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Day of the Dead grief loss

Day of the dead

Conwy Beach in October 2021 with the sun trying to break through the clouds and rise. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Conwy Beach – October 2021 – 7.35am – taken by myself

I had been planning this blog post in my head for a few days as I am learning how I need a special day when I can honour and remember those who have gone before me. Then Sunday on Facebook was a post from a friend that appeared to be saying that a mutual friend, someone who had supported myself and my husband through a time of grief, had died. Then Monday there was an email from another friend to confirm that this lovely man had had two or three heart attacks on Saturday and had not recovered. It is a reminder that death comes suddenly to anyone and seems poignant that Nigel is the first person I will mention in this post and the most recent to leave this world. He was an amazingly pastoral person. I can still picture him keeping a straight, kind face even as our puppy drank his cup of tea whilst he was praying for us, or crawled on the back of the couch behind him and rolled downwards into his neck. Those are my big memories of Nigel. And even as I pray for his family – wife, children and grandchildren – I can still smile at that memory from nine and a half years ago.

My first death that really affected me was also my first suicide. He was my boss and we went to the funeral as an office group. No one knew why he had taken his own life so we sat with pints on the table and talked of the good things about him, of which there were many. Pat taught me that people are more complicated than the novels I was reading.

My youngest death was a lad whose parents had asked my boyfriend and I, both of us in our 20s, to be the “responsible adults” at Simon’s 18th birthday party. We were very honoured. The next time we saw his parents was 10 days later at Simon’s funeral. At 18 and one day Simon had gone off on his brand new motorbike with a friend and been impaled on a lamp post. He left me with a memory of seizing every moment because of never knowing what is round the corner.

Around this similar time my grandmother died. But I had lost her around twenty years ago when she had endured a major stroke and never really spoken again. With her I learned that grief is complicated and can arise many years after the loss.

My sister’s death was more complicated but that was the relationship her and I had; complicated. But for fifty years of my life she stopped me from being an only child. I miss having a sister though I am not sure I miss her per se. Again a lesson in how complicated relationships are.

I miss my friend, Felicity. Tthe more I delve into my own writing around Welsh Medieval history the more I wish she was still here to read what I was writing. It was with her that I explore historical novels and authors that we both adored.

Our friend, Jon, took his own life just after my sister died. Even though I still have time being cross with him for his decisions I can still laugh at silly dinner party conversations we would share which would drive the rest of those at the table into frustration. One that comes to mind today is of us in fits of giggle talking of how those who built Stonehenge managed to get the stones from Wales by strapping sheep together into fluffy rafts and placing the stones on them to drift across the Bristol Channel.

I cannot end this list of names without mentioning my father-in-law. Another one who chose to take his own life but even still I will remember him as the man who welcomed me into his family, when I started dating his son, knowing that because of my age and that I already had two teenagers I would not be blessing his son with children that would carry on the family name, and of how he publicly called my two teens his grandchildren.

I am not going to list all those that I have lost because there are many and I do not want to forget any. Friends, family, colleagues, and more besides who left this world in many different ways – suicides, heart attack, cancer, accident, old age, and other ways. These today are just a snapshot of my life as well as theirs.

Each person that I have know, those mentioned by name and those not, have affected my life in many different ways, and still do even today. I’ve learned so much from those I’ve known, about life, about myself and more. Even though I grieve for the fact that they have died before me I am grateful that they were in my life for however long or short the relationship, however deep or trivial.

So I will continue to allow people close to me even if it means there could be pain in ending because life and people are too rich to not walk with for however long. This is my post to honour them

Categories
bitter/sweet grief hope joy life loss

Beware the Ides of March

Sunset on the M56 on a journey back from our holiday in Northumbria Sept 2020

Misquote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar but seemed appropriate for this post.

March is a weird month for me because over the years lots of stuff has happened in it. To name but a few – it is the anniversary of not just physical deaths of friends and family but also of the loss of dreams, of anniversaries of heartbreak and relationship ends for both my children, which if you’re a parent you will know this hurts your heart too. But it is also the anniversary of when I got my cute little dog, when I met with God in an amazing, never to be dismissed encounter, when my son was born. So the month of March is a bitter sweet month. But then isn’t that life.

Life isn’t all good or all bad. Even in this pandemic I would say each person would be hard pressed to not be able to find a good time, even if it is just something small, but our newspaper headlines would like us not to see things that way. And I’m not saying things haven’t been tough. For me just entering March each year is tough and it was also why I went into panic mode last March rushed to “rescue” my daughter and bring her back to live in my house, was scared that we would run out of food. It wasn’t just the pandemic but the memories heaped upon it. This year I am calmer because I’ve recognised this is what my body does so I do almost remind it to “beware the ides of March”. Then I can work with my panics and my negative feelings and keep my body, mind and emotions not so much in check, because hiding one’s feelings is dangerous to both your physical and mental health. But I make sure I don’t get caught up in flight, fight or freeze and acknowledge the past in all its hues.

I’m not saying it is wrong to remember these events. It is good to have some time set aside to remember those people and dreams that have gone, but I do believe one should also remember the good in them too. I know sometimes that can be hard when the death has been from a long drawn out illness or mental health issue, or if the relationship or dream ended painfully. That does make it hard. But there is a gap for light in everything no matter how horrendous.

I read a few books last year and this about refugees and people in war torn countries. These books aren’t gloomy. They are honest about the hardness of the situation but they also see the light and joy in things. These are not books I come away depressed from but come away having learned something of another culture, another way of life, that I would not encounter in my daily life. The things I read are much harder than what I’ve been through. No matter what are papers say we are blessed to live in the UK. And yes there are things here that need to change, justices that need to be sorted, I’m not saying that. Same as I’m not saying that one shouldn’t grieve for those we’ve lost. What I am saying is that we need to see the blessings in the sadness, see the joy in the sorrow, see the light in the darkness.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde Lady Windermere’s Fan

Which way do you want to look?