Monday, 28 February 2011

The kindness of chocolate!

Today my chest and throat have rebelled good style! Dom suggested I went to the GP and within an hour my neighbour Michelle gave us a lift into Tadcaster. The doctor was very reassuring that my way of handling this grief was good but we all acknowledge that I am close to exhaustion! I know after Wednesday that I MUST be kinder to me and take some time out. Clive had nothing but praise for the NHS for all his treatment (his heart attack could not have been spotted) and I agree wholeheartedly. I have some anti-biotics and as my chest hurts will take them. I wish there was a tablet for heartache... 
Dom and I then had a little mooch around Tadcaster sorting out a few things I wanted to do. Banana milkshake and crumpets in a cafe by a fire was cosy. We walked back and after chatting to Sara about plans for Wednesday Dom and I came up with another vision for the balloons a few people have suggested - I am working on it!

Back home I finally managed some time at the computer to sort some photos but then admitted defeat! I went back to bed leaving Dom in charge of calls and callers.  I did rest for a while then felt hungry for the first time in days. Last night's Chinese left-overs were really tasty - then yes - I finished the ice cream! I had a dressing gown chill and 'house programme' television fix for a while.

Meanwhile Michelle from next door returned with the few groceries she had offered to bring. Dom unpacked and then brought me some Dairy Milk chocolate - an extra item in the bags! Clive and I always appreciated the unexpected 'little things' we did for each other and others. It is so good when someone 'pays-it-forward'. What can you do to make someone smile?

After checking the Celebration sheet (thanks Shelli and Sara), Lynn and Rod (Clive's sister and brother-in-law) came to pick me up and took me to see Clive. It has to be one of the worse things I have ever had to do. I just wanted him to wake up. He did look more peaceful than when he was taken from home though. After a tsunami of a cry I then did as I had intended by putting his favourite aftershave on (called Forever) and spiked his hair. It is only now as I write this that I see the significance of that. His last two main speaking events were for Forever Living Products and then Barrie Stephens Hairdressers. Those actions seem to calm me and I talked to him. Just feeling his stubble was a comfort, as was holding his hand. I loved to walk holding his hand and he'd always tell me how proud he was to walk into a room with me on his arm. I felt so safe when I was wrapped in those strong arms. I held his cold, cold hand and let a flood of happy memories flood into me until I felt strong again. He would want me to. As I kissed him I could hear him say 'I adore you'. We left.

We were so happy.

Back home with Dom we have been watching 'The Wedding Catchers'. I feel calmer, more relaxed and so very glad I have seen my Clive. I shall return tomorrow and leave him with something to take with him.

There is only one way to end today - chocolate anyone?

Elaine x

Clive's Gott's Values in Life now in his Death

Clive often spoke about his values, those little rules that we live our lives by.

I have managed a few hours sleep but once again find my brain in overdrive! This brings me onto his first one:-

CHOICE /Cause and Effect

The coroner reassured me that whatever I had done the day Clive died it would not have made a difference, e.g. if I had taken him to hospital all the professionals and technology could not have saved him. It was Clive who chose to stay at home and as such was then warm and cosy in our bed having been lovingly kissed goodnight by me. That helps give me some peace and comfort.
Now I am faced  with so many choices I could be overwhelmed but I am trying to focus and prioritise.
  1. I would choose to bring my amazing man back to life. I would choose right now that he was still physically at my side and not a line of pillows in our bed. They are choices that are impossible, there is a genuine reason for me not being able to make them, so I choose to move on.
  2. I could choose to pack up my things, lock the door and go back to live in Cheshire to be nearer my family. I could reflect that the last few years have been truly incredible, say thank you very much and start a new man hunt! Some may chose to expect me to do that as after all have two failed marriages behind me so why don't I just carry on my collection?!! I choose to stay in Tadcaster to remain as close as I can to my soulmate. Our home is filled with him, plus our memories, our vision board with all our plans. I choose to fulfill as many as I can.
  3. In my grief I could choose to be private, lock the door of our home and of my heart and mind. I know from sharing my experiences of postnatal depression that it not only helped me but has helped so many others. So that is one of the reasons I chose to continue to share. As a reader you have a choice - if you don't want to know what I am wittering about then don't read it!
  4. I could have chosen to ignore Clive's brief for his funeral. He gave me an outline of 'no mention of God and Jesus; celebrate not mourn; having a few beers and watch a match; only wear black if you really look hot in it'. Somehow the plans for Wednesday have risen in my mind from that.
  5. I could chose to cancel all of Clive's bookings in the diary for work. He would do anything to avoid having to let people down. I am pretty sure that the people who have booked him will accept his reason for absence but I am asking them to make a choice - give me the opportunity instead! I am not Clive Gott but if you want people to be inspired and motivated, then I can do that by offering my version using his 'stuff' as my inspiration plus my own.
Clive always used to say that through his choices you got cause and effect. You take responsibility for where you are, who you are and what you want. When your life is going well it is because you have made some choices to get you there and as a result the effects are positive. Hence I could choose to be negative and bitter now; blame the paramedics for not reviving him; blame God for being selfish and taking a 'useful' young person when there are so many who don't give in life what Clive did. I could insist on people wailing and sobbing with me. The likely effects? Even more grief that we are all already feeling and a bitter and twisted me that would ultimately push people away as quite frankly I wouldn't be much fun to be around. So that is why I am choosing to be positive. Clive would have chosen to go quickly and painlessly - only last week we had watched the film 'Driving Miss Daisy'. A character in that just 'goes' as she is watching television whilst shelling peas. He'd said 'that's the way to do it!' So I chose to heal this massive hurt and loss with happy memories and thanks for sharing the last 3 years of his incredible life. Would I chose to do it all again? Too right. By being positive I hope to continue to keep and attract other positive people. I am sure I will continue to have bouts of tears but I will be open about it and thus give them the permission to be equally open with me. Please do not apologise to me if you see me and cry. Clive was very open with his tears (even watching children's cartoons!) so let those tears flow! Then within minutes we shall smile at a happy memory or even one of when Clive could be an awkward bugger!

