Tag Archives: bereavement

Hope and Grief

I suppose I had better get this out of the way.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I am no longer pregnant.

It has been a week now and although grief has a nasty way of winding you when you least expect it, coming over you in unexpected waves as it does, I think I am starting to see light at the end of the long dark tunnel and I hope I can look forward to some better days soon.

We hadn’t planned this pregnancy at all – we had given up a long time ago (although I never stopped being broody and wishing for more babies) but I had more or less come to terms with the fact that, at 45, more babies weren’t very likely.

This was my 6th loss too, which seems far more than my ‘fair share’.

Anyway. I need to fold up all my hopes and dreams and plans of babies and young children and lay them back in the ‘hope chest’ and lock it away for now.

Plan B?

I’m not ready to think about that yet.

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Red Herrings 

In May we started the process of buying a flat. It was beautiful and big, but it had no garden or parking, no garage or storage, and it would have necessitated moving towns amongst other things. It seemed like a good idea at the time – it was a nice town that we all liked and we already had friends there.

But then I discovered that I was very unexpectedly pregnant and the lack of garden and parking suddenly seemed more problematic. The final decision not to go ahead was influenced by the fact that middle son felt very strongly indeed about changing schools (as in”I’d rather die!”) and daughter didn’t even get the place we had been assured was hers for the taking at Sixth Form in the same school.

So we said goodbye to the lovely big flat, with no clear vision of where to go or any obvious options other than staying in the housing association house that’s so unsuitable.

But then… I’m not pregnant anymore.

 I rather wish we had a move to look forward to, as the future is looking pretty bleak right now.

This was my 6th loss through miscarriage and since I’m 45 now, there’s no guarantee at all that there will be any more pregnancies or even any more conception (this baby was 4 long years in the making).

And so I’m beyond sad. I’m absolutely broken and bereft. I can’t see any light, only tunnel.

And the worst thing about all this is that we weren’t really trying to conceive anymore. We had given up. And I was more or less, reluctantly resigned to the idea that there wouldn’t be any more babies. 

But now? I can suddenly vividly remember the feeling I had after I lost my twins all those years ago – the feeling that I could more than understand the desperation of bereaved mothers who go on to steal other mothers’ babies. It becomes an all-consuming obsession to somehow obtain that which you cannot have.

Despite my determination to think positively, look for the good and find treasure in the darkness this year, all I can see now is darkness.

Was there any point in all this? Life seems to have a cruel and sick sense of humour. It seems to have been nothing but a red herring. But I don’t know anymore what I’m meant to be focusing on instead.

The Last Straw

Another lick of paint, to cheer things up. What do you think?

The sun is shining, but I cannot tell you how deeply low and bad and desperate I feel. I didn’t go under when I lost my babies, when my Dad died, when uncle then aunt died in quick succession, when we endured floods, when we lost our house, when husband lost his job, when we had to move 6 times in under 5 years*. I just worked through every new grief like a Trojan. See these big muscles? I’m invincible.

But right now, I am seriously considering admitting defeat. I feel as though cruelty upon cruelty has been heaped upon us, and I have had enough. I won’t bore you with all the horrible things I’m having to deal with right now, but Whistler’s passing might just possibly have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And the next person to suggest that I’m ‘attracting’ all this bad luck can expect to be beaten to a pulp before I get dragged off to the funny farm.

* The abridged version.

 

RIP Whistler

I wasn’t sure how to approach this, as it is all so raw and painful just now so I will just tell you the facts I think.

Whistler

Whistler was a border collie, born and bred on Strawberry Farm near Retford in north Nottinghamshire in the summer of 2003. He came to live in Watford with my sister-in-law and her husband when they moved down there, and were a constant part of my children’s lives from that point onwards.

In December last year, sister-in-law and her husband asked us to take care of their dogs as they were moving abroad and felt that, at almost 13, it would be too much for them. We accepted as the children were already very fond of the dogs and had wanted to have dogs of their own.

It was soon clear though that Whistler was not happy – to begin with I thought he was just pining for his owners; it was such a massive change of circumstances so late in life. But gradually he stopped eating and started to become weaker and we started suspecting that he was actually getting sick.

