Remembering

Remembering for me is something I do whenever I feel the need.  For the most part I can live my day to day life without making any fuss over it, but sometimes there is a need to sit and dwell on my memories.  Maybe even shed a quiet tear or two.

As parents, Ross and I often sit together and perhaps raise a glass in toast to Kelly, and we often wonder what she would be like or be doing if she’d lived.  Of course we can only imagine, dream about this, but it gives us some comfort I think.

In the early years after Kelly left us, we celebrated special days like her birthday, Christmas and the anniversary of her death.  We’d get together, have a few drinks and talk about our girl, how we missed her, and tell stories of her exploits, sharing our grief.  We needed that then, but as the years have passed the need has lessened and become a much more private grieving.  I believe  this to be a normal progression, healthy even, but not something that must fit into a regulated timeline.  For some, this will come sooner than others, and that is fine, as we each work at our own progression.   What hurts terribly today, may only cause a fleeting grief next month.   There are no rules.

On Australia Day in Geelong, a group called SPAN – Suicide Prevention Awareness Network hold a march or rally, for those wishing to come together in a combined public sharing of grief for our loved ones lost to suicide.  This group was formed eight or nine years after we lost Kelly, and by that time we didn’t feel the need to be a part of it, probably because we’d had so much support from our family and friends. SPAN serves a need in our community, and provide a valuable service for any or all who require it.  But this year we decided we would attend the march, to see what it was about.

I registered online, and then on the morning of the march we joined around five hundred or so others to remember our loved ones.  After we’d checked in, we had the opportunity to purchase SPAN merchandise — many people were already wearing t-shirts, caps and scarves in the colours of black and teal.  There were dogs on leashes – several wearing scarves, families and others who were there simply to support those who needed it.

We also were able to add Kelly’s name to the list to be read out later.  Then we gathered for the short service prior to our march.  We were then asked to clear a large space in the middle of the group, and when they began reading out the names of our lost loved ones, we were asked to move to the centre and form a spiral.

So as the names were called out, people moved into the centre space and gradually formed a large spiral of people holding hands.  So we stood there holding hands with strangers, joined in shared grief for the loss of our loved ones.  It was almost reverent, I listened to those names being called out as our spiral grew larger and larger, and thought that there were too many, yet we only represented a small section of the community.  Something that struck me too, was the predominance of male names being called out.  Our menfolk seem to be overrepresented amongst the suicide statistics — perhaps we need to be paying more attention to the men in our lives.  Tears were quietly shed as we stood there in our togetherness.  The stranger holding my hand turned and patted my shoulder when it was finished in silent acknowledgement of another’s grief.

We then did our walk — two kilometres around the city, returning to the park for coffee, sausage sizzle or just to chat before dispersing.

It was a new experience for us, but one we will repeat next year.  The SPAN motto is “Tough Times Pass” and yes they do.  We settle back into regular life, but the memories will live on with us forever.

 

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Illusions

Most of us have created illusions at some stage, perhaps only fleetingly, but an illusion no less.  For example when someone asks you “How are you?”  despite feeling tired, sad, angry or whatever  we usually reply “Okay thanks.” or words to that effect.  If the person asking is particularly observant then they may delve a little deeper, but most just accept the illusion you’ve created by pretending that your world is fine.

Or maybe it is the illusion that you are doing well financially, when in reality all the credit cards are maxed, the rent is due and you don’t have enough cash to put petrol in the car.  Despite all this, you dress up smartly, put on a smile and pretend that you are doing well, even going as far as buying the coffee or whatever, just to gild the illusion.

We often find it difficult to admit that all is not well in our world, justifying to ourselves that no-one really wants to know how you feel anyway.

Then there are perceptions we make based on what we see — the smart clothes, jewellery or latest model car — even owning a business can have people thinking we are doing well which may also  be an illusion.

