly understandable.

I can see why some widows find it difficult to date a non-widow. Because I feel I can not find the right words to explain to Girlfriend that she is not Second Best. And I fret that no matter what I say, she won't believe me. Because if I mean it, then why do I still have a picture of Jane in my room? But this may well be MY issue and not hers. Maybe I am projecting my own insecurities, thinking of how I would feel in the same situation. And god knows I would be much more insecure than she is.




Keep Reading: "On new love"

A year without you

30 May 2012

Liefie,

I went to Malvern yesterday. In the glorious sunshine, I walked up British Camp and then up to the top of The Beacon. You are always everywhere in Malvern. Even if I don't think about you specifically, you are always with me in that place. It is the place where you became You. Or maybe it is much more relevant for me than it ever was for you. Would that matter?

I don't feel a need to tell you what has happened this year. Either you already know or you have no way of knowing. In both cases, I would be wasting my time. Of course I know you have no way of knowing. You can't know. You no longer exist. It is a weird concept to wrap my hear around. All that is left of our hopes and dreams, all our plans, all our love, all our shared history; all that is left is a green plastic pot with a kilo of ashes.

I guess I should write a coherent post about how I feel a year after your death. Truth is, this day is only significant in a sense of: Time flies. I don't feel more sad today. I felt sad yesterday. When I thought about your last 24 hours.

As time goes on, my love for you changes. How can it not? You no longer love me back. I guess I miss you as my best friend now. I miss you a lot. I miss your friendship, I miss our shared history, I miss the things we used to do and talk about.

Some of those things I now do with Girlfriend because that's what people do in relationships. Other things I clearly only did with you. These things I still miss very much. Because I will never do them with someone else in the same way as I did them with you. Because they were specifically our things.

I have found my way back to life and to love. In 2005, you wrote me a letter before your surgery. You instructed me to be happy again if something were to go wrong. It took 6 more years for things to go very wrong. But I think your words were as valid then as they were when you first wrote them down. I am happy again. But I am no longer as careless and carefree about love and about life. Nothing is taken for granted. Your death has left my life covered with a thin veil of grey. It used to be a thick wooly blanket of grey. Now it is a thin veil. I think that will be as good as it gets. It is thin enough to let love and happiness through. It doesn't stop me from feeling, from laughing, from loving. But I will always know it's there.

I miss you. I wish you were still here to see what I am doing with my life. You would be proud of me. And you would be happy for me. I wouldn't be what I am becoming had it not been for you. (And yes, you would admonish me for the bad grammar of that sentence.)

m
Keep Reading: "A year without you"

How should I feel?

27 May 2012

I have been struggling to find words to explain how I am feeling right now. On Wednesday May 30th, it will be a year since Jane died.

How am I supposed to feel? I just don't know. People are asking me how I am. I have received emails & messages from people telling me they are thinking of me at this difficult time. But I don't know how much more difficult it is right now than it was last week. Or the week before.

I expected to be sad. And I am. But I had thought I was going to be sad about specific memories. I expected to think of Jane and feel sad. Instead, it seems to manifest itself as a more general feeling of sadness. I am generally feeling a bit down. I cry quickly over things that have nothing to do with Jane. I feel insecure and needy. I find myself clinging to my girlfriend a lot more at the moment. And all of that without specifically thinking of Jane. And this makes me feel bad and confused.

What does that mean? That I don't feel sad about Jane specifically? Or that I do? I guess that in the past year, I have felt all there is to feel on an 'individual memory' kind of basis. There is not a sad thought that involves Jane that I have not already had. So re-thinking these things does not make me sad like they used to. I have already been sad about losing my wife. I have been sad about my future not being what I once thought it was. I have been sad about being alone in a tiny room instead of in a nice place of my own with the woman I thought I was going to spend my life with.

But my life now also has so many happy things. I actually am not alone. I am rarely without my girlfriend. She makes me happy. We do a lot of fun stuff together. I am looking forward to starting my nursing degree in September. I love my job. I have great friends.

I guess I am no longer missing Jane as much as I used to. Love can not exist in a vacuum. You can not love someone in the same way you used to if there is no love coming back. I guess the best way to describe it is that I am no longer in love with Jane. I feel like that part of me has died but instead of seeing a large black hole in that space, I just see a friend that I have lost. I don't feel like an incomplete person anymore. I am me again. I don't get sad when I see pictures of Jane or pictures of us together. Well, I get sad in a kind of: It is such a shame that this lovely person is no longer alive and part of my life. Yes, that is sad. But it doesn't make me cry anymore. The thing that still makes me cry though is when I think of the pain and suffering both Jane & I went through. I don't think that will ever go away. It is odd that I get more sad when thinking of someone else's pain (Jane's pain) than when I think of my own pain. Maybe it is because I can still change my own pain. I can deal with it, grieve my way through it and come out the other end.

