It goes on

Quote by Robert Frost

The entire quote is…”In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learnt about life, it goes on”

This week my view of the world has been sprinkled with death. I spoke to a friend who was preparing for her Dads funeral and after a lengthy conversation with many ups and downs we came to the conclusion that you can’t prepare for such an event. It’s one of those inevitable occasions you have to ‘get through’, balancing your needs and others from moment to moment.

I remember the periods in my life when death destroyed me and I felt like my heart had been pulled through my body, my stomach was too high, lungs collapsed and it took all my energy to grasp at the next breath. When I’d glimpse out of the window and wonder how the world was still ‘getting on with it’, people still laughing, going about their daily business when in that very moment my world had been turned upside down, obliterated, never to be the same…whilst I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel the despair I was in at that very moment it didn’t seem right that others continued? Perhaps that makes me selfish but it’s certainly how I felt.

In my darkest times, be that the loss of someone dear or illness / trauma, tea has honestly been my light. I realise that’s a cliche for British people but it’s true. When everything around me feels heavy, dark and too much, a warm cup to grasp, a sweet contradiction in taste to how I feel seems to give me a sparkle of happiness. It’s a minuscule moment but if you grab it with both hands (obviously putting your tea cup down somewhere safe first) it can open a crack to hope…

This glimmer of hope can lead to a small event, such as a shower and some clean clothes, in turn this can make you feel ‘better’ even if for a passing moment…collect these moments of hope, sparkles of happiness and pull them together and just as the quote suggests life goes on.

Life goes on, never the same, better for having known them, loved them and shared moments with them but it does go on. In fact when you once again find yourself in the light you realise that you are a more empathetic, connected and articulated person for having felt the weigh of their lose and also the blessings of ever having had them to love.

It goes on. Thank heavens

A pocket full of happiness

This week I wanted to share a wonderful experience where one moment of joy led to a string of fairy light happiness. After all, the world needs more joy.

On Tuesday the weather in the UK was surprisingly sunny for an Autumnal day. I was at work, driving around the south coast from appointment to appointment and listening to my podcasts. I had a gap in between appointments of about half an hour and was thinking about pulling up by the beach for a quick walk – a moment of joy in a long day of back to back appointments. However, in all honesty I was also thinking that I’d park up at my next school and grab half an hour of email and admin time.

In the car I was listening to Richard E Grant discuss he’s new book ‘a pocket full of happiness’ on Fern Cottons ‘happy place’ podcast, the title he explained came from his late wife, who in her last days on earth had asked him and their daughter to find a pocket full of happiness in each day amongst the grief…my dilemma was over. I was heading to the beach.

I grabbed my coat and headed to the sea, the tide was out and it was such a beautiful day (see for yourself)

I made time to briefly call a mindful friend and shared my positive choice. Inspired, she was going to the beach for a swim later that day.

I know that being present is crucial to fully immersing yourself in the moment, so I placed my phone in my coat pocket and found a dry sandy spot to soak up the experience. Choosing self care, joy or time for yourself is often difficult but the process instantly rewards, what I hadn’t realised was how my choices effect others, that was until a lady called over.

The area of the beach I was on wasn’t busy so when I saw the lady walking towards me I smiled. She was clearly emotional and I thought perhaps she was going to ask if I had a tissue. As she approached she repeated the word ‘thank you’, perplexed I replied ‘sorry?’ in a polite haze that I’d clearly missed something. She then explained that her mother had recently passed away and that she wasn’t having a good day, she had attempted to go for a walk to find her endorphins from the tide but in fact the beautiful day had somehow made her feel sadder. She said that she was just about to go home when (in her head) she had asked her mother for a sign, a sign to let her know she would be ok…it was then that she looked to the edge of the beach and saw me standing there. The coat that I mentioned I had placed my phone in is a military cargo print, on the back are a huge set of angel wings. I smiled and simply replied “You’re most welcome, enjoy the rest of your day”…the lady continued walking, beaming from ear to ear and all I could imagine was how awful it would have been if I had chosen the email option over the beach.

