Thursday, 31 March 2011

Love of my Life.

It's been a strange day. I was stunned that I slept for over 8 hours and hadn't heard my guests up before me! The sight of baby Sophie in cute pink PJ's was a welcoming vision. Within the hour we were all dressed and had to head back to the Outlet Village as Claire had left her coat and phone at 'Pret' yesterday - oops! Safely retrieved we went back into Tadcaster. All the time I had to keep telling myself 'live for the moment' as I could feel my mood sinking as I knew they were going home before lunchtime. I was beginning to be disappointed and I was still with them! How often do we do that? How often do we miss 'now' because we are already ahead of ourselves?

It was very windy and that brought my first potential tears for today. Clive's favourite weather was the wind. He adored being snuggled up on stormy nights - the noisier the better. He'd told me that if ever he 'went' then I'd find him as the wind in the trees. This reminded me of one of his favourite films with John Travolta in 'Phenomenon'. I won't spoil it for you but worth watching with this in mind ....
I told Claire about the relevance of the wind and she suggested I had a walk at some point.

Last year a new shop had opened in the town called The Play Room.   where pre-loved baby and toddler equipment could be bought and sold. With my sister's baby, and Ruby I have become a good customer. I often have chatted to them about Sophie and Claire so today was the first time I was able to go in with them. They had heard about Clive and said how sorry they were. I hadn't realised they knew our connection but I was wrong! The shop was well stocked and we didn't leave empty handed!

Next was a drink in Tykes tea shop (again). I 'did a Clive' today and asked the polite young man who works in there his name and introduced myself too. If you are a regular customer isn't it more pleasant and polite to know and use names? Clive always did this and as I am such I have said before, we have got great service. Lynn joined us today too.

Then the 'crunch' came. I had said I'd walk home so Claire and Sophie could head straight back for their play session back in Cheshire. I kissed them both and walked away. I am feeling very 'clingy' for all my nearest and dearest when we part. It's not panic. Simply parting. I don't like it. I know I have to be on my own at times. I know everyone has their own lives to lead. I just want to gather all those I love up and keep them close to me. I want to hold them tight and not let go. This is neither practical or possible. The only thing I CAN do is always to part on happy terms. Also the secret is to have 'the next time' planned, which we have.

I still felt sad as I walked home in the strong wind. I fought the tears. I tried to remind myself of the story I wrote last night about the woodland path as once again I was on it. A retired couple approached me walking two dogs, one was a boxer. The man pulled the boxer dog over to the side and asked if I had a dog with me. I explained that I used to walk a boxer down here but no more. We got talking and of course they knew Clive. Their son Mark had attended his Celebration. Tad is a small town but one where I feel very much at home.

Then I drove myself into York where I had an appointment at the O2 shop with the 'guru', David, to change Clive's Blackberry details onto a basic pay-as-you-go phone so I can still receive any enquiries to Clive's number.  Just before Christmas we had both had a very useful session with David and Clive was thrilled with all the useful tips he gave us. Yesterday I had called in to make this appointment and just as other places, for some reason people remember us two! He was very sorry of course.

The last screen saver Clive had put on his Blackberry was this:-

He had taken a picture of the card I sent him. Underneath the top occluded paper were the names of many famous lovers over history - Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, etc. He said he'd read them all to see if we were listed because if not, we should be. He'd often said one day our love story would be read by millions .....

For some reason I checked my entry in his Blackberry for my name. The 'title' he had me listed as was 'Love of my life'.

I didn't know that he had done that until today. I honestly don't know if to laugh or cry.

David did a sterling job - thank you - and I called at Tesco for a few bits. Shopping for one is sad. I even bought smaller cartons of milk. Small adjustments. Big meaning.

I have come home and one thing I did smile at was the arrival of my new cheque book and debit card as Ms E Hanzak-Gott.

I was pleased with myself as I then wrote a list - only a small one, for most important things to do today and achieved some of them, until .....

It just seemed to be another aspect of him that has just died. Gone. No more. No more 'Clive Gott' messages or calls. Silence. Emptiness.

Then, to my horror, I have realised too late, that I was going to ring his number for one last time to record his message. I HAVE FORGOTTEN. It is now gone too. I loved his upbeat answerphone message. Has anyone by any slim chance got it out there? In recent weeks I have phoned his number just to hear his voice. David and I had only spoken a few hours ago about being forgetful when you are upset. And I've just forgotten to save his message.

Luckily I had arranged for a friend to come and eat with me tonight. The deal was she is making the main course and I am making dessert (thanks Tesco!). So I shall soon have company and a pleasant evening.

But for now, what have I learnt today:

1. Live in the moment (again!)
2. When something is really important to you when grieving WRITE IT DOWN until it is done.

Elaine x

Morning after the night before ....

Well it looks like I had you shedding a few tears with my previous post! THANK YOU so much for all your wonderful messages of concern for me. I do apologise if I haven't got back to you ... this is why ...

After a massive down like that there was only one way to go - up!

Actually I went to sleep very quickly after I had finished dancing in the office last night (sorry, 2 a.m. this morning). I felt proud of myself for having turned my trauma into a pleasure with no drugs involved.

I set my alarm this morning and felt drained when I got up but was genuinely happier.