As a teacher by initial profession (I taught children with severe and profound learning difficulties for many years) this is obviously a value I hold dear. What have I learnt through Clive's death so far?
  1. Make each day, moment count. Part company with friends and relatives with a positive mood for if you or they die a legacy of guilt, regret and remorse is likely to be left. As we regularly travelled apart Clive and I would always part with a hug or a kiss. On a couple of occasions when we'd fallen out (yes we did!) I might drive off but only to the corner. I'd let him stew for a couple of minutes then appear back to have a hug before I left properly. I have no regrets, guilt or remorse with him. I ask you this - who are you currently cross with or haven't spoken to for days, weeks or years? Can you even remember why? If you got the news today that they too had died how would you feel? When I left Dominic's Dad I know many people judged me badly. Fair enough - their choice. Many of my friends chose to lose contact with me and I admit I was a poor friend too as I did the same. Mainly as I was such a mess dealing with it all. One special friend I'd had seemed to have wiped my out of her life. It hurt as I'd thought we'd had a very close bond. After not even a Christmas card for the second year running I decided to send her a note. I apologised if I had upset or offended her and suggested that I would love to catch up if she did. The result? A hug a few weeks ago between us that repaired the gap in years in an instance. We now feel just as close as we did when our children were babies. All it took was one little gesture and it made us both so much happier. So who are you going to say hello to?
  2. People want to help. By pushing it away it denies them comfort. Many people are contacting me to say they feel useless; they don't know what to say to me; they worry they might cry in front of me; they want to take my pain away and theirs. So I am open to help - to ask and to receive it graciously. My angel Michelle next door sent me a text yesterday afternoon to say she still had her ironing board up and offered to do my ironing. I could have said no but I  accepted gratefully. Just right now I do need support with such things. In time I won't but am happy to do so. I am going to need help the next couple of days to sort Wednesday out so I shall be asking! I learnt after being so ill postnatally that I am not Superwoman. I am not invincible. I need and appreciate support.
  3. My Mum always says 'worry when things happen'. I'd had a similar conversation a couple of weeks ago with Dominic about something that might happen in 4 years time. I'd suggested to him that the best way to ease that worry was to take small steps possibly to prevent it happening but in the meantime not to waste thoughts as so much could change. Better to focus and work on things you can influence than let your mind be distracted over issues that might not happen.
  4. I have also learnt that there is a tiny piece of metal that controls your ballcock! Just after Clive had been driven away last Saturday night our downstairs cloakroom toilet decided to give up too! Humour helps so much when your world has collapsed. We all know how Clive thrived on humour. He taught me the value of that and that is why we must laugh at these times too. He'd have laughed at me yesterday dancing around the room with his Rhinos shirt on a coat hanger!

Clive and I have both spent the last 10 years or so being very open about our lives. In doing so, although we may have annoyed some people, generally we have inspired others to make positive changes in their lives. Several times I have thought I'd give up my passion to speak and write as I simply needed more money! Yet incredibly that same day I would get a message out of the blue from someone thanking me for helping them through a dark time and it would inspire me to continue. I find myself in that place again now. If I clam up and keep my thoughts and feelings to myself now it goes against the advice I have given others - it is important to communicate. Being open and honest is best in the long run. There is no shame in any aspect of grief. We all must do what feels right for us but also not judge or disrespect how others in how they deal with it. We need to be patient and kind to one another. There is already too much hurt.


Last week I had a vision of Clive being where he shone - centre stage at a place he loved. Hence the celebration for Wednesday was created. My purpose short term is to make that happen. The vision was so strong that even when asked 'what if they so no at Headingley' I refused to consider it and replied as Clive would have 'what if they say yes'. I shared my vision; I asked how can we make it possible and took steps to achieve it. And it is happening. My vision and purpose after Wednesday will be to have a bit of rest (please let me sleep longer than 5 hours!) and then sort the legal and financial aspects. I may as well put it out there now .... I'd like a book deal please to share this latest saga; enough speaking engagements which will enable me to keep living in our home, time to grow Clive's charity and also to support mine at the Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation and at least three days each week to heal myself and others, e.g. spending quality time and having simple pleasures with the loved ones I still have in my life.


Clive used to do everything with enthusiasm! He even relaxed with gusto! Over Christmas he watched hours of Ben Hur because the remote control for the television was just out of reach! I have the same temperament. Currently I am well aware I am running at 300 miles an hour (well my brain is!). I hope that after Wednesday it will begin to slow down. I shall make steps to ensure it does. I want to go and reflect whilst in a church on Thursday. Clive didn't want us to do that together yet he was the most spiritual man I know. I want to do that for me and Clive would respect that. I reckon I need a massage, some walks, a bike ride and a good go at my 'Feel Good' list. I know my mental and physical health are paramount and I shall look after both with enthusiasm shortly. Without those my vision is worthless.
In the meantime I shall put my remaining energy (NOT MUCH LEFT!) into Wednesday by asking for as much help as I can. When Dom brings me a cup of tea when he wakes up we'll start on a list. Will he learn some stuff this week!

So you will see that Clive's values spell out his name. It's who he was. It's who I loved and adored beyond words and I know he did me - he told enough of you!  And it's the legacy he leaves behind.

He had added another one - ABUNDANCE.

That is why I came up with the flowers idea. He loved to share thoughts, words, deeds and mostly kindness. He would have preferred to spread smiles amongst our grief and loss of his physical being. And I know he'd be proud of us all for doing that.

So I leave you with a challenge this Monday morning, if you wish to accept it!
Which one of his values can you do today to make a positive difference, no matter how small, to this wonderful world of ours?

Thank you for all the hugs - even the virtual ones work, so accept one from me to start your week with.

Elaine x

N.B. Clive's products can be ordered via here. 

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A mellow Sunday .......

After my late night writing I woke just after 8 this morning feeling physically poorly. My throat hurt, my chest heavy and generally weary. I opened the curtains and let the sunshine stream in. Initially I thought I might just stay in bed. I remembered back to Boxing Day. I had been very tired then and Clive suggested I stayed 'put'. He brought me breakfast in bed, I'd slept for a while then I got lunch with wine and a flower on the tray also brought up to me! I watched The Railway Children, sobbed my heart out and wiped the tears away with the staisfaction of having REALLY enjoyed a film! Happy day.

Now he will never bring me breakfast in bed. So I asked Sue instead. She appeared with a cup of tea and the comment that the kitchen isn't for little people! She had to jump to reach the cereals on the top shelf! The mirrors in our house are also too high for others - sometimes Clive thought of himself! We both sat on the bed for a while and shared a goreous message from a friend of mine via facebook. We confirmed that it would be silly for me to go back to Cheshire with her to see my son Dominic, just back from a school skiing holiday, and it would be better if I relaxed and had a dressing gown day.

