Grief

Today, I’m a bit strapped for time. I was hoping I’d find something I’d started in my drafts folder that I could just finish off. Unfortunately I didn’t. It reminds me of a story the priest at our church when I was a nipper once told, about a German colleague called Hans. Hans had endured an extremely busy time so a week came when he was able to kick back and relax, which he did. All he had to do the entire week was write a sermon for a service he was taking on the Sunday.

However, when our mate Hans sat down to write, he found himself completely devoid of inspiration. He looked up the readings for the Sunday but remained uninspired. He tried the whole week’s readings, but they, too, left him cold. He eventually procrastinated, until late on the Saturday night, when he thought about it and still found nothing. Then he remembered the point in the New Testament when someone, is it Paul? talking about the Holy Spirit says something along the lines of, ‘don’t worry what you have to say because the Holy Spirit will speak through you.’

Brilliant! Of course! Hans thought, that’s it, the Holy Spirit will speak through me. Thank God for that! He knew he’d be fine. He put down his pen, closed the notebook and went to bed.

The next morning, still no inspiration. Never mind, the Holy Spirit would speak through him, he thought. As he climbed the steps up to the pulpit finally, something popped into his head. Was this the spirit speaking to him? Yes, surely it was, but unfortunately, what it said was,

‘Hans, you have been very lazy this week.’

Like Hans, I have been very lazy. Or at least, I have not left the time required to write about the things that are inspiring me, so I thought I’d have a quick word about grief because I think it’s a topic to which I can do the most justice in the shortest possible time!

Grieving is a weird thing.

When Dad died, he was totally calm and at peace; absolutely unafraid. I felt almost happy for him because I knew it was the right thing, the only way forward; on to the next adventure.

Yes, he believed there is something in us that goes on, and I do too. This is mainly because the corpses I’ve seen have been so strikingly inanimate, so very much things. Like a car without driver, or a bicycle without anybody to pedal it, a body without … whatever it is that animates us … ain’t going nowhere. And when you see one, it’s very, very clear that there is something else important, something that’s missing.

So he’s gone. And although I wouldn’t have him back the way he was for anything, because he had lost his quality of life and he was losing himself at that point but that doesn’t stop me missing Dad.

A while back, McMini went to two nursery settings. One he was fine, the other thought he had problems and contacted me to explain that he was not able to sit still or pay proper attention to instructions, etc. At the time, I was fully prepared to discover my son was dyspraxic or dyslexic in some form or other, so I wasn’t as fazed as they were. At that point, Dad was forgetful but very much with us in all other respects so I asked his advice.

If your son can’t sit still and listen to instructions it means they’re not engaging him properly. I’d say the problem is with them not McMini. What does the other setting say? Oh, I hadn’t asked. I did. They told me that if they had a three year old boy in their charge who was actually able to sit still for ten minutes THAT is when they’d consider he had a problem. They told me McMini was very advanced in many ways, bright, cheerful, very articulate and able to do things like walk on a balance beam with an ability that was well ahead of his age.

This side of Dad, this being able to ask him advice and chat things over with him and get the same reply he’d have given pre Alzheimer’s; that didn’t disappear until, literally, the last year and a half of his life. It’s one of the things I really missed in the latter stages and despite thinking I’d probably done that bit of grieving somewhere along the line. It turns out, now he’s gone, that I haven’t. I miss that just as keenly now he’s dead. Perhaps, that particular loss is compounded by the fact that Mum has just reached the stage where, while still able to chat things over and give advice, she is no longer able to do it every time I see her.

Oh dear … this is what we’re up against.

McMini, meanwhile has been affected. He’s very scared of death, he’s just reaching that stage in life where you realise things aren’t cut and dried, black and white, and simple the way they are when you’re a kid. The point when your history lessons shift from, X did this, to we haven’t a clue WHY X did this, which is much more interesting, but also much harder, because unless someone can actually talk to X and ask them, we’ll never, ever know the true why.

McMini deals with his fears through the medium of dark humour. Some of it, though dark, is still funny. Some of it has gone beyond dark, to the point where I’ve been questioning whether or not he is actually quite disturbed. Anyone remember dead baby jokes when we were kids? (How do you make a dead baby float? Two scoops of ice cream and one scoop of dead baby.) Start there. Example, he has decided he is an Inca lord in his Minecraft game and every time it’s evening in the game, he sacrifices some villagers to the sun god. I get it, what people do to one another is scary and this trivialises it and makes it less scary, especially in a time where politics is so angry and the right wing has a seemingly relentless grip on power and is about where the Fascists sat back in the 1980s.

