Thursday, 26 December 2013

Edging my way to feeling

For weeks the weather has been playing an alternating game: a day of calm, blue sky, still trees and winter sunshine, followed by a day of wild wind and rain, making the yew tree stream and lash its branches while the kitchen window streams water.

Weather makes a difference up here.  Filling the bird feeders, going for logs, shutting up the chickens: there is no escape from wind and rain when the storms come.  When it is still and sunny you stand and look at the view, notice the birds whipping in and out of the hedges, watch the buzzards soaring or stalking. But I am shut in a bubble of grey, wrapped in slightly grubby cotton wool.  I can see the blue stillness or the driving rain but somehow I can't tell the difference.  I take my camera out on a perfect day, hoping that the effort of making myself see will help me break out of my cocoon but I can't be bothered to look at the pictures when I come back inside.

I need to look after the living, I can see that, so Ian and I drive backwards and forwards to Devon to see my father.  When I am with him I feel like myself again, making a difference, lightening his own heavy load. When I am home the grey wool closes in again.

I decide that I must engage with Christmas.  We have my children coming to stay, younger son and daughter in law with their eight week old baby are staying here with us and my elder daughter and her family will stay with the younger daughter, only twenty five minutes away.  Three days' worth of buying presents and planning food make it the shortest time I have ever given to getting ready for Christmas.  It makes me feel better to be doing something and to know that a Christmas with our four year old grandson, new baby granddaughter, two dogs and our children and their partners will be ok.  Older grandson who won't be with us on Christmas Day comes to stay the weekend before Christmas and we make paper chains and mince pies.  He is delighted to meet his new baby cousin.  It is important to get this right.  My mother was good at occasions, as she was good at the every day.  She would not want us to have a sad, empty Christmas.

And Christmas Day itself is fine, no, better than fine.  The two girls cook up a storm.  There is a free range turkey raised by some friends and a huge dish of roast potatoes.  There is bread sauce and two sorts of stuffing and pigs in blankets, red cabbage, buttery carrots and sprouts and totally delicious gravy.  It is good to look round the table and see everyone.  My presents seem to have something of a theme of comfort: scarves, warm socks, slippers.

Sometimes in bed at night the loss of my mother comes breaking through like a spring tide, making me sob and shake.  I think I want to take it out and look at it, to be somewhere by myself, away from everyone, away from home, to sit quietly in a silent place and think about her and say goodbye but it can't be done.  The flooding anxiety about my father will need to drop a little first I think.

So there is nothing to be done other than to take the huge comfort offered by my family,  to eat and to drink and to play with the children, to sit on the sofa and to hold Ian's hand.  To everything there is a season and while I do not want the season of grey, shrouding cotton wool, it does not matter what I want.  Children and babies and grandchildren and dogs have broken through now and then and I have smiled and laughed with them and for that I know I am lucky.

"How am I doing you ask, Mum?"  "I am doing ok.  I am doing as well as I can."

There is a season for everything and one day the wind will come and the grey cloud will be torn to tatters and maybe I will be able to see right across the valley and up to the ridge.  In the meantime, put another log on the fire.

30 comments:

  1. I was grateful that our first Christmas without my mother included 2 nieces, and one's 2 grown children. Our really little people are in England. We went to the Cathedral for the Sung Mass, as we always do - but then we didn't go to visit my mother, as we used to.

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  2. Speaking from the experience of having my husband gone for five years of celebrating Christmas, you will always miss your mother during the holidays. The sad times are shorter and it gets easier to laugh and smile. May you find peace in your heart and mind during the next year.♥♫

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  3. Wishing you healing, peace, and joy in the year ahead Elizabeth x

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  4. Can you imagine if there were no grey days? No sadness at the loss of mother? Can you imagine how awful THAT would be? Grieve well with love Elizabeth. It is a great gift you give yourself . And smile brightly when the moment is right for you.

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  5. I am so sorry for your loss. My father died close to Christmas some years back and it's a difficult time; you write so eloquently of love and loss and the echoes reach out to all of us.

    x

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  6. Children and grandchildren help, I'm sure. There is nothing, however, but time, that will take away the feeling of loss. I am so sorry for this loss, Elizabeth - glad that you have been able to enter into the Christmas celebration at your house, and glad that you allowed it to happen - but sorry for this great loss.

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  7. Don't expect too much of yourself and allow yourself to grieve. I was so busy protecting my sons and being strong for my parents when my sister died that I came close to a break down 6 months later. This is our 5th Christmas since she died and it's the first when it hasn't felt as though there was an elephant in the room if you know what I mean. I remember telling the counsellor I saw after I came close to breaking down that I thought our culture of polite grief was wrong, I wanted to be able to wail like Arab and Indian women are allowed to. I remember suddenly sobbing uncrontrollably at strange times - in the shower, when I saw an ambulance etc but the counsellor told me that I had to remember that no two people reacted in the same way and that however I felt was OK. Mum had a stroke in September and it changed her viewpoint suddenly she has realised how precious life is and how important it is to have good times with those around her rather than wallowing in her grief, which she was.

    Sorry for the long response but I found no one is comfortable talking about these things and it can be so isolating. You know where I am.

    Be kind to yourself

    Helen x

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  8. Do not expect too much of yourself, and expect that your coming out of this will be gradual and jerky. There will always be moments that bring tears to your eyes, but, gradually, more good memories will surface.
    A few years ago I found myself bawling noisily, messily and very publicly in a church. They had one of those 'heritage' displays, and someone had put up a photograph taken about 50 years ago. It featured the WI, and one of the women was holding the hand of her young daughter. I was that girl. I clearly remember the photo being taken. I do not remember my mother.
    The pain of loss never leaves us, but I think it gets woven into the fabric of life.
    Take care.

