Reflections

The start of a new year always makes me a little reflective. I always think that now I am in my forties I should have my shit together. When I was a teenager people in their forties all seemed to know what they were doing, were confident and self assured. Now I am in my forties I realise like everyone else my age that those forty year old’s I admired were just winging it. No one has got their shit together and we all are just making it up as we go along. All that those 40 year old’s had that I didn’t as a teenager was life experience. I don’t think there will ever be a eureka moment in my life where I feel like I have figured everything out. I think I will forever be winging it and pretending that I know what the hell I am doing.

As you get older I do think you appreciate the simpler things in life. You put home, happiness and friendships above the material things. You also start to refuse to put up with so much crap or maybe it is you finally get the courage to start putting yourself first for a change. At the end of last year I made some quite sweeping changes. I reassessed some relationships, I binned some, I reinvigorated others. I pushed myself to make an effort with those I didn’t want to lose. It is funny during the hard times you really notice who runs towards you and who runs away. And there is the third group of people those that in public or on a public forum make all the right noises but do nothing practically to help.I have noticed this a lot over the last 4 years.

 Those of you who follow the blog or know me personally know that basically over the last 4 years Mr Myasthenia Kid and I have been to hell and back. Briefly ( which is a laugh as even briefly so much has happened each event is a blog post in itself) in 2016 I developed a CSF leak which left me confined to my bed for much of the year and if not in bed lying down. It made socialising very hard, several of my friends were wonderful but one in particular would make all the right noises you know the “just let me know if you need anything” and when you did ask you were met with radio silence or a long list of excuses as to why they couldn’t help. I will never ever be able to repay Imogen for how she helped us during that year, looking after the dogs at the drop of a hat for 8 hours whilst I got treatment at a hospital an hour away. Same for my parents who when Imogen couldn’t help would come up and drive me back down to the hospital a journey of over 100 miles. 

In 2017 we lost our dear friend of over 20 years, Andrew, in a car accident, his passing made me realise I needed to make more of an effort to stay in contact with my friends as none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow let alone a next week. In this year I also lost a family friend of many years who I would have regular conversations with via Facebook Messenger and telephone calls, although we never met in person. Later that year I was to learn my Grandmother and my dear friend Pam ( my neighbour twice and the person I saw most other than my husband) had both been diagnosed with lung cancer, Willow our 11 year old Weimaraner passed away on December 15th and it broke my heart. Due to the events of the following January I don’t think we ever mourned her passing properly. Both Imogen and Heather rushed to my side that day. Another friend offered but I realised at that point that I didn’t want her there at the time I was surprised by my feelings but let it pass thinking it was grief.

In January 2018 we lost both my Grandmother and Pam, despite knowing that both their diagnosis had been terminal we had lived in a bubble that it wasn’t going to happen. I had many conversations with Pam, she moved between despair and complete denial. It was emotionally hard going for me, which probably sounds quite selfish and self absorbed but I challenge anyone to listen to your friend of over 20 years talk about the fact they are dying and walk away untouched. Pam passed away the same week Andrew had a year earlier, which I have always found quite bizarre, especially since Pam had accompanied Jay and I to Andrews funeral less than a year earlier.

 We had no idea then at the ticking time bomb that was contained within Pam’s body. Looking back now there were subtle signs that something wasn’t right, she had looked really tired all the time etc a whole heap of little symptoms that added together were something deadly. Even if we had known then I doubt much could have been done but it makes me angry that mistakes were made in her care and the people that made those mistakes have got away with it. 

When Pam passed away both H and Immie rushed to be by my side again. The other friend basically told me she was coming, despite me saying that she wasn’t needed. It was uncomfortable, for everyone as it was like there was a cuckoo in the nest.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want her there, I just knew that if I was hurting she was the last person I wanted present. I should have listened more to what I was feeling and realised that those feelings were a huge red flag. But instead I blamed myself, telling myself I was cruel and unreasonable to be feeling like that. 

Reflecting back on the situation the lesson I take away from this is don’t ignore those feelings / intuitions / gut instincts. If I hadn’t of ignored them I would have saved myself another 18 months of being treated like shit and only being visited when she thought other people may see her doing it. It was very much a keeping up appearances situation.

There are still a lot of emotions to process from the January of  that year. I haven’t stopped crying since starting to write this and the grief has come out of nowhere as I certainly wasn’t feeling sad before I started writing today.

In the July of 2018 my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a very rare type at the same time I had stuff going on in my life that was extremely stressful. I was already suffering from terrible anxiety and depression after losing by now 5 people from my life and one dog ( in the February I lost a school friend who I had known from the age of 11 and we used to have regular chats on social media, just last night I thought I must ask Jon what planet I can see in the nights sky currently, as Jon had bought himself a telescope not long before he passed – totally unexpectedly and I had to remind myself that he isn’t here). I struggled to get up and out of bed as the stress was doing a real number on my chronic health conditions. I was passing out frequently and had issues with ptosis. The heat of the summer didn’t help either.

My mum then had major surgery in the August, in the September we had good news that although what had been removed was cancer, it was tiny, the size of a pin head and very unlikely to return. She is currently in remission, no one is cancer free until they have been 5 years clear. She has regular checks at the hospital and will do for another 3 years.

I finally thought that we may get some peace, after all what the hell could happen to us next? Surely the universe was done toying with us now? But no, 2018 was going to end badly and 2019 wasn’t going to start any better. On 29th December 2018 we lost our beloved boy Frankie aged 12 ( a Weimaraner) and his Mum Mollie (Weimaraner) followed him over Rainbow Bridge exactly a week later on January 5th 2019 aged 14. Both had incredibly long lives for the size of dog they were but at the time it felt like my world had imploded. I had spent every day with my dogs since 1st June 2008 ( except for hospital stays ) They were a huge part of my life and most of the time the only company I had except Jay.  I didn’t know that I could be in such emotional and physical pain and yet still wake up day after day. I thought Mr Myasthenia Kid was going to drop dead from a broken heart he looked so fragile and  broken. Even with Dembe our Labrador puppy coming into our lives on January 11th 2019, we were struggling.

