Hello, How are you? Part 1…

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It’s been 16 weeks or 112 days or 2,688 hours since losing my loving, gorgeous, caring, and witty wife.  How have I been during that time?  Total shock, denial, loss, emptiness, sad, grief, apathy towards life and devastation just doesn’t seem enough to describe how I am feeling.

My emotional vocabulary isn’t strong, after all, I read technical documents, papers, books and can count on one hand the number of non technical articles/books I’ve read over the last 30+ years…

There hasn’t been single moment I’ve not thought about last years events and Janice is constantly at the front of my mind.  Unfortunately?!? I have an exceptional memory, especially for details, which at times is a curse…

Everyday my mind replays all the events of last year, my head is stuck in a constant loop of her last 12 days, with particular emphasis on the her last 4 days.  I’m sure you can appreciate this is especially painful and one day maybe I’ll be strong enough to share what happened, but not today.

I’ve played out every “What If?…” scenario, “Bargained” with invisible and non-existanct deities, blame myself for not being able to find the answers/solutions for possible treatment/cure from anywhere around the world, and ask myself is there anything more I could have done?  I feel I failed her, for not being able to save her and for not being able to deliver on my promise to bring her home in time.  Ultimately I wasn’t able to save her though I would happily trade places with her.  Cliché? maybe, but it’s true.

Before trying to sleep the tears start flooding in for a good couple of hours, along with an overwhelming sense of loss/anxiety/what if…, along with a full replay in Full QHD+ of those last days stream endlessly on a loop that I’m not strong enough to break… but something will break, and probably me…  Trying to get into a good sleep pattern has been difficult, even with the help of prescriptions, I am tired, been running on adrenaline for a long time…

Random moments throughout the day or a happy memory of times gone by will set me off because of the association with her.  I mean, who breaks down in tears over a pan cleaning brush? Milestone events and anniversaries are just unbearable.  I’ve lost focus, drive, energy, enthusiasm for anything and I’m running on auto-pilot.  but that’s nothing compared to what Janice endured…

Is it odd I run pillows down the side of the bed she slept and cuddle those at night?

Is it weird I inhale the perfume on her favourite coat to feel closer to her?

Is it strange that when grocery shopping I sometimes think about putting something in the basket that I know she will enjoy?

Is it mad that I think that she’s in the house or about to return home from work any minute now?

Is it crazy I keep checking my phone for the non-existent text message she’s going to send to let me know everything going to be alright?

Is it illogical that there’s one room I don’t like entering because her stuff is still here?

Or frustrating when something happens and I’m unable to call and tell her, like the time I was in a car accident…

In the past, we would talk about “When we passed away…”, I always said I was going first what would you do?  She said within 24 hours the wardrobe would be cleared of my clothes and my stuff given to charity.  I used to get upset at the very thought, but given the situation I find myself in she probably had the right idea.  There is too much emotional attachment to things.  Each time I try to sort stuff out, Emotionally I’m unable to, just in case “She needs it”, which is illogical, but the overwhelming emotional side takes over.  The thought of anyone else pawing through her stuff like a jumble sale fills me with dread and anger…

There are times I feel like I’m split in two, one for show in front of friends/company/work with a false facade of “I’ll be ok…” and one who’s a wreck behind closed doors.  I’m told this is “Normal”, however it’s nearly impossible to get Grief Counselling until six months has passed for people to get beyond the initial bereavement reaction.

People have different approaches to bereavement, the East and West deal with this in very different ways.  Here’s a selection of comments and advice I’ve been given…

  • Cheer up, Life goes on!
  • I know how you feel, I lost my pet Gerbil last year…
  • You have to move on with your life.
  • It’s what Janice would have wanted…
  • The funerals over, why are you still depressed?
  • It’s better to have loved and lost…
    • “Try it!”… grrrr…..

Annoying? yes, insensitive? absolutely, fuck wits? yep…

Most of us, have had to deal with death at some point in our lives, but nothing prepares you for losing the one person you love the most, the one who is your world, your life partner, the one who makes you smile when days are grey, the person who brings sunshine into your life, the one you’ve made plans for the future with.

So what happened after Janice’s passing?

I arrived at our home around 4pm  with all bags of clothing and stuff collected whilst staying at the hospital for 7 weeks this last stretch.

Walking through the door was extremely painful and surprisingly hard to do knowing only the silence and cold was there to great me that winters day.  I dumped the bags in a spare room, closed the door, ran a bath, made a drink, put some clothes in the washing machine (I don’t know why but I cleaned all of Janice’s clothes first) and collapsed in a heap unable to process what had happened that day.  By 6pm two of my closest friends came over armed with food and a shoulder where they provided some comfort and support, when they left I then went over to my other friends ( they had provided flawless logistical support during my stay at Hospital with Janice, without them a lot wouldn’t have been possible) to continue drinking before returning home at 2am, even though I was exhausted, I was unable to sleep through the tears, shock and grief until I must have fallen asleep through exhaustion after 6am, and then awoke less than two hours later at 8am still in shock and disbelief of what happened.

