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MICA Travels are a group of family and friends that are dedicated to raise awareness of Bile duct cancer and sepsis, two illnesses that claim 1000’s of lives each year and are barely known about. I lost my wife; our sons lost their mother and many others lost a dear friend. We as group will be doing a series of endurance activities to raise money for these charities as a lasting memorial to Carol, so that our sudden loss is not in vain.

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14/214 Fells completed


Posted in Coping With Bereavement by Mike Hall
deep end


I’m not sure if this is actually helping or not but for the moment I’m running with it. I seem to need to push myself into situations that I don’t want to do, but need to do, so I can feel what it is like and then make an informed judgement on which way to act.

In this case it’s about going away on my own. Some of you might think what’s so hard about that? Well in my situation, my wife and I travelled this country extensively, from courting days, through parenthood and back to us. I can honestly say I can’t go anywhere in this country without stumbling upon an area, place or even a route that we have already done. Now this makes the thought of going away very difficult for a number of reasons, namely, the memories that I will remember, the sadness that she is no longer with me to share, plan, pack and to organise as only a women can.

The sadness is felt by any family member that accompanies me, they too know that they have been there before or been told about the place. The same would go for anyone else, I think they would just see me as revisiting a place I have been before, see me being upset or recounting and I think that it will make them feel awkward; well that’s what I think, rightly or wrongly.  So for the moment I have chosen to just do it on my own, at least I will not be causing others to feel sad or create any awkwardness. As I say I’m not sure if this the right approach or not.

Into the deep …….

My theory behind the need to push myself into these situations is along the lines of needing to experience situations that are completely against my emotions and intuition. Say for example you can swim but don’t like being out of your depth but want to try and go there, so you venture into the deep end reluctantly, maybe with your friends or family to provide security and support, and hang on to the side then swim back to the safety of shallows. Well in my situation I need to remove the fear of the deep end so I swim there and then push myself underwater to see how deep it is. Once I have established that I can touch the bottom and then rise up again, the threat isn’t as much of a threat anymore.  I keep doing it until the threat has gone and I no longer fear the deep. Strange example, and am sure there are other better examples, say the fear of spiders for example.

Well my real life example is the need to be away enjoying the outside, the warmth on my face, the calmness of silence or bird song being carried on a warm zephyr blowing past your head. But I have done this all my life with my wife next to me. I still want to experience things like this, it would be good for my mental health, but I am being held back as I’m scared of doing it on my own. These feelings are strong but so is the fear. Do I follow heart or head, therefore a paradox exists, either outcome might be true, I might enjoy it or hate it, but don’t know unless I make a decision.

The booking …..

Well I plucked up the courage and booked a few days away after Christmas with the family but packed enough clothes to continue afterwards alone to places that we used to visit. I was fortunate to be lead into the holiday with family holding my hand, so the initial time was safe, I could go to the deep end with people I trust and therefore I wasn’t that scared. During the time away I travelled to my other Son and Daughter in law which took me further away from the safety of my castle, my home and alone, but knew that I would be safe there with them. Once I got used to the thought of being away from my home I decided to book a hotel for a few nights in the Lake District, our second home of sorts. I had been there before without my wife, but amongst family so again my emotions were in safe hands. However this was early in my grief journey, and I now realise I was “gap filling”, a subject I have written about in “The Pendulum Effect”.

This time I was going to go there on my own, to walk about, go in and out of pubs, get food and generally fend for myself, once more into the deep end but this time without the safety net of my family. I was dreading doing this, for this time I was not only going to the deep end, I was going to drop to the bottom to see how deep it was. My reasoning being if I could do this in this our sanctuary, I do it anywhere.

Alone and far from home ….

Well the day came that I left my son and daughter in law and ventured North West to the lakes. I arrived at the hotel in the dark and booked in; I had done this before when I was in business, so this was fairly familiar. Once settled I ventured out for food. This was a previous “deep end” experience, asking for a table for one and dining out for pleasure if you could call it that, but I had tested the depth of those feelings by having a meal in the last place we had an anniversary meal together before she became unwell. The water was deep and I struggled to surface, but did. By doing this I can go and get a meal for one without too much anguish or upset.

The problem came the following morning. I drove to a place in the lakes, special to us, but first I needed to by some roses after which I drove into the lakes and saw it was covered in snow, I looked at the empty seat and then looked out at the wintry vista ahead. I said aloud how beautiful it was and how I wished she was with me. I continued along the road and the view just got better and better to the point I just started to cry, so much that I had to pull over in a lay by and just let it out. Why was I punishing myself so much, I want my family, the safety of my castle, my wife, why do this, what purpose does this achieve, it certainly isn’t doing me any good, I’m a wreck, in a lay by, alone and lonely and crying out for a sign, some divine intervention, guidance from afar, please just tell me what to do.

Well I know that those that have been in my shoes will understand the physical pain, the everlasting emptiness that used to be filled by being able to love and be loved in return, the greatest feeling that can ever be experienced. So I sat there crying and howling without making a noise for a while, I was sitting on the bottom of my metaphorical deep end so after a while I pushed up from the floor and made it to the top gasping but still alive. That layby, those beautiful views of snow covered mountains in the distance looking like a peaky meringue was my “deep end” and I made it through.

I got out the car and took some pictures for a reminder, a memorandum of the day to reflect upon, to remind me that I was on a journey to continue our story for I am where I am, because of her, her sacrifice and I need to carry out her dreams as well as mine, I miss her, but she would want me to find peace somehow and someway, we loved this area and I still do, so I got back into the car and forged forward.