So we see what we want to see, and sometimes it is a bit scary asking someone to clarify that they are really okay.  It might make us feel uncomfortable if we ask more questions.  I think back to the week before  Kelly died, when she came home to live with us again.  We saw what we wanted to see — that she was back to her old self, that she seemed settled and we were happy that we had our girl back again.  There were some adjustments in thinking, but it was good to have all that crazy stuff done with, great to have a normal conversation with her again.

As we discovered, to our everlasting regret, it was just an illusion on her part.  We saw what we wanted to see, when she was only calm because she had made her big decision to end her life and was with us to say goodbye without actually verbalising it.

So as we go about our daily lives, and we see a friend who doesn’t quite fit the ‘okay’ response to our question of how are you, perhaps we could delve a little deeper.  Ask the awkward question – “Are you really okay — you don’t really seem that way?”   We may find more than we wanted, but we may also save a life by showing that we really do care.

Yes, asking someone if they are thinking of suicide or ending their life can be rather uncomfortable, but I would rather feel a little uncomfortable today, than have to attend a funeral next week.

 

 

A Mothers Smile

Recently I spotted a young couple walking down the street, side by side, not touching but together.  The young woman was wearing a baby carrier strapped to her chest, with a very small package inside.  Obviously a fairly new baby, mum wasn’t that old either.

As they passed me, the woman looked at me and smiled — a smile that was both proud and shy —  and I smiled back.  Her smile struck a chord within, it was the smile of one mother to another.  A recognition if you like of motherhood, that special club where, once you’ve joined, you can never leave.

Immediately I was transported forty years back in time, to when I had my first child.  The feelings flooded back to me.  The pride that you’ve managed to somehow produce a miracle, a special little being that is uniquely yours.  A feeling that is so very hard to describe to someone who has never been there.

It got me thinking about how protective mothers are with their babies, and caring, nurturing. That they stay that way even when those babies grow up.

Just because my son is forty years old, doesn’t mean that I stop feeling protective and caring.  Sure, I want to save him from heartache and disappointment just like I did when he was a tiny baby.  You start off making all the decisions for them, and after time,  they begin to gradually make their own.  You guide them, but ultimately they will do their own thing, including making mistakes that you cannot stop.  Life’s learnings.

You watch them, and you hurt with them — often silently as they find their way in life, and you wish you could keep them safe forever.  But part of that nurturing is letting go, and allowing them to make mistakes so they can learn from them.  Of course as they are growing up, they will still look to you for love, support and confirmation, but generally they do life without you.   You, as a mother become relegated to the background, although still an important part of their lives, just not so obviously now.  Your pride can then come from how they handle their independence.

But you still worry about them as they go off with friends, or get a driving license and drive away to do their own things.  All you can do is hope that they will remember what you have taught them, that they will exercise common sense and that they won’t get hurt or worse — killed.

Then there can be the other side, where they get really clever at hiding their true feelings, and managing to lull you into that false sense of security  that has you thinking that you’ve done okay.  Maybe you don’t even get to think that because all seems to be functioning quite well.  Their lives have become busier with their own friends, a job even and you are no longer vital to their wellbeing.

I have memories of waking up that first morning after Kelly died, and thinking  ‘That was my baby!  I carried her inside me for those months, before finally getting to meet her.’  And in a moment, twenty years of nurturing and caring were gone.

But I still have the memories that will live on forever in my heart.  There are those that I shared with others, and there are the special ones that only I can know.

And I smile my mothers smile…..

Reconnecting

Crossword clue:  re-established friendship = 9 letters.

I struggled over this one, doing as many of the ‘down’ words as I could, attempting to add more letters in to see what the word was.  All I could get was the ‘re’ part.

Then a day or so later, in conversation with my husband, he mentioned reconnecting and the word clicked.  A re-established friendship was to reconnect.

We’ve all got friends who we haven’t seen for ages, sometimes years, that we would like to reconnect with.  All too often we leave it too late, and then its time to go to a funeral.  In many cases we catch up with old friends at funerals, and I’m sure if I could be a fly at a wake, one sentence I’d hear repeatedly would be “We must catch up soon!”