This morning was major task! We had to compile an inventory of all of Clive's possessions, personal and business. It has to be done before probate can be granted - my steep learning curve. It was far from easy having to go through every cupboard and drawer but we now have the required list. In bereavement the finances and legal aspects have to go on too. My advice would be to make it as easy as possible for those that you would leave behind. The pain of loss is bad enough and if you can minimise these aspects then please do so- as soon as possible!

Then the rest of the day has been very good! Why? Little sis Claire and baby Sophie arrived! We went into Tykes teashop in Tadcaster and met up with my god-daughter Ruby and her Mum Sue. What an extremely baby-friendly place it is. I indulged in one of my 'feel good' meals - egg and chips!  I was delighted to have my two families together as is increasingly happening.

(I love this picture of Clive with Ruby. His big hands scooped her up so easily and he learnt the delights of a new baby.)

From there Claire, Sophie and I headed into York for a present for our Mum  for Sunday. As York was one of mine and Clive's regular shopping places I saw him everywhere! Sitting in coffee places; shopping in Jessops; trying shoes on in Marks and Spencer; Christmas shopping last December .....

Maybe because I had to show Claire around it defused the situation but I wasn't tearful. I enjoyed it. Sophie is so delightful and smiles at so many people - one flash of her bright, blue eyes and conversations start!

From the city centre we then drove out towards the ring road to go to the Designer Outlet village. En route we passed the race course. I had never been to the races before I met Clive. We had been several times since we had been together. I wore that favourite long dress of mine for one race meeting last summer. I had felt so good in it! We had got the bus into York and like the other race goers had a perfect, sunny day to spectate. It was one of those busy, busy events yet I just felt Clive was the only other person there. He made me feel that way in a crowd.

We got a taxi back into Tadcaster as we just missed the last bus by seconds! To round the day off we called in at the Leeds Arms for a drink with our friends Lee and Paula. The walk home was one of the most romantic and passionate we'd ever had! Both of us were in that truly 'loved-up and besotted' mode with each other - probably very annoying to witness! We strolled back down the woodland path, with the moon bright over us, proclaiming our deepest desires to each other. Every few yards Clive would stop, envelope me in his bear-like hug and kiss me so tenderly that the world literally disappeared. He took my breath away. We walked on a little further, excitedly talking about our forthcoming cruise, for which I would be taking this 'new' dress. Another embrace - straight out of Mills and Boon. I was with my Mr. Darcy, my James Bond, my Superman. Once again his broad chest was held close to mine, a little tender with the effects of the sun, I could feel his lips about to brush mine, as he gently leaned me back against a tree to take my breath away again ....

'Stop!' I cried out. He pulled away looking puzzled. Had he gone too far? Had he upset me? Had he come on too strong?

'Stop!' I repeated, 'This dress is dry clean only!!!!!!'

Well if ever there was passion killer this was it! We could hardly contain our laughter and giggled like 6 year olds the rest of the way home.

'That' dress!

I smiled as we drove past the race course as I remembered ..

The Designer Outlet village at York was on my 'list' of places that Clive and I had been to a great deal. He often would just say 'let's go for a coffee' when we had been working at home for hours.  In particular, he had written most of his penultimate book 'How to take life by the throat and say I'm not done yet' whilst sitting in the Pret a Manger cafe there. He had built a good relationship with the staff  who regularly gave him a drink on the house. One of their charming staff, Binto, was his special lady there. It's not with many people you go into a cafe and the staff greet you with a hug! Clive brought that quality out of others. He made them feel appreciated and valued. How do you show your appreciation to others for the service they provide?

I was very apprehensive about going there again but I knew I had to. Going with Claire and Sophie made it easier. We went straight up to the food court. I did grab Claire's arm and took a deep breath but then was alright. I spotted Binto and beckoned her to come over to me. I gave her a hug and told her what had happened to Clive. She had said she had wondered why he hadn't been in for a while. I then took a phone call from his phone asking if they could speak to Clive. I realise that I shall be in the role of telling people for some time to come. I feel in such instances I have to be calm and support them with the news.

We had our drink and cake (yes, a good day for food) and then had a very pleasant time mooching. I was so pleased that I had managed a whole day without an outburst of tears!

I made us a tasty meal of chicken, noodles and broccoli which Sophie devoured whilst watching her favourite programme 'In the Night Garden'. At the end of the children's BBC channel at 7 o'clock they play a 'goodnight' song featuring children being tucked up and kissed as they settled in bed. That was the trigger today! The tears rolled into my noodles! Claire wondered why - because that was the last thing I had done for Clive the evening he died. I had tucked him up lovingly, stroked his hair, kissed his forehead and bid him 'n nite'.

I recovered quite fast though. Today was all about enjoying being with my sister and niece. Then it was dessert. There is only one way to eat a trifle ...

I defy anyone not to smile at that picture!

Claire and I struggled with her travel cot so I text for a man! Mark from next door was our hero tonight. Several years ago Clive had put this house on the market. He had people wanting to buy it but he had decided against selling - the reason being that wherever he went onto he could not guarantee neighbours like we have here. He took the house off the market. Wise move I'd say!