This was where I noticed this friends  persons absence even more, no messages checking on how I was doing. No card, no flowers, no visit. Yet again H and Immie were there by my side, along with Paul, Pam’s partner. I will be forever touched by Paul coming over on the Sunday after Frankie passed and then coming over again the following weekend when Mollie passed. He sat and shed tears with us and told us not to worry that Pam would be looking after them until we all met up again.

 I had cards and flowers from friends and cyber friends and yet no call to check how we were, beyond the initial messages of me telling you what had happened. That is when the penny finally dropped, that when I needed you, you disappeared as you had done so many times before, unless there was an opportunity for you to be seen as a “good” person. There were so many people I only knew on Facebook who came to visit to check that we were ok or who messaged me out of the blue. I have never felt love like it, so many people hugging us, looking out for us, physically being present. 

When Dembe arrived oh my goodness, so many visits. I have never known a puppy get so many toys and presents. I had baby gates offered within minutes of me asking on Facebook if I could borrow some, the same with crates etc. Nothing was too much trouble for people. It was overwhelming and it was something I have never experienced before and I am so touched by all those people. However it made this persons lack of action / concern even more painfully obvious. That hurt, even with all the pain I was in already the fact that we could all be so easily forgotten was another huge red flag.

Initially I made excuses,  maybe I hadn’t said I was struggling? Maybe you didn’t realise I was grieving? Maybe you didn’t understand the depth of my grief? But even to the village idiot it would have been glaringly obvious. Contact over the year became less and less. It felt more and more like it was one way traffic which indeed it was. I was lucky when I messaged you if I got more than a couple of sentences out of you. Again I made excuses, you were busy with your new life now. You certainly made me feel like I was interrupting you living your best life. When it got to 4 months since I had last spent any time with you and even longer since we had spent any time alone, the decision was made. I had waited a month at that point for a message to be answered. I snapped. I was faced with the prospect of you turning up on my birthday and I knew I couldn’t pretend for 5 minutes let alone several hours that everything was ok and that I was grateful for the few crumbs of attention you had thrown my way.

You would have never put up with being treated like that by anyone, yet I was just supposed to accept this? The last 2 years had passed in a haze of grief but I was starting to feel stronger. I knew that your behaviour  was now emotionally damaging to me. I couldn’t move forward if I was going to continually wound myself, wondering what I had done wrong, why I wasn’t good enough or why you felt you could take advantage of my good nature. So I ripped the band aid off and called time, reasonably amicably. I had been hesitant about hurting you when it was clear from your actions you had no concern about hurting me.

I suppose I am reflecting on all this as that is what the new year does. December and January are full of anniversaries of people and pets passing they are hard months. It’s only now on 22nd January that I feel like the weight has been lifted . That I realise that the last few years I have been operating / functioning with a low level depression going on in the background. That the anxiety has lessened enough for me to see things clearly.

 You had changed or maybe the real you had come to the surface? Perhaps I chose not to see the real you or the nasty comments you made on a regularly basis. I put those down to you being verbally clumsy despite the fact you claim to be a writer. I realised I had put up with far more than I had ever credited myself with. I was right to call time and that belief is unshakeable now. I’m not the only one that has noticed that you have changed, grown colder and more bitter than you have ever been. I feel sorry for you as your world is shrinking and you are so full of yourself you can’t see it. One day you will come crashing down to earth with a bump and you will be all alone. Maybe you want it that way, so you can perpetually be the victim?

I reflect back and realise I should have found the strength earlier. That I should have seen the pattern that I could never depend on you. That you liked to take and use, yet giving absolutely nothing in return.  You may think you have everybody fooled but truthfully more and more of us are seeing through you. I hope you find some peace because only someone who is utterly miserable with their own life finds joy in hurting others.

Dreading Christmas

Despite outward appearances, the decorations are up and I have been working on Christmas sewing projects, I am dreading Christmas. I know it is going to be hard and emotionally draining. No matter how hard I try not to make a big deal out of it, I can’t get away from the fact this will be the first year without Frankie and Mollie and will be the second without Willow ( our Weimaraners ) and it feels like a knife to the heart.

I feel guilty that I should be happy as we have Dembe and it is his first Christmas with us. Believe me I am but it doesn’t lessen the pain of knowing for the first time in 16 years our home will not have a Weimaraner in it this Christmas time. 

Travis our first Weimaraner arrived home on 13th December 2003, he was our very first dog as a couple. Although I had been brought up with dogs, budgies and Hamsters, Jay had never been allowed anything more than fish, so this was a huge deal and we loved it. Mollie arrived in January 2004 and for two years we were very happy, although Travis had been sick since he was 6 months old from an un-diagnosed illness which we now believe was Lung worm. He passed away 10 days after Willow and Frankie were born in our spare room ( now Jay’s room) in 2006. It broke our hearts and I have never got over it. There are still days I can’t say his name without breaking down and it has been 13 years. 

Although we knew that at age 14 and 12 Mollie and Frankie weren’t going to last forever. It still came as a terrible shock when the end came and to lose Frankie on 29th December followed 7 days later by Mollie passing away from a catastrophic stroke on 5th January after 16 years of having dogs we were suddenly left with nothing.  We were incredibly lucky that I found a breeder with 2 male Labrador puppies available and that could come home by 11th January. It was quick and I know some people need more time, I still wonder now if it was the right thing to do and after all the joy Dembe has brought us I have to say yes. Although it was incredibly difficult looking after a new puppy whilst in the midst of what seemed like never ending grief.

Jay and I have spoken about the fact that we don’t remember very much from this year. It isn’t until the summer that we actually start to remember things that have happened in 2019. For the first 6 to 7 months everything was a blur. I am so grateful that I started The Dembe Diaries and took so many photographs as his puppyhood was over in the blink of an eye and we have few memories about it. I actually have no idea how I have managed to survive this year. I didn’t know it was possible to survive such physical and emotional pain and still live. There were times I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up but I knew Dembe needed me and Jay would never cope with losing all of us. I am sure there were days that Jay felt the same but we were both so wrapped up in our own grief and it was just too much to attempt to put what we were feeling into words. 