Two weeks ago, he started having trouble walking and although when we changed to real meat from the dried food he was used to he started eating again, he seemed to be going downhill and so last week we took him to a local vet.

This vet was pretty unpleasant and rude from the outset, almost insisting that we put Whistler down there and then, implying that he would report us to the RSPCA if we refused, but nevertheless shaving him carelessly, cutting his neck in several places, and took a blood sample for testing, gave us a bottle of antibiotic pills, and insisted we call the next morning with a decision. His ‘diagnosis’ was poor teeth.

I called the next morning and told the receptionist that we would see how he did over the weekend and come in again on Monday evening to discuss options.

He improved massively over the weekend, although it was up and down, and we had decided at that point to give saving him a try.

So when we arrived at the vet on Monday evening we discussed with a junior vet about trying to put Whistler through the operation to fix his teeth, knowing that he was very weak and may not make it through the anaesthetic, but wanting to try and save him anyway.

When the junior vet went to check with the head of the practice though he came out and was extremely rude again, and aggressive, absolutely insisting that we put Whistler down, and informing us that he hadn’t bothered to send off the blood sample for testing! He was also constantly referring to Whistler as ‘she’, which made me see red!

At this point I felt very uncomfortable about staying with this vet and so we left to get a second opinion from another vet, and went immediately to another practice in town.

The difference between the two practices could not have been starker. Where the first vet had been rude, aggressive and unprofessional, the second was kind, gentle, respectful and understanding. The premises were also extremely contrasted. Where the new vet’s was clean, bright and professional-looking, the first one had felt like a dirty, smelly, outback, makeshift shack of a place. Thinking back, I am amazed I even considered trusting the first vet.

The new vet agreed that Whistler was very sick and weak, but said that there were various options and that he didn’t want to condemn him without proper testing. He gave him injections of a steroid, B vitamins and an appetite stimulant and asked us to come back in the morning for blood tests.

In the morning we left Whistler there for blood tests and waited for results. When the vet called, around 2pm it was bad news, but the original diagnosis of ‘teeth’ had been wrong. According to the results it looked as though Whistler had some kind of cancer, either a lymphoma or leukemia. Even then the new vet didn’t condemn him, and said that we could come in to discuss his options.

We all went in together, and after discussing it and deciding that we didn’t want to put him through chemotherapy, we very reluctantly decided that since any other intervention would probably only give him a matter of six more weeks or so anyway, that we would call it a day and let him go.

The children said goodbye and everyone except myself, husband and the eldest waited in the car while the deed was done.

Needless to say it was pretty horrible – not at all brutal (it was quite gentle and quick), but it felt kind of evil, everybody felt awful and there were a lot of tears (and some of us actually howled with grief, I am not kidding.) We decided to leave his body with the vet for cremation as we’re not in our own house and wouldn’t have been able to bury him. That felt pretty dreadful too but couldn’t be helped. We took his collar and eldest held it in his hand on the way home.

So ultimately the result was what the first vet had wanted but I was so pleased and convinced I had made the right decision in getting the second opinion, and had it done in a so much nicer place, where we felt that all the staff were caring and considerate and actually understood how devastating it was for us all.

We’re all a bit shellshocked today.

Whistler is survived by his sister from the same litter, Sapphire.

Battle Lines

battlelines2

Summary:

Sisko, Bashir, Chief O’Brien and Kira take the Kai on an outing to see the Wormhole, and when there is a distress call, she encourages them to answer it. As a result, they become stranded on a planet where there is continuous war, and the inhabitants have been treated with nanobots which ensure that when they are wounded and killed in battle, they do not die permanently, but are revived, so the cycle of war goes on and on. Kai Opaka is killed in the impact of the shuttle’s emergency landing and is revived, but then it turns out that she can then never leave the planet because the reviving nanobots only work there. And so, when they manage to fix the runabout so they can leave, Kai Opaka must stay, and Kira must say a final farewell.

“I’ve discovered we can’t afford to die here. Not even once.” – Bashir.

Noooo! Why did they do this? The answer of course is that Kai Opaka was just too nice, too perfect; there was no conflict, and that makes for a boring story. And as painful as it is, it’s a good episode full of feeling which explores all the themes of grief and loss, war and peace, love, friendship and hope.