As a child, back in the 1980s, I remember being completely shocked by the Second World War and struggling to get my head round the atrocities of the holocaust, of how decent normal people allowed this to happen. I remember making many, many jokes about Hitler, the Third Reich etc because the whole idea of concentration camps was so gargantuan and horrific. Such immense evil was unimaginable, and also fascinating. And furthermore, very real, because I could talk to anyone over the age of about sixty and they would have been involved in it.

Clearly, in the current political landscape, where campaigning is little more than the art of organised bullying; of uniting a group of people against another group of people, convincing one set of people that another is inhuman as Goebbels described it, I’m in the privileged position of watching it happen a second time. These days, I have a much greater understanding of how Nazism came about. But back then, in the 1980s, when racism, rather than main stream, was tantamount to proclaiming yourself a massive shit with no mates, it seemed beyond understanding.

However, while McMini’s father and I reckon that, for the most part, this is just a phase, we have been warning him, for some time, that he is walking a very narrow line and that he should step back from this and rein the really sick stuff in. He hasn’t, since he has friends who share his fears and find the same release in poking fun at murder, evil etc. Bear in mind he has seen an elderly woman being abducted in broad daylight – she was looking into the back of a van. ‘You can get inside and have a closer look if you like,’ said one of the drivers. She got in and he slammed the door then he and his friend drove off laughing. We never got to the bottom of what that was. It didn’t help that I thought it was part of a crime weekend as it was just before the Christmas Fayre and I only realised it wasn’t when said crime weekend took place the following March. We reported it to the police but it was way too late by then. God knows what happened to that old woman or who the blokes in the van were.

It all came to a head at school this week, with an extremely inappropriate text sent by McMini, by mistake, to the wrong person – who was upset and whose parents were extremely upset. Nobody was horrible about it, everyone basically said, ‘your lad is lovely and we know he’s lovely and this was clearly a mistake, but he’s over-stepped the mark.’

The head master rang me, said that McMini was a little tearful about the things that frightened him and explained that he was trivialising them because it helped him feel less scared. He suggested McMini should talk to his father and I about his fears. As I have suggested to McMini many times, myself, to no avail.

It felt like a big parenting fail. Because the first person I’d have talked to about this, as a child, would have been my Mum or Dad. But I was different, and as such I was often bullied, whereas McMini, though he is also different in exactly the same ways I was, is not bullied. Indeed his unique take on the world is celebrated and loved by his friends and teachers alike, which just goes to show how splendid they all are, but also means he follows the normal path; of unity with his friends and rebellion against his parents. A path with which I am completely unfamiliar.

As a result, I can’t help but feel that I have failed him, because I hoped our relationship would be as close as mine with my parents. And while it is in some respects, he was too frightened to talk to me. Which cuts a bit. And of course, throughout his period of obsession with death, killing, murderers etc over this last couple of years, I’ve so needed to talk to someone, myself, someone who can tell me whether or not my son is deeply disturbed or just going through a phase. And that’s where grief gets you, because the person who would have done this, is Dad. And he’s gone. Forever. And the other person is Mum, but that part of her has gone, too. Double jeopardy.

In the end, it seems to have turned out OK. McMini’s humour will always be a little dark and possibly a little edgy and outrageous. That’s fine, I mean, mine is. We both of us love to shock he talks about death and murder, I talk about periods, the menopause and other ‘ladies things’. And I guess I have had that reassurance that he’s not nuts, that it’s just a phase and a way of exorcising his fears. But it came from his headmaster which was a bit chastening.

And the grief … well, the escalation in dark stuff is his and the complete over reaction to it, hell, my complete over reaction to everything that’s mine. My anger at the way people are just giving in to propaganda and allowing themselves to be manipulated into hating others. My frustration that they’re so fucking stupid, they’re letting the kind of rich, power obsessed, bastards who want to keep their faces ground into the mud deflect the blame for all the shit we’re in onto frightened, desperate, vulnerable people (either British people already living here or migrants from overseas) who have nothing left and are asking for help (just look at the fringes on the Brexit debate; both sides and the way the behaviour and views of those fringes has somehow become the main issue) that’s mine.