To get through the days I kinda felt Janice was in the “other room”, which I think is my brain’s way of dealing with it all.  If I was in the front room, I would think Janice was in the dining room or kitchen making coffee, or asleep in bed.  Occasionally I would hear a noise in the house that would affirm my illogical rationale, she’s here but not here…  It makes sense to me at least.

I contacted the hospice to arrange the return of the hospital bed, equipment and aids provided to them to have them returned, I didn’t want to have these reminders in the house.  I had been informed that I would have to sort the funeral and wake arrangements on my own…  I spoke to the Funeral Directors and they provided me information on the next steps, I made notes came home, collapsed and was a complete mess.

The following day I looked at the info provided, read the first paragraph, put the documents on the floor, put the TV on, curled under a throw, and I couldn’t tell you what happened for the rest of the day, I didn’t want to know.

I was left with the task of finding a suitable crematorium,  Janice’s friends and family were split over both halves of the country, I needed one that was close by, easy to travel to, good car parking and facilities for wheelchairs etc, and easy access for all.  This was a hard task, one I’m too young to have to resolve…

Thankfully friends intervened and drove me to the first of three potential crematoriums, this one was new and had only been running a few weeks, I remained on auto-pilot,  upon entering the  beautiful chapel, it became too real very quickly, I had to get out very quickly.  We weren’t able to see the next facilities until the next day.

I collected the death certificate and made an appointment with the registrar.  He was a kindly old gentleman, patient and respectful.  I had to register her death alone, which again was extremely tough, something I needed support for, but none available. I got through the process (I don’t know how) and in exactly 35 minutes, 52 years of someone’s life was written off and I am officially a widower.  Truly awful experience, thankfully friends came over later and kept me company.

There was much to sort out and arrange, including finding a venue for the wake so close to Christmas.  Christmas… cards were coming to celebrate Christmas, and to express condolence.

If you thought arranging a wedding was challenging, a funeral is seemingly much harder because not only are you dealing with such a great loss, you’re dealing with all the professionals that come with it, which anyone who’s done it will know is stressful, and even more so when you’re doing it on your own…

Some friends, family and colleagues can be very insensitive.  Whilst trying to get dates, venues, celebrants etc organised, here’s a selection of comments received when making arrangements…

  • I won’t come to the funeral because they’re depressing and not my kind of thing.
  • I won’t come to the wake because it’s a lot of effort to make isn’t it…
  • Is “so and so coming?” If so I won’t be able to attend?  (Why? do you have a restraining order?)

I’ve left some of the harsher and insensitive comments out… for now…

 

It is amazing how some individuals tried to make it all about themselves and not about Janice… Selfish…

Before the funeral, I was fortunate enough to be able to see Janice once again in the Chapel of Rest, when I walked into the candle lit room, my mouth numb from the anaesthetic only 20 minutes earlier from a partial root canal treatment. Janice looked simply stunning, she looked alive.  I studied her face for a sign of breath and hoped this was all a horrible hoax,  I expected her to open one eye and shout Boo… but it was not to be, we spent a good hour together reminiscing and listening to her favourite music, but so glad that I was able to say my final goodbyes in private.

The day of the funeral arrived, I don’t know where I found the strength, but I carried out my Pall-Bearing duties.  I felt one of my legs go, and was worried that would send her screeching and sliding down the aisle.  Janice would have found that funny I’m sure…

After the service, the curtains closed one final time around her coffin and we headed off to the Wake.  I’d created a photo display of random photo’s of Janice, some provided by her family when she was younger, others taken by myself whilst on various trips, holidays, activities etc.  There were about 450 photographs in total and set this off against Janice’s playlist of music.  Some photo’s were funny, some commented saying that Janice wouldn’t be happy with that one…  I simply said, If she’s really unhappy, she can come back an haunt me 🙂

A friend drove me home, where I continued with a bottle of Jack Daniels and could finally start the grieving process, something I had been denied whilst having to sort all funeral arrangements, professionals, registration and legal stuff running up to that event.

I didn’t celebrate Xmas, I simply ate a crappy shop bought Pizza whilst watching crappy films all day.  I couldn’t have a proper drink due to the Antibiotics I was back on, due to the tooth infection.  I did meet up with an old friend on Boxing Day  (though I didn’t realise it was Boxing Day) and other friends over the course of the week.

One friend I hadn’t seen since we were students together contacted me and we met up.  I found some solace and comfort in what he had to say, he’d been through a similar experience, although over a much longer period, when he lost his wife.  There were a number of parallels of experiences, much of what he had to say was true, even though I may not have wanted to hear it at the time.  I’m grateful for that meet up and discussion.

New Year was no better… In which time so much has happened that I will put this in a separate blog post.  Needless to say, the tooth infection was back with a vengeance, and that’s when I discovered there is no such thing as an emergency dental service and had to wait in agony until 3rd Jan before getting more antibiotics…

Throughout this experience, there are a small core of friends that really stepped up and provided invaluable help, support and assistance, for which I am really appreciative of, you know who you are 🙂

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