Bracing myself for a wave of grief becomes almost second nature when the potential triggers are obvious. Significant events, anniversaries, etc. Sometimes a photograph or an object springs a memory from the undergrowth of routine and it sails through my mind in sharp focus, only to be brought down by a discharged shot of reality. The day after I last posted here the twins celebrated their 14th birthdays. There was cake and gifts, love and best wishes. But there was also a memory that clamped itself around the occasion. Not tight enough to squeeze the joy from it, just a grip that left the fingerprints of sadness. On the eve of the twins’ 13th birthday Mags told me she wouldn’t be here for the 14th. We both knew it to be true but the advantage of learning to live literally one day at a time is that the far off future remains totally greyed out. Unavailable for planning of any kind. On Easter Sunday Heather laid on a lovely spread. Chocolate eggs were exchanged, there was laughter and it

A Baggy Fit

  Nine months on. Seven since I last posted anything here. More ‘firsts’ have been and gone. My first birthday made all the more poignant because Mags, despite everything, had circled an M and written BDay next to it on the kitchen calendar for November 23rd. It was around this time that I booked a one-off session with a grief counsellor from the hospice. She asked me if I could use one word to describe how I felt, what would it be? “Lost,” I said. She went on to explain that when a person loses a life partner/soulmate they suddenly find themselves in a lot of open space. A heavy and unexpected dose of freedom if you like. Couple that with the guilt one feels at only having oneself to consider and you have a sure fire recipe for feeling lost, disoriented. It all made sense to me and bought me some relief, in the short term anyway. Then Christmas arrived. I made an effort to make the place feel at least vaguely festive. Various artificial berries and sprigs were draped or tucked over pi

First of the ‘Firsts’

It was Mags’ birthday on Thursday. The first of the ‘firsts’. Our little family had a special tea together. The grandchildren had baked for Nanny and were united in their knowledge that Nanny wouldn’t have wanted any sad faces on the day. So we kept it light, raised a glass and held Mags close, each in our own way. These ‘firsts’ are going to be tough but I’ve made it a point to steer clear of grief counselling, just as I’ve given articles and self-help books on the subject a wide berth. Frankly I would find immersing myself in so many shared experiences all at once totally overwhelming. I find the collective kindness of friends who have faced grief in their own lives to be a most effective salve. Having said all that, I did watch the Richard Coles documentary about bereavement, recently shown on Channel Four, optimistically entitled ‘Good Grief’. In the programme he embarked on a “personal grief voyage”, trying all manner of activities from laughter yoga to surfing, boxing and group d


It’s been five weeks already. What feels like inching forward on good days is countered with the sensation of falling into and struggling out of deep holes on the bad days. A process that’s not satisfied with taking me once around the block. No, the repeat play setting appears to be the only option, so the melody of mourning sticks and becomes a troublesome ear worm. Aside from the necessary chores I try to keep myself occupied. Occasionally writing in short bursts, attempting an escape through reading the words of others, pottering in the garden. Moving stuff around. Yesterday I put two pairs of Mags’ ankle boots in the wardrobe. This morning I put them back on the shoe rack. Most evenings I lose myself in TV land. Documentaries early on while I’m still alert enough to look, listen and digest. I’ve enjoyed ‘My Life as a Rolling Stone’ and I’m currently watching ‘The Andy Warhol Diaries’ on Netflix. Anything that keeps me on the edge of my seat, or at least awake past 20.00 is a must.

After Mags

Everyone grieves in their own unique way. For nearly three weeks I haven’t shed a single tear yet at times my heart is so heavy with hurt that the slow painful breaking of it is undeniable.  As a carer I’ve kept going for three years, but just as my high energy levels and resilience surprised me during that time so the heavy layers of fatigue have caught me out in the days since Mags died. The legal obligation to notify various organisations and the informing of friends and family is exhausting. Hearing myself repeating the same message over and over and feeling my voice catch on her name is unbearably tough. Wishing my good nights to that side of the bed where she took her last breath just feels weird yet, at the same time, immensely comforting. Mags was cremated on Saturday. The process she called her “recycling”. There was no service and no family or friends in attendance. A decision we made for ourselves years ago. Instead, Heather and I walked one of her favourite walks early that


Some time back, around the start of Mags’ illness, a GP at our local practice admitted that it’s near impossible to prognosticate in the case of a cancer patient. People always seem to have the capacity to surprise experts, defy odds, or capitulate unexpectedly. When I spoke to Mags’ oncologist last week (she was too unwell to sit in on the video call) he said it was remarkable that she had remained so well for so long. He also added, at the end of what was a difficult consultation, that he had the utmost respect and admiration for the way we have dealt with things from the outset. But he’s that sort of guy. We’ve been lucky to have benefited from his approach. Fortunate indeed that he has always treated Mags as a unique human being, not just another patient on a list. He has shared his realistic expectations and we have listened. We couldn’t have been better informed, and it was this, the clarity of information and the compassion with which it was delivered that helped immeasurably wh


Who’s ever heard of anticipatory meds? Not us, until yesterday. Earlier in the week, following a couple of particularly difficult days and, worst of all, nights, I phoned the hospice for advice. As usual the duty nurse listened carefully to my list of concerns. She then asked a series of specific questions relating to Mags’ condition before reaching the conclusion that a medical review should be carried out with some urgency. She would arrange for a home visit from a GP for the next day. The hospice would then follow up with a home visit from a nurse today.  The GP duly arrived a little after lunchtime the next day. He’s actually our GP’s registrar, so a trainee, to be accurate. He carried out his examination then told us that he had detected fluid on the left lung. He advised us to speak with the oncologist to discuss options when we see him next week. In the meantime our very personable but rather high speed registrar informed us that he would be prescribing “anticipatory meds” and m