Some people might not get this, they may not understand how you can have this level of grief over an animal and that’s fine. I actually feel sorry for you if you have never had an animal in your life that you have loved more than anything else in the world. My bond with the dogs was much stronger than a lot of peoples would have been because I spent nearly everyday with them ( other than hospital admissions and medical appointments and there have been a lot of both). Even writing this post has had me in tears at times.

So I just feel like Christmas this year is about going through the motions. We keep geeing each other along in the hope it gets us through. We are planning on spoiling Dembe and making it about the three of us. I am hoping a fake it until you make it approach may get me through the festive period. Jay already confessed that he is sick of Christmas already ( not brilliant when you work in retail but highly understandable)  the forced frivolity and pretending that you are going to be having the best Christmas ever has wound him up before the season of goodwill has really begun.

I am normally really organised, I would have sent out our Christmas cards already. Posted the parcels that needed sending to family today. I don’t know when it is getting done this year as neither of us really gives a shit. We have treated ourselves to a Marks & Spencer’s food order, only a very small one otherwise no Christmas food would have been bought and we would be having beans on toast on December 25th ( it actually wouldn’t be the first time as one year both of us came down with flu). Oh and by organised I mean that every Christmas present would have been bought and wrapped by now. This year I decided I would make them all….I am still making them and only some are wrapped. I just can’t whip myself into a Christmas frenzy because I just don’t give care if I am honest. Maybe later in the month I will feel it. But at the moment I am the Grinch. Christmas can go f**k itself currently.

This year we are at sixes and sevens as Jay’s job has changed. Since 2008 / 09 he has had Christmas Eve off to help prep the food / house for Christmas day. His old job meant he wasn’t needed in work, his new job means he is. So the first time in a decade I won’t have my trusty side kick with me on Christmas Eve. It is going to be strange, no Weimaraners pushing me off the sofa or leaving the back door open and no husband. It just adds to the sense of massive change this Christmas brings. I will have to find my Muppets Christmas Carol DVD and sit and watch that. 

We have changed the dresser over to our Christmas Emma Bridgewater Pottery display. Out of everything that is the one thing that gives us joy. We got the majority of our Christmas items when we took a day trip to the factory in 2017. It was a very special day, even though I did worry myself sick about leaving the dogs ( with a sitter, thank you Imogen) for that amount of time. We also got to meet our friend Emmey and her husband Mike ( and their doggies) which was a really lovely add on. This year we decided to spread some of the pottery over onto the bookcase as well. I couldn’t bring myself to take down the dogs photos to make room for our Christmas display. It probably sounds silly but it just felt wrong. I am pleased with how the lounge is looking and if anyone visits we look the epitome of Mr & Mrs Christmas…..even if we don’t feel like it.

We are trying to make it special for Dembe as a way of getting us through it. On Saturday we are taking him to meet Santa Paws and getting his photo taken. It does make me laugh a little bit as that is something we would never have managed to do with the Weimaraners unless we took them down separately as they were really badly behaved when they were outside the house. Dembe is an angel but to be fair it is much easier training one dog than trying to train 2 or 3 . Plus we have invested so much training time in Dembe, taking proper classes run by a professional rather than the rubbish we attended in the past with Mollie and Travis where we learned nothing as how can you get individual attention or help in a group of 15 dogs plus going around in circles at a village hall. We said right from the off he had to be trained and be exceptionally well behaved when working and that is exactly what we have got. But then you get back what we put in and every day is a school day with Dembe.

Believe me I am not anti Christmas, I normally like Christmas – I am not a Christmas lover as generally I find it never lives up to the hype. But I love spending time with Jay and well it used to be dogs plural but now just dog. We have always done what we wanted at Christmas . This year though its overshadowed with the sense of loss. Hopefully Christmas 2020 will be better, easier less painful. Just this one is going to hurt. It is the not knowing how much it will hurt that is bothering me, which is why I am dreading Christmas 2019.

Life Laundry – moving on.

Me and Travis

 

I don’t know what it is about October but it seems to be a catalyst for me to have a look at my life and change things. Remove those things that are causing me unhappiness / hurt. To assert myself and decide that those who do not treat me with respect will no longer have that option. I have no idea what makes me so brave in October, maybe it is because it is my birthday the following month? Is it because I don’t want another year of feeling unhappy, unworthy, stressed out by people or things or events? Maybe I just don’t want another birthday where I compromise and don’t put myself and my happiness first?  October as I have written about before is a month of sadness for me, even more so this year as it is full of anniversaries now of dogs and people I have lost. 

First it is my Grans birthday, I miss her more than I imagined I would. That may sound strange but for much of my childhood she was someone I spoke to on the phone and perhaps saw twice a year as she lived at the other end of the country. I stupidly believed that life would continue on as normal when the time came but I have to admit there have been so many occasions that I have gone to ring her and realised that she is no longer here. She would have loved Dembe, she loved dogs and told me on more than one occasion that if she had owned Buster ( her dog ) first she would never have had children. I miss her sense of humour and Jamie’s face when he tried to speak to her on the phone but struggled due to her Aberdonian accent.

The following day it would have been the babies – Frankie’s and Willow’s 13th birthday. I wasn’t really conscious that day due to the hemiplegic migraine I came down with. I knew it was coming and I was feeling sad so I do wonder if both those anniversaries triggered or played a part in triggering the migraine. It wasn’t something either of us was talking about it was the elephant in the room. Plus that birthday is shared by our niece who was celebrating her 30th birthday which left us feeling ancient. She was just 8 years old when I met Jamie. 