I don’t think it matters what you personally take from this story, perhaps a smile or the impulse to find more joy in the day for yourself, a reflection of spiritual intervention or a serendipitous moment. I wanted to share the joy in hope that it might continue the string of fairy light happiness. Enjoy 🙂

Sometimes happy memories hurt the most

Very soon we will of breathed for 3650 days without our first born, our daughter Gracie Alice Rose.

As I’ve written previously she was too precious for this earth and so was given her wings early. We were blessed with several days with her and in that small amount of time created enough memories to get us through a life time without her…just. I remember every moment and each stage before we left the hospital with her car seat empty and our hearts in pieces.

At the time we were cocooned by the love of our family and friends, but also the ripples of love that travelled into our communities, work places and beyond. This experience has given me a masters in grief. It wasn’t a qualification that I was planning on taking, but I hope that my knowledge might make things a little easier when you find yourself in the shadows of grief.

People lie

Much like a pregnancy, in death people like to give advice. “It’ll be ok” “when my mum died..” it goes on. However, one wise Nanny told me “people will tell you it gets easier with time – they’re liars”. At the time it felt like Nanny had bluntly slapped me across the face, a different tone shall we say from the sympathy cards we’d received in their dozens. Alas, she was right and with this blunt truth and sudden adjustment to my thoughts, it somehow made it easier? I wasn’t waiting for the day I’d feel ‘me’ again, because ‘I’ was changed forever. With this comes several added delights, people are lying to you because they love you enough to want to make it better. to ease the brutal process. You are loved. Also, I don’t want to forget anything about that 5lb9 bundle of joy, so why would losing her get easier? Another truth is you do smile again, breathing gets a little easier and appreciation for what you had, even if like in our case it was only for days…becomes a blessing.

Break all the rules

If grief was a fairy, she would be naughty, mischievous and unpredictable – she would turn up when she liked, how she liked and make you feel how you didn’t expect to feel. Some people believe that there are steps to grief (google tells me there are seven), in reality there are actually as many as your grief fairy decides. You may think you’re through guilt and in to anger and then fairy grief side sweeps you back to stage one ‘shock’. It’s your journey and just because I’ve got my masters in grief doesn’t mean I know how you feel, what you need or how best to support you. My best advice would be to reach out to someone you trust and tell them. If they are a good friend, they’ll already know you’re crazy and love you for it, so to hear that one day your fine, the next your on top of the world and the third you’ve been wearing the same Pyjamas for a month and don’t remember where the shower is will come as no surprise. Talk to your tribe, be as honest as you can about your feelings and if you can’t put it into words, silence is best served with a friend by your side.

If none of the above resonates with you, remember ‘what do I know?’ and people are liars. However, if it made things a little easier then in our family we call that a ‘Gracie steps’, tiny steps to progress.

If you’ve been affected by any of the content in this post, please speak to a loved one, your GP or perhaps speak to the wonderful people at The Samaritans (UK) 116123.

Tears are words the heart can’t say

Quote from Gerard Way

Have you ever been to a funeral, wedding or a supermarket and cried, yet deep down you aren’t really sure why?

I’ve decided that speaking is over rated, which will come as a shock for those that know me, especially my Mum. I have verbal diarrhoea most of the time. That said, my best bits of my day are usually moments of still, calm and peace in a life of chaos and sounds, tick lists and diary plans. It’s in these moments that I find true happiness, it can be seeing the sun rise or set, having white washing on the line (fresh linen is one of my favourite smells), it can be pizza in the oven or even better delivered on my doorstop with no hassle from me, but very often it’s a hug from a friend rather than the words that accompany it that I like the most.