Sophie had her bath and was soon settled. The night was rounded off with my sister and I watching 'car crash' tv on ITV2!  I have never seen ' The only way is Essex' before tonight. I honestly think it has put me off make-up for life!! I dread to think what Clive would have made of it!

All in all it has been a good day. Tomorrow I have my girls with me and a few other pleasant things planned.
I can feel Clive giving me a hug now telling me how well I have done today - BUT GET TO BED NOW!!!!

N nite,

Elaine x

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pain like I've never known.

After my earlier blog I admit I have faffed at my PC for several hours. I have checked routes of places I am going in the next few weeks. I have ... well, I don't really know. The time has just gone.

I spent ages going through emails Clive and I have sent over the years. His very last ones to me he sent from the clinic in York where he had his knee replaced the Monday before he died (the op had nothing to do with his heart attack).
They read like this:-

From: Elaine
Subject: N nite
Sent: 15 Feb 2011 22:05

Hope you are still doing well. Lynn has asked. Mark and Jordan called round to ask.
I have done the ironing cos it was on my list. Bored with gypsies programme now. Going up to bed now - am wearing the white top I brought home!
Hopefully we'll be together tomorrow
Your sleepy Princess xxx

(I wore his white top I brought home to sleep in).

From: Clive Gott
Subject: Re: N nite
Sent: 16 Feb 2011 03:26

We have some lovely friends baby. Other than getting into bed at 10.15 I have been asleep since you left. I just woke up with an overwhelming urge to tell you that I love you so very much. I just had to smile when I thought of you. We are going to have so much fun together princess. Back to sleep for me now though. I adore you.

Your content knight. Xxx

From: Elaine
Subject: Re: N nite
Sent: 16 Feb 2011 08:38

I am pleased you have slept. That was a lovely message to wake up to!
It took me a while to sleep even though I was whacked. I was cold, thumping head and a huge case of missing Cliveitis.
I woke once and it was still there.
Just woke now and I am missing two things - YOU and oomph. I have a list of things to do but no buzz to do so!
I feel I could go back to sleep!

Your dosy Princess x

From: Clive Gott
Subject: Re: N nite
Sent: 16 Feb 2011 08:46

Mr Hunt just came to see me. I'm a model patient, it is a pleasure to treat me and I can come home today. AND I can drive as soon as I can get in and out of the car safely. Certainly in 2 weeks.

We are an amazing couple Elaine. Xxx

From: Elaine Hanzak
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2011 09:18:11
Subject: Re: N nite

Well done you. Any idea of time?

I will be honest with you - I did like it when you needed me to drive last time. I like looking after you. Of course I want you well - this is why you had it done. But you have to accept you have had surgery which needs time to heal.
So please allow us some rest time, mentally and physically because we need it as we have a busy time to come.

I am not wanting to burst your bubble AT ALL but I have to remain the cautious one here. We don't want you over doing stuff and suffering as a result. Remember how you felt in Dublin airport?

We will get you right as soon as we can but as your soulmate I need you to take it steady and yes I need you to need me even if for a little while.

That sounds so selfish but I think you know what I am trying to say.

I can't bare to see you in pain and I have no intention of holding you back but I have every intention of protecting you from you!!!

Let me know when you will be ready.

Your protective Princess xx

From: Clive Gott
Subject: Re: N nite
Sent: 16 Feb 2011  09:31

What did I do to deserve you baby? I know how much you want to protect me and I'm happy to let you do that baby. It just means that I can do some of the driving over 1st and 2nd March. (He was booked to speak in Perth, Scotland).  But to be honest I'm just happy that I can drive to the game on 18th. (Rugby!)

I feel hugely privileged that you are my protector in times like this baby so you go ahead and nurse away to your hearts content. I truly adore you my beautiful princess. Xxx


And that's it. No more 'Clive Gott' in my inbox. No more Clive to tell me I am gorgeous. No more Clive to plan and do all the things on our vision board. No more Clive to watch proudly do his stuff on stage. No more shirts to iron. 

I really don't like going to bed. I just see him there laying on his large pile of pillows. But he's not there. He's not there to snuggle up to and tell me off for being up too late. He's not here to wipe away my tears. He's not here to talk about what we've achieved today and for me to ask 'run tomorrow by me'. He's not here and he won't be ever, ever again.

Several times in my life I have had extreme physical pain and needed hospital treatment. They can put you on a morphine drip until the cause of the pain is found and treated. I now need the equivalent of that morphine drip. I do not know what to do with myself. I feel like a failure if I take a sleeping tablet. I just have to let this pain out. 

I used to be arrogant and think the depression only happened to weak people. It took a heavy dose of postnatal illness to make me see my ways in that one! 

Am I only sympathetic to people and conditions that have touched me? What else do I have to go through before I can empathise sufficiently? Are there more 'tests' for me waiting round the corner? I witnessed my beloved Grandpa die a slow and painful death through lung cancer. My Grandma become a shadow of her former self with Alzheimer's.  What next?

I am just letting this all come out. There is a growing heap of tissues on the desk. I feel as if I am being ripped apart and turned inside out. I just ache for him. I long to hear his voice. Hear his loud sneezes. Feel his hand stroke my cheek. We  had so much to look forward to. So much to give and share with others. It seems so cruel. All so pointless. Why let us be so very, very happy together for it just to be snatched away? 