Lynn, Clive's sister then came round. As Sue is featured so much in my book Lynn felt she knew her. Isn't it amazing how some people just 'click'? We chatted as we listened to Steve Wright Sunday Love songs. Then a new version of  Eva Cassisy's 'Songbird' played and I dissolved into tears which came from deep inside me.
All three of us hugged and cried, then just carried on the conversation!

When Sue left shortly afterwards Lynn and I chose some of Clive's bright shirts for her sons to wear on Wednesday. They will be carrying Clive along with her husband Rod and nephew Wayne. Jamie Jones Buchanan who plays for Leeds Rhinos will also be in the role as he and Clive had a very special relationship. There will be another rugby player too.

(Clive and I having achieved a course high in the trees of a forest.)

I decided then that for the rest of the day I had two 'must do' things. The main one was to speak to Dom and the second was to clean the fridge! I knew Dom would be exhausted after a 37 hour coach trip from Italy so instead got into housework mode. I felt sure I could feel Clive hug me from behind as I washed up - one of his favourite things was giving or receiving them. He'd often come and do so as I washed up; gently sweeping the hair from my neck and kiss me, then get on with his tasks. Little gestures mean so much. I also decided that today I wanted some space to help recharge me for the next few days. I even put a note on the door asking not to be disturbed.

Meanwhile I glanced at emails still committed to leaving them until tomorrow as I needed a 'weekend'. I noticed one from an American Ebay buyer who had 'won' some piano books from me a few weeks ago. They seem to have mithered me for weeks - I posted them the day of the auction and it seems they have gone astray. Perhaps I can track it and I am proud of my excellent feedback as an Ebayer so am normally very efficient in the processes. I decided to refund the £5 even though it isn't my fault but just now didn't feel it was a priority so sent them a quick note to explain that I had been suddenly bereaved and was having a difficult time. The reply that came back was 'you should have a tracking number'!!!

Now I know not everyone knew Clive; I know that as I type sadly other people will be leaving this world too under dreadful circumstances and I am far from alone in grief. My heart goes out to those in the New Zealand earthquake - more untimely deaths. I also acknowledge that I wear my heart on my sleeve. Not everyone is the drama queen that I am and I do not expect everyone to feel their life must stop because Clive's has.  However, most people, even complete strangers will comment 'I am sorry for your loss', for example a sales call asking for Mr. Gott to be told he has passed away. Yet just the occasional person seems numb and insensitive about grief. My world has caved in and I am trying to function the best I can. I actually feel sympathy for those who are unable to be kind and sensitive. The American who is more concerned about lost music books than showing a little compassion and patience may well have few friends. I am discovering more and more that kindness does make this world go round. Bitterness and insensitivity just breeds greater inner unhappiness and those individuals will probably find themselves lonely people. I remember my Dad telling me as a child that 'the only person you hurt when you sulk is yourself'. It took me years to learn that but he is so right.

Meanwhile I was faced by a worry and a challenge. I was told several years ago that when faced with such a dilemma you have two choices - if you can do something about it, do so, if not, why waste time worrying. In this instance I chose the former. I phoned a dear friend who has been offering me help, asked the question and he was quick to solve it for me. Thank you so much xxxxx

I tidied up as I played music and at one point had a smoochy dance with Clive's Rhinos shirt he'd worn the last Friday we'd been out - even with the coat hanger! It smells of him still.

My initial feelings today of exhaustion and 'chesty' issue seemed to lift and I got busy cleaning the fridge. Then my son Dom phoned. His Dad had told him the news last night. We discussed how/when we could see one another but after a few minutes he simply said 'I want to be with you'. I am so grateful to his Dad for bringing him. The rest of today has been spent being with him. We've shared our news and feel so proud of the way he is dealing with this. Only two weekends ago when we were away as a family for my brother's 50th birthday we'd shared a room and he'd said he could see how happy I was and he realised that Clive was the reason. Before he'd gone skiing we had been planning our first summer holiday for the three of us. As he showed me his stunning photos of skiing every now and then the tears flowed as something he said would remind me of how much he and Clive had had to come. We were both very conscious that Clive would never replace his Dad but that it would have been a relationship that broadened Dom's experiences and enriched his life. I shall have to still try to do so.

He has gone to bed with the reassurance that I must wake him if I need anything and that HE will bring me breakfast in bed tomorrow.

My soulmate may have gone, but wow! has he left me surrounded with love.

Good night - and let's hope I get more than 4 hours sleep! Tomorrow I have to get busy continuing to plan Clive's celebration.

Elaine x

Coping with 'this time last week'.

I guess I am not alone in looking backwards when it comes to memorable times. I know when Clive and I returned from our East Med cruise last September we spent the next couple of weeks reliving it at home with such comments as 'this time last week we were walking around Rhodes Old Town'. It made the holiday doubly pleasurable!
Today (Saturday) I could not but help relive last Saturday as it was the day Clive took his last breath. Again I felt I had a choice. After my ice cream on the kitchen floor episode last night and blog, at 7.30 am I could have happily slept. But I had decided to live the day as we had planned together. I could have decided to turn over and wallow. I am so glad I didn't.
Clive often used to say in response to the question 'how are you' with 'I am happy with my choices'. I have been today.
Firstly I felt proud of myself for getting through my first night alone. I showered, enjoyed a cup of Morning Detox (ok, as that's what he'd started to drink!) and a toasted hot cross bun. Dressed, hair and make-up and waited for our dear friend John Hotowka to take me to the Professional Speaking Association meeting at Garforth. It is through the PSA that Clive and I met.
The president, Richard McCann started the 'celebration zone' off with a tribute to Clive and I gave a 10 minute 'off the cuff' talk about our 'story'. I can't remember what I said now!! I just know I could have spoken all day as it seems so many of Clive's messages and my own about mental health are being given 'evidence' through current days and why I feel so optimistic that I can carry on our work. I held it together as I spoke but felt sorry for Lee Jackson who followed me as almost every slide or concept he said reminded me of Clive - passion, success, relationships! Poor Lee, every word he spoke triggered a tear, but so what? There is no use in bottling it up. By coffee break I had renewed strength and we listened to the wonderful stories of Gervase Phinn.
Yet again I was greeted by a wave of support and admiration for us both and was very pleased I had made the effort to go. I have my first 'presentation' now under my belt so it can only get better from here!