Today 16th October Dembe celebrates his 11 month birthday. He has celebrated in style this morning by having his very first swim in a pond on the common. He has been really funny about water outside of the home, he leaps over or avoids puddles at all costs. He would barely get his feet wet by paddling in ponds when very small and ran away from the sea when we took him down the beach.  So to hear he has had a swim is really funny. Unfortunately Jay thought he had videoed the event on his phone but when he came back to show me, he had taken about 1 seconds worth of footage. It’s not the end of the world Dembe will probably now be a regular swimmer and Jay will take better footage. 

I’m glad that it is only this year that we count the months of Dembe’s age. As our first dog Travis passed away on 17th October 2006, 13 years ago and in all those years there is not a day that goes by when he doesn’t pop into my head. Of course I know that the chances are that he would have passed away by now but to lose a dog before his 3rd birthday is a unique kind of hurt. When you get a puppy you expect to have at least 10 good years with them. Believe me those ten years fly by. If you get longer, which we have been incredibly lucky to do with Mollie ( Travis’ sister), Frankie and Willow, (Mollies children), the loss isn’t so hard to bear. Its tough believe me especially losing Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I have said it before and I shall say it again, I thought I would drop dead from the pain of it all. However the pain you feel when they don’t reach that milestone of ten years is a pain like no other. I don’t think I will ever be able to say that the pain has truly gone.

October 25th marks Travis’ birthday, we first saw him when he was three days old. At that point we had no idea which pup would be our boy but his name was already chosen and we were so excited already that we were having problems sleeping. It seemed such a grown up thing to be doing, even though we were both 29! Three days after his birth on a Tuesday we moved into our home and have been here ever since. I can’t believe it has been 16 years already, it still feels like it was just a few years ago. But the little boy two doors down is now coming up for 21 and works and the same place hubby does.

There doesn’t seem to be a week in October that doesn’t hold a significant anniversary. For years I always used to hate October, I would start to feel down the minute the clock struck midnight on October 1st. I would just feel sadder and sadder until the 17th and then I would spend that day blubbering on and off, trying to deal with the overwhelming grief that I felt over losing Travis. Some years are easier than others. Last year it was a terrible day, I sat on the sofa all day crying being comforted by Frankie not realising how little time I had left with him. This year it doesn’t feel so bad. Probably because we have our little ray of sunshine Dembe to keep us on our toes. He is such a happy dog it is pretty impossible to stay sad for more than a few moments as he will do something that will either melt your heart or make you dissolve into fits of laughter. I also think after going through that double loss at the start of the year all other grief / pain pales into insignificance.

Whilst October has for many years been a sad month for me, it also has become a significant milestone for my friendships. I am an extremely loyal friend who will fight to the death for you. I am the place you run to when you need help or comfort. Wrongly I put you before me and sometimes individuals take advantage of this and abuse my friendship. I don’t deliberately ever plan to sit and take stock of my friendships at this point in the year. It seems to be something that happens. I think it is because with my birthday the following month I think to myself “would I want to spend my birthday with this person?” Would I feel comfortable accepting a gift from them knowing how I feel about them?” I normally just look at the people I have been moaning to Mr Myasthenia Kid. He will tell me quite honestly if this is a conversation we have had many times before. He will ask me “if next year will we be having the same discussion?” Some years I do nothing, I soldier on determined to make the best of things as due to my health conditions friends who come and see me are in short supply. I do have wonderful friends on Instagram and Facebook but sometimes you need to actually speak to someone, share physical space with them. If it has got to the point where I don’t want to spend time with a person and would rather spend days on end alone then I know it is time to move on. Be it a friendship of two years or twenty. I have no desire to flog a dead horse. I won’t beg, I won’t demand, I just leave and move on with my life. I have done it before, I will probably do it many times.

I don’t expect much from friendship, I certainly don’t expect to be the centre of your universe, we all have our own lives and all the demands placed on them. I do expect to be more than an afterthought. I do expect manners, loyalty and respect. I also like communication, conversation that is two way. I will hold my hand up and admit I can be crap at remembering to message people but I do make an effort for those who I consider in my  close circle. I will always be there for my friends like they are for me. 

To be fair it’s not just my friendships that have come under scrutiny in this life laundry. I have done a lot of sorting out of clothes, belongings etc Donating a lot to charity as both hubby and I are on a diet and so much of our clothing has become tent like. I have been taking a look at each room and trying to reduce the clutter. It seems again to be a pattern of mine in October! probably because I want the house looking nice for our birthdays or Christmas.

As a friend told me its Life Laundry, as in it’s a spring clean of relationships. You get rid of the crap and the unnecessary. As she said “it’s tough but necessary” and she is right. You shouldn’t cling to things that no longer make you happy.  

I already feel so much happier and uncluttered. Even though there is a huge anniversary for me tomorrow I am not facing it with the usual dread.  It is time to move on.

Frankie

 

Mollie and Willow

 

Gran & me

Empathy

When I wrote last week’s blog post Rainbow Bridge  I never expected in a million years the response that it received. It wasn’t just me hubby had people coming up to him in work, telling him that they couldn’t read it without shedding a tear or that it said what they felt but had never been able to express it. I had followers on Instagram contacting me about their recent losses and long ago losses too. On Facebook it was the same, with many people contacting me or leaving a comment. . It was emotionally hard as I am very empathetic, so when people start to get tearful when they are talking to me, it makes me cry too. But when I wrote the post I was half expecting it to stir up a lot of emotions because I had been in such a mess as I wrote it. I have to be honest I never did a final check on the post to look for errors, mainly because I found it so upsetting to read, it was real and raw. I haven’t even gone back to look at it now to refresh my memory before writing this one. I just can’t do it, I have already been in tears today twice over the dogs. It is always just bubbling away under the surface for me at the moment, although to look at me or to see any of my social media posts you would never know.

