jmgoyder

wings and things

Making friends with grief

I have learned so much about grief through my imagined conversations with “Anthony deceased” (as he is described in some legal documents I had to sign the other day) that I thought I’d share them here.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that if I wake up to what I know is going to be a day of acute grief, there is no point trying to evade it (one of the things I was trying to do). Now what I do is sort of greet it kindly, not exactly in a “Hi Grief” kind of way, more in an accepting way, almost as if it is a friend. After all, my grief about Anthony’s death, personified, has more empathy for me than anybody else possibly can.

In a way, the imagined conversations are a way of addressing Grief directly if that makes sense (if you are not sure what I mean then rest assured that I’m not really sure either!) Every time I write one of these conversations, even the ones that were a bit contrived and didn’t really flow) it helped somehow. I fought against doing it for awhile because I didn’t want people to think I was going nuts. I also didn’t want to become dependent on these conversations on a daily basis, to the preclusion of other more ‘normal’ daily activities. But I don’t care about either of those things now. Writing these conversations has often been fun and is sometimes quite enlightening.

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During a grief workshop I attended recently, Pat Kelly, a grief counsellor https://www.facebook.com/pat.kelly.18488169, pointed out that there is no one way of grieving. I found that very comforting in light of the imagined conversations I was/am writing because these have helped me more with my grief than any amount of kayaking, motor-scootering, cycling, swimming, socialising and volunteering (yes, I have been busy) have. All of these activities have helped enormously of course, but writing down conversations I imagine having with a now-well Anthony has been magical.

In re-conjuring Anthony’s voice as a younger, fitter man I have remembered all sorts of wonderful things that I’d forgotten – our holidays down south when Ming was young, our debates about whether animals went to heaven, our private jokes, our delight in the moonflowers blooming, his passion for motorbikes and classic cars, the parties, and so on. I’ve remembered poignant moments and sad times as well but mostly ‘talking’ with him has been a joy. I used to tell him everything even when he became less able to converse so, during the nursing home years, I sort of forgot about the way we used to talk and talk and talk. Remembering these conversations has been like a gift.

Making friends with Grief in this manner reminds me of how I ended up making friends with Dementia. In doing so, a lot of the associated fear diminished and a feeling of wellbeing returned.

I suppose since it’s my grief, after all, I am kind of making friends with myself again too. I’ve been working on that anyway with my wonderful psychologist, Daniella Princi¬†https://www.facebook.com/yourintrinsiclife/ whose program has provided me with all sorts of interesting tools for living my life the way I want to live it.

One thing I know for sure is that Anthony would be proud of the way I am coping with his death and he would be chuffed to think I am pretending to converse him still. He was always very accepting of my idiosyncrasies, as I was of his.

Me: I’ve sort of made friends with the grief now, Ants.

Anthony: Good on you, Jules.

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Imagined conversation 23

Me: I woke up this morning from the most terrible nightmare about you, Ants.

Anthony: Not very flattering, Jules, but good morning to you too.

Me: No, I don’t mean you were a monster or anything; on the other hand….

Anthony: Go on, I’m interested.

Me: Well, there are a few scenarios where I am asking you if you are seeing an ex-girlfriend – not a real one, that you really went out with – a new one who I’ve never heard of before. Anyway you say no the first time I ask you. Then, the second time I ask, you say yes, but just for dinner and you assure me that nothing untoward is going on. But, the third time, you admit that you’ve fallen in love with her.

Anthony: Ah the plot thickens….

Me: It’s not funny, Ants; I’m still trying to shake the nightmare off!

Anthony: Okay, sorry. So what happens next?

Me: During the rest of the nightmare, we are at a party. All of our friends and family are there and so is SHE. You are avoiding me and I’m upset but trying not to show it. I’m worried that you are overdoing it and amazed at how well you look considering how ill you are.

Anthony: So it’s another one of those dreams where I suddenly jump out of my wheelchair and start dancing?

Me: No. I like that dream; in this one there is no wheelchair in the first place. I keep wanting to ask you if the nursing home staff know you’re out and about and do you have your pills but it’s impossible to even get close to you.

Anthony: Am I the life of the party?

Me: Stop fishing! Yes.

Anthony: Good….