People are telling me that I am strong and brave. What else can I do? Right now I want to crawl in a hole and not come out for a while. But when I do the reality will remain. My Clive has gone.

I lived for 44 years without him, 3 with. If I am like my grandparents who all lived to their 80's and 90's I could have another 44 without him. I know this pain will ease in time. I know that as I look back over these weeks I will see improvements. I just wish I could press a fast-forward button to get through pain like this quicker.

I have had a Horlicks. I have cuddled my toy animals. I won't open a bottle of alcohol as I know I would feel worse in the morning. I want the impossible. Clive back.

 He would always say about breaking down tasks into small steps. He would say that he didn't run marathons but a mile 26 times. How do I break this down? It cannot be done - why? Because try as I may he will not come back. I know we all miss him. I have countless messages saying how Clive made a difference to so many others. I am so proud of that and so was he.

I have said before that we had an expression when we were challenged - 'This too will pass and make us stronger'.
He also used to reassure me of his protection for me by saying 'Hand on tummy time' which meant he was close by. Clive would give me this 'anchor' for times and places when I wasn't physically with him to make me feel safe. He even took a picture of it ..

I adored his huge hands. It was his screen saver on his phone for ages. This would be one of those times I suppose.

So come on Elaine, what CAN you do? What small step CAN you do?
What's on your 'feel good' list you tell others to have and use when they are down?

This for a start ...

Clive loved this track. It makes me think of him in his car, roof down, shades on. Listen before you read on.

He would sing it to me often.  He was so pleased when the consultant called him a model patient!
And yes, he would ask me if he scored a 10 out of 10 for other things. And some things will remain a secret ....

Let me find him ...

Yaaay! Peeka too xx

Back in a minute .....

I am now wearing his big, cosy dressing gown which I have sprayed his Forever aftershave on.

Back in a minute ...

Now eating a bowl of his favourite granola.

Let me swoon over this one in his Action Man mode ...

Last summer I came home to find him like a big kid with a new toy. 'Look what I've found!'

He played and played this time and time again and yes, he did the dance!

And I just did!! Dancing in the office at 1.50 a.m.!!

And that my loyal readers is why Clive and I together were a force to be reckoned with!

I have just turned my mood from one of the lowest points to one of the highest that is currently possible by applying a combination of the 'tips' we give others.

Clive always spoke of the smallest thing you could do and that 'motion creates emotion'.
I recommend the use of the stimulating the senses.

So what are you going to do today that lifts your mood?

And once again - n nite!

Elaine x

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Ingrained in my soul

I had another 'can't get to sleep' night but drifted off eventually. I think Dom and Rod must have scared the bird off from the loft as I haven't heard it for a few mornings. It was the recycling van that disturbed me today. I actually fancied some breakfast for the first time in ages and had some toast.

Then I drove across Leeds to use my last pamper voucher that Clive had got me. It was the route we'd followed Clive to Headingley on during his last journey.

This track came on the radio


It made me tearful. Clive often used to say I completed him. But WHY wasn't he still alive?

It was good to have my nails re-done but I chose a paler colour to the bright red which Clive preferred. I could see him with hand outstretched to 'inspect', wrinkle up his nose and just say 'Hummm'. I didn't do everything just to please him, you know!

The facial and back massage next was bliss. I miss his touch so very much. I have always been a warm, touchy-feely person. I thrive on affection, especially physical. I think that was one of the first things I noticed about Clive - his hugs! So many people have commented on them. Clive was a real 'bloke' and was just as huggable with male friends and contacts too. The girl doing my nails has also lost someone close to her and when I said how I'd 'felt' Clive around me on numerous occasions these last few weeks, she did not laugh but agreed as she had similar sensations with her late daughter.

I just found this email from Clive to me, sent when we were many miles apart:-


' this and thought of you princess...

“Your relationship with another person does not exist in the real world, you can’t point at it and say “That’s our relationship right there.” It lives purely within our thoughts. Your belief makes the relationship real.”

I believe baby that this is why I still love you and feel you even when you are 100’s of miles away. Our relationship is not tangible it is ingrained in my soul. I don’t need to see you to love you, I simply need to know you to love you.'

Ingrained in my soul. Spot on. Perhaps that explains these feelings?

From there I went into Leeds for a meeting with a genuine friend and colleague who is supporting me so well. I came home to find Michelle cutting the grass around my heart crocus. Clive believed so strongly in abundance and I shared that with him - perhaps that is why so many people are being so supportive with me.

In turn I had wanted to be supportive for my charity today, The Joe (Joanne) Bingley Memorial Foundation. It was supposed to be the inquest for Joe today but it has been postponed due to recent evidence being submitted into her death. Hopefully by the next date I will be stronger to offer my support.

Lynn came for a chat, which is always a pleasure. I made myself a proper evening meal and have been busy in the office for a few hours (to make up for time 'off' this morning).

Today I haven't been as tearful. I feel more 'balanced' and just every now and then I do come across something that provokes a memory which makes me smile. I am still immersed in a deep feeling of sadness predominantly.

In my childhood I attended elocution lessons, as my parents thought it may help with my shyness - it worked! I used to learn and recite poetry at my lessons. Today I recalled this one called Remember by my favourite poet, Christina Rossetti.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.


