Without Her…

It’s been a long time since I put pen to paper or fingers to keys if you’re feeling pedantic.  But my life has changed so much in the time since I last wrote here.

I took my first trip to America in September with a close friend, who is more like my adopted sister, and we went to Riot Fest in Chicago. It was incredible. I fell in love with that place so much. The skyline’s are like nothing I have ever seen before and it helped give me a lot of clarity and space to think about the things that have happened over the past few years. I came back full of confidence, drive and clear about what I wanted to do and how I was going to make it happen.

But then life dealt me the hardest blow I’ve ever had to suffer. It’s hard for me to write about because it’s all still very clear in my head. In the early hours of Wednesday 3rd October I found my mum on the living room floor, she wasn’t breathing or responding to me saying her name. I don’t know how I did it but I rolled her on her back, cleared her airways and started chest compression’s whilst dialing 999. I had to do this for 5 minutes, whilst the woman helped me count and kept me up to date with where the ambulance was, I felt something crack and panicked but the woman on the other end of the phone said that was normal. And then when they arrived, I was told there was nothing they could do. I begged them to use the defibrillator but they told me it wouldn’t do anything.

It’s hard to say how I felt in that moment. I held my dad’s hand as he took his last breath and left, but I never in a million years thought my mum would die. I never thought she’d leave me. It felt like I was falling but nothing was there to catch me. Everything suddenly seemed so far away and unrealistic but what I felt inside made it very clear that it was very much real. Just hours before we had sat and talked whilst eating our tea. We’d laughed and hugged and now she was gone. I couldn’t and still can’t get my head around it. Losing someone you love is never easy, but to lose her just broke me. She was my best friend, my confidante, my cheerleader…She gave me hope on my darkest days.

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The days following blurred into one long day, of beating myself up that I should have checked on her sooner, I should have tried harder with the CPR. I kept checking my phone waiting for her to text or call me. This has probably been the hardest thing to adjust to. In the 33 years of my life there hadn’t been a day where I hadn’t spoken to my mum either in a text, on the phone or in person. I suddenly realised how alone I was. Don’t get me wrong I have a lovely and amazing brother, who took charge of planning the funeral and I have amazing friends and extended family. But the truth is, when my marriage broke down, my mum and I became a family again. And now she’s gone, I feel like a jigsaw piece that doesn’t really fit in anywhere.

It was hard enough having to take each day but what it made it worse was the fact that I now also found myself potentially homeless. I reached out to my ex who I’d overpaid by £2.5k and asked for the money back or a 10month break so that I could help pay for the funeral and wouldn’t be homeless. But was greeted with a response that just hurt and made me feel worse. My brother and I had to start going through the house and selling what we could to pay for the funeral. None of us really had time to grieve.

Because there was no obvious cause of death, it also meant delays to when my mother could be released from the Coroner and consequently meant that we only had one day to visit my mum at the Chapel of rest. All I could think about all that time was how she was alone and cold and I know she would have hated that. I picked out her favourite jumper and jeans because she liked being cosy and warm. I kissed her on the forehead and stroked her hand and we put some sentimental things in the coffin with her. I hated leaving her there, knowing that would be the last time I would physically see her.

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The funeral was the hardest day I’ve ever had to live through. And I don’t think there are any words in the English language that convey how hard that was. My heart broke saying goodbye to her and I still have moments where I feel like I will wake up and it will all have been some terrible nightmare. I feel lost. I lost so much in a short space of time, my mum, my home and my childhood house. Even now it’s hard to wonder why I wake up each day. A couple of weeks after I had my phone stolen, which had voicemail messages from my mum on it. Luckily, I had photos etc. backed up but I’ve lost all the text messages she sent and the voicemail messages. Another of life’s cruel jokes sent to test me I guess.

Some people say things like “I’m sorry.” Ask how you are or say things they intend to make you feel better like “At least they’re at peace.” Or “She’s with your dad now.” I’m not criticising the people who have said this to me. It’s nice they want to offer words of comfort and send their love. But the truth is…It doesn’t make you feel better, you’re really not ok and there’s no need to say sorry for something you didn’t do or had no control over.

It’s getting closer to Christmas, again a time of year I have spent with my mum with the exception of one and I’m finding it so hard. She’s always been an integral and loving part of this time of year and her presence is going to be missed even more. Since my mum passed, two friends have lost parents. And my heart goes out to them. I won’t say sorry etc. but I will let them know to go through the motions, that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and that I am here if they need someone to talk to or a distraction. Because that’s the truth.

My life changed so much in the space of a few hours, and I feel the loss of my mama every single second of every single day. So it’s nice sometimes to have someone willing to distract you or treat you normal when your life is anything but normal. I struggle each day and weirdly, even though it’s the thing I long to hear the most, I cannot watch a video of her playing with my niece because hearing her voice breaks me. It’s been a weird month or so…And I still have a lot to go through. But I hope I have the courage to face each day just like my mama did. I hope I can make her proud. And to all those people out there, who are facing their futures and Christmas without a loved one, please know you’re not alone in this pain. Please don’t struggle in silence. Please don’t give up.

