coping with bereavement
I've lost count of the number of times people have told me how strong I am. Considering I rarely set foot in a gym and my body bears the sagging signs of having carried three children, I'd be surprised if they meant physically so. Rather, they're talking about the resilience I've shown since losing my mum to cancer last summer.
She wrote a list, giving me instructions on how to bring up our sons Reef and Finn, then aged five and four. In her final weeks she had started jotting down notes on Post-its and in text messages, and in her last few hours Kate kept scribbling away, even though she could barely lift the pencil.
I say marks rather than marked because ever since she died I have always found myself in the habit of speaking in the present rather than past tense and despite her tragically no longer being here on this earth, the 27 October will still always be that day of ours. It will never cease to be.
We saw my Dad every day. He came to dinner with us each Sunday. If we were away we phoned daily. He spent Christmas with us. Came to birthday teas. Attended school plays. He engaged with our family. Laughed at the children's antics. Enjoyed our successes, commiserated when we failed.
My father died on 5th April last year. Losing a parent is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through but for me it's exacerbated by having an almost photographic memory. I remember every moment from him being hospitalised last February until his death two months later.
2 December 2015 was the day that my fourteen-year-old daughter tells me her childhood ended. She became an adult when her classmate died, and she and her peer group, were thrust suddenly and unwillingly, into a world that teenagers should never normally inhabit. A world of funerals, of grief and of loss.
I'm so glad for technology, for the ability to store memories and experiences and to show in near-human form a person that shaped my life so dramatically. I'm so grateful my Dad borrowed a video camera in 1986 to film us all, to film so many people - including my Mum - who are now gone.
I am learning fast that dealing with bereavement is very definitely a marathon, not a sprint. With many things in life, I expect to be able to 'carry on regardless' in a week or two. I wasn't naïve enough to put the death of my gorgeous husband in that bracket.
Today, four months and four days since Dunc died, I have finally received the Grant of Representation (Probate) in the post. Four months and five days ago, I didn't even know that such a thing existed, let alone the hoops that one is required to jump through in order to obtain it.
As I write this, it is exactly eight years to the day since Dunc asked me to marry him. In fact, he asked if he could keep me. This confused me somewhat, as I wasn't entirely sure if he was just buying a bit more time while he made up his mind about actually marrying me, or whether he was finally proposing!