Sometimes I cry and am not sure why I’m crying. I can cry because I’m happy, over excited or overwhelmed. At other times I can’t remember the last time I had a ‘good cry’ and that’s usually the time I decide to put on a romantic comedy and tear jerk my way through ninety   minutes of delight and despair, the cheesier the better and served with pizza is once again a bonus.

When I was learning to live with grief I had a Marmite moment. Perhaps you’ve had one of these? It goes like this:

It was around 11am and I fancied something to eat, I decided on some marmite and toast. As I was buttering the toast I began to cry, I wasn’t really sure why I was crying so carried on buttering and blubbering. As I reached for the Marmite I began to laugh at myself and it was at this point Mr F walked in to find me sobbing my heart out, snot flowing, hyperventilating gasps and laughing all at the same time. His response was priceless and went something like “if you don’t like Marmite just have butter’ this of course made me laugh a little more and eventually in a big hug I was able to explain that I didn’t have a clue why I was crying. He then laughed at me and said it was grief and that it often catches you out at the most odd moments. Since then I’ve always been cautious with Marmite on toast and fully understand that it’s okay to not always know why you feel the way you do. You just do.

I do think those magic tears often allow us to vent emotions that the mouth can’t process. I think they are fundamentally important to our wellbeing and although I don’t cry very often, I sometimes allow myself to wallow in them or break out in laughter tears which always let me know life is pretty spectacular.

Some people don’t cry, ever. I’m not convinced and wonder if they let it out in different ways – perhaps their eyelids get sweaty? Have you ever had a Marmite moment or cried just because? I can’t be the only one…can I?

Grow through what you go through 

Quote Unknown.

I didn’t write this post to share, it’s been sitting in my draft folder and it’s not exactly my usual style of glitter and sparkle.

I’ve had a few weeks off of the blog, mainly just balancing myself out and dealing with life. Blogging is fabulous, but it’s always an extra effort for me and being the CEO and cleaner means I take time off when I need it. I wrote this post for cathartic needs just before the UK celebrated Mother’s Day…enjoy x 

I feel sad. I don’t usually…I can’t work out why I feel like this and it’s been going on for more days than I wish to count. I thought it might be because I had a bit of a cold around me, but that can’t be true because despite being a tiny tot of 4ft11 my immune system is 7ft thanks to being at school for over thirty years. It’s half way through term so I thought it might be that, but the light of spring mornings means the weight of work isn’t so heavy…

And then it dawned on me.Mothers day. Since 2009 I’ve hated this day. I wasn’t a huge fan before; it’s fake much like valentines and all the other days the gift world, flower companies and card manufacturers like to celebrate by lining their pockets. This one is the worst, my least favourite. 

After my daughter died this day felt empty. My eyes opened to every person who has lost their Mum, been bought up without their Mum, adopted, split families, missing families because of living abroad, dysfunctional families – frankly just not being able to hug, kiss or buy an over priced card for her. I also realised that due to the inevitability of death, we all would experience this pain at some point. The day seems sour. For Dads I guess the same would go for Father’s Day…

I thought having my son would feel the Mother’s Day void – it doesn’t. It just reminds me of what I’ve missed. Today he came home with some seeds in a pot and a homemade card (thanks Nursery) and I realised I should of received one of these already by now, grief sapped the joy and left me holding a pot of soil. He will start school in September, Gracie should be eight by then, so I should be a school run Mum pro…but I’m not, I haven’t a clue and until much nearer the time I shall live in a state of denial. 

Greiving is endless and it never stops. It doesn’t get easier and nothing can replace, alter or change our situation. You do enter a club – it’s a special death club, entry is something nobody in the club signed up for and it comes with a life time membership card and not so much as a free pen. Your only positive is you are able to help or ease others who join the club after you, be it through illness or miscarriage…helping others and understanding is my only reward. 

Other reasons I hate Mother’s Day include the fact you can’t escape it. Adverts on TV, pubs will bill boards outside, supermarkets with dedicated isles…you can’t even go out for a meal to escape it – not even mothers with children can book tables on this day.