I am so touched that something I have written has moved so many people. I thank each and everyone of you who commented or messaged me. It was very hard last Thursday as I had no idea how it would be received. I had no clue if people would think I was wallowing, being self indulgent or a drama queen. That people would think that I should pull myself together and get on with the rest of my life. I promise you I am not self indulgent, wallowing or being a drama queen. I just write about life and my experiences. I try to give a voice to those feelings that we push down and don’t let anyone else see. I take a chance that people won’t reject me or ridicule me because I try to talk about things that many would rather brush under the carpet. Although there have been several articles regarding the death of a pet in National newspapers it is still treated with some degree of disbelief by those who have never had an animal / pet in their lives. 

The whole point of my post was for you – whoever you are, know that it is ok to feel whatever you are feeling, to express your grief ( and it is your’s and no one else’s) anyway that you like. That these feelings are totally normal. You are not weird, you aren’t wallowing in your grief, you aren’t an attention seeker and you are certainly not being a drama queen. You are hurting and it will take time to process all that emotion. Hell I am only 8 months on and there are days where I can barely keep it together. Days where all I do is cry. Days when I feel guilty when I know rationally I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I just wanted you to know you aren’t going mad, I honestly thought at times I was losing it. All of those feelings, even the uncontrollable rage that even surprises you when you roar, is totally normal. It is the beast called grief and it doesn’t have to be something that you go through alone.

As I touched on in my blog post even when you have suffered from a significant bereavement such as a partner / child / sibling / parent / friend, people who haven’t been through that kind of grief can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the feelings of loss and pain. They may see you red faced, tear stained and see your grief but that is soon forgotten because it has no direct impact on their lives. The next time they see you, taking the kids to school, going to work, getting the shopping – all things you have to do despite the pain and grief they assume you are “better”. They don’t understand that grief goes on forever. They seem to think that grief has a timeline and by a certain amount of time say 6-12 months maybe sooner if they are real dicks, you “should” be “over” it. How do you explain that there is no getting over it? You are just getting through each day the best you can. There will be good days, bad days and the worst kind of days.  Life will probably never be the same again. But there will never be or has there ever been for anyone who is grieving a time when they are over it. Getting Over It has to be the most grotesque phrase ever. Followed by Time is a great healer. There is no healing from grief, you carry that pain forever.

I had people contacting me about dogs they had lost thirty years ago during their childhood that they still mourned for.  Others told me about their recent losses that they just couldn’t process or that in the proceeding days before my blog post it had hit them, after thinking that they could keep going and carry on as normal. I was quite honest when I spoke to them and told them Jay and I have very little memory of January and February this year.

 We know we got Dembe, we know he was tiny but ask us to recall anything significant like where we took him on his first walk. What the date of his first walk was, his first bark, his first growl all the stuff we would normally remember and we draw a blank. It’s not because we didn’t care about it, purely our brains were overloaded processing what had happened when we lost Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I am so glad that I started the Dembe Diaries blog and his diary that I base the blog on, so that in years to come I can look back and see all those things in black and white that my brain was unable to absorb at the time.

 I do remember Jay barely spoke in the first 4-5 days after it happened. It was quite stressful as I went into list mode, trying to control everything because my anxiety spiked. His anxiety spiked because I was making so many demands on him all the time and obviously he needed to have some control in his life too. It was very difficult trying to get him motivated to help me sort the house out ready for Dembe’s arrival. Especially as we couldn’t stand being in the house as it was just full of reminders of how empty it was. We did cry together and we did talk about our babies, all of our babies. But the pain and grief was hard because although it has happened to both of you (or all of you) it is also an individual thing that no one can make better or take away from you. People grieve in different ways. Just because Jay wasn’t breaking down in tears every 5 minutes like I was didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting or struggling to cope. You only had to take a look at him, ashen faced, tired and so very quiet, grief and pain was written all over him. For a few days I was worried that he was going to drop down dead from a heart attack or stroke he looked so ill.  

Grief is weird one minute you can feel like you are doing ok and the next minute it feels like the world is imploding. There is no rhyme or reason to it, you are carried on its current and it takes you wherever it pleases. There is no control of it, it controls you initially, even denying you sleep when it wants to. Both Jay and I suffered from terrible insomnia in the 7 days after Mollie and Frankies passing. We would find ourselves downstairs in the middle of the night watching crap on the TV whilst eating chocolate biscuits and drinking sugary tea in the hope we would just pass out from a sugar overdose. I remember one day within about 20 minutes of each other we both left the electric shower on, when we left the bathroom, returning to it a few minutes later, neither of us could work out why we had left it running. We had no recollection of leaving the bathroom.  Life really was being lived on autopilot, all we could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and get through another day.

I want to tell you that things do get better, the grief becomes less overwhelming.  I feel like I am finally starting to live life again instead of just simply going through the motions. I am not saying that in 8 months you will also be feeling better, it could be less time it could be substantially more time. But there will come a time when you let a breathe out and know that you are starting to be you again.

Up until about a week ago the last time I listened to music and enjoyed it was 29th December 2018. That was the day that Frankie passed away and I had been listening to my Sinead O’connor LP. I didn’t play any music for a couple of weeks. After that time had passed, I tried but I found the noise too much and overwhelming. I had no emotional connection to the music. I would rather be in silence or have the TV on low in the background.  For the last two weeks I have played music non-stop. I have sung at the top of my voice and quite possibly scared the neighbours. I have found the joy in music again. I haven’t played my Sinead O’Connor LP, I think that one will take some time. I may not play it again for several years, I’m not setting myself a target, I will let it happen, I won’t force it. One day I will sing something from the album and it will be like an ear worm that won’t die until I play it. At the moment anything from that LP makes me sad.

We have also started planning things for the future. We have booked  a short break in the UK next year and we will be taking Dembe with us. It is very exciting. This will be the first time since 2006 that Jay and I have had any sort of holiday. It is only 3 nights away but it will do us all some good just to get out of the house and away from the day to day. I am nervous as hell as I have become a real homebody since becoming ill. Other than stays in hospital I haven’t been away from the house in 13 years. It is hilarious to me that I am getting a bit anxious thinking about it when Jay and I have travelled to Sri Lanka, USA (Florida), Antigua, Paris, Menorca and various places all over the UK for weddings / christenings. I know that we can do it, it is just my world has been so very small over the last 13 odd years.