After visiting a few of our favourite places and placing a single rose at each place I finally went to what will be our final resting place, this was agreed by us both and when it comes to my time, we will be scattered form on high and be as one once more. A single red rose was placed, a prayer for her and all my family and friends was said and I left, sad but content that the paradox when tested blessed me with a favourable answer, I can do this.

Pushing my luck ….

Upon returning to my hotel, I decided to continue my journey of discovery and booked another hotel due west in Yorkshire right on the coast. I felt a new strength, braveness, a need to do this as I had experienced my “deep end” and nothing from now on will be as deep, it won’t be pleasing, but not as bad as that fist time.

On my second day I visited another area, one that we had never visited to strengthen the feeling that blending a bit of then and now together will allow the story to continue seamlessly. Later that day I drove to a lake and sat by the edge just looking across the water, this was the last place we were together and the last lake before I left. Once again the tears got the better of me, I’m too tired to resist but it was almost like the tears were because I was leaving, the sadness of leaving this tranquil soothing place, who knows, I’m more susceptible to other things now, who knows why we receive signs of sorts, for me I just accept them, the feathers in my path, the robin that sat next to me, I just take comfort from them without seeking explanation.

I continued my journey purposefully through places we visited, stopping to add photos for my emotional scrap book, which village I felt that I was rising up, the fear of the deep was not a threat, more of a manageable compulsion, it will always be there, but for the moment at least, I can control it, I’m not the phoenix rising from the ashes jus yet but for once I felt more in control.

I reached the hotel late again so hunkered down for the night waking fresh for the next day. I wanted to do a walk to a place called Anna Cross, a stone cross about a mile into open moorland.

We had discovered this some years before and taken family to there and then it was my turn to go alone and visit the “deep” again. It was bitterly cold but when I got there it felt calm, not that the cross was on consecrated ground to my knowledge but to me being a little pious it was a significant place, so I placed another rose said my prayers and returned to the car. The weather took a turn for the worse, it got colder and snowed, but that didn’t bother me, I was well equipped and clothed and experienced in bad weather. I wanted to walk an old railway track, once again blending old with new so I wandered along the track for a two or three miles before calling it a day as the snow was getting harder to see through, not that it was heavy, it just blowing into my face and glasses.

When I got back to the car, I got my walking gear off and fired her up ready for the journey to the hotel. This track and the cross for that matter were high up and were approached via a steep 1:3 alpine style switch back road which I had travelled earlier that day.

A dream or premonition………

The snow was blowing rather that settling so I made my approach to the road. Well this is a strange thing, a premonition in fact. A while ago I dreamt of going down a steep snow covered road and I couldn’t stop and careered off the edge down a step drop to what was going to be my death. I woke up in a panic just before impact such was the fright of the dream. Well I turned the first corner to be confronted with a series of tight turns steeply descending the moor all covered in drifting snow with a sharp drop to my right. The dream flashed upon my mind and I stopped. If I ventured on, my doom would have followed, of that I was convinced, so on a very narrow incline I carried out a 50 point turn and ascended the valley to make a very long but safer detour.

Two things crossed my mind, why was I in this real life dream and why did I dream it in the first place, laugh at this bit, but I had this dream when my wife was alive and I told her about it and how real it felt. In my dream I didn’t stop favouring my chances, but this time, there was no way I would do it. The other more sobering thought was that if I wanted to end it all, this would be the perfect scenario, I would not be found for hours and the steepness of the drop meant that my chances of survival were slim. Despite your apparent grip at times, loss and the inevitable emotional instability that surrounds it, at times you consider choices in extreme that you would not normally countenance, just saying.

Seaside by night …..

Later that night I went to the coast and built a sand castle in the moonlit beach, just because I could and it’s the sort of thing I would have done, in fact she would had helped me, being old in age but young in heart. The sea in another part was pounding the sea wall and groins, the sheer power of the waves and in the distance flickering lights on ships making their passage across the north sea or trawling for fish either way, I felt insignificant compared with the power of the crashing foaming waves their moment of freedom as they splashed the promenade only to drain back into the arms of the sea, like all things in nature, born, lives for a while and dies then the cycle starts again.

The next day I drove to the coast had a chippy lunch and continued to plunge into my “deep ends” as the journey progressed, my last but one stop was at Robin Hoods Bay where I laid another rose and had half a pint of Old Peculiar in the Laurel pub. Coincidently, I sat in the same place that I had a picture of us before, coincidence or another sign to carrying on continuing the journey, who knows?

There was another couple in the lounge area and asked about the picture I was showing the barman, they asked about my story, which I told them and the journey I was on, we sat and chatted about my wife which they were interested and not just being polite, turns out they were motorcyclists as was my wife and I and they visit a friend a few villages away from me, small world hey!

My final destination was Oliver’s mount, a war memorial high above Scarborough, another place we had visited both and a couple but as a family. My final rose was laid; my journey had taken me through a door which now allowed some possibility of hope. You can reflect upon this and say why was I driven to do it, was it a pilgrimage? Was it to prove that I could do it to myself? Was I being steered from afar? Or a bit of all of them, who knows.

I had a 4/5 hour drive home from here and it was getting dark so pointed my trusted steed homeward and set off.

I know that this story will upset and my also show that there is always hope, I just want to share a real life experience in starting to conquer or at least manage some aspects of grief, this certainly helped me and for the moment at least I feel strong enough to make another attempt at going away but for now I will just reflect upon this little success. I hope that it offers you a little hope, maybe not now, but at some point on your journey.