Or to put it succinctly, grief comes out in all kinds of weird ways, and it often catches you blind side. You won’t always expect it, and it will often knock you off your feet for a moment. I have no answers, no coping strategies. Real Life leaves no space for grief, but somehow, I think those of us who are grieving have to make some. You just have to let it out sometimes, and let it run its course. And I know at the moment, I’m too fucking busy, which is why it’s doing my head in. But I guess, we’re all like that, and if those of us who are grieving accept that it’s there, at least we can be prepared … sort of. Clearly I need to be a bit more like my cat and just chill.

21 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

21 responses to “Grief

  1. Caro Powney

    Mary, I’ve read your blog, missed a few and will back pedal when time…but, think CRUSE bereavement may help
    Read this. Check website out and if think Mc Mini and you might consider talking to them. Xx
    Link https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/about-grief

    • Me dear, your not the only one who has suggested these folks. I’ll definitely be contacting them.

      • Just to comment that when we FCN volunteers have somebody with grief issues, CRUSE are the ‘go to’ people

      • Caro

        There’s booklets online….and a waiting list for one to one help.

        They helped me after trying to continue holding my grief together after losing Carl, my son. Cathartic though.
        They are good with young people too…see them alone after initial talk with parents.
        They helped my other son when his best friend committed suicide too.
        You have my email too x

      • Thanks. I’ll check it all out. They look very good and sometimes all you need is someone telling you the way you feel is ok. I should have some space and time this week as term ends on Wednesday, that will help. 🙂

  2. I could give you wonderful advice, which is to ‘chill.’
    But if you had time to take it you wouldn’t need it in the first place.
    But somehow you do need to just slow the hamster wheel briefly

    • Hopefully we will have the chance before long. We’re off on holiday soon and I know that will be relaxing and will help a lot. The summer term is always a nightmare and this one’s been particularly hectic.

  3. And you can still articulate about the subject when you’re strapped for time. You’re wonderful.
    Two other observations:
    I wonder if having a conversation with McMini about how much you miss talking about things that worry you with your Dad would help him understand his fears some more–or even open up.
    Getting the Inca king to kill all those people sound like it’s the only thing he feels in control of right now. What did he talk to his grandfather about?

    Remember what I said about this ages ago (told to me by someone wise) ; concentrate on your physical health, your mental health and the paperwork. ‘your’ being plural, of course.

    • Thanks you xx. I don’t think McMini talked to his grandfather about anything much, but Dad had a way with children, so he may not have needed to.

      And yes, I know I need to slow down and hopefully, soon, I’ll be able to. Likewise, once term ends on Wednesday, I hope I’ll have more opportunities to talk to McMini about it all in a more relaxed, less intense way.

  4. Diana

    I think you are dealing with some of the same kinds of fears that McMini is — and may be adding his to your pile. I am glad you are taking time for a holiday, and hoping and praying for you that it will be relaxing and restorative.

    I don’t know what CRUSE bereavement is, but do know that a friend of mine who lost her mom a few years ago to dementia and possibly cancer (although her doctors refused to consider that as a possibility and refused pain meds) has found a grief care group here very helpful. She made attending this group a priority (in her case for a couple of years) and sometimes still visits when she feels a need to.

    If CRUSE has something for kids, McMini may benefit as well.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Oh — and a question: do you have some sort of schedule for your posts (since you mentioned that you didn’t have something started so wrote what you could)? If you do, please give yourself the okay to post when you feel like it, not when you have scheduled a post. No one will be offended if we don’t hear from you as often. Although I always look forward to your posts, I don’t count days or weeks, etc. I am just happy when I get a notification.

    Find a place to “chill” and add it to your schedule instead.

    • Yeh, I definitely think both chilling and the counselling are good ideas. It’s been a very hectic term and I think now we’re coming to the end a lot of hassle will lighten up.

      As for scheduling posts, I usually write them when I have time, which is on Fridays so I then set them up to publish on the Saturday. Sometimes I have ideas and sketch them out or write bits down, or just decide I can’t publish them. Those are draft posts really, I guess. And I try to post something every Saturday, so that way, at least I have written something every week!

      Thank you for the endorsement!