So please be kind to yourself, wherever you are in your journey with grief. Everyone does grief differently, there is no one size fits all. What works for you may not work for anyone else.  Remember living life does not mean that you have forgotten those who are no longer with us. At some point things will get easier, you will reach a new normal. It is not a journey you have to do alone. If more of us start talking about grief and how it affects us we will educate those who have never experienced it and maybe create a little more empathy. The world could really do with more empathy at the moment.

I am a survivor

Well I am still not feeling the blog. I don’t know what’s going on but I am really finding it hard to come up with stuff to write about. I am spending 7 days waiting for inspiration to strike and it just isn’t happening. By Tuesday each week I am in a bit of a panic, I like to try and write on a Tuesday if Jay goes out running errands. If not I will wait until Wednesday morning but I don’t like leaving it until Wednesday as I always panic if I have a migraine or something and no blog post is produced.

At the moment the days are just merging into one. I haven’t seen any of my friends for over a month although I keep in regular contact with some of them. I have come to realise over the last 8 months that some of the people that I thought for there for me, disappeared when Frankie and Mollie passed away.  I understand that everyone has their own lives and families, with their own shit to deal with but it has been a very isolating experience. Some people have made a supreme effort to be present and other well not so much. It’s ok as I have a long memory and will be sure to return the favour when the shit hits the fan in their lives. I didn’t expect to be visited constantly but the occasional text message would have been nice, especially when they know my situation of living alone and Jay working.

Thankfully though I am pretty self sufficient, whilst dealing with my grief, I was juggling a new puppy and attempting to find time to sew / embroider. It hasn’t been easy but Dembe and I have found a new routine that works for us. He is pretty good at entertaining himself whilst I am busy sewing. He always positions himself in a location where he can keep an eye on me and ensure he knows if I have moved. He likes one of three places, the bed by the washing machine, the sofa that looks into the kitchen or out under the gazebo on the bench surrounded by all the cushions. I can’t believe my luck that he doesn’t get bored and then start destroying things. When I have finished sewing he knows that is our time and I will ensure I spend the time playing with him, doing training or just cuddles depending on his energy levels. I have been blessed with a pup that is so very well behaved and so very loving. His favourite spot for sleeping is right beside me on the sofa. This is him right now as I am writing this post.

My life has totally changed this year, I have re-assessed a lot of relationships. I have made the decision that I won’t swim an ocean for people who wouldn’t jump a puddle for me. I have decided that instead of worrying about what everyone is thinking or saying about me behind my back and believe me you’d be surprised the shit I hear being spoken about me by people who should know better, that I shall just carry on living my life and enjoying myself. The best revenge on those sad twats is to enjoy yourself and plaster it all over social media. It totally then fucks up all the fairy tales that they have been telling people for years.

I am also getting out of the house a lot more, this does have to be limited and planned for. I haven’t suddenly magically got better, it is just with one dog things are a lot easier. Especially as Dembe is such a friendly dog and on the whole pretty well behaved, although we have now hit the teenage years and recall seems to be a take it or leave it thing! Fatigue still grinds me down. I like using my energy for things for things that make me happy. So using my mobility scooter on Woodbury Common and getting out with Jay and Dembe has been unbelievably healing and grounding. 

It has been the one thing I have missed most since I got sick. The wheelchair trike although brilliant is an absolute ballache to transport. The wheelchair is fixed framed so that would take up the whole boot and then I would have to juggle the trike attachment with me in the front of the car. Not exactly safe. Then I piled on a load of weight when I developed my CSF leak and was virtually bed bound for a year, then in 2017 and 2018 we suffered a number of bereavements and I tend to self medicate with gin, chocolate and junk food / takeaways. I was 5 stone over the optimum user weight for the trike. So anytime I did try to use it the battery drained in minutes. I’ve been too embarrassed to say that because I allowed myself to get fat as fuck, I haven’t been able to use it. Hopefully now I am back losing weight ( it’s taken me until the last month to feel like I can actually do it) and I am back to 3 stone down, ideally at least another 3 to go so I will be massively under the optimum user weight. The trike will be used in the future as it is more suited to the rough and rugged environment of the common.

I do love my mobility scooter though and it has given me back my independence. It is easily taken apart to it can fit in the back of the car. It makes life so much easier if I need to go to the doctors or the hospital for appointments.

Over the 2 months I have got back into sewing and actually enjoyed it rather than feel I am going through the motions. From January until June I made a bloody good show of pretending I was ok, ensuring I used my embroidery machine every week and appeared to be enjoying myself. At points I felt like I was dying inside. I felt like a shell of the person I was. I didn’t feel I could voice the pain I was in. I know others struggle with grief especially when it is over an animal and not a human being.  Like I said earlier it has been one of the most isolating experiences of my life. There just felt like there was no one there. I do wonder if there had been someone their if I would have still felt so isolated.

I do have a tendency when things are tough to disappear into myself and attempt to shut out the world. I still kept on posting on social media, I still kept the creative things going but in all honesty I was going through the motions. It is only now that I can watch anything remotely sentimental without breaking down immediately. I only now feel like me. I feel like I have been on some weird journey where at points I lost myself. It is true what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger because in January / February this year I honestly thought the pain would kill me or I wished it would.

So I skillfully went off on a tangent there, I am enjoying sewing again and being creative rather than having to force myself to do it in the hope at some point the joy would come back. I am still working on my scrap busting quilt sew along. I found out yesterday that it is between a double (bed) and king size (bed) size, so it definitely is the largest one I have ever worked on. I made the back panel for it yesterday.

