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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

The Pendulum effect……

It’s been a while since I added to my grief story, and I write these accounts not as a cry for help or to wallow in self-pity but to try explain the feelings that are felt along the journey. Most men do not share stuff like this, no doubt for many reasons, some might be because it shows weakness, some might be as they don’t need too, some might not know how too.

Well I’ve tried to suck it up and “grow a set” as they say, but if you think what I write is bad enough, trust me, keeping it in is much harder and in the long term weakens you. That’s why there are so many people, mainly men, choose to follow the path of ending it all. That’s not me just saying for effect, it’s the truth, and that’s just such a waste of a good person to the monster called grief. So nuts to the old school taboo, despite my sadness, I am stronger for telling the my story as crap as it is at times, but that’s what it’s like, but in some small way, stories like mine in real time words might just help others by saying, you are not alone, sure its shit what I'm going through and I have no answers, but I’m surviving of sorts both as a person alone and a lonely person, so here goes………

You know this complicated grief thing is a hardest thing to deal with. It’s been over a year now and things are probably worse now than before. I think I have dealt with things the wrong way in hindsight, but didn’t know any different at the time. In fact, I thought I was doing well and people said the same, which was false encouragement but one I wanted to hear nonetheless.

I tried to get on with life in the beginning in the belief that my wife would want me too, this is true of course, her kind and loving nature would want that and I still believe that, but it was a misplaced direction, or premature at least on my part. I forced myself to get on with life, filling my life with distraction and the comfort of kindness of others, but inevitably I was just gap filling. Sorry to put it in such blunt terms, and no malice is meant, in fact, during my initial grief, I craved all comfort in whatever form I could get it. My heart was hurting and still is, so anything that soothed the pain was soaked up like a sponge. However, I was constantly being reminded by my conscience with its liberal use of guilt, betrayal and judgement that I needed to take stock of the situation. Here then ensued the battle between heart and mind and my mind won.

As the year progressed I allowed my mind to take control of my heart and reign in all those cravings. Some would say too much as I have become reclusive and avoid so many things but if I didn’t do that, I would have been heading for another car crash. Even the few dreams that I had were indicating that I was going in the wrong direction.

There are three things that my grief plays with, my heart, where my emotions are felt, my mind, the stronghold of my conscience and my well being, what I really want, which i call my pendulum.

During this year the pendulum was firmly in my emotional area, but in the quiet reflective times it would swing towards my conscience. As it swung from side to side what I really wanted changed depending on which side influenced it.

When you were emotionally driven, you crave all the pleasures that a loving relationship afforded you and why wouldn’t you want that, you both enjoyed all the pleasures that love and companionship gave you both. But like all things, when you can’t have them, you want them more, or at least you think you do.

When you are "conscience driven", you deny all the things you craved or desired, effectively closing the doors on your heart and to all the things that made you happy. You can never have them so you drive them out of your system and use guilt, judgement, punishment and betrayal to support your reasons for shutting yourself away from all possibility of ever letting you heart feel or give any form of affection.

After a while, and for me it was around 12 months in, my pendulum stopped swinging so violently from one extreme, emotional need, to the other, your conscience and has settled off centre biased towards conscience. Whilst you could say it is good that your pendulum doesn’t swing as much, there is a trade-off for this slowing of swing. It takes the form of forgetting what you really want from this life you are forced into. Initially you want all the things back to what they were, but we all know that you cannot replace the things you have lost. You can satisfy most of your desires by substitution, hobbies, groups, pets, writing blogs etc and even the more troublesome things can be dealt with through “outsourcing” or medical intervention, if you need to.

These I believe are the normal feelings of a broken heart trying to grab at anything that would make it feel as it was. We all know that all of these are a quick fix, a temporary distraction and end will inevitably in tears, being hurt or despising yourself for lack of control, like most impulse reactions, they are short lived and you end up with regret or responsibility, both of which you are in no fit state to deal with.

