This is a page from the book of thoughts, memories & photographs that I gave to my daughter when she reached 18.
It seems appropriate to share it with you today.
“Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” —Jaques Prevert
You would often say to me “Jane, be happy” and I know that you would hate to see me as unhappy as I have been these last few months. So I am making steps to find my happiness again. It’s not that I am unhappy all the time – there are always the moments of happiness that creep up on me and take me by surprise. It’s just that there were more of them when you were around.
I knew when my marriage failed that I was not destined to be alone, I am a people person and I value those I hold close beyond all else. So I actively sought you out, sifting through the chaff of internet dating was a bit like panning for gold in the River Thames. I know I struck lucky.
You put the smile back on my face. You gave me memories to treasure. You made me feel loved & beautiful and cherished. You held me when I cried. You shared my laughter. You loved my children. You even cleaned the oven! We talked for hours and hours.
Your last visit we talked about getting married. Your last contact was troubled yet hopeful “life is so difficult here, but I dream of growing old with you all”.
The trouble is I am still that same person who wants a special someone in their life but I cannot see how anyone could withstand comparison to you. Unresolved grief they call it.
There is no difference between happiness and love. Will I ever know what happened?
In the mean time I have decided grain by grain, to try & find my happiness and this is part of the process.
It’s a harmless enough question when people ask about the age difference between my children. It’s almost 6 years. Nothing extraordinary about that is there? My standard answer is “that’s just how it happened” and that’s true enough for most people. After all, when someone asks “How are you?” do you give them chapter & verse. No, I thought not.
November 5th 1999 I had a positive pregnancy test. Six days later I was in hospital with a suspected miscarriage.
Please tell me why they scan you in the same department as all the pregnant women with their swollen bellies? You hang your head, unable and unwilling to make eye contact with anyone. There is no joy in your heart or womb, just emptiness. You failed. I was sent home to let nature take it’s course. Miscarriage, even early on is bloody, painful and cruel. But that’s only half the story.
I thought that I was verging on insanity, you see, after years of infertility treatment I was fairly in tune with my body and its cycles. I felt pregnant. I felt crazy. I had seen what was flushed down the toilet. I honestly thought that if I mentioned it to my GP that he would have me sectioned. I didn’t mention it, I went back to work.
A week after my miscarriage I had a routine blood test to make sure that “the products of conception” (Hey! That’s my baby you’re talking about!) had not been retained by my faulty, failure of a womb.
I took a call at work – I was working evenings – my GP said that I needed to go to hospital. I said “I’ll make an appointment in the morning”. He said no, that I needed to go immediately as my pregnancy hormones were still rising. What the hell did that mean? I think it meant that I wasn’t going crazy.
I’ll cut a long story short. More scans. More swollen bellies. More disgust with my own body. More failure. Nothing. There was no trace of the pregnancy, a “complete miscarriage” they said. That’s it then.
But it wasn’t, there was an ectopic pregnancy. This was a heterotopic pregnancy, a rare situation when there was an intra-uterine and extra-uterine pregnancy occurring simultaneously.
I then had to sign a consent form to have the foetus and fallopian tube removed. It broke my heart. This is a very different kind of grief.
A healthy, very unexpected pregnancy followed very soon afterwards. My son is my Child of Hope. Even his name means gift. If I had to go through it all again just to hold him, I would.
Four years of infertility treatment was exhausting and soul destroying as anyone who has experienced it will tell you! She was conceived naturally following a decision to have a short break before trying IVF. That alone changed my world.
Her pacifistic tendencies were at work early on in her life. My parents, who divorced some years earlier, decided whilst passing each other in the hospital corridor that they would put their differences aside for the greater good of this beautiful human being. That also changed my world and that of my parents, sister and the rest of our family.
She has taught me many things throughout her life so far and the ripple effect just keeps on going. I watch with immense pride as she matures into a beautiful young woman.
My Grief is Like a River
I have to let it flow,
But I myself determine
Just where the banks will go.
Some days the current takes me
In waves of guilt and pain,
But there are always quiet pools
Where I can rest again.
I crash on rocks of anger–
My faith seems faint indeed,
But there are other swimmers
Who know that what I need
Are loving hands to hold me
When the waters are too swift,
And someone kind to listen
When I just seem to drift.
Grief’s river is a process
Of relinquishing the past.
By swimming in Hope’s channels
I’ll reach the shore at last.
– Author Unknown
I read this (or at least tried to) at my Father’s funeral. I had experienced grief before, but nothing like this. My Dad always had the solidity that I valued, he was a rock. My sister spoke about him at the funeral too and one thing that struck me was that we had both had very different relationships with him! I didn’t recognise the man she was talking about at all.
He was not present in my younger days in the same way that he was in hers – there is eight years between us – but nonetheless, I knew that he loved me.
Four days before he died he phoned me on my birthday to wish “his baby” a happy birthday. I don’t remember him ever being so softly spoken or gentle of voice. He was a big man, ex boxer, ex Army and manual worker, it just wasn’t his way. It left me puzzled at the time. And by the way…I was 42!
What I am feeling now 10 years later, for someone else, is grief. A very different kind of grief. It’s ambiguous. Why do I grieve? It’s uncertain. Are you dead or somehow still alive?