And in case you have forgotten what the front looks like

This morning I sorted out the wadding ( what you call batting in the USA ) which needed sewn together. I also made some plastic templates  to draw around as I have decided to tray something totally different with the quilting. It has taken me a few days of mulling it over to come to my plans. I have drawn it out so I have something to refer to. I now just need to have Jay clear the floor space in the lounge so that I can put my quilt sandwich together quilt back + wadding / batting + quilt top. I use temporary basting spray to hold it together but as it is so large I will also be pinning it. This ensures that the fabric stays nice and flat so it doesn’t shift and give you puckers. I also managed to sort out the binding yesterday. So it is all ready to be quilted shortly. I will be quite glad when it is finished now as I hate half done projects hanging around. I am really ready to now get myself into new projects and stretch my skills.

Anyway I started with no clue where this post was going and have managed to ramble on forever!

Dembe has changed locations

He likes it so he knows exactly where I am in the house at all times.

I think this year I have learnt, a lot and we are only in August. My heart has hurt more than I ever thought possible without keeling over and dying. I have learnt in the depths of grief you are still able to love unconditionally and you must never feel guilty for that. I have also learnt that the majority of people run away from grief and think that is acceptable behaviour. Despite all this I have come back stronger, love another dog more than I ever thought possible but when you have this gorgeous mutt in your life how could you not?

And yes he is holding my thumb in his mouth!

This is the year that nearly broke me, the year that changed everything and has just proved to me I am a survivor.

Time for a change

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time you will have noticed this week that on both platforms, Blogger and WordPress that my blog sites have had a makeover. 

The reason behind the change was two-fold, firstly it was just time for a change and secondly it was time to move forward. Both platforms used photo’s of Frankie as part of the blog. My Myasthenia kid page had a photo of Mollie and Frankie from the summer as its banner. Every time I went on the page it was a very real reminder of everything we have lost and the grief I feel. The time both Frankie and Mollie have been gone can still be counted in weeks, I still feel very sad most days. When you are with your dogs like I was 24/7 for the last 11 years they become a massive part of your life. It was like losing two members of my family, the family I have made with Jay. Still having them on the Facebook Myasthenia kid page and as a huge part of both blog platforms felt wrong. Although I will mourn them forever it was time to move forward and the new chapter of our life is now with Dembe our yellow Labrador. Not featuring him when he is a major part of my life felt disloyal to him. So hence the change.

I’ve known since the day we lost them both that the day would come that I felt strong enough to update the look of my blogs and Facebook page. I needed there to have been enough time passed that I wouldn’t feel guilty for changing things. It still took an awful lot to change the banner of my Facebook page associated with this blog. I wondered if people would think it was too soon or that I didn’t care about Mollie and Frankie. No one has said anything and deep down I knew they wouldn’t but you are still very conscious of how things may look to other people. 

The blogs were a spontaneous decision on Saturday night, when Jay was working late. I hadn’t like the look of blogger for ages and I needed to change the banner of the WordPress sites. I had taken a lovely photograph of some tree’s a couple of weeks ago and thought it would make a nice banner / background. I love Woodbury Common it has strong emotional ties for me. Every dog we have ever owned has been walked there, it was where I would go to forget the stress of everyday life before I became too sick to walk the dogs. To have that represented on the blog and it being my photograph gives me a sense of pride.

I also needed to change my Google Avatar. The photo had been a black and white one of me and Frankie. It is one of those things where every time I saw the photo I would hold my breath and wait for the pain in my heart to start. I have now changed it over to a lovely photo of Dembe. I wanted to start to look forward as I have been feeling a lot better of late. More like me and not totally bogged down in my grief. 

It has taken time for me to accept that I am allowed to look to the future and how our life with Dembe will be. Being an only dog he is even more the focus of my attention. He must some days wish that I would shut up as I talk to him constantly. He is the thing ( along with Jay ) that has got me through these last few months, who has forced me to get out of bed, to socialise when all I wanted to do was go to bed and just not have to deal with the world. Although it has been really hard on occasion I have made it through 100% of my worst days and that is an achievement.

The final thing I changed was my profile photo on my social media accounts. For a year possibly more it had been a close up photograph of Frankie’s nose. People always ask me about it as it was a cute photo but when you have just lost a faithful companion it can be really difficult emotionally to talk about it and people assume that he is still with us. I then have to say that he isn’t and that compounds the hurt. So I have changed this over to a photo of Dembe because when I speak about him I don’t feel sad. 

It took longer than I thought it would to change all the stuff. Whilst updating all my social media accounts I realised some of them were out of date and they still talked about Mollie and Frankie. So it was sad updating them but I do need to do this. I will never forget them they were a massive part of my life. They the three of them saved me when I was grieving for Travis our first Weimaraner and then when I became sick. I don’t know if I would still be here without their love and affection. Dembe has done the same shown me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that it is ok to be sad as long as it doesn’t dominate every waking hour. 

So I hope you like what I have done to the blogs etc I think you will agree it was time for a change.

Dembe aged 24 weeks

Dembe

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that sadly I lost, well we lost our beautiful Weimaraners 7 days apart at the end of last year beginning of this year. I let you know that we had also got ourselves a beautiful yellow Labrador ( he has a bit of fox red in him as well). I haven’t really spoken about him much here, not because he is some state secret but because mainly my blog has always been about the Weimaraners and because our lives have changed so completely with losing them and having Dembe.

 Mollie

 Frankie

Willow

Our lives have always revolved around our dogs and they always will. With the Weimaraners our lives were quite restricted, when left they would destroy our home ( chewing furniture, banisters, carpets basically anything they could get their teeth into) and sing to the neighbours. It meant if they were ever left we would have to pay for a dog sitter or beg friends to come and sit with them. They were fine as long as they had someone with them they just had awful separation anxiety when left alone. We could have taken the easy way out and given them up / rehomed them. If you ever look on websites for dogs you will always find Weimaraners on there 6 months to a year old who are being rehomed because they can’t be left alone without causing damage or noise. It breaks my heart. 