So your life’s needs and wants settle into a lack lustre state with no real desire to do anything. If you do fancy doing something, the bias towards your conscience kicks in to remind you that it’s not worth it as you will have to battle with guilt, betrayal, judgement or just the sadness. Even the most necessary tasks of feeding yourself, keeping the house, shopping even getting up seems pointless. There have been numerous occasions I have made meals from what’s in the cupboard, I eat most things but chicken soup with baked beans and marmite will not be on my menu again, and after having belly ache for 3 days as a result of out of date slightly mouldy crumpets, I know where my limits are. I have been sniffing milk lately as well after having to wash my cornflakes as that’s all I had.

Insomnia is something I have to live with, a hang up from monitoring my wife through the night and overnight stays in hospital kipping in a chair. I don’t do anything to help the situation either, often going out for a drive at midnight even walking the streets, but it’s too cold to walk at night at the moment or just simply don't feel tired so I pull an all-nighter. However, the main reason is I simply don’t like going to bed on my own, don’t get me wrong and before you all jump to conclusions, it’s a cold place devoid of all the security and safety of being in the arms of the one you love, no one to kiss goodnight, to feel the warmth and reassurance or play the game of bluff when it comes to making tea in the morning. However, when the small hours start to threaten to turn to dawn, you must simply go to bed for health reasons. Exhaustion and the cold lately force the move to bed, but in the morning, I just stay there, after all, what’s the point. Those that in normal life get up with a routine or a list of things to do, in my case, I try and figure how to get through the day.

This lack lustre pendulum position just wipes all your desires, hopes and dreams away, it just leaves you in a state of zombiefied existence. You get up because you know it’s not right just to stay in bed otherwise, you will not shave or wash and start ordering take away meals to eat in bed and then die behind a pile of pizza and fried chicken boxes if you let it carry on. But in all honesty, what is there to do. All you can see is the same thing day after day, you hanging on, getting older and eventually the invites and concerns from friends and family will start to diminish until some point when the only visits and calls are for duty only. To be blunt and honest, its at these low points you do consider, is this life worth living, seriously, you do think of just calling it a day at times, these are not hollow gestures, they are real thoughts, not cowardly actions but choices considered from a position of strength. Don't worry, I have a family, and therefore a reason to come to terms with my grief but just being honest and appreciative of those that have had no choice but to make that decision.

There is no point trying to sugar coat the situation, it is what it is and with your stationary pendulum like a clock, time is stuck and you a frozen in this state. If you try and get it swinging again, the process starts again, your heart wants to mend and feel all the things that being in love and being loved give you and then your conscience counters it by saying what about guilt, judgement and betrayal.

I suppose that after being a rogue in early years playing fast and loose with people’s feelings and then realising the stupidity of it, totally as a result of my girlfriend then to be my wife showing me that to loving with all your heart will reward you in so many more ways. So I did exactly that, and by the way I still feel, it shows that we did a good job at it. This I realise was a two edged sword, because we were dependant on each other, co-joined in heart body and soul and whilst with lived in our self-made utopia we were setting ourselves up for a fall. 

As I write this, Coldplay’s “In my place” is playing on the radio, which seems appropriate, listen to it, but here is an extract:

“I was scared, I was scared

Tired and underprepared

But I wait for it

And if you go, if you go

And leave me down here on my own

Then I’ll wait for you.


In my place, in my place

Were lines that I couldn’t change

And I was lost, oh, yeah

Oh, yeah”

Losing your loved one does leave you scared and underprepared and ultimately stuck within lines that you cannot change.

What’s in a year….

It’s a year on and the reality of being on my own is being lived out in many ways. I am lost because for nearly fifty years I have not known any different than to be as one unit. People have said that our relationship was unique, some have even compared what we took for granted to theirs, which is dangerous as to contrast and compare the apparent greener grass on my side to theirs will only make you feel emotions that you don’t need to stir. Your life is yours and unique to you as ours was unique to us. The down side of our true love affair is that we forgot to stand on our own feet and if we had done that, when it came to us parting, we would be more worldly wise. That’s why my pendulum cannot control its motion, it doesn’t have a governor to regulate its rate of swing, speed or where it stops.