I could have stayed at home and reread again and again our texts from last Saturday (we finally had a 'list free' day and we were struggling after being so busy). I had been snoozing in bed when he'd sent me a text message from downstairs:-
C 'Just tell me when you want something baby'.
E 'You'.
C 'Ya got me. Want any fink else?'
E ' That's enough'.
C 'Phew ... it's all I got xxxx'

We'd then decided to go to Sainsbury's and B and Q. He completely ignored my suggestions that he should be taking it easy, 5 days after a knee replacement. As the day progressed he complained of heart burn and a tingle in his left elbow. I said we'd go to A and E but he was adamant 'I want to be at home'. He had relaxed on the sofa most of the afternoon.

So this week I kept busy at the equivalent time by whizzing into home, quick look at more stunning cards and letters and walked into Tadcaster to have my hair cut. As the pretty Saturday girl sat me in the chair to wash my hair I asked her if it was okay if we didn't speak as I just wanted to 'enjoy the moment'!  I also warned her that if I cried it wasn't her fault! Wow! This 'moment' theory works! It was like I'd had my battery recharged! Then my lovely friend and hairdresser Paula set to.  45 Minutes later I felt so much better - another of my Hanzak principles - find a 'feel good' factor to promote positive mental health. I walked into the town and called in at the cycle shop, where Clive has done many joint events with the family who own it, and we spoke about how they want to be in the guard of honour on Wednesday. In recent weeks Clive and I had begun to cycle in earnest. He had taught me the principles of gears and I also have some cycling shorts. I am looking forward to getting back out there again as it will remind me of yet another 'happy time' with him. We had treated Dominic to a new bike at Christmas and we had only been speaking last week about our holiday for the first time altogether in July on the coast .....

I then went onto Clive's great niece Emily's 6th birthday party! Really good to see his sister Lynn relaxing and all of the family. Also his nephew Nick was there with his partner Sharon with their new baby Teegan who was born earlier this week - what a roller coaster ride of emotions! Talk about the circle of life. I bounced in and felt good again; cuddled and fed the new baby and was holding it together until the DJ played 'Firework'. I crumbled as that seems now to be a conference/awards event track and Clive loved it. More tears. Yet holding a new born baby was therapeutic. I looked at her and wondered what her life will bring. Then I glowed in the warmth of all the things that my Clive has achieved and the effects he has had on others.

Me with a new life - in more ways than one!

Nick, his baby daughter Teagan and brother Paul.

From there I came home with the fiancee of Clive's other nephew who had brought me a hanging basket with seeds for sweet peas! Clive loved his sweet peas each summer to create an abundance of colour. By the way, I now have 13 vases of flowers in the house! I have spread them everywhere and they are beautiful. I am so pleased I had this idea! I also discovered someone had heeded my request for a spring hanging basket as one had appeared! Just shows - if you want, ask!

Then we were joined by my best friend Sue from Runcorn. Those who have read my book will know how special she was when I was so ill after having Dominic. Almost 15 years later she remains my most loyal and long standing friend. She wanted to be with me tonight. We had fish, chips and mushy peas and had a wonderful evening with several close girl friends of mine and Clive's dropping in. I had begun to relive 'this time last week' as at 8.30 pm Clive had got off the settee, apologised for being a misery and that he was going up to bed. He told me not to come up as it was too early. However, I followed him and he flopped into bed saying he'd feel better tomorrow. I tucked him up, kissed him and told him to shout if he needed me. I then made a drink, got my knitting out and settled to tv. At 8.50 pm I heard a 'shout', ran up and I could see he had gone. I tried for 15 minutes to bring him back, then the paramedics took over for 25 minutes. All to no avail. The police came; I asked his sister to come; and finally Clive was taken away. I am haunted by the images in my mind of 'this time last week'.

So what did I do instead of wishing I could turn back the clock (can't do)? I surrounded myself with people I love and who also cared deeply for Clive. I opened the chocolates sent by the postnatal charity I am patron of for me to 'celebrate the life of Clive'. At 8.50 pm at the same time that I'd heard Clive's last breath I popped the cork of the champagne and we made a toast to him. Amid our tears it was a very cathartic moment for me and I feel I have replaced a horrific memory with a much happier one to associate 'this time last week'. Thank you so much girls. A few people also sent me a text around the  same time. Little things make a huge difference! We all spoke about Clive and it was great for me to introduce Sue to some of my special friends here. She commented that in the last few years I have been with Clive I have been the happiest she has ever seen me in the 25 years we have been friends. She also noticed that I have made more and deeper friendships here in Tadcaster in just under three years than all my years in Cheshire. Very true.

So I have written all this tucked up in bed finishing off the champagne. Some may judge this as being disrespectful, but if they do, that is none of my business, as Clive would say. I know it has helped me, Sue, Paula, Lindsay and Michelle so that is what matters. He had been suggesting for ages that I organised a girlie night so I know he would have been pleased. I am also pleased that I have kept to my promise of making this a 'weekend' by staying out of the office, leaving emails, etc. I need this time and space to recharge and step out of the hamster wheel!

I am getting increasing messages to say how my blog is helping others out there. We are all still in shock and disbelief.  If by sharing how I am handling (coping is a word I dislike) the loss of my soul mate it helps someone else, then yet again it perhaps gives a tad of purpose to what is so painful.

I just still hope he will walk in through the front door; hear the squeak of his office chair; hear him singing in the shower; feel him stroke my cheek with the back of his hand as he says for the umpteenth time in a day 'I adore you'. I don't want to believe I won't.

As I sip the last bit of champagne I shall snuggle down and think of happy times. Tomorrow is a day I will maybe not get out of bed! All I want is to do is relax and look forward to hearing about Dominic's skiing holiday he has just returned from with his school.

By the way, the coroner told me that even if I had got Clive into hospital last Saturday, even with all the technology and staff around he could not have been saved. He knew where he wanted to be - at home.

Love to you all,

Elaine x

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Ice cream on the kitchen floor!

I have been overwhelmed with the huge wave of love, support and grief for my darling Clive. You are all helping me so much. Not that I needed confirmation of how strong our relationship was, all these things just endorse it further. So thank you so much. I am also being told that me sharing my thoughts, etc. is helping you too so I guess I will continue that.