We decided as that as we had wanted them we would have to adjust our lives accordingly. It meant no going out together as one of us would have to stay home, ( they also destroyed the car if left in that with Willow eating the handbrake one day!). They dominated our lives for 15 years but although it may seem like a huge hardship they gave us so much love and so much companionship for me I never saw it as a hardship. We loved them dearly and due to that love we were prepared to put our lives effectively on hold for the time they were with us. Those years went past in the blink of an eye. The hardest part of those 15 years was some people just not understanding that our dogs would always come first and that we would miss events because of not being able to leave them. 

Now I am not slagging of the Weimaraners, a lot of their problems were caused by me and Jay. I fell ill 3 months after Frankie and Willow were born and due to the stress of me being ill and genuinely not being well enough their training was rubbish and so was their socialisation. They also got attacked several times when they were puppies by other dogs, so they became nervous aggressive. Walks became so stressful it was easier to walk them at 5am, which then became 4am which then became 3am. Jay would then be up for a few hours and then would go back to sleep getting up time would depend on whether he was working that day or not.  Evening walks would have to take place in dark on the common like the morning walks so that they wouldn’t bump into any other dogs. It was stressful, we were always worried about dog owners who had no control over their dogs who would let them get up in Frankies personal space despite us telling them he was nervous aggressive.

When Willow passed away in 2017 things got easier, mainly because there were only two dogs to control and the fact that she would whip the others up into a frenzy. We missed her greatly but it would be a lie to say that things didn’t get easier. Frankie no longer reacted to dogs out on the walk, he stayed well clear of them but you no longer had to worry that he would get aggressive due to his fear. Mollie was always really good with all dogs and we never had any problems with her. 

With Dembe it has been a clean slate, training started from the minute he arrived home and has been consistent. We don’t get dictated to by him when he goes out for a walk, where as the Weims would start crying and pacing due to being creatures of habit. For Dembe we have deliberately kept his walks unscheduled, so he doesn’t know and therefore doesn’t start acting up demanding a walk. He fits in with us not us with him. We don’t love him any less or any more than the Weims, we just decided that we wanted some of our life back.

The change in both of us has been immense. Jay used to suffer terribly with fatigue, we put it down to his methotrexate for his psoriasis and the stress of looking after me and the dogs. In reality now we know that it was night after night of broken sleep. Being awake for a few hours in the middle of the night from 3am until 5am then going back to sleep was destroying him. He never wanted to do anything or go anywhere because he was always so exhausted. Who can blame him he was dealing with extreme sleep deprivation. What I haven’t said is that when he was on an early shift ( quite often he would have had a late finish the night before so he wouldn’t have gone to sleep much before 11pm) he would get up at 3am and that would be him up until he went to bed that evening. 

Jay is now up every morning by 7am, 7.30am at the very latest. If he is on a late night we get to do stuff all together before he goes to work at 12pm.  We have a cup of tea and have a chat and then we will take Dembe out. Depending on how I am feeling or where we are going means that sometimes I can join the boys using my mobility scooter. Dembe is limited at the moment as to how much exercise he can have so that we protect his joints . Currently he can have 20 mins a day in just over a weeks time he can go up to 25 minutes as it is 5 minutes for every month of his age. 

Jay and I would be lost without him but we have really struggled to accept over the last 10 weeks that he is actually ours. That probably seems a really weird thing to say but I think because he came into our lives during one of the most traumatic periods we have lived through, although we loved him immediately there was almost this feeling that he didn’t belong to us. I would forget he was in the house with me and he would bark and I would jump out of my skin. His care was never, ever compromised it was just we were overwhelmed with grief and all this love we had for this little ball of fluff. 

He seemed so very little when we first got him home at 8 weeks, despite the fact his weight has increased by at least 10 kg and he has got so much bigger he still seems very dinky to us. After having three huge Weimaraners for over a decade I am guessing anything would seem tiny.  He is a very affectionate dog, he loves cuddles and kissing. He really loves Jamie and they have a little routine that when Jay gets into the car he looks into the back and Dembe smothers him in kisses. For me Dembe is my little shadow, I can’t go anywhere without being followed. He has also started to pick up on when I am unwell and adjusts his behaviour accordingly. We are not at the stage yet where he will happily lie on the bed with me all day but he will snuggle up next to me on the sofa. When I had a migraine Sunday afternoon and went to bed at 6pm he came up with me and settled down with his head over my feet. Just like Frankie used to. He also likes sleeping curled up on the top corner of my pillow. He gives me a little kiss goodnight when The Archers theme tune comes on at the end of the programme and settles for the night.

Without him Jay and I would have fallen apart. We have both really struggled mentally and physically over the last three months. I finally have started feeling more like my old self again but I am very quick to tears. Anything about Rainbow Bridge and I am gone. If anyone posts that their dog or cat etc has passed away I break my heart. The pain is still very raw but I am able to function in the world where as initially I felt so disconnected and as if I was trying to work on autopilot. 

I have neglected a few friendships because I have just been overwhelmed by the grief of it all. I know some people just wont understand at all how you could be so upset by an animals death. Believe me you can. I wish every night the last image in my head wasn’t Frankie passing away or seeing Mollie unable to walk or lift her head due to the catastrophic stroke she suffered. I had to stop watching this weeks episode of the walking dead when the heads on spikes mouths were moving despite them being dead. Frankie’s mouth muscles twitched for the whole time I lay on the floor with him after he passed away. It was too much and sent me straight back into flash backs of losing him. I was quite proud of myself being able to write all this without sobbing but I have fucked that up now.  I hope some day those horrific images stop waking me from sleep and stop being the last images in my head before I fall asleep because I do know happiness despite being so sad.

Without Dembe I wouldn’t be here, it is as simple as that. I could not have carried on under that weight of grief. I am not saying that to be melodramatic but for a few days there I wanted to die myself. My heart hurt and no one except Jay understood what I was going through. I have never seen Jay look as ill as he did during those 6 days that we had no dog in the house. When Dembe came home the colour came back into his face and it forced us to start living again. He is our miracle boy and our saviour. Even when he is being a wee shitebag.

If you would like to find out more about Dembe he has his own blog at http://www.thedembediaries.com