All my love..

G.
x

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An Open Letter – To My Dad

I wanted to share this, in the hope that anyone else who has lost someone close to them will know they’re not alone or abnormal. Even now 6 years on its not easy, this is my open letter to my dad.

Dear Dad,

It’s still there, the hole you left. People told me I’d get used to it but it still seems to have a flashing neon sign placed above it saying ‘vital piece missing here’ Sometimes I see you when I’m walking down the street and it takes my breath away, and then the faceless stranger turns round and I realise it’s just someone who has your hair or walks the same way. I catch your scent on suited men during my commute to work and I feel the pit of my stomach drop as I remember how my tears caught into the breast of your jacket before it was pulled away and discarded into a black bin bag.

I remember the way everything amplified the day after we said goodbye, like the whole world had stopped breathing, waiting for the moment when it would realise that your foot would never again leave an imprint in the grains of sand on a beach. It waited for you to open your eyes, to make a strong cup of coffee and refuse to throw away your favourite slippers that had holes in the bottom. The book on the fireplace with yellowed pages and glasses resting on top waiting for the owner to pick it up and thumb through the adventures held within. The world waited, and so did I.

I’m still waiting, even after all this time I hope that I will wake up and it would have all been a long and cruel dream, so vivid it felt real. I hope, I sometimes even pray, but my heart weighs heavy with the pain and realisation that it isn’t a dream. A golf ball builds in my throat and warm tears fall from my eyes. I can ask why and say it wasn’t, isn’t, fair but it does no good. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve fallen to my knees and cried for you. Some people would look and ask if you’re worth it, but those who actually had the pleasure of meeting you, wonderful, precious you, they know that yes, you are. You’re worth all the tears I shed and more. Sometimes I say ‘Dad?’ out loud, and for a moment I expect to hear you respond, but you never do. The word sounds foreign on my tongue now as though the word shouldn’t exist without you here to physically represent it, it feels hollow and empty.

I carry you with me everywhere I go, you surround me on a daily basis. You’re the man who opens the door for the lady struggling with bags, the old couple holding hands on the bus, the young child who looks at the world around him in awe. You’re the selflessness I see in my mother and the strength I see in my brother, you’re the love I see in them both. You’re reflected in the safety and contentment I feel in the arms of my husband William, who I know you would have loved. It’s an injustice that you can’t be here to see me, to see us. Or even see the rain fall from the grey sky only to be followed by the sun. People told me I’d learn to live with the pain, that things would get easier but the more distance that grows between now and that night only seems to make the pain grow stronger, more prominent. I no longer remember what your voice sounds like and I wish I could, I used to be able to recall it so vividly but now I find myself in a sea of confusion with furrowed brow as I try to recall the tone, but try as I might I can’t remember and it’s like losing you all over again.

The terrible thing about death is that it’s hard to explain the departed to someone who never met them. I don’t think I do you any justice when I talk to William about you, I get frustrated as I try to recall every detail of just how special you were, and continue to be, to me and those you who knew you. You were a blessing, and even now as I write this I find myself falling into a panic because I can’t just pick up a phone and hear your voice or get on a train and give you a hug. I wonder sometimes if I told you enough when you were alive what you really meant to me, if I let you know how much I loved you and I don’t believe I did, not enough anyway, not as much as you deserved to be told. The truth is, now you’re gone we’re fractured, broken, we all have pieces missing and I continue to try and be the little pot of glue that holds us all together. But sometimes I wake up and you not being here is just so hard to comprehend that getting out of bed seems like the most strenuous of tasks. It’s hard to be the glue when all you want is for someone to fix you too.

We miss you, every second, every minute, hour, day, week, month and year. Time cannot heal us because this is what love is, it’s the pain as well the joy, the lows as well as the highs. We need to take them hand in hand, because that’s the price we must pay for being blessed with someone like you in our life. You were the best dad and I pity the people who never met you, William, Kim, your future grandchildren (who will be told about you every day) and everyone else who has wandered into our lives since you left.

I don’t know what tomorrow has to hold nor do I hold the foresight to see into my future but I do know this, the space you left in my life when you died will never be filled, I will continue to carry you with me every day in my heart and in my mind. The pain won’t get easier because I will never love you any less, only more.

Forever loving you, your little girl.

Pea

x

P.S. I haven’t forgotten your promise, I’ll meet you at the moon.

 

 

 

Lauren Bacall 1924 – 2014

So today we woke up to news that another Hollywood Legend had died. Lauren Bacall had a career spanning seven decades and had acted alongside some of the true greats ever to grace the Silver Screen. We’re talking the likes the of Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck and of course, her beloved Humphrey Bogart.

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There’s always been something about that era of cinema that has appealed to me; perhaps I get it from my mum. She used to watch old movies on a Saturday afternoon, and often, I’d watch them with her. Which is where my love and respect for Bette Davis comes from, but that’s a whole other blog post.

