Today, 11 and a half years after my husband died, I can still see every detail of that last day as if I was watching a film.
Shock, disbelief, misery so profound as to render complete and utter inertia in me while every day activities pass by at 100 miles an hour. How dare things carry on, can't they see the world has stopped? It has ceased, ended, never to be the same again.
After just a few months I have to deal with stupid questions, "How are you dear? Coming to terms?" How can he be so stupid as to ask? I will never come to terms with this.
One year on, our daughter is 6 months old and has her father's stubborn streak. She will not rest and demands to be in my arms at all times. I can't do this on my own it is too hard, too relentless. I miss him so much.
Then all the well-wishers start with their advice, "What you need is to meet someone else," "you're still young," "there'll be someone else for you". "When my wife died I joined the ramblers, that's what you need to do, a lovely walk and some company, that'll make you feel better".
But I don't want to go for a walk or meet anyone else. I don't want your advice or your platitudes. Don't you understand at all? My world has changed; the rules of the game have changed. I am here on the outside and I don’t know how to play the game anymore.
All around me are couples, families, normality. It just reminds me that I am different, peripheral. I have no small talk to share with you. I didn't go out to dinner at the weekend, or leave the kids with a sitter whilst 'we' went to the movies. I don't inhabit your world anymore.
My daughter is the only one at her school without a dad. Every time I have to say "I'm a widow, she will be my only child" it cuts me, leaves a jagged laceration of awkwardness and embarrassment. It puts me on the outside again but all others see is the poor, brave widow who is doing so well to carry on.
‘Step forward, Tina’, ‘point me in the right direction, Lorraine, my friend’. I met a new group of people who are just like me. Their stories and their journeys may be different but we have all arrived at this place of loss together. It feels completely safe. There are no assumptions, no prescriptions or judgements. There is structure, time, space, talking, activity, silence, reflection, listening, sharing...
...and lots and lots of tissues and understanding. And life has changed again. I can, I will, I am able, I choose … and sometimes I can’t, and won’t, I am unable but that is O.K. That is me and I’m doing all right. My loss is part of me. It will always be there. My daughter and I talk about my husband, her daddy and he is part of our lives.
Tina and Lorraine are special people and their work with Phoenix is inspirational. Let them walk alongside you and your children for part of your journey when grief and loss are overwhelming and you will get to a brighter place.
My daddy died before I was born. It’s odd to miss someone I never knew but I do. I really, really miss him and it makes me sad. Sometimes it makes mummy sad too. There are some of his things around and mummy says, ‘that’s daddy’s chair.’ Or she tells me to be careful with something because it was daddy’s and it is precious. Whenever we see rainbows we think that is daddy saying hello to us.
When I was much smaller I was bullied at school. Mum says kids can be horrible and they pick on other kids who are different. I was the only one without a dad and I wore glasses, and I was smart. All of these things made me different. I don’t know why they picked on me but it felt bad, it made me very unhappy.
Then granddad died and he was gone. I was so sad. I used to cuddle up with Grandad and he would read me stories, from the special basket of books he had just for me.
Tina came to my school to see me and we did some fun things together while we talked about daddy and grandad. One time she even came into my class and talked to us all about the emotional stuff that happens to kids when someone important dies.
I could tell Tina things that I didn’t want to tell mum because it might make her sad. She helped me to understand what had happened and that there were other different kids too. It wasn’t just me.
I’m not going to say what I told Tina because that is just for me, but it did help. It was great to meet the other different kids as well. We did all sorts of amazing things, and had fun even when we were talking about what had happened.
It was really helpful to talk to a friendly doctor who explained why daddy and granddad couldn’t be here anymore.
Mum was learning things as well with the other grown-ups. When we got back together it was easier to talk about things with her. We both made sand sculptures with different colours and sparkles to show our thoughts and memories about daddy. We have put them side-by-side on our window ledge.
I really, really wish that daddy and granddad were still here with me - it is so unfair. But I am glad that Tina has been around for me to talk to, she has really helped me.