There’s so much craziness going on at the moment – so much to do, so many feelings, so much to manage. The other week I thought I would spend a day writing all of it down to try to help me process it. I chose to do it the next day, there wasn’t anything that particularly marked Wednesday out from the other days of that week. I’m so glad I did it. It’s 2.5 weeks ago now and I’ve already forgotten so much. This initial period of bereavement is such a haze.
Wednesday 13th June 2018
I wake up a lot in the night. The stupid blind in my bedroom is broken again, it needs tweaking every so often and Andy did that. With just flimsy curtains and no blind, the light streams in strongly from about 4am. June is the wrong month for grief. Spending so much time awake at the moment, I’ve noticed just how light it is. You can still see an edge of sunlight at 11pm and it starts creeping back in at 3am. I’m not sure whether I should be angry with the sunlight for aiding my insomnia or see it as a comfort that it’s awake with me.
I am getting more sleep now than I did at first, but it’s very broken. I dream about him. Nothing clear, just hazy dreams. Then there is that split second when I wake up and I’ve forgotten that my world has fallen apart. Then I remember and my heart breaks all over again.
As I’m wide awake, I decide to get on with my day. The night before, a friend told me I could self-refer for therapy at our local hospital via their website, so I do that. It’s a very simple process and I guess I tick most of the boxes indicating fragile mental health.
The kids are in bed with me which is pretty much the norm at the moment. I wonder if they have the same dreams and crashing moments on waking. They don’t say. We had a difficult and late bedtime the night before, the 4 year old struggles to settle. That has always been the case but seems more painful now, with her intense moods and only me here to get both kids to bed.
She asked more questions about daddy last night. When is the day daddy is coming home? Has he disappeared in hospital? Are the doctors looking for him? Not unusual for a 4 year old to repeat questions in different ways when they are trying to make sense of the world. I repeat the same lines in as simple language as possible. Daddy is dead. He is isn’t coming home. You know when you see a dead fly on the floor and it doesn’t move anymore? It’s like that. It’s very sad. But he will always love us very much and he will live on in our hearts, memories and all around us.
The kids get up later than usual after their late night. We rush to get dressed and have breakfast before school. Imogen asks me again where daddy is and I talk about him being a star in the sky watching over us as. I think something clearly visual will help her. I help Seren pack her school bag and realise she hasn’t touched her reading book for the last couple of weeks. She had been reading the book with daddy. I ask her if she wants to take it back to school and swap it for a new one. She says yes.
Just as we are heading out the door we realise that one scooter is missing, probably left at school or with a friend the day before. Different friends have been collecting and helping me with the kids. The girls fight over the remaining scooter and I manage to drop the handset of the house alarm which then goes dead. Another thing that Andy would have sorted out. Setting the alarm overnight has been helping me feel safe so I’m stressed about this but there’s no time to fix now as we are already late for school.
We get to school OK with the girls sharing a scooter but when we get there Imogen is reluctant to let go of me. Seren tries to soothe her and encourages her to go in. I’ve noticed Seren doing a lot of this and stepping up since Andy died. Imogen goes in as long as I go in with her and take her over to the Maths table.
I’m given a letter with the details about Imogen starting Reception. I wasn’t able to go to the new Reception parents’ meeting the night before. I guess it’s going to be hard to get out to meetings and such like in the evening from now on.
Seren is reluctant to go in to her classroom too. I’m allowed to walk her into Year 1 area and find her favourite Teaching Assistant and she takes her hand and goes in.
On the way home, a friend catches me up with the missing scooter. I manage to fix the alarm handset when I get home (I just needed to take the battery out and put it in again, phew) and have breakfast and empty the dishwasher. I’m adjusting to doing all the chores by myself, Andy was great around the house and we worked together to keep on top of things.
I have an appointment at the funeral directors to take some clothes in for Andy to wear. It’s not something you have to do but it feels right to me. I decide on clothes that I remember in – jeans, t-shirt and trainers. I go through the pile of his recently worn clothes, finding jeans is easy. A t-shirt is trickier as lots of them I want to keep. As I pick them up and breathe them in, a few of them still smell like him and I can’t bear to part with those. I end up picking one he didn’t wear very often and debate whether I should iron it or not. Seems like a waste of time on the one hand but on the other it feels like the right thing to do.
Before I head out, I call the Crematorium to arrange the photos for the funeral service. It’s very high tech these days. I have to upload photos to a cloud system. The lady on the phone asks me if that’s something I am able to do. I tell her that there is a lot I feel I am unable to do at the moment but uploading photos is something that doesn’t faze me at all.
I drive to the funeral directors with Andy’s clothes. I thought I would just be dropping them off but I go in and sit down with them so they can go through what I’ve brought in and give me a receipt. She asks if I’ve checked the jeans pockets. I haven’t. There’s a hankie in there (he always carried a hankie, rather old-fashioned but always useful). I think he should keep the hankie with him. In the other pocket are cinema tickets from the weekend before he died. He went to see The Avengers with his friend Dave. I decide to keep hold of these.
They also give me some books for the kids and I which talk about sudden death. I’ve got a growing pile of story books for the kids which talk about death. I’ve mostly put them to one side for now.
