I have the most amazing, non-judgemental, kind and caring friends. Jane’s birthday was about 3 weeks ago, and I have been slowly spirally out of emotional control since then. But not noticing it. Sometimes, my incredible lack of insight is astounding.
I knew something was wrong when I was on the loud AC/DC for days rather than one album. When I shouted f*&% on repeat for three days, including whilst watching the sun set over the beach (photo above). And when I made some really dumb decisions. Friends said; ‘be kind to yourself, it’s ok to make mistakes’, ‘what can I do to help?’, ‘l’ve booked lunch, see you there’ and ‘I wish I was there to give you a big hug.’
Then I realised I was angry, really really angry, about Jane being dead, about me having to wait at least a year to find out why she died, even though the coroner has the results from her autopsy and further investigations. About not being able to take her ashes home, because of covid. About not being able to see my son, our whanau, have my feet on the land that calls my heart and wairua. About being in pain that I don’t want to be in.
Friends and neighbours have checked in with me and listened kindly, sharing their experiences of grief and pain. Letting me know, the journey is hard and that it is normal for pain to rear its head and swipe you off the path forward when you least expect it. I get irrationally angry at memes that suggest we should be strong and bounce back when life is hard. I want to hide away and cocoon myself in the vague hope the pain and anger will go away.
Friends have gently but firmly pointed out, my penchant for boxes and filing cabinets does not mean I can actually put my grief, loss and pain into a box, lock it and have it stay locked. Their gentleness reassures me that though I lost my wife, my love, that I am still loved and cared about. Their kindness in continually reminding me to be compassionate to myself, in the same way that I am to others is helpful. It really is ok, to not be ok.
I never realised how many friends I do have. How many people genuinely like me and care about me. Until recently, when Jane persuaded me to change my attitude, my default position was that anyone I met, disliked me. This was mainly a protective mechanism – people can’t hurt you as much if you don’t let them get close. It doesn’t matter if people don’t like you if you already assigned that role to them. Jane’s big heart hurt for me when I would say that people didn’t like me. Although to be fair, even she agreed that some people really don’t like me!
What is interesting is that, I have always tried to be kind to people, whether or not I classify them as a friend. Kindness and friendship are not the same, though the latter requires the former. And yet, I have not expected kindness from others, nor always extended it to myself. Why is it, that we, as people, do this? This week when people have asked me how I am, I have answered truthfully. Not one person has responded with anything other than kindness. I am ever grateful that I work with people who genuinely care about each other and that I am surrounded by people who remind me that I am not walking this journey by myself, even when it is incredibly hard.
Please keep asking those around you if they are ok, but also ask them to share a meal with you or go for a walk or drive with you, or if your lockdown means none of these are possible; to share a late night text chat full of honesty, raw emotions and deep meaning. All of these have been invaluable in getting me through this week.
I did have some good news this week. The lump that I found in my breast, is not breast cancer. The mammogram was painful but not too bad, the ultrasound took an hour and then the additional mammogram, to check the initial ‘not good’ finding was excruciating and I nearly passed out. The specialist had explained they needed to squash just the area with the ‘lines on the first mammogram’ to see ‘if the lines go away’ and if so then it was all good and if not, they would need to think what to do next. So they squashed about 3cms wide, and squashed and squashed. I forgot to breathe, because it hurt so much. It was over in about 10 seconds, then the technician left to talk with the specialist. And then I got the all clear and got to go home and breathe. It was the only moment all week that I wasn’t angry or anxious or sad. I was relieved.
Which made me angry. Because relief was one of the early grief emotions for me. Jane had been so unwell, she had suffered so much, that her painless and instant death was a relief in some ways. She was no longer suffering, and in turn, I was no longer watching her suffer, which is a particular kind of torture that I would not wish on anyone, ever.
Be nice to those you love, life is short, no matter how long it lasts. Arohanui.