I’ve always been a pretty good listener. People confide in me. I’m not sure what it is exactly. A certain empathetic quality that I have inherited from my Mum? The fact that people sense I won’t gossip? The fact that they know their secret is safe with me, or is it that I don’t interrogate people but wait to be told stuff and then, don’t judge them. Who am I to judge them.
Anyway the funny thing, one of the funny things about this ‘grieving process’ or ‘mourning’ or ‘adjustment’ or ‘realignment’, whatever you like to call it, is that people stop telling you things.
‘You’ve got enough on your plate’, ‘I don’t want to bother you’, ‘it’s nothing compared to what you’ve been through’….. they say. But the thing is, I haven’t stopped being a good listener because I have been widowed. I may feel like I’ve been cut in half, like I’m navigating the choppy waters of life single-handedly, but I am still here for my friends, in the same way I have always been and for them to stop confiding in me feels a bit like being sent to Coventry. God forsaken place that it is.
It’s all very well writing me letters, making me Lasagne, or lending me ‘grief books’ – who knew there were so many – but please don’t stop talking to me or confiding in me. Apart from anything else it’s a welcome distraction from the maelstrom in my head.
Other welcome distractions include:
1. Walking – I seem to be turning into Forest Gump, and can be seen striding out of a morning, my trusty four-legged friend by my side, never quite sure whether it will be 4,5 or 6 miles on this occasion.
2. Podcasts* – these deserve a post all of their own (*note to self, write podcast blogpost). How had I never before discovered the culinary high jinx of ‘Table Manners’, the insightful revelations of ‘Happy Place’, Pandora and Dolly’s weekly round-up of popular culture on ‘The High Low’, comedians discussing death on ‘Griefcast’, Fi and Jane irreverently celebrating life on ‘Fortunately’ or Bryony Gordon facing mental health demons with fellow sufferers on ‘Mad World’.
3. Netflix – a relatively new one, potentially a very dangerous one -which is definitely not going to help with my sleep deprivation. Watching episodes of Ricky Gervais’ ‘After Life’ before bed might appear to some to be somewhat dangerous/self destructive/ill-informed but I have enjoyed his foul-mouthed grief-stricken tirades (indeed I have found profanities deeply expressive in recent weeks and on the scale of how much I use the f-word have gone from 0-60 at a speed that would make even Clarkson’s eyes water) and the mellowing of his character through the series. There is hope for me yet. Wish me luck as I embark on Series 1 of The Crown….
4. Travel. A couple of gaps still to be filled but lots going on in terms of escape and denial. February was Edinburgh, March – Dubai, April – Cornwall, May – Venice, June – Longborough, July – Lanzarote, August – Jersey, September – TBC, October – TBC, November – Yoga & Digital Detox, December – Scotland. All seems rather excessive and rather wonderfully liberating at the same time (if I can ignore the guilt gnawing away at me…..).
5. Charity Events. Organising runs, walks, rugby matches, skydives, mufti days, school discos, coffee mornings – you name it. I’m throwing myself headfirst into fundraising for the charities close to his heart, more specifically, close to his bowel I suppose. The Bobby Moore Fund, The Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, The Primrose Unit, Macmillan. Shameless plug for our JustGiving page here.
We’ve got 56 people signed up to run in his memory so far on 2nd June. I’ll be running too. The Couch to 5K programme is definitely a top distraction and it feels good. To be running.
It’s a strange thing. When you become a ‘carer’, a label I only recently had the courage to apply to myself, your whole world shrinks, your ‘norm’ changes and you become adept at all sorts of things you never thought you’d be good at, like administering injections, or swearing. You also stop doing things you never envisaged you’d stop doing. Aged 50. Like going to parties or walking the dog as a couple. Hand in hand. Going for a run, out for dinner, playing tennis, making love.
But I haven’t stopped being a good listener. I haven’t stopped being empathetic, I haven’t stopped caring. So people, don’t stop telling me things. I know you are there for me, but please don’t forget, I am still here for you too. Don’t stop telling me things.