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.