Clive was a brilliant writer. He had so much to share. Many times he'd suddenly announce 'hmm, I'll write a blog about that!' I would wake up sometimes and 'feel' that he was wide awake and his brain whirring away. Eventually he would kiss me, tuck the duvet around me and say he was off to write. A few hours later there would be a blog entry and a contented, smiling face would then return to me with my breakfast on a tray and the comment 'I love having you to spoil'.

This has been my first night alone since Clive took his last breath on Saturday night. My amazing parents, who I need, want and appreciate even more than ever now, have gone home.  I know how it hurts to see your child in pain and as a parent you would do anything to ease it. Mum and Dad - please believe me of how vital is was this week for you to 'be here'. But I also need you to look after yourselves too. Clive's sister Lynn was due to stay with me but I wanted her to go home to snuggle up with her husband Rod. Everyone needs to appreciate their loved ones. I assured her that I would be alright and on reassuring her that I would call if I needed her, she went home.

After writing my journal I recalled last Friday night. Lynn, Sue (her daughter), Rod, Clive and I had been into the Queen pub in Tadcaster to watch Leeds Rhinos play on Sky. It was a lovely evening - Rhinos won, Clive was so pleased with his trimmer figure; so pleased with the fact he was out without a walking stick 4 days after a knee replacement operation; so pleased to see the warmth between his sister and I; so pleased to see some of our friends like Lindsay and Lee; so pleased that Rhinos won! He asked if we could go into 'the Coach' on our way home for 'one last one'. Over the years he had spent hours and hours in The Coach and Horses. I was a bit reluctant but he had his cheeky little boy pleading smile so I just had to take him! We sat and recalled some of the fun times we'd had in there before coming home. No sooner had his head hit the pillow he was asleep, smiling and content. Little did I know that would be our last ever night together.

So a week on I am finding examples and evidence of so many of Clive's messages. One of his values was about choice. I am now in a position to choose my own actions, emotions, reactions. I could have chosen to weep and wail. Instead as I came up to bed I smiled as I remembered last Friday evening. Clive was loud to say the least when watching rugby - anywhere. Even in the pub he'd shout loudly at the ref's decisions and players mistakes. Sometimes I'd remind him that not everyone was there to watch the match and to turn the volume down! I know some people will have purely judged him on being the 'loud mouthed, self-opininated' bloke that supported Rhinos. That makes me smile too as now they will be seeing just who Clive Gott was. Another of his 'lessons' - others people's opinions of you are none of your business. If they chose to think of him and judge him in that way, that was their choice. They could have tried to find out more about him or let him continue to irritate them!

Once in bed I did my new routine of putting all his many pillows down the bed so it feels like he is there to snuggle up to. I drifted off to sleep content. I am well aware that there are many legal and financial matters to be sorted out but for now I have to focus on getting to next Wednesday, a day at a time, and deal with such matters in due course. I often reminded Clive of 'being in the moment' - a key factor for emotional wellbeing and part of what I speak about around mental health. How often do we miss the 'here and now' because we are too busy thinking about the next thing? In doing so we spoil the appreciation of 'now'. Clive has a picture on our kitchen wall with the expression 'Now is the only time we have - are you going to be here or not?' How true. A few weeks ago Clive, Dominic (my son), my parents and I were out for a meal together. The food was tasty, the banter fun and I was soaking all the senses up of 'just being there'. At one point Clive asked me about something we were  planning on the following week. I told him I refused to think about it then as I was 'enjoying being in the moment'. I now have that wonderful meal forever in my memory box as a happy one because I focused on it in every way at the time. It's not about avoiding things, it's about making the most of 'now'. And let's face it, in some instances, tomorrow never comes. So next time you are in the shower for example, focus on the warmth and sound of the water; the smell of the soap, the feel of the bubbles and shampoo. Let your mind drift along with it and leave all thoughts of what to get out of the freezer for tea; thinking of who you need to call, etc. outside the shower cubicle. They will be there waiting for you when you get out and for allowing your mind some recharge, you will tackle challenges easier. Works for me!

Blimey, I waffle! I once won an award for 'why use a sentence when a paragraph will do'! So after I'd gone to sleep so content (as can be) I suddenly found myself awake at 3.30 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep but my throat is sore and my chest tight. When I used to teach often I'd lose my voice towards the end of term - it feels a bit like that. I got a sudden urge for ice cream! Clive and I were introduced a few years ago when we were both members of the Professional Speakers Association. Clive had suffered a bout of depression a few years ago and as we are both thought of as 'not being the type' to get depressed as we are both confident, out going people colleagues suggested we did joint presentations. That's where it all began - a business arrangement. In comparing our stories we realised that both of us at our lowest points had taken solace on the kitchen floor! At the peak of my puerperal psychosis I had carved my legs with knives whilst sitting on the kitchen floor (don't worry - I don't any more but have a deep empathy with those who self-injure now and will not judge them but offer support). It's all in my book! Equally Clive had sat sobbing on his. So we entitled our joint presentation 'Beyond the kitchen floor', to show how depression CAN be overcome.
We were due to give it again later this year to some County Council staff - for Clive to inspire and me to share ways of coping with stress, etc. Guess I shall do it on my own now.

So back to this morning - I got an urge for ice cream! So I have just sat on the kitchen floor munching with my eyes closed and had another magic moment! Clive actually fed me ice cream on the very first meal we had out together. I always found it delightful.  It became part of 'us' for him to offer me tasty morsels and I loved to be treated that way. So intimate. So simple. Ice cream has a story behind it too - look at his blog

I then got the urge to write and share it! I am also proud that I have now got through this first night like a Johnson's baby shampoo - 'no more tears'.

Clive and I would often work our socks off during the week but we always made sure we enjoyed weekends - the office door would be closed upstairs and alternative activities would be on the plan. So today that's what I shall do. The main plans are in place for Clive's big do next Wednesday so I am taking the weekend off to do all the things we had planned.

I must add too that Lynn and I went to watch Leeds Rhinos play at Home last night - at Headingley, where we shall all be on Wednesday. It was hard to be back at a place he loved so much. At one point I sensed a huge hole; a massive sense of emptiness and loneliness. I took myself into a toilet cubicle and dialled his mobile just to hear his his answer phone message. It helped. Again I was swept along by the huge tide of respect and affection for Clive by staff, friends and other supporters. I am so pleased I was able to sit in his seat and actually walk in the tunnel before Wednesday. Maybe I shall be prepared a little more. I have not a shred of doubt that I have done the right thing in my choice for Wednesday. I am so grateful to you all at Leeds Rhinos for the support in this.