      Cheers

      MTM

  5. I don’t understand the dark side. So anything insensitive I say comes from that: I can’t understand how people can do what they so obviously do, that I would never be able to do in a million years (I hope).

    I couldn’t even listen to ghost stories around campfires, or do initiations into groups which blindfolded you and put things in your hands. Never did any, don’t understand the urge to torture newcomers that way. I don’t get hazing’s good side (I don’t believe there is one).

    I understand conceptually, of course. But I’ve always thought that if you have any belief in the supernatural, why would you want to be on the losing side? Maybe that just allows me to function.

    I miss my grandfather. He died when I was a teen, and my mother was devastated, and the Catholic church provided Masses and rosaries, and no one took the time (that I can remember) to think the children (I was the oldest grandchild) might need some attention. I hope I did better with my own kids, but they were in the enviable position of being adults when our parents died, and of knowing their grandparents were all over 90, and had had good lives.

    I miss talking to my dad, even though it often degenerated into providing a listening ear for the things he couldn’t talk about with my four younger sisters or their husbands (not a scientist or engineer in the bunch). I called as much as I could.

    Grief is something which eventually gets faded – and then comes back and haunts you when you’re tired or can’t sleep – but there isn’t anything you can DO about what happened, and we all realize that, and find a way to deal.

    I also don’t understand not wanting to talk about things. But I have so many people in my life who can’t or won’t – I’ve learned it will just be that way.

    Hugs.

    • Amen to all of that. I can’t do horror either, and can’t understand how people are able to demonise others so quickly and readily or understand the things they do to one another either. 🙂 I’m sure I’ll miss Dad for a long time. I’m prepared for it, I’ve seen how badly he missed his Dad and Mum. I think missing Mum, too has compounded it this week.

      Tracks for the words of support.

  6. You have a very intelligent son and because of his intelligence he is not only very scared and horrified about death and the effects it has on all people involved (those who die and those who are still alive) but he is (I am fairly sure) also acutely aware of the effect your Dad’s illness and death has had on you and his father. He is trying to deal with things on his own and in his own way without adding to your burden. I am sure he will come out of this really well but I agree with others that you may all benefit from a little counselling. My father died nine years ago and his illness and death badly affected my younger daughter. She was moving up from Middle School to High School and we spent most of the summer holiday transporting my father to and from hospital as he succumbed to lung cancer. I couldn’t support her as I should have done as I was having to help my parents.
    Whenever anyone mentions Goebbels, as you did in your post, I am reminded of my elder daughter Alice’s GCSE history revision. She devised a wonderful revision technique which was to write a list of questions on one sheet of paper and the answers on another. She could revise on her own or she could ask a passing parent to help out. One afternoon she handed me the question sheet and the answer sheets and we began discussing WW2 and the main players in Germany. My younger daughter who was about four years old, was sitting with us and listening intently.
    I asked Alice what she knew about Goebbels and we were both very surprised when Elinor said she knew all about Goebbels; she had learnt about Goebbels at school. Apparently, he liked to play in the dark at night, making a lot of noise. He also ate a lot of cardboard.
    And that is what comes into my head every time Goebbels is mentioned.

  7. Oh, my dear girl.
    Oh, sweet McMini: If I still don’t know how to handle grief, and I’ve had so much of it, and I’m much older, why should you? It comes out in strange ways. Sometimes, we see our parents grieving and it scares us, and our world goes topsy-turvy. We don’t have the words to describe that. Sometimes, we have questions about where loved ones go and could we go there too, and not see our parents and friends ever again?
    I write these words to McMini, but I still feel these things myself. Have felt these things quite recently. I’m glad there’s a concept of heaven because the idea of one day going to a place of happy times and being with ALL our loved ones is a great one.
    MT, my dear girl: You are doing your very best. Get a book for adults to help children cope with grief. Read it and share it with McMini’s teacher. And that’s all I have to say. Meantime, email me from a different address, as yours bounces back repeatedly.

    • Bless you, we’ve signed up for grief counselling but it’ll be a few weeks before it comes through. 🙂 We are off on holiday soon. I hope that will help. It should do. As for email have you tried freeybc at gmail.com? That one’s usually pretty reliable … unless MI6 are reading all my correspondence again! 🤣🤣🤣

  8. Caro

    Hope you enjoy, your much needed holiday time…but recall, brother in law, too…Mc Mini will have this in his head, maybe adding to problems. Xx

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