I suppose that over this year and a bit I have learnt what the feelings are, my heart is still broken and I accept the it will always be, I don’t have anything to be guilty for, loving someone whole heartedly is not a crime, but is punished when you lose it. I have nothing to be judged for, I have not stepped out of line, caused any eyebrows to be raised and as for betrayal I have not shipped anyone into my heart. So I recognise the extremes of the pendulums swing but struggle to see why they have such a hold on me.

When it comes to the pendulum itself, the “what do I want” part, well that’s a whole nest of raw emotion. I know and can hear the words “you are not ready” or “when the time is right you will let go and move on” which may or may not be true, but these words are often said by those that are in a relationship or content with the life they have. Seldom do they come from people in my situation because if they did, they simply wouldn’t say it unless they have found their nirvana.

At the moment I’m locked in a castle, literally, opting for the safety of the closed front door to my house reclusively avoiding the majority of invitations and extended hands. The main reason is that my pendulum is influenced by what it sees in the outside world. The normality of people going about their routines, looking forward to weekends, holidays, parties etc and even though I get asked to go and meet people, it’s a battle to do it often preferring to draw from the arsenal of excuses and then sit against my front door feeling upset, often in tears. Its pointless talking about how I feel, it just regurgitates what I keep saying, it continues to play the drama out and people are bluntly sick and tired of hearing it. Their lives have largely gone back to the routine that was originally there, yes with sadness, but generally back to what it was, and that's not wrong, its just reality. For me, well life is crap, lonely and I cannot see it ever getting much better, so I just say, I'm fine and just keep quiet, after all my days are silent for the main part with just a radio on for company, so keeping quiet is easy for me.

Then the pendulum violently swings to punishing me in some way by not eating or going for ridiculously longer and longer bike rides or going to the gym. I suppose I am trying to force out all the feelings I have in an attempt to shut the door to my heart and my inner needs and wants, by destroying all the things that gave so much pleasure in the past so I can protect myself from any further hurt. The punishment of staying in exile or over exerting myself is similar to self-flagellation as sometimes practiced in the religious doctrine of mortification, a spiritual penance to experience the suffering that my wife went through. I’m not impaling or flogging myself but mentally and physically depriving myself of all the things that are what I am about, the good in me. I still think I have things to offer, I’m a relatively fit man with probably years left on the clock, who knows, but I feel I have nothing to offer, nothing that anyone one wants in the modern world, in my mind I’m a another disposable in a chuck away world. No repair shop for me!

Here is the stupid thing, I don’t know why I do it, I know it’s wrong and I am destroying myself as well as all things around me in the process. My drama is like a fog that descends upon those that I come in contact with, so that’s why I keep myself to myself. I have realised that the many positive and good things about me have equal and opposite powers, but a side effect to this is anger, another classic sign of supressed grief, and I’m well aware of the green monster within and control it. 

The Prisoner…….

I have an idea of how I would cope in time, but I fear that because of my history, I would be avoided, it’s almost like I am a prisoner released back into the community after being confined in the glorious institution of a loving marriage. I am a combination of then and know with an uncertain future, but having experienced the extremes of having my life ripped apart; it will be hard trying to convince myself that anything is worth fighting for. It seems that this half life is all I can expect especially as I cannot control the pendulum.

We were a page that has been torn in two, one side has been lost forever and the other side is the life I have, it’s a scrap piece of paper in many people’s eyes which will never be as useful as a whole piece. The torn jagged edge is my exposed emotion, my inner workings on show to all; it will never fit with another torn sheet. After all, we all have tears in our history so it is unlikely that another torn edge will fit except where it touches.

The pendulum needs to control its pace and swing, its parameters will always be there but the time it spends in those areas and how far it travels must be restricted by what I need to do to get by. As an institutionalised ex-prisoner of a loving relationship, I need to find a path that allows my pendulum to move freely and not to vacillate but be decisive in my direction of travel, but in a measured way learning from my earlier mistakes of wanting to fill the gap in my life. It is the simple things that will allow me to walk my way through this wilderness, but it will no doubt be a lone pilgrimage and that I will just have to get used too.