It’s often well documented in the media and interviews that actresses have a tougher time than their male counterparts the older they get. So for Bacall to be working till the end, it certainly says a lot about the charisma and skill she had.

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She was an audacious lady, with that husky voice and that infamous look she had. But it was when she was acting opposite her beloved Bogey that you could see some true chemistry at play.

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Today, and indeed, this week has been a sad one for Hollywood and the rest of the world, with the loss of legendary comedian and actor Robin Williams, being announced only yesterday, we now say goodbye to Lauren Bacall at the age of 89.

Lauren Bacall once said ‘I think your whole life shows in your face, and you should be proud of that!’ and proud you should be Lauren. You lived one heck of a life. Now go and rest in peace, and once again be reunited with your true love, Bogey.

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Lauren Bacall 1924 – 2014.

Robin Williams & Depression.

This blog was, and is, mainly going to be about books. But last night saw the death of one of the finest comic actors of our time. My first memory of Robin Williams came as a child, when I used to watch Mork and Mindy on Channel 4. It used to make me giggle so much and as a child I could often be heard saying ‘Nanu, nanu!’ whilst doing his trademark hand sign. Over the years he provided us with some fine pieces of performance in films like Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Dead Poet’s Society, Good Morning, Vietnam, Fisher King, Jumanji and Aladdin.

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It’s incredibly sad to know that this great man was lost to depression. It still baffles me how in this day and age we’re still afraid to talk about mental health issues and depression, as though the conversation will cause some kind of social stigma and make you an outcast, but the truth is it won’t. I’ve often thought that silence is a disease, this belief that brushing it under the carpet and pretending it isn’t happening to you or someone you love and just not talking about it will somehow make it all ok and disappear. But really it’s making it worse.

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Depression has touched my life a few of times over the years. I suffered depression quite badly after the death of my father, I just couldn’t cope. It was like being trapped inside a house of repetitive gloom, where I questioned everything. How I could be living and breathing and he was ceasing to do these basic things that gave him life and made him be there and be my dad. It felt like I was walking around in a shell, I felt like a zombie and the basic abilities for survival like sleeping, drinking and eating, lost all appeal to me. I didn’t eat and wash for weeks, I’d have bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. Suicide was a regular thought to me in those days, but if it hadn’t have been for the people around me giving me some outlet for my thoughts and anger, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Sadly, my mother has been severely depressed by the death of my father, and from events in her past, and is currently undergoing therapy. It’s a daily battle for her, and I often don’t know what to say, there’s that curse of silence again. But what I can do is let her know I can listen. And often that’s what I do, I sit and listen and it’s amazing how much that can help. I can visibly see the weight lift off her shoulders and the sun shine on her face, like someone’s pulled back the heavy curtains of doubt and depression that wrap themselves around her and threaten to cut off her view of the world.

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But it’s something I had to learn the hard way, to listen. Some years ago now, I was sat in a lecture at college and received a text from a friend, what I read shocked me. A good friend of ours had been found hanged in his room; he’d left a note behind saying he just couldn’t go on anymore. When I think about the kind of person Tom was, no negative word’s spring to mind. He was an absolute joy to be around, a sweet guy who always had a smile on his face. He’d battled with depression for years, I’d seen him just a week before his death and he seemed somewhat subdued and quiet but I just put this down to being tired from work. I kick myself everyday, for not just taking some extra time to ask him if it was more. It’s something I’ll always live with. Perhaps if someone had taken him to one side, offered to listen he’d still be here. What if I would have offered to listen?

You will get people out there who will see suicide as a weakness and to an outsider it can seem this way. It can seem selfish, ‘stupid’ is a word often bandied around in situations like this, but until you have walked a day in those shoes you can’t for one moment understand how the prospect of no more torment, no more painting on a smile for others and no more pretending to be ‘normal’ seems like such an appealing option. The truth is people like my friend Tom and Robin Williams felt that it was their only answer, their only chance of peace. You cannot pass judgment on them or question their motives, but what you can do is try to understand. If you know someone suffering from depression, help them, listen to them, let them know they are loved, keep your eyes and ears open but don’t pretend that ignorance will help. Depression is blind, it doesn’t care if you’re poor, or rich, smart or dumb, ugly or pretty. It affects people from all walks of life and it’s not going to go away just because we choose to ignore it as a society. It will affect you or someone you know, and if it’s not doing so now, it probably will in the future. If you see someone suffering speak to them, chances are they probably already feel abnormal enough without people walking on eggshells and not wanting to address the elephant in the room. If you’re suffering from depression, speak out, if you know someone who suffers, just listen and don’t judge.

To my dear friend Tom, we still miss you. To Robin Williams, rest in peace and thanks for laughs, my thoughts go to your family and friends. And to all those who have lived or are currently living with depression, don’t suffer in silence – let this act as a catalyst to stop this stigma of shame attached to mental health issues and let’s talk about it.