Jane did not have that opportunity. And that makes me very sad. The idea that she was unable to express how she felt, that she was locked inside her own head with all her fear and pain. That is still so upsetting. Thinking about how scared she must have been and not able to put that in to words, maybe not even understanding what the hell was making her feel so scared. What is still incredibly sad is the feeling that I will never know what she was feeling when she wet the bed. When she had a nurse put her in a hoist to get her in to the living room. How she felt when people were crying at her bedside to say goodbye to her. Did she know? Did she accept it? Did she cry? Was she scared Did I do enough to help her understand? Should I have hidden things from her instead of trying to explain? The thing that is still devastatingly sad is that I simply don't know if there was ANYTHING I could have done that could have made things even a tiny bit better for her. I did all I could with the knowledge I had. I am not saying I failed. I am saying that I wish I was certain there was nothing MORE I could have done to make things better for Jane. Because she could not tell me. Or, worse, what if she tried to tell me but I did not understand her communication?

I guess I have no idea how I feel. Or how I should feel. And this confuses me. And this in turn makes me sad. And when I am sad, all kinds of non-Jane related things get thrown in to the mix and I just become generally more sad.

Maybe that will be the legacy of all this: that eventhough I will be, and already am, happy again, my life will always have an underlying sadness that is caused by what has happened but which may manifest itself in all kinds of unrelated ways. I might be more needy in personal relationships. Or less patient with people about unimportant things. Or have a bigger fear of not making someone happy. A bigger need to ask my girlfriend how she feels and if there is anything I can do to make her happier. Or a bigger need to tell people I love them, to the point where it sounds desperate, which in turn makes me feel like a needy twat.... And so the spiral goes on.

If someone knows how I should be feeling, please send your answers on a postcard to the usual address.
Keep Reading: "How should I feel?"

Reminder: Gig for Cynthia Spencer Hospice

21 May 2012

Time is flying by at the moment. It is nearly June 2nd. Which means it is nearly time for the first ever gig I have ever oganised. It is a small gig to mark the first anniversary of Jane's death. But it is also an opportunity to raise a bit of money for the Cynthia Spencer Hospice that cared for Jane so brilliantly in her last few weeks.

Anyone is welcome, even if you never met Jane because the aim is to have a great night with excellent music and good fun. Please bring as many people as you want. It is only £3 to get in.

If you don't come, then I will take you off my Christmas list!

Who is playing, I hear you ask? Well, how about these lovely people:

Life of Pie



Corinne Lucy



King's Gambit




More information can be found on the Facebook Event page:  http://www.facebook.com/events/286577701427795/

Saturday 2nd June
8.30pm
The Romany
Trinity Avenue
Northampton
NN2 6JN



Keep Reading: "Reminder: Gig for Cynthia Spencer Hospice"

Northampton University it is then

17 May 2012

Loyal readers may remember that I have spent months on deciding where to go to university.

I applied for Edinburgh, York, Plymouth, Coventry and Northampton. My opinion of Northampton is very low and I only put that on the list in case all the others would reject me as I was confident I would get an unconditional offer from Northampton.

At first, I was absolutely sure I wanted to go to Plymouth. I mean, what is not to like: stunning country side, Cornwall and Devon on my doorstep. Sea, moors, nice towns and a great university with a vibrant student scene for both young and mature students.

I also got offers from Coventry and Northampton.

But as I went to accept my offer for Plymouth, I suddenly got scared of being so far away from everything and everyone I know. I was worried that going away from here would mean leaving Jane behind. She would no longer be part of anyone's life but mine. She would be nothing more than a story I would tell my new friends. She would no longer be kept alive by other people's memories. How could I know in March how I would be feeling in September? So I declined the offer and decided to go to Coventry instead. I accepted Northampton's unconditional offer as a back-up choice. So little by little, my world became smaller again.

And then I spoke to my boss and a pile of other nurses I work with. They asked me why I wanted to move away from Northampton. I said: It is nice to start something new in a new place. And also, Coventry University is much more a 'real university' than Northampton, which is frankly nothing more than a polytechnic in a small town. It does not feel like a place of learning and the type of courses they teach there (fashion, design, graphic design etc) somehow feel less inspiring than things like Aeronautical Engineering etc. which they teach at Coventry. So Coventry is the better educational choice.