Life in the balance……

At the moment with Christmas and the New Year about to descend, for the reasons of self-preservation of feelings, I’m just going to stay in a neutral state staying as low key under the radar as possible, no point dampening the enjoyment of others and it will help to prove my ability to endure the festivities in quiet reflection on the passing of another year. For me it’s just another day but I will get to see the family at some point which will seem strange as someone is missing, so we will see how that goes and no doubt it will be touched upon in my next instalment.

What I have learnt is that the big things in my life have all happened, my first girlfriend, who ended up as my wife, courting, marriage, parenthood, children growing up and treading in the same footsteps and who knows, maybe grand children in the future which I must play the part of nan and grandad. There are the sad things such as loss of parents, family, pets, and finally the premature loss of my sweetheart, the children’s mother, the sibling’s sister and a well-loved friend. Life brings such joy but to balance natures tally delivers devastation in loss.

It must be remembered that those that have lost the battle for life have given the ultimate sacrifice; they did not want to leave us as we did not want the life that follows. Somehow we must endure this part of nature’s cycle of life, but it is by far the hardest thing I have had to endure and I hope I don’t have to experience anything worse. When it comes to my time, I will know what to expect and so will my children, and when it does peace will be found for all in time.

I have a lot to learn and need  to work out how to hold on, how to make sense the broken pieces of life that sit in my hands, a mosaic of my history, broken parts of my heart and mind in shattered form. They are slowly being put back together, but chunks are missing and it will never be the same. Some days you wake up and look at the bits and have a go at moving on with what you have. These are the good days when you appreciate what you have and not what you have lost. Other times you see just broken pieces of a former life masquerading as a future and think it’s just not worth trying to make it work.

This is a by-product of the stationary pendulum; I’m fed up of its relentless un-controlled swing but compared with the cold hearted stationary position of silent reclusiveness that just makes you think "what is the point", the swing seems worth it, at least you feel alive, albeit in pain, alone and lonely, but either way you’re bedevilled.

The simple things……..

This complicated grief is a hard thing to deal with, 15 months in and it no easier but I am wiser, so I suppose that that I have coped and I know what the extremes are like and what it’s like to be alone and lonely when I stop the pendulum's swing, so I need to find a way to regulate its movement and allow me to be the person I want to be and not what I’m turning myself into. There is no rush, no new year’s resolution or unachievable promises; there is little point in setting myself up for a fall.

However, it can’t be done by reclusive behaviour; I need to be me and not someone else so need to look for the simple things that can pander to the needs and wants of my personal pendulum. I hope that by allowing feelings back into my heart and trying to enjoy things instead of rejecting the notion of ever experiencing happiness in some form, I will weigh down the pendulum and that will slow its rate of swing. I need to be more social and not worry about seeking approval from my guardians, guilt, betrayal and judgement or from anyone else for that matter.

As long as I don’t trample of feelings, cause regrets or upset people by being fast and loose, there is no reason why I can’t push my boundaries little by little over a period of time. I know my grief will always be with me but hopefully my world will become bigger. I will never hide my past, why should I, it’s a massive part of not only my life but my family’s, and the friends that we have all grown up with over the years and it’s what I am, a kind loving person with old fashioned values and morals that I’m proud to say are important and have stood me in good stead, I now that I’m blowing my own trumpet, but my past actions will support that.

I need to become a combination of then and now and continue my journey for myself, probably alone for the greater part but hopefully not as lonely. I need to believe that I still can offer something even if it’s just helping people through my stories, supporting the charity to try and help others or perhaps just being a good friend to someone, but it also might just be me on my own wandering for the remaining years, who knows? The trouble is, I'm trapped trying to be what I was instead of trying to breathe life into a new me ! As I say little steps, no rush and lets just see what happens, no agenda, no strings, no labels and just see if I can find a way to enjoy the simple things instead of punishing myself and withdrawing further into a shell and hopefully I can make the transition into a better life?

As I said earlier, I’m writing this so I can read it back to myself when I next feel that I don’t want to get out of bed! But let’s get Christmas out the way first, that’s still very raw and I can’t cope with it at the moment.