I’ve mentioned my Dad before. I don’t think anyone else in my life has ever quite fulfilled that same role of mentor, and although I would love to find a new mentor, I don’t think it’s very likely that I would find anybody who could fully fill his boots. He was a religious man, and had a strong belief in the after-life to the extent that, when he was very ill at the end, and could have gone on living, he chose to die (by refusing to continue with dialysis) believing that he would go to his ‘eternal rest’, and that seemed more attractive to him than life.

I am a ‘believer’; I have a faith, but I don’t feel comfortable with such assurance that makes people choose death over life. It seemed an unthinkably cruel and cowardly choice, but I know that he wasn’t in his right mind when he made that decision, and for him, dialysis was his worst nightmare come true. After several months of misery, he decided to pull the plug. He was told that he would die within two weeks, but in fact he suffered 8 more months of pain and misery.

The grief that I felt when he left us was so deep, it was physical. I felt as though my chest was crushed and I really felt as though I were seriously, physically ill. Sisko, who had been through something very similar, was able to tell me that no, this was what grief is like.

Of course I like the idea that he is living somewhere, out of space and time, in a place where there is no more sorrow and no more tears and no more pain.

At the end of the episode, Kai Opaka tells Kira, “Your pagh and mine will cross again” but, apart from the odd couple of episodes where one of the Wormhole Aliens appears in the form of Kai Opaka, she does not return, and we don’t see her again as that character. The idea is that, negotiating between the two warring parties to bring them toward peace becomes Kai Opaka’s new life work.

ds9_battlelines

I was speaking to my mum the other day about the idea of heaven and my Dad – what is he doing, what is he thinking? Is he aware of everything that goes on here? Would he be crushed if she were to marry again? I told her that I didn’t think he is aware because – in my way of thinking about how the universe works at least – I think that at the moment of death, he exited time and space, so he exists now in a heaven completely separate to our realm of being. That way, for him, there will be a mere blink, a twinkling of an eye between arriving in heaven himself and the moment when we arrive there to be with him, even, if the Prophets are willing, that will be many, many years from now.

To my mind though, even if you have some great assurance of heaven, it’s never the best idea to choose heaven over life in the real world. Life is precious, and rare and wonderful, and despite all the awfulness of war and misery and disease, there is beauty and goodness and love and hope worth staying for.

Yahrzeit

nimoy

Leonard Nimoy – 1931-2015

I wanted to make mention of the fact that today (14th December) would have been my Dad’s birthday. For various reasons, I don’t have many photos of him (you might say that they mostly all perished on the USS Saratoga at Wolf 359).

If I had photos of him, I probably still wouldn’t post them, as I can’t ask his permission. (If I asked my mum or my brother’s permission, I suspect they would refuse anyway.) I know of course that people do this all the time (especially of their kids) but I don’t like it at all. I haven’t appreciated people taking photos and posting photos of me without my permission, and I would never do it of anybody else. (At least no-one who isn’t a celebrity, already in the public domain.)

But as you know, my Dad bore a passing resemblance to Leonard Nimoy – also of blessed memory – (at least enough for me to believe as a child that he starred in Star Trek The Original Series) and an interesting thing links them even further in my mind and memory: when my Dad died, my children did not cry. Perhaps they were too young, too unaccustomed with death, too numbed from months and months of hospital visits. But when Leonard Nimoy died earlier this year, it was such a shock that we all cried long and hard, many times. It was as though the floodgates of all our pent-up emotion opened and we could contain the grief no more.

Spock wasn’t my Dad’s only Trek connection. one of the last things he said before he went into his final sleep was quoting Scotty: “You cannae change the laws of physics!” I can’t recall now what prompted him to say it. But after months and months of misery, it was the first, and last, time I saw him smile. It’s quite a nice memory to keep of him.

I chose the photo above of Leonard Nimoy – to represent my Dad _ after all, this blog is all about Star Trek as a metaphor representing aspects of real life – because he is smiling so happily. I try not to think too much about the way my Dad suffered in his final months, as it does me no good to dwell on it. I try to remember the times he was most contented.

p.s. I know ‘Yahrzeit’ is supposed to be a memorial of the anniversary of a person’s death rather than their birth, but hey. Rules are meant to be broken occasionally.