Earlier this week I received a stunning bouquet of red roses, some chocolates and champagne from the postnatal illness support charity I am patron of. The message read 'to help you celebrate Clive's life'. Some of my best friends and I shall be doing just that tonight so thank you so much at . Don't think it will be a late night though!
But for now I shall leave you to enjoy your choices this weekend, as I shall be doing mine, and it will be with Clive's blessing.

Back soon,

Elaine Hanzak

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Learning to handle a new loss with my own 'Hanzak' principles

After the love of my life and soulmate Clive Gott  left this world suddenly on Saturday night I have been reeling. I am still in shock and these last few days seem  surreal. How am I doing?

I have said before that life is a rollercoaster, just as in the Ronan Keating song and Clive once gave me a card with that expression on plus the additional question - do you want to ride in the front seat with me?
I guess that is what I am doing now. He'd also say I was up and down like a bride's nightie!!

I am just riding it. Last night I crumbled completely. I had wanted to move his car up the drive so I could put mine in front of it  to make more room on the front. He hated our visitors parking in front of the neighbours - another thoughful way of his. I got in his car and played the CD I had got him last week for Valentine's Day by Eliza Doolittle. We'd heard some of her songs and I decided that it would be a good 'roof down, shades on' sort of album for us to drive along singing our socks off too. Last week he'd sent me a text to say he was listening to track 7 with tears rolling down his cheeks as he thought of us and asked the question, 'Would you walk backwards with me?'  I sat in his seat, held the steering wheel, cranked up the volume and literally howled to :-

Eliza Doolittle Back to Front Lyrics:
If I woke up in the mornin'
And the world was back to front
There was sunshine in the evenin'
And the moon came out for lunch

I wouldn't mind walkin' backwards with you
At least we'd always know where we'd be goin' to
We could talk till we forget how to talk

And we could learn to laugh again
Like when we were children
We could learn to dance again
Like nobody is watchin'

If everyone was gettin' young
There'd be a smile on your face
If all the friends that passed away
Came back to this place

We'd be puttin' down the daisies
Drinkin' milk and feelin' lazy
There's no sense in any senses
What's the use in independence?

We could play of the tears that came
We could walk till we forget how to walk
And cool till we forget anything at all

And we would laugh again
Like when we were children
We could learn to dance again
Like nobody is watchin'

We could learn to look right
Into each others eyes
'Cause we got nothin' to hide

We got nothin' but to laugh again
Like when we were children
Like when we were children

Back to front, front to back
Will you come backwards with me
Backwards with me?

Front to back, back to front
Will you come backwards with me
Backwards with me?

We could learn to laugh again
Like when we were children
We could learn to dance again
Like nobody is watchin'

We could learn to laugh again
Like when we were children
We could learn to smile again
Like nobody is watchin'.

Why? Why? Why? Why did he have to go?

I then came inside and collasped into his hoodie that was still hanging on the bannister, buried my head in it, smelling 'him' and sobbed in the arms of my sister. I spent the next hour curled up with it just staring, with my parents suggesting I take it to bed. My amazing Mum then drew on her strength to remind me again of the positives - he hadn't suffered; I have experienced in the last three years the true heights of love and adoration that many never get; I have a catalogue of amazing memories and with the growing avalanche of stunning messages about how Clive has influenced the world I should be proud ... but still go to bed.

Suddenly as if getting a burst of Clive I got into busy mode! I swapped the contents of bathroom cabinets - my stuff into the en-suite which he used; swapped over a rail of his clothes for mine from the spare bedroom and sorted better places for the flowers which are appearing regularly! I could hear him saying 'if you don't feel like doing anything, just do something ... motion creates emotion'. In doing so I felt much better. I did then go to bed after a quick look at hundreds of emails and texts on both of our Blackberries and, you guessed it, made a list! Sleeping tablets worked until 5.15 am and although I tried to go back to sleep rather than slip into tears again decided to come and write - I always find it therapeutic.

Those of you who are familiar with my talks on helping to recover and support others suffering from poor mental health, especially postnatal depression will be aware of my 'Hanzak' principles. I have decidied that I must practice what I preach and use them to guide me through this new loss. Clive was always emphatic that we had to be authentic speakers and do as we advised others, so here goes:-

Hope and Honesty
I have to get through this. If I decided that my life wasn't worth living now without Clive I have the choice to do so. I won't as I could not put this indescribable pain onto those around me; it would make a mockery of all Clive stood for; why waste two lives; he'd be flipping mad with me!
Instead I have to stay strong and hope that one day the pain will lessen and the smiles will be more. I have to hope that I can see a future continuing my own work on postnatal issues but also I intend to continue Clive's work in some ways.I have to grow with his legacy.
Clive and I had developed a huge importance on honesty. We both have had failed relationships in the past by not being honest with ourselves and others, then in doing so creating problems.  Sometimes the truth can hurt but we had found that it actually was the cement that made our relationship so deep. So I am being honest with myself and others - although I need to be a bit tougher if a visitor stays too long!

I could wallow in all the negatives of this situation - why did he go when we had so much to look forward to and share with others? I could crawl in a hole and not come out, blaming everyone, including me and screaming negativity. He had actually said to me last week as we snuggled up 'If all this stopped right now, we've had a ball, haven't we'? I cannot deny that. So my attitude has to be one of his  - 'it's happened, deal with it'. But also with a positive air. We have both overcome obstacles and challenges in the past from which we have grown and passed on  the lessons learnt to others. Guess this is another one of those. 'Another seminar story' he'd say.

What do I need to get me through this? These are key so I break it down
Nurture - I need to feel special and also to make others feel so. I guess this was the basis for the thank you cards and flowers idea. Wow! And has that taken off! I am blown away by it. I am gaining such strength from all the stunning cards, emails, messages from across the world about both of us. Thank you seems an inadequate word but I feel bathed and caressed in a sea of love, good wishes and yes, I will say the word, sympathy. I appreciate every one of them but at the moment cannot reply! I will in time.