How often I’ve said those words, but then not really made the effort to actually do it.  Then  feel regret when it is too late.  This seems to often be the case with relatives, not immediate family but those a little removed and who may live some distance away.

Recently at my father-in-laws funeral, we caught up with cousins we hadn’t seen since the last uncle died, a year before.  It was lovely seeing them again, as it had been the last time, but sad too, that we wait until someone actually dies before we get to talk again.

As Ross and I have recently ‘semi-retired’ we have decided to make an effort, now that we have more time, to get in touch with old friends and reconnect.  So, with that in mind, we have started the process by holding a dinner party for a small number and use that time to catch up on all thats been happening in their lives.

Last Saturday night we had the first one, and it was great.  There were no awkward silences, we all picked up pretty much as we’d left off.  We had all spoken to each other over the past few years, but mostly in passing and  not real conversations.  We had fun, no-one really wanted to go home, so that was a hit, one we will repeat in a few months time.  Although with that group it will probably be to play cards together, which was something we used to often do when our children were very young.  Another thing we did when the kids were little was to hold progressive dinner parties, so nobody had to go to too much trouble and we all had a turn.  Or a ‘pot-luck’ tea, where each family would bring a part of the meal, once again minimising the amount of work by combining our efforts.  They used to be such fun, and didn’t cost much either.

Now we are planning the next gathering, be it dinner party or bar-b-que, it will be fun to reconnect with more old friends.

So reconnecting has become somewhat of a challenge, one that we are embracing wholeheartedly.

Do you have anyone that you’d like to reconnect with?  Friends, family, former neighbours, schoolmates?

Will you do anything about it?

Learnings from 2016

It was an interesting year, one I was not really sorry to say goodbye to, however on reflection I believe I did learn a few things over that time.

The year before had ended rather nastily, so when the new year arrived I was still licking my emotional wounds.  So I wallowed for a while, feeling rather sorry for myself.   Now thats an okay thing to do, but dragging it out is not.

I came to the realisation that if anything was to change then it had to be my attitude.  So I set out to work on that, which can be a difficult thing to do  — as opposed to the easier option of sitting back and blaming everything around me for my situation.

Now throughout this time – and I’m talking about months here – I was supported by some absolutely amazing friends.  They were awesome, and they put up with me, empathised and generally nurtured me through it all.  But they listened.  It is so good to have someone really listen to you.  To be heard.

Anyway, I decided that I had to change my attitude, because continuing the way I was, was probably going to lose those friends — maybe — did I say how awesome they are?

Little by little I gained confidence in myself again and then I set some small goals — not the New Year Resolution type, just little ones that were achievable, and ones that would stick.

By the end of the year I felt that I was under control, in charge of my life again.  Some of those small goals I set myself, I’m still doing today.  For instance I had stopped writing — one of my passions, so I re-visited The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron and followed the steps.  That meant writing every morning again, not for anyone to read, but as a tool to get back into the groove.  Plus it is a place where you can write about whatever pisses you off and it won’t be read by anyone but yourself.   That was a twelve week agreement with myself, and six months later I am still writing every morning.  So that little goal became a habit, a good one.

The next goal I set myself was to walk everyday, just for twenty minutes, which is not much really and quite achievable.  That was also for twelve weeks, and I’m still doing it because once again it’s a habit and it feels good.  So why stop?

So some of the things I learnt las year were:

  • friends are amazing, nurture them because they have no obligation to stick around, unlike relatives who have no choice
  • aim to be the friend that you need — follow the example of the awesome friends and you can’t really go wrong
  • set small achievable goals and stick to them until they become habits
  • then add in another goal that you’d like to become a habit et cetera

As for those awesome friends, well they know who they are, and I love and value  them immensely.

Now I’m rather looking forward to 2017 and whatever this year brings.