But then she pointed out that I would still be starting from scratch. Sure, my Northampton friends would be only 45 minutes away but it would still mean seeing them virtually never. And I would also lose the support network from the nurses at my current job. And the network for a possible job at the end of the course. And both courses lead to a registration with the Royal College of Nursing so in the end there would be very little difference in quality. She asked me why I felt the need to make changes just for the sake of making changes. And I did not have an answer.

So then I got confused again. Because surely taking the easy choice was cheating. Should you not always take the biggest challenge if you have the choice to do so? Surely I was not going to end up with the university I had initially rejected out of hand and only put on the list in case nobody else wanted me?

The choice was between a better uni in a place I did not want to live in, or a uni I felt less happy with in a place where I would prefer to be, with my friends, in my current home.

I could not decide. There was nothing to help me decide what mattered more.

And then I met her. We have been going out for only 6 weeks and who knows where this is going. And it would be silly to make a life changing decision based solely on something so new. But if I can not make a choice between two things because there is nothing that tips the scales one way or another, why not throw this in and see what happens? Why would I move away from someone I love spending time with? Why would I choose to turn something great in to a long distance relationship when I don't have to? Why would I choose to remove myself from the emotional support she gives me? And if the choices are so close together, why should I not use a brand new relationship to tip the balance in favour of one or the other? I had already noticed over the past few weeks that I was less than motivated for the Biology GCSE that Coventry University wanted me to get. Surely the fact I had started to neglect that course meant that I had already somewhat decided I did not want to go to Coventry after all? It is always intriguing to see in retrospect what our behaviour tells us, before we are even really aware of what we are doing.

And so I am staying put. After a year of telling myself that going to Northampton University would be the same as compromising my personal integrity and educational ambitions, I have CHOSEN to stay here. I called Coventry this morning and told them I was withdrawing my application and that I wanted to reject their offer. The lady asked me if I was absolutely sure of this as there was no way back. My heart was actually pounding in my chest when I said: Yes, do it.

This also conveniently means I no longer have to score a C for my biology GCSE.  But the exam is next week. So I might as well revise for it and see if I can get a decent grade after all.

So Northampton, I am sorry but you will have to live with me for a little bit longer.
Keep Reading: "Northampton University it is then"

Coming up to the Year Mark

03 May 2012

On Monday it was 11 months since Jane died. I spent it with my new girlfriend and only thought of the significance of the date when I went to bed.  I felt guilty about that and I cried.

And this morning I woke up with a strange feeling of dread.  This month is the last month that I can say that Jane was still alive this time last year. Many widows dread the date of the First Year. And I am no different.

My life has had so many positive turns recently that to many people it may look like I am 'over' Jane and that I am only looking forward.

I'm not. I am extremely worried about this month. I worry that I will think of nothing else. That it turns out I am going to fall in to a deep dark hole and it turns out I am not doing as well as I thought I was. That the truth will be revealed and that this past year has been merely an apetiser and that I will be hit in the face with a sledgehammer and sink in to a deep depression and not be able to go to university.

This month is the last time that I can think of last year and know Jane was still alive.  The more I think about this, the more I cry. What the fuck happened? How can it be a year already? Why did a bright young woman have to die in such a horrible way? Of course the answer is simple: There is no reason. There is no god. There is no bartering or explanation.

I have not thought much about how I have felt about the whole care-process but looking back, all I can think of was that it was just so incredibly hard. So soul destroying to see someone you love die. So impossible to make all those decisions. And mostly, how terribly lonely it was. Despite all the friends who visited. Despite all the good wishes. Despite all the love from my own family. Despite all the advice from nurses and carers.

It was excruciatingly lonely.

I worry that this new relationship I am in will not be strong enough to go through The First Year Mark. I know how I feel about her. She is nothing like Jane so I know I am not trying to replace Jane. And yet, I worry that I can not make her see that what I feel for Jane has no relation to how I feel about her. I mean, who would want to be supporting a relatively new girlfriend through a month of crying for a love that is lost? Seems like it is too much to ask of someone so early on in a relationship.

Of course this is only happening in my head. Because she has been reading this blog since last year already and says she totally understands what is going on in my head because I have explained it all so well. I think I am lucky to have someone who is not concerned about this. Who is not trying to compete with Jane. Who does not feel she needs to fill a hole that is clearly Jane-shaped. The hole will cover itself over after a while. Or it will get less deep. So it will be less of a dangerous presence in my life. In our lives?

Basically, this month I will worry a lot. And be sad a lot. With lots of tears. It has already started this evening when I remembered that on  this day last year, I wrote an angry blog post about friends not coming to visit


Keep Reading: "Coming up to the Year Mark"