What have I learned today?

  1. That I need and appreciate the support of others
  2. That it is increasingly possible to smile and not cry
  3. That having a few hours of indulgence is not a crime but part of my healing process

Tonight I take to bed with me the thought that Clive's love for me was 'ingrained in his soul' just as he is in mine.

Even when I was cold watching rugby he made me warm through and through.

N nite,

Elaine x

Monday, 28 March 2011

A successful Monday wash day!

One of the things that the BBC health website recommended on dealing with bereavement (see previous post) was to record your achievements each day.

It may not seem much but today I have changed the bedding on our bed without a tear; done a few loads of washing which is now all dried, ironed and put away! The recycling bins are all out at the bottom of the drive too. I have eaten well and am ending today with some sense of achievement.

Okay so the emails and my end of year accounts are still waiting but the above is a step in the right direction. The fact I have concentrated on something is a good thing and I shall give myself credit for it rather than knock myself for what I didn't do!

My blog this afternoon did help and I did get a bit busy afterwards. I got a text late afternoon from Michelle to ask if I wanted to go for a walk with Jemma, Harvey dog and her. I could have used the 'waiting for a parcel' or 'I have emails to answer' BUT I replied 'yes please'!
I left the parcel with Simon next door and enjoyed a therapeutic walk in the spring sunshine with my friends - AND left my Blackberry at home!

Meanwhile I got so many lovely texts and messages from you about my last posting I was quite choked with gratitude and appreciation. Equally a long phone call with a friend to sort a technical problem I had totally gave me confidence in the human race!

Tonight I actually put the television on and watched an old Location, Location, Location, whilst I ate my tea.

I then chose to do the ironing. There is something very pleasurable about doing all the laundry process on the same day! I put 'One born every minute' on, the birth programme. I had been watching all the early ones in this series as it keeps me in touch with the new mums I help with postnatal depression. I also just love the miracle of birth and the infinite variety of reactions to it! Tonight was very poignant as we saw triplets come into the world. What wonderful parents! The ward sister is a classic 'old school' midwife who quite openly admits that she has no-one at home waiting for her so she often stays to help. People may knock the NHS but it is exactly the professionals like her that make us very lucky in this country.

As  I ironed I had many memories of the last few years with Clive. I admit I used to be quite snobbish about team regalia! I am not from a family of sport enthusiasts and I confess I used to think team strips were not the best of dress! Clive used to tease me about this and as I changed by him introducing me to Leeds Rhinos rugby league I began to wear their colours with pride! Little by little a new top would appear.

This is one of my favourites which says 'Nice try' on it. We had a brilliant day last summer at Huddersfield with our friends Bob and Nic (above).  Clive thought it was 'cool' for us two to be swigging pints and eating pies! I loved the variety Clive and I had in our lives - one day on the top table at a swish do, the next - pie and pints!

I actually ironed his last clothes tonight. I had been putting it off but perhaps by being engrossed in the baby programme I made it easier on myself?  There was one of his favourite white Oakley t-shirts though that brought a lump to my throat. I wrapped the arms around myself and imagined my head on his chest. I used to tell him that was my favourite place in the world. It was. And this T-shirt which he wore when we went to Vilamoura in Portugal a couple of summers ago.

I miss my man so much.

Tonight though I am also thinking of another family who have a tough day ahead of them tomorrow. It will be the inquest for Joe (Joanne) Bingley who died 10 weeks after giving birth to baby Emily Jane. Sadly she wasn't treated in the best of ways which lead to her taking her own life. I cannot put blame on anyone for Clive being taken from us so fast and too early. The pain is indescribable enough but how you cope when you know someone could and should have acted differently is beyond comprehension.

The website launches tomorrow too.
Take a look.

So what have a learned today?
  1. People can be wonderful
  2. That reading up on information in a crisis helps
  3. Giving yourself credit for what you have done is far better than beating yourself up about what you haven't
  4. Saying 'yes' can be therapeutic as can household chores when your brain is a mush
  5. Focus on other peoples' problems can help ease your own.
N nite,

Elaine x

Struggling to be organised

Today the sun is shining. I had a really good sleep. I have put washing on the line. Washed my hair. Spoken to Clive's brother Malcolm. Spoken to my sister who is coming midweek with baby Sophie (hooray!). All good stuff.

But I have a massive amount to do and do not feel like doing a jot. I would go for a walk but I have a parcel due for collection. Clive would call that reason 'balderdash'! Why? Because I know my neighbour is in and he would hand it over ...

This is so unlike me. I just cannot seem to get off the starting block today. Instead I am telling myself off. I have that panic feeling again which I don't like and it scares me. So advice to self and what Clive would say is 'when you don't feel like doing anything, just do something'.

For the first time since Clive died today I have looked up 'bereavement' on the internet. Am I doing it right? Is there a proper way to grieve? Should I by now be the life and soul of any party and 'have got over it'? Let me see....

The Royal College of Psychiatrists say: This state of agitation is usually strongest about two weeks after the death, but is soon followed by times of quiet sadness or depression, withdrawal and silence. These sudden changes of emotion can be confusing to friends or relatives, but are part of the normal process of grief.