Education - one of Clive's values was lifelong learning. I also believe that to survive, you need to do this. I have never had to deal with death before like this. I was devastated when some of my pupils died as a teacher for children with severe and profound learning difficulties. I was so upset to lose my grandparents. But nothing compares to this. I simply don't know what to do, how to do it and what needs doing. So I am asking relevant people for help; got a book and a leaflet! I also have to acknowledge that I can't do it all now! So I am approaching it on a daily basis.

Exercise - I am trying to have a little walk each day. We had just begun a new health regime and my bike had been dusted off, the home gym tidied (in fact the weekend before last Clive was telling our neighbour Michelle that he had to clear it up so I could use it), so no excuses!

Diet - As some of you may know Clive had lost weight since Christmas using the Forever Living Aloe Vera products.  He was buzzing with enthusiasm for it and was so proud of the loss of his tummy! he felt so well and healthy. He'd previously slipped into Homer Simpson mode but kept telling me I deserved better plus he wanted to get his golf handicap down. He'd just had his knees replaced to aid this too. We also wanted to dance more - a pleasure that his knees simply could not do. When he'd told the consultant this was one of his reasons for having the operations the consultant asked why it was such a big deal - 'It puts love into pure motion', was his reply. Quite frankly I really don't want to eat at the moment. Everything tastes like cardboard. But I know I must. Mum, Claire and baby Sophie and I went out for tea last night - I had egg and chips, one of my favourite things. I didn't want to but I know I must. One positive thing is that I have now hit below the 10 stone mark - an aim I have had for over a year! Last week I'd suggested that in a couple of weeks we'd go on a 'new jeans' trip together. He'd agreed that would be nice.

Sleep - one of the biggest reasons I developed Puerperal psychosis (extreme postnatal depression) was due to sleep deprivation. My mind is like a whirlwind at the moment, so I knew to get through I do need sleep. So I decided to take sleeping tablets for the time being to help switch me off! okay I have only had 5 hours but maybe after this epic I might go back to bed!

Clive had a HUGE sense of humour. He often used to ask me what it was I loved so much about him. Fun was always the top of the list. In every area of our life we had fun. We even made challenges into fun. So I am finding humour in this. Our undertaker is wonderful! When I rang to ask if he'd collected my Clive from the hospital, his reply was ..

'Eeee love, give us chance! The coroner only rang an hour ago. I've 'ad a tipple of whisky, two cups of tea and what's that cake wi' currants in it? Oh ay, spotted dick!!!!'

When he came round yesterday he was chuffed to bits when my sister asked if he wanted crumpets! Tony you are a star!

Part of having fun revolves around the senses. I will share with you another time how we used this in our romance, but appealing to the senses really does make you feel good. So what have I done?
Touch - I sleep with pillows down the bed so I can snuggle up to Clive. I wrap the sleeves of his duvet jackets around me.
Taste - my favourite foods. Clive had just begun to enjoy herbal teas so I am learning to love them now.
Smell - his Leeds Rhino T-shirt he wore last Friday night when we went to the pub to watch the match is hanging right by my side of the bed. I keep smelling his bottles of aftershave.
Sight - it's all around me. Photographs of happy times. Our vision board - all of which I am attempting to do. Where possible I shall keep every diary date we had planned. Got some nice treats to share with others ahead! What's my alternative? Cancel them and sit sobbing or go with Clive's blessing and spirit of abundance and sharing? I know what he'd want.
Sounds - I have been listening to his music. I drove everyone mad on Sunday by having Gold radio station blasting out all day as Clive used to have it on! That day it helped. I haven't done it since! On Saturday we got the DVD from one of Clive's last talks. It was fantastic and afterwards he'd told me that that had been the highlight of his speaking career, as if everything he had ever done before had been building to his 'finest hour'. I have yet to watch it. I will know when the time is right.

I have had messages saying I am not alone from every direction. I feel that and deeply appreciate it.  My wonderful parents have been here with me since the early hours of Sunday morning; my sister and her baby when they can; Clive's sister Lynn and her family; Michelle from next door - the list could go on and on. But I am truly overwhelmed by the MASSIVE support and love I seem to have out there. Clive used to tell me several times a day how much he adored me; that 'love' wasn't a strong enough word to describe how he felt about me. He often said, and told others, as I have now learnt, that if what we had was love then he had never been in love before. We all know Clive had many relationships before me but he also said I was his 'last first kiss', that I completed him. I have seen on the emails that he'd said 2010 was the happiest year of his life. Some may say that he said such things to every woman he was with. I know that isn't true.
I am also open to accepting and appreciating help. I made myself more ill with postnatal depression with an 'I'm fine, I can do it myself' attitude.' In retrospect I was also selfish as by pushing away help I denied people from the pleasure you get from giving. So yes please - bring on the help and support for me!!! I promise I will ask when I need anything and I know in doing so 'being helpful' pleases others.
I can't get through this alone and I really, really appreciate all the calls and messages. Please know I am reading them but just cannot reply or respond at the moment.

Clive always said that you have to look after yourself first SO THAT you can help others. It isn't about being selfish. So I am trying to be so to myself. I have to tell myself that I have had an incredible few years with Clive. There isn't a single shred of regret of remorse. I know it is a cliche but it IS better to have loved and lost than not at all. Clive really was a very, very kind man. In time I will share examples. My idea about buying flowers was created from his desire to be kind and spread happiness. I was told yesterday that a 4 year old handed a daffodil to someone saying simply 'it's from Clive'. How warm did that make me feel?

So they are my Hanzak principles. Clive told me I should do a postcard with them on as they remind us all how to keep our heads up. I will do at some point. perhaps it may become another keynote on 'survival'. if it helps me, maybe it will help others? That way all this pain will have a purpose to it. Perhaps people would be inspired by our story even if Clive has gone? What do you think?

Thank you for wading through this. I needed to write for me, if no-one else. If it has helped, then it's a bonus.

My next task is to decide what to dress my Clive in for his celebration next week as Tony will be popping round for his clothes this morning. I will go and see him this afternoon and spike his hair the way he liked it and put his aftershave on for him.

I wonder if Tony will have any Spotted Dick left?

N.B I will continue to add to this blog daily so if you are here via Clive's website please come back here if you'd like to for updates!


N.B. Clive's products can be ordered via here.

Monday, 21 February 2011

I now face a new loss and new journey ...

Since I wrote my book 'Eyes without Sparkle - a journey through postnatal illness' in 2005 my new journey was very different from the original family life I had always imagined. The speaking world and other factors took its toll on my marriage and I found my soul mate in fellow speaker Clive Gott.