Me: Then a rumour starts circulating that you are going to announce your engagement to this other woman. Apart from the shock of hearing this, I am bewildered because you and I are already engaged. Anyway, as you are too gutless to tell me yourself, you send a friend over to tell me that you were never in love with me and that you are sorry.  I am devastated but try to act cool because people are starting to look at me sympathetically already.

Anthony: Well it’s not true, Jules.

Me: So I say to this friend that I’ve been with you for over twenty years but still waiting for you to choose a wedding date. Feeling desperate, I do a bit of a whispered rant to the friend about all of the years I’ve cared for you with your kidney cancer, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and the friend quietly commiserates,

Anthony: Who’s the friend?

Me: B.

Anthony: Oh, B. Great bloke.

Me: So then the most horrible scenario unfolds. You and this other woman announce your engagement to a shocked but delighted crowd.

Anthony: What do you do?

Me: I leave with as much dignity as I can muster. I find my car and drive away, sobbing.

Anthony: Maybe that other woman is your alter-ego?

Me: No, she has long, thick curly hair and a horsey face, and she’s ten years older than me!

Anthony: Oh.

Me: Is that all you can say – ‘Oh’?

Anthony: I’m sorry, Jules.

Me: What for? The nightmare, or what happened in the nightmare?

Anthony: Both.

Me: Well I guess it’s no more real than these conversations.

Anthony: Ouch.

Me: I felt so absolutely abandoned and alone and angry but I didn’t want everyone at the party to know how I felt.

Anthony: Maybe that’s what the nightmare was all about.

Me: When did you get your degree in rocket science?

Anthony: Superlative sarcasm, Jules – bravo!

Me: Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about it. It’s so good talking to you.

Anthony: Remember how we used to debate the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone?

Me: And how you used to say you loved me but you weren’t in love with me? Yes, difficult to forget that.

Anthony: But remember the day it all changed?

Me: Oh yes! I’d forgotten about that!

Anthony: Let’s save that for our next conversation, Jules. I’m exhausted!

Me: But I’m the one who had the nightmare! I hope I don’t have it again. Are there any nightmare tweakers where you are?

Anthony: I’ll see what I can do. And Jules?

Me: Yes?

Anthony: I’ve only ever been in love with one person.

Me: Who?

Anthony: Now you’re fishing.

Me: Well, who?

Anthony: YOU.

 

 

 

 

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Imagined conversation 22

These imagined conversations are my way of ploughing through the grief of losing my wonderful husband to pneumonia last year. I am not going mad and I am not delusional; I just miss talking to Anthony, so I decided to imagine the conversations we might have….

Me: It was our 25th wedding anniversary last month.

Anthony: I know, Jules, I know.

Me: I went to a grief workshop that night and told the others that it was our 25th wedding anniversary and J (remember J?) congratulated me/us.

Anthony: J? The fair-haired woman?

Me: Oh, sorry, Ants, I forgot that she only met you after you were dead. J is/was so kind and I am amazed that your funeral parlour hosts such wonderful workshops for people like me, who are struggling with their grief.

Anthony: Nothing like this was in my mind, Jules, when we got married. My only hesitation was due to the age gap; I didn’t know I was going to get sick and old at the same time.

Me: I didn’t know either, Ants. I was prepared for you getting old before me but I wasn’t prepared for all of your illnesses.

Anthony: Sorry, Jules.

Me: Not your fault, Ants. Somebody said to me the other day that it must be a relief that you died and I felt as if I had been punched. It was a well-meaning comment but it made me think about how much the fact that you had Dementia precluded people from visiting because they were scared.

Anthony: You think too much, Jules. Don’t worry about any of that because I’m fine now.

Me: I’m not.

Anthony: I miss you too, Jules.

Me: I want you back, Ants. I miss you so much that my brain is all foggy and unfocussed and I have never, ever felt so alone. I just want to talk to you!

Anthony: You are talking to me.

Me: So is that okay, if I keep talking to you?

Anthony: Of course!

Me: Yeah, but this is just me pretending to talk to you, Ants. I have to eventually get used to the reality that you are dead. I’m just as crazy about you now as I was when I was 18, but you’re gone!

Anthony: I’m not gone or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Me: So where are you?

Anthony: I don’t honestly know….

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