Although the agitation lessens, the periods of depression become more frequent and reach their peak between four and six weeks later. Spasms of grief can occur at any time, sparked off by people, places or things that bring back memories of the dead person. 

So that's when I am now, 4 - 6 weeks. Having been mentally ill the past I know how it can build and the spiral can quickly go down. I have no intention for revisiting that place. Which is why I need to know if these panicky feelings are 'normal'. This comment would suggest they are but I am not depressed - but in shock.

From the BBC health page:-

How to help yourself

Be gentle with yourself. It's vital that you don't expect too much from yourself. Give yourself permission to be disorganised for a while. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes.

Well does that let me off the hook? Maybe just a little? Clive was so target driven and I can be when I am my 'usual' self. I feel like a balloon that was big, bright, firm, happily bobbing along. Someone popped it with a loud BANG and I am now shriveled up in a crumpled, mis-shaped form in a dusty corner. We had both been working so hard for months now on all his new 'stuff'. The bookings were coming in. We were a vibrant, dynamic team. I know my verve will come back. Trouble is that I DO have high expectations in all I do of myself. I am rarely disorganised and hate to feel so as I do now. I am not good at forgiving my mistakes (see yesterday's blog!) This comes under the 'kindness' principle I have.
But this is sound advice. I have just printed that comment off in large letters and will keep looking at it!!!

Care for yourself physically. Lack of sleep and nourishment may mean that you're more prone to infections and illness, so eating little and often and getting rest if at all possible are both important.

I read this earlier so I have just had a good plateful of left-over roast dinner and a banana whilst  I sat in the garden. The rest bit alludes me but I did dose for about an hour this morning, and I had 8 hours without the need for a tablet.

Take exercise. If possible do some form of exercise, even if it's only a gentle walk.

Okay, so when I have done this I will sort Simon on parcel duty and go and walk somewhere.
I have been doing this as one of my Hanzak principles.

Avoid alcohol. Reliance on alcohol may help temporarily to dull the pain, but in the long run it doesn't help.
I have been having a glass of rose but one bottle has lasted over a week. So that's ok. I am more likely to have a sleeping tablet at times when I want to shut down.

Avoid sleep medication. It's not advisable to rely on sleeping pills for any length of time. In the first few days, they may help you to get to sleep but your body and mind need to adjust naturally to bereavement and sleeping pills may inhibit this process. They can also become addictive.

Oops! Read this one too late. I am not addicted to them as last night proved. I am seeing my GP in the next few days so will clarify this with her.

Be kind to yourself. Try to do one thing extra for yourself each week, such as buying yourself a bunch of flowers or going to the cinema.

I have booked for my nails to be done again tomorrow. Lynn was stunned at the chipped, tatty mess thay were yeasterday. It will be the last voucher Clive had got for me ...
The cinema is going to be a tricky one as that was one of our favourite past times. Usually using Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Maybe Dom and I should go in Cheshire to a funny film?

Deal with your feelings. Write down all the feelings that are in your head, especially before going to bed, as this may help you to sleep better. Sharing the pain with other members of the family can be helpful, but they too may have their own pain and may not want to hear your story repeatedly. A good friend who's not so emotionally involved may be prepared to listen. If this is difficult then there are support groups that can help.

Well guys I guess this is where my blog comes in! I could be criticised for having 'the time' to write all this out - why am I 'wasting' time when there are practical matters to be sorted?  I make not apology for this being part of my recovery. Usually after I have 'off-loaded' onto my blog I then buzz for a while. I can sense that will happen this afternoon. I have also made a few calls and arrangements to help me with the stuff I need extra support with. That has made me feel better. Also not a single day goes by without several of you telling me how much my blog is helping you! That is amazing!

Work on your self-esteem. Your self-esteem may have taken a real knock. To help morale, buy a notebook to record your daily 'successes'. Write at least five successes each day. Acknowledge yourself each time you achieve something, however small.

Didn't I start this blog off with that? Clive was always keen to work on my self-esteem and everybody elses!
We can't let him down on this one can we?

Recall happy memories. Remembering the good times with the person who died can be painful but healing. Looking at photographs, making a memory book and keeping meaningful mementoes may help.

I have a box which is gradually being added to.

Don't rush to dispose of clothing. Rushing to get rid of your loved one's clothes and possessions, even if you're persuaded by friends to do this, isn't necessarily useful. It's best to do it when you feel ready. You may want to keep an old jersey which still reminds you of your loved one's special smell. This is normal. It's worth remembering that others may value a keepsake.

I am in no rush to do this. My friend who lost his wife almost a year ago has yet to do this. I do find it a comfort.

Take things slowly. Making big changes such as moving house, starting a new relationship or changing your job should be delayed for at least six months. You've suffered a huge loss, and need to adjust to that change in your life first.

I so want to stay in this house which had become OUR home. I have no intention of starting a new relationship but boy am I truly appreciating the ones I have. My job isn't a job. That suggests something you do to pay bills. My career is making showing people how to survive when life throws a dirty ball at you, whether that is through postnatal illness, bereavement or loss in any other way. It is my passion. My purpose to make the journey easier and happier for others. I just need more time to adjust and create my new keynote, materials and business cards!