Before I head home I pop to the shops for essentials like loo roll and teabags. Andy used to do the supermarket shop one evening in the week. The day before he died, I did it as he had been poorly. He disapproved of my peony and candle buying alongside the groceries and shook his head at how I had managed to lose my debit card in between Aldi and Sainsbury’s. He jokingly said he wasn’t going to let me do it again. Well, obviously I will have to (or maybe I will get deliveries) but at the moment there is a lot of popping to the local shops for bits we have run out of. I dread running out of milk one evening and not being able to pop out to get some for the morning. People have been so kind in bringing us food for dinners and cakes though.
When I get home I spend a couple of minutes replying to some messages. I’ve been inundated with text messages, calls, emails, social media comments and messages. It’s really, really lovely to know so many people care about us and want to keep checking in. I’ve not managed to reply to everyone though but know that it means a lot to me.
My step-mum arrives for a visit. She brings gifts. Sweets for the kids and a candle and chocolate for me. We head out to pick up Imogen from nursery. An upside is that so many of our friends and family have now been down to Imogen’s nursery and it has been exciting for her to walk home with different people.
Imogen is subdued today though. It’s hot and I think she is tired. We get the paddling pool out and I make sandwiches for lunch. It’s good to chat with my step-mum. She has sadly been widowed twice and her advice and support is very helpful. I tell her about fixing the alarm handset and she says that I should write down these small victories and when I’m feeling useless I can refer to it.
My step-mum leaves and my father-in-law arrives soon after. Imogen often spends Wednesday afternoon with her grandparents but she doesn’t feel like going anywhere today. Grandad plays with her in the garden instead. He helps me install the light in the fish tank we bought the week before. The girls found some aquarium pebbles on the pavement on the way to school and we all decided we should get some fish.
He also sorts out jasmine plants growing up the back wall of the house. They have gone a bit crazy and he gets up a ladder to train them round the trellis. The jasmine was Andy’s project. I know it’s something I can take on but I feel a bit shaky to be up a ladder at the moment.
Imogen makes a pirate den then finds some mermaid stickers. She brings them to the kitchen table and finds a piece of paper to start sticking them onto. I realise she’s sticking them onto the back of a letter from my GP. She wrote to me after hearing about Andy’s death, expressing her condolences and asking me to book an appointment to see her. I did see another GP on the day he died and was prescribed with Diazapam to help with sleeping and staying calm. I only took one or two of the tablets. I think I will book an appointment soon to discuss how I’m feeling with her.
Grandad stays at home with Imogen whilst I collect Seren from school. Any day that I don’t have to take Imogen on the afternoon school run is better than most. I do some funeral admin on the way, popping into florists and booking haircuts for the girls. I see a friend who tells me her dad died when she was 9 and her brother was 6, I didn’t know this. I guess by the time you get to my age it’s not unusual to have lost a parent. It’s kind of comforting to hear other stories of those who lost parents as children and know that they turned out OK.
Seren comes out of school happy and is proudly wearing a sticker from the headteacher. She has had her Year 1 Phonics Screening today and has done well. A week or so earlier I didn’t know whether she would be physically present to take the test or whether she would emotionally able. I’m so proud of her and I hope that school is a big distraction from everything else.
Back at home I open a package from a friend. It’s a beautiful necklace with forget-me-not flowers inside a glass ball. Andy and I had a bit of an ongoing disagreement about forget-me-nots. I thought of them as being like weeds and would pull them out. He liked them. So I used to only pull some out and leave some behind. They aren’t actually weeds, they just spread quite a lot. They will always remind me of him now.
The gift is so thoughtful and the tears start to flow again. I find that the time leading up to 6pm is the hardest, the time he would have walked in the door. I have moments when I find the pain of grief like a physical, crushing pain or like a black cloud has enveloped me and I can’t push it off. These feelings don’t last but when they come my heart hurts and I feel like I can’t breathe.
The hospital call about the self-referral I submitted this morning. I arrange to have an initial telephone consultation in a few days time and I’m impressed with how quickly they got in touch.
Grandad leaves then we do dinner, bath and bedtime. It’s so hard. We used to have dinner as a family at 6pm, then Andy would bath the girls whilst I tidied up and then most of the time he would do bedtime too. Or we would tag team if it was particularly tricky. Seren’s bedtime has always been relatively straightforward but Imogen has always found it very hard to get to sleep, she physically doesn’t seem able to relax and she becomes very irritable. Often one of us would fall asleep with her or take over from the other exasperated parent.
Bedtime is the time I’m struggling with most as a single parent and haven’t yet found a routine that works. We’ve all been sleeping in my bed which at least means I can read them stories at the same time. I leave them listening to the Audible app on the Kindle, which has been my saviour.
I did manage to fix the blind though which is something and makes the room a bit darker. Another thing for my success list.
Friends are popping in soon and before they do I do a quick tidy. I find a pile of drawings that Seren did a few days after Andy died. She has written lots of messages including “Get well soon daddy”. I’m in floods of tears just as friends arrive. They bring gifts too, a huge bag of sweets for the girls and very sweetly they have named a star after Andy and bring the certificate and map. Another thoughtful gift and fits in with what I have been saying to the girls about daddy being a star in the sky.
After they go, I go through some more messages and make arrangements with friends to come tomorrow. I’m exhausted when I get to bed and fall asleep easily. I wake up a few times before midnight though. I check my phone and see that Andy’s friend Dave has emailed me his tribute for Andy’s funeral. I can’t face reading it and manage to fall back asleep.