You can stay inside but then you feel like your hiding. I couldn’t even buy my own amazing Mum a card for several years after my daughter died – this was mainly due to being scared of entering the shop without needing years of therapy, or crying on a Saturday girl who had an orange line of foundation around her face and in my own sadness saying something about it umongst the tears and endless snot, not to mention the hideous hyperventilating breathing. So I didn’t buy the card and she understood and never questioned. This is what makes her the best Mum in the universe and this is why I celebrate Mother’s Day nearly everyday of the year by calling her and ending each call with ‘love you bye’… keep your over priced roses, your posh choccies and a Mug that says ‘Mum’ I’m going 80s Maureen Lipman style /BT adverts – just call her because you can, if you are blessed to be able to.

My heart is complete because you are inside

 OK, lets get some perspective. Its 23:34 and I should be fast asleep. I’m not a night owl, insomniac or worried / stressed. I couldn’t settle without getting these words out and so if its slightly off the wall forgive me.

On September 29th 2015 my daughter should be 6 years old. For most Mums this means making 35 party bags, (probably Frozen themed) collecting or making the cake, booking the perfect venue and organising a day that only a parent could put the effort into for 100 dry curled sandwiches that nobody actually ever eats.

Except I wont have to do this and I haven’t ever. Several days after our little bubble was born. It popped. She passed away in my arms.

You see Gracie Alice Rose was too precious for this earth. She could only spend a few days and hours with us, and that was all we had.

I don’t need you to feel sorry for me, she was one of the BEST experiences I have ever had. I mean that to. The why’s and the hows are irrelevant at this moment in time, that was all put to rest.

What I want to share is something that Gracie gave me that was way more incredible. As my first born, she made me a Mummy. The power of that word will always haunt me – in a good way. We may of left the hospital with an empty baby car seat but she made me feel complete and she still continues to do so today.

I take her everywhere with me and in my heart she stays, protected from the negativity of this world,  she made me wake up to life.

She made me see how bloody amazing my Mr Fridge was, that he was a keeper, my soul mate and mine. He protected me and shielded me where he could, he opened sympathy cards when my heart ached too much, even though his heart was broken too. He ran errands, and in hospital he did everything I needed him to do, including sleeping on the floor so that I wasn’t alone in my little clinical room. He did that for me, he did that for our baby…our family.

Our friends and family stepped up the love, support and united in ways that my written word can never do justice. It showed cracks in those who weren’t true and it made me realise how blessed we were. My amazing Mum was honest and truthful, she always has the answers – for this there were none. I overflowed with questions, why me? why our baby? why Gracie? As we sat on the edge of my bed she looked into my eyes and said she didn’t know. I respected that and I still do now.

Gracie inspired many to raise funds, run marathons (nutters) and do good for Great Ormond street. That’s not bad for a 2 day old baby right?

She inspired me to make the most of what life has to offer and through my experience of losing her I learnt how grief can catch you in moments you would never expect, the classic moment that I will always remember was several months after she had left us and I was buttering toast, I exploded in tears and still don’t fully understand why. I often tap into this when I work with pupils who are in similar situations. You cant teach life and you cant learn it from a book in the same way as the ‘University of life’.

We don’t celebrate any of her anniversaries. We do have traditions that we follow, like at Christmas we have a star that we place on her stone. I chose not to ‘regularly’ go to her grave and never have. Instead, she is in our village cemetery and we can walk past and pop in on a dog walk, or take J there via the park. She’s part of our life in this bumbling quaint village that we live in and I like that.

…the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that when it comes to death – there is no right answer. There is usually a ‘right for you’ but it doesn’t always show up immediately and that’s OK too. The other thing Gracie taught me was that nobody can take away your memories. In several short hours we made a thousand. That’s where she remains, in my heart x

Sweet dreams Gracie and thank you for giving so much in so little time.