Elaine Hanzak-Gott is actually a very privileged lady. She is surrounded by amazing family, friends and colleagues of herself and of her beloved Clive who really want her to find a way through this pain. In doing so she is helping them, which is one of her biggest pleasures in life. She also shared the kind of love that not everyone in life ever gets to experience.

On Valentine's Day two years ago Clive took me to 'Go Ape' in Dalby Forest. He had me swinging through trees and climbing like a seven year old. Initially I was scared! At the practice bit with the trainers, about three foot off the ground, Clive encouraged me to 'let go'. I was clinging onto ropes for dear life! He repeated 'Let go - FEEL the support from the safety harness and ropes. You are okay. You are safe and can do this'.
I let go and just dangled there. That showed me I could 'let go' and take a chance.

After a while I did this:-

I took a leap into the unknown, safe with the support I had, with Clive looking on smiling and being very proud of me.

What has changed?

Elaine x

A few minutes can make all the difference ...

I have just had a comment (nicely put!) that yesterday's blog was 'short and sweet'! My reply - 'I was living my life and appreciating the moment!'

I feel that when I have my son with me, especially, I want to spend the time 'just being' with him. I am not so addicted to writing reams when there is pleasure to be had and let's face it, I made a complete mess of Wednesday by not switching off. I like to think I learn from things that did not have a positive outcome!

Last night it was a treat to make our meal, have a few glasses of wine and watch 'Quantum of Solace'. I also did something that I know was a BIG step. I love knitting. Over the years I have spent many an hour 'relaxing' this way. Clive used to tease me for it but when he saw little Emily so pleased with Barbie clothes I made, and new Mums swoon over cute cardies, he was with me! He even tolerated the clicking of the needles. During the X-factor it was amazing how much I churned out! The last time I had my knitting needles in my hands was the day Clive died. That evening he had been laying on the settee watching rugby and I sat in the armchair worrying into every stitch because I knew he wasn't feeling well. We had both put it down to his Superman antics after his knee replacement operation six days before. He was in that 'I'm not going to admit 'she was right' mode', and I was equally in an 'I'm not going to say 'told you so' mode'.

At 8.30 when the match ended, he had rolled off the settee, bent over me with apologies for being a misery and said he'd go to bed. After tucking him in and kissing him on the forehead, I had come down to continue knitting. At 8.50 on the dot I heard a shout and as they say, the rest is history.

I relived every minute last night. It is the first Saturday for a few weeks I have been here. Boy did it hurt! At 8.30 I followed us upstairs in my mind. Why, oh why did I not get in bed with him? Why didn't I do my 'dropping the dressing gown' routine which he adored? Only the week before he'd died he had said that if that was the last sight he saw, he'd die a happy man. I could see his appreciative smile and eyes. I loved they way he made me feel. Why was more knitting more important that night? Why did he not let me lay with him with his arms around me? Why could I not have been there to hold him for his last breath? Why was he so blue so quickly?

I have to say it was because he told me to go downstairs. He told me that maybe if he slept he would feel better in the morning. He told me it was too early for me. Clive chose to be alone. I had done as he had asked. No more. No less. I just wish I hadn't.

Anyway, last night I actually picked up my knitting again!  It was hard to do initially but I suppose I cannot go through the rest of my life avoiding situations and experiences just because they remind me of Clive! If I apply that rule I will not even breathe! My mind is immersed in 'Clive' memories.

So it was a relaxed and tear free evening and I settled to sleep delighting in Dominic being in the next room.
I know I went to sleep smiling which felt good.

Why then did I wake at 3 a.m. feeling in a total panic? My heart was pounding, my mind in a whirlwind and a sense of fear and anxiety gripped me. It was as if I was drowning in a deep pool of 'should do'. I almost got up and put flip chart sheets up on the bedroom wall to write lists! I was in a panic about EVERYTHING! Top of the list was not sleeping and that if I was tired it would spoil Sunday with Dom! I was worried about the the emails and texts I haven't responded to - will people think I am rude? Things that normally I would pride myself on my efficiency for. I tossed and turned for ages. I should have got up and made myself a drink or done something instead of mental torture! Just before 5 a.m. I decided I could hack it no more, reached into my sock drawer and had a sleeping pill.

So when I did emerge at 10 (or was it 9 due to clocks going forward?) I felt drunk! Dom took one look at me and sent me back to bed. I didn't argue but after 15 minutes gave up because I was wasting time that could be spent with him.

I felt better getting physical by having a sort of Clive's stuff in the garage. There were boxes he had placed on high shelves last summer so Dom helped me get them down. It was memorabilia souvenirs and albums from his Firefighter triathlon days. Wow! What a physique he had on him! It would be great to have the time to scan lots of the press cuttings and photographs to share with others. I found his collection of 7 inch records. I found certificates for some of the extraordinary things he had achieved. When I was at school I regularly won prizes for my 'project work'. I loved to research and put together albums, reports, etc. I would love to have the time to compile all of this properly and save it for us all.

After a snack lunch Dom and I decided we would go for a bike ride. The sun was shining and it seemed a shame not to appreciate it. I proudly showed Dom how I too, as a nearing 50 year old Mum can ride a bike without sitting on the saddle at harder sections! With the wind in my hair, the sun on my face and my son with me I honestly felt happy!

