I haven’t posted for a while.
It’s been a bit of a year so far to be honest.
As a writer I should find comfort pouring my soul on to paper, but actually, I find the opposite. Maybe I’m afraid of what it might unleash?
I lost my dad in January.
I got a call from my sister. “Are the boys in bed?”
“Dad’s very ill. They’re doing CPR.”
I knew in that instant he was gone.
It was like in films. A sort of out-of-body experience. Adrenalin surged through me and I started pacing around the room. I wailed down the phone. My poor sister tried to find comforting words about how lovely Christmas had been, all together.
Our last Christmas with Dad.
He had slipped away in his sleep, while napping in front of ‘The Chase’. My mum by his side.
A dream death.
He was 87. (But seemed 70 to me and in good health, or so we thought).
All the old cliches start tripping off the tongue:
“What a way to go.”
“It was his time.”
“Awful for you but the best thing for him.”
“What a good innings.”
And it’s true. I named it the ‘Rolls Royce of deaths’, which was so fitting for a man who never did anything by halves. If he’d written his death, it would be this. To the letter.
But of course, for us, it was brutal. Yes, we were spared seeing our dad fade away, or suffer in any way. But the suddenness of it was ferocious.
For weeks I had to keep reminding myself Dad was gone. It was like retraining my brain. I was in shock.
I just wanted one last touch. Although I am sure for people who have had that moment, it is never enough.
I managed to get down to Cornwall that night to be with my mum. I woke from a fitful disturbed half-sleep at about 5am and all I could think to do was lie down on the sofa – in the exact spot Dad had died. His newspaper was still there. Neatly folded. Just as he’d left it. I cuddled it, craving some kind of closeness to him.
My words on grief so far are desperately inadequate. This week I stumbled across this column in The Telegraph, which spoke to me. Jemima Lewis captures the loneliness of grief, which I hadn’t understood was loneliness until I read this.
“…the bereaved only really talk amongst themselves. Seeing a fellow sufferer, they gather shyly round to compare notes and offer solidarity.”
It’s not that I haven’t been surrounded by love and support – I absolutely have. But the nature of grief is that it’s so individual – you can’t help but feel totally alone in it.
So, this is why I haven’t been blogging about family life in Devon. Quite simply I feel a bit bruised and battered. My head is a whir of confused thoughts, and it doesn’t feel very honest writing about fun days out at the moment.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, which is what’s prompted me to write this.
This and a visit with my oldest, dearest friend today. At soft play, in between the general mayhem of entertaining two toddlers and a baby, we just about managed a conversation on how hard we found parenting a newborn and two-year-old (we’re both out the other side now). The constant feeling of failing. The battle against the chaos of feed, sleep, change, repeat while simultaneously appeasing a toddler. The debilitating sleep deprivation. My memories of this time are starting to fade now. Maybe they’re even becoming rose-tinted. But it reminded me how important self-care is as a mother, and – quite frankly – how bad most of us are at it (when we need it most). Especially me.
I know I need to be kind to myself. I need to book quiet time to process everything that has happened and comfort the ache Dad’s death has left. But for some reason, as a mother, I cannot make that time for myself without feeling guilty. Like I should be getting on with something else. And the niggle that I’m failing at…well, life and motherhood. “Pull yourself together” is what I hear in my mind.
I need to take responsibility for my own mental health. My excuse is always that I’m too busy (looking after others) to look after myself – but who else is going to do it, if not me?
So, I’m going to use this blog. It’s going to help me in my quest for contentment. And perhaps it might help you too…or anyone in need of reminding that they deserve a break.
I’ll continue my ramblings on Devon life, days out and stories on local businesses.
But I’ll also be pottering around the garden a bit, trying out some complementary therapies (acupuncture next week – pretty apprehensive about the needles!), telling you a bit more about Mumazing Success (business mums group in Exeter, which has taught me the importance of self-care when juggling work and family) and, of course, getting out and about with my boys. Probably the best kind of therapy there is for grief.
Like so many mums, I’m incapable of sitting still and not feeling like I’m ticking a box. So, here I am ticking a box. Not only will I be creating a website that (I hope) is useful for local parents, I’m also going to be making myself feel better. Win win. No guilt.
Wish me luck. I hope you’ll come join me.