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  9. Lovely contemplative post Elizabeth - I think we all miss our nearest and dearest who have gone at Christmas - it is such a family time. But isn't it lovely you have new life in the family - life goes on and new generations are born. A very happy new year to you all.

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  10. I have just been catching up with your blogposts today, and was so moved by the beautiful words about your mother. My truly heartfelt thoughts and condolences. My ma has been struggling with a heart attack and cancer now, and I feel edged up to things I don't want to face. I hope you find a way through your grief, step at a time, logs on the fire one after the other. Accepting the joy that loved ones can offer is perhaps the exact gift your mum had - of finding something in the day to make it as good as possible? x

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  11. Elizabeth, you always express yourself so well. Thank you for allowing us to know some of what your very own self has been experiencing and how different this season has been. I recognize quite a bit of what you have written in my own self, and my unexpected ways of traveling through the experiences of loss.

    The prior comments offer so much wisdom and affection. I hope that my jumble of words will also be a little comfort to you.

    xo

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  12. Your words moved me to tears Elizabeth. Writing is a great therapy which, along with the earthbound angels in your family, will gradually ease the pain.

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  13. How good to have the nearness, love and comfort of family wrapped round you Elizabeth at this emotional time of year. That grey cotton wool will dissolve when you are ready. Take care xxx

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  14. My friend Jim Perrin described grief as the bass note which underscored every waking moment - I know that anxiety can be like that too. But in grief, through memory, there is also intense joy - and in anxiety, inner strength. Stay strong; keep well - and a happy new year

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  15. This was a wonderful "I'm all right for the shape I'm in" sort of post. Grey, wet, Welsh winter; I can feel the chill all the way over here. (And, no, it's not from the snow we've had, day after day.) It's the wet cold that seeps through the coat, and the skin, and settles in the bones.

    Wonderful that you've had so many family home for part of the holidays. A cheery note!

    Blessings and Bear hugs, Elizabeth. Best wishes for 2014.

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  16. Wishing you a peaceful Christmas season, with as many happy memories as tears, and as many good friends as your heart can hold.

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  17. The terrible feeling of loss does gradually fade , leaving space for the loving
    memories .
    And all of you are paying your mother the greatest tribute by celebrating so warmly together .

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  18. I'm so glad that you have managed to enjoy some of Christmas - real and metaphorical hugs abounding. Very best wishes for 2014, and may you have many more hugs of both kinds.

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  19. Yes, beautifully put. I missed my mother so much at our recent ruby wedding anniversary celebration. She would have so enjoyed it. Much sympathy to you.

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  20. So moving. . . Take care of yourself, as you seem to be doing in your wisdom, leaving room for grief and joy to mix, as they will. . .

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  21. The first Christmas, birthday etc are the hardest. It does get easier after the 'firsts'. I think you learn to live with your loss more easily. You will never forget your mother. I still talk to mine and she passed away 19 years ago in January.

    May 2014 be full of love and family.

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  22. I have just read the most fabulous quote and would like to share it with you all:
    "May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."

    ~ Neil Gaiman

    I wish that for all of us for 2014!

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  23. It's awfully tough, especially the 'firsts'. I hope the new year is kind to you. Cx

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  24. Dear Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your kind words on my blog! So sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. It must be so difficult. I am glad that despite your loss, you enjoyed the love of your children and granddaughter! Hope the New Year will be a happier one for you!

    Thinking of you and sending you love!

    Madelief x

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  25. Agony, Elizabeth. I miss my parents so much I have nothing consoling to say. Time is an anesthetic.

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  26. Oh, Elizabeth - I have been wrapped up in the holidays and am just getting around to catching up on all my blogs, and am sitting here in tears after having read your beautiful hymn to your mother. I am so sorry to hear this sad news and can only say that my heart is full for you. I can only imagine how difficult these months have been - my dad died on 17th December - and I know that there will be sad days to come; they never do completely go away. I suppose that's the price we pay for having such wonderful people in our lives, and, just maybe, it's a fair price. Sometimes when I am feeling particularly weepy - and yes, it still happens even though my dad has been gone for 17 years now - I try to remind myself that I am lucky to hurt like I do. Lucky that I had such a dear father, such a sweet relationship, and such fond and loving memories that even now, 17 years later and half a world away, he is still missed and loved and remembered with such strength and clarity. I can read in your comments that you feel the same way about your mum - she sounds like an amazing person - and very much like I imagine you to be from your writing. What a lovely legacy she has left behind her. Take as much comfort from your family as you can and look forward with hope and confidence to the time when the world will be warmer and greener. With many cyber-hugs from Seoul xxoo

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  27. I'm just catching up with your blog and am so sorry to come upon the loss of your mother. You write so beautifully about her. As others have said, take time to grieve. Even when you emerge from the first numbness and feel again, it will come upon you unexpectedly. I found myself weeping into the frozen peas in Asda three months after my father died.... just take time and be kind to yourself. And most of all, hold the memories dear....

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  28. You honour your mother by feeling her loss as keenly you do, and she would be proud of you for continuing to put one foot in front of the other until the worst grief passes, still offering the love and warmth to family that she gave to you. Best wishes for a serene and fruitful 2014 with those you love.

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  29. Such beautiful writing Elizabeth. and so full of emotion. I know the feeling . You describe it so well. Take Care, xo

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