The last three years have been a very dramatic roller coaster ride and finally this year we were emerging at the start of a new 'high'. Clive and Dominic were beginning to build a relationship; I had officially moved in and had a new home; I was supporting him in business and all the new marketing plans had begun to take off.; we were planning joint speaking presentations and workshops again too. We were beginning a fantastic new journey. He would tell me numerous times a day how much he adored me and made me feel like I was the most important person in the world.

He had a second knee replacement last Monday and was doing very well, but refused to let me nurse him - Mr independent. On Saturday he began to say he felt he had heartburn and felt unwell. He went up to bed, I tucked him in and kissed him - 20 minutes later he suffered a heart attack or clot and very quickly left us.

I need to leave the PND world for a little while .... but I will be back.

Elaine Hanzak

Friday, 18 February 2011

Postnatal depression and the health professionals

Before and after I had my son, as a teacher for children with severe and profound learning difficulties who had worked with nursery children, I felt 'I knew it all' about having a child!

I advised other parents from my knowledge and experience from books about bed wetting, sleepless nights, behaviour, etc. and I knew how to amuse small children. So I was prepared and was going to be a brilliant Mum, wasn't I?

A traumatic birth, my son Dom being critically ill at 4 months old, lack of sleep and pressure to return to work took its toll on me and I slipped into postnatal depression leading to puerperal psychosis. Added to my own feelings of guilt and shame were comments from others such as, 'I am surprised at you - you should know what to do'.

In my presentations over the years I have been amazed by how many health professionals have judged themselves in this way and been judged by others. Midwives left to cope with breast feeding 'because they know how to do it'; psychiatrists being ashamed to say they are suffering from depression as 'they should know how to avoid it'!

Exactly 12 months ago today an amazing nurse, Joanne Bingley, gave birth to her much-wanted daughter Emily Jane. 10 weeks later Joe took her own life, unable to cope with the guilt and shame she felt around issues such as not being able to breast-feed well. Happy Birthday Emily Jane and I will fight as a trustee for the aims and legacy of the Joe Bingley Memorial Foundation:-
  • Raise awareness and de-stigmatise Postnatal Depression, by stimulating open discussion about the illness and its treatment.
  • Provide access to information and support to mums, dads, partners, families, and friends affected by Postnatal Depression
  • Support research to identify the causes of the increasing number of deaths due to Postnatal Depression, examine the key risks and issues that effect sufferers from Postnatal Depression, and what can be done to help them
  • Ensure Medical Services follow appropriate standards and guidelines, and patients know what should be available to them.
Our first newsletter available.

Consequently my heart also went out to this nurse who has been sacked due to taking drugs from hospital, etc. whilst suffering from postnatal depression. Of course I do not condone her actions but I do understand and wish measures were in place through better training, awareness, sensitivity and services to stop this happening.

Elaine Hanzak

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011

We CAN make progress for families affected by postnatal illness EVEN with cuts!

I am absolutely thrilled today to share some positive news about a scheme I launched along with a member of a church David Paley in Leeds. David attended a joint workshop Clive  and I did on personal development and he suspected there was something he could do.
When I was a new Mum I attended several Mums and Tots groups at churches and in retrospect it occured to me that they may have a helpful role to play given some training and guidance. David agreed with me and we got his church in Morley, Leeds involved and had an evening where we invited church members, NHS professionals, Children's Centre staff and other interested organisations. The account of the evening is here:-

Last night I received this update from David :-

I saw Louise (the Children's centre manager) last week at an evening event at Church and had a good chat, plus I find out from John (member of Church) & others how things are going in general. The group is now onto it third intake of mums and at the launch coffee morning the other Friday there were 8 or 9 mums which Louise was really pleased about. She says this about the max no. that she can handle.
The various people from church continue to do their bits, as we still believe this is a very important part of our outreach.
Louise said that she has had a new health visitor for each group, and this is helping to get the word around - hence the numbers for the new intake.
All the mums are from Health Visitor referrals.

I am wondering if it is time to re-visit the need for more groups in the area? Louise says that the group WILL continue, despite potential budget cuts, A) because it doesn't use much of her budget, B) it's one of the key NHS targets.
That means that we have an interesting model in place here, in that if other churches were to provide the building and general support, then the "professionals" could do their bit with the mums, and it wouldn't require "large budgets" to be made available to fund the setup.

To say I am pleased and excited is an understatement. It just shows that by bringing people together REAL differences and innovation can be made.

Better go and make some more plans to initiate some more groups.

Have you a local church that might like to do a similar thing?

Elaine Hanzak

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

250 Children's centres to close!! Ridiculous!

After much speculation a new survey has revealed the true scale of potential closures and cuts to Sure Start Children’s Centres. Children's Centre managers were asked what they were expecting in terms of budgets and how their centres would be affected over the coming year.

250 (7%) centres look set to close within the year. 3,100 (86%) will have a reduced budget, 2000 (56%) will be forced to scale down the services they offer and 1000 (28%) centres will have to issue ‘risk of redundancy notices’ to their staff. The cuts and closures means that 60,000 families will be affected.

The survey was carried out by 4Children and Daycare Trust to provide the first set of national data on the real impact that cuts will have upon the centres and the families that use them. The charities are calling for Local Authorities to take action and prioritise funding for Children’s Centres.

Here are the links to the campaign pages and information please can you circualte as widely as possible?

This is the link to the database

Netmums are keem to help local parents and other activists in a variety of ways - we'll get behind your campaign, help you promote it and provide a range of tools to help you spread the word to as many people as possible. Our toolkit in the link below explains this in more detail. If the links don't work just paste into your browser.

Here is the link to the toolkit to encourage local parents to get active, Netmums are happy to support them with this and encourage them to post on their local Netmums home page on the Noticeboard so other parents can get active. The campaign pages explain all this clearly

Here is the thread with the discussion from parents about children's centres.

With each swipe of the 'cuts' young families seem to be hit from every direction. I am aware we all have our part to play in them but SURELY by reducing the help and support for young families we are going to creat a minefield of problems in the future which will then take more money to 'fix'. Prevention is always better than cure.

I know from the workshops and training I have delivered in Children's Centres of the excellent work that they do and having a place and people to turn to is literally a lifeline for many. 

Elaine Hanzak