Dom noticed a wood and wanted to explore it for a potential film set for his project 'Gone'.  (Like mother like son?). This happened to be the wood that Clive, Peeka and I had walked around and through in each season over the last few years. As Dom disappeared into the trees I stood on the perimeter. I let myself be in the moment. I could hear the birds; the warmth of the sun; the gentle breeze on my face. And I could hear Clive telling me again that he'd reassured me that one day Dom would be with us on this walk. I could feel him cuddling me from behind like he loved to. I could feel him nuzzling into my neck. I wrapped my arms around myself and let myself sway. It was beautiful. So beautiful that the tears flowed. Silent and strong. By the time Dom appeared saying it was a fab setting he just took one look at me, put his arms out, smiled at me and gave me a hug. I had teased him yesterday that the way he so wonderfully handles my emotions will set him in good stead for girlfriends in the future!

I wiped my eyes and we rode on, through small country lanes; passed stunning Yorkshire stone cottages and with an impressed son! We cycled passed the house that Clive grew up in and I showed Dom the cottage we had wanted to retire to. We stopped for a drink at a recently refurbished pub, The White Swan at Wighill, and had a shandy outside. Bliss! The route back home involved a few pushes up tiny hills but a couple of sections downhill. I even managed a childlike 'Whoo hoo!' down one of them. I always suggest that exercise is one of my Hanzak principles. This is why!

However, the next few hours were STRESS! I hadn't realised that it was almost 5 o'clock by the time we got home. It didn't seem that late! I had got all the ingredients out for a Sunday roast, yet really we needed to leave by 5.50 to get Dom to Leeds station for his train back to Cheshire. Instead of choosing a different and quicker menu I proceeded to attempt to cook the roast and prepare all the trimmings too! I hadn't printed off the train times and they seemed hard to find as it was within the next couple of hours! By 5.50 we were guzzling the roast dinner down!

We bundled into the car and headed for Leeds. Why do you always get every light on red? Behind every slow driver when you are hurrying? Add that to my 'I will not speed because I went on the speed awareness course instead of paying the fine' righteousness that NOTHING is worth taking a life for, especially as I now know how much pain it causes ... and you have a stressed driver. Also Dom's Dad is a perfectionist when it comes to time keeping and I could hear him saying 'typical - late again'! Aaargh! I was counting the minutes down on the Sat Nav wishing it to be wrong. At 6.38 we were at the ticket machine inside Leeds station to collect the pre-purchased tickets but I knew the platform was the far side of the station and even Dom could not sprint that in 2 minutes!

There was another one an hour later but that would mean that he would only get home at around 10 o'clock which I wasn't happy about. So heart still racing I chose to drive him to Manchester. At the services I needed petrol and stalled the car as I drove onto the forecourt - for a moment I felt I was in Clive's Saab which is automatic. Oops! My car has gears! Poor Dom! What a Mother to have! We laughed as we realised the guys at the till had seen what I'd done. Oh well - as long as I amuse someone!

As we left the motorway for the city centre I was confident we had plenty of time still. I'd reassured Dom that at least it had meant I had managed an extra hour with him as he was looking worried. He suggested I took him all the way home and stayed at my parents tonight when maybe I would not be as tired to drive back. But stubborn me said we'd be fine - I then lost my bearings In Manchester! I have been to Piccadilly station many times but somehow just got in a muddle tonight; then diversion signs for a road that was closed! Finally we were in the queue with taxis and other cars for 'drop-off' and Dom had to grab his bags from the boot and run! Within a few minutes I had parked and ran after him to check he was on time. I could see his checked shirt in the distance but 'legged it'. I just got to touch his arm as he boarded the train in the nick of time! Phew!

I got in the lift to go down to the car park. It went up!

I got back in my car and chose the way out on the M602 towards Liverpool because I am more familiar with that way to escape the city centre. I could not handle an alternative route tonight. I cried all the way back to Tadcaster.

  • I felt stupid that I could not even get my son to a train on time.
  • I felt even more stupid for almost getting him to miss the next connection - once is allowable but twice is lunacy.
  • I felt daft for being so upset after what had been a really good day - Dom and I had even congratulated me on it, especially when I had had to sort through more of Clive's things. 
  • I felt like an irresponsible driver, with lights blurred through my tears.

I put music on to soothe myself and this came on ....

Honestly!! I thought of the empty home I was driving back to.

No Clive
No Peeka wagging her tail
No warm welcome
No rejoicing in what a brilliant weekend we had shared with Dom
No warm body to snuggle up to ......

But then I noticed a crash on the other side of the motorway which had only just happened. I could see people on the carriageway and traffic was building up. I suddenly thought of the potential upset that a crash had caused. Here was I in such a state that I could be the cause of another. 'Buck up' I told myself.

I turned the music off, wiped my face and did the equivalent of 'sobering up'. You know, when you arrive home and try to be cool that you are not tipsy? Only I did it with my mood.
My positive self-talk then cut in.  I cannot spend every hour of every day with Dominic. He is 15 next month. He has his own life and he has to be at school and spend time with his friends. We have plans for next weekend so have something to look forward to.
I am upset but it is selfish not to concentrate on driving. What pathetic excuses of being late for a train, getting cross and upset mean to someone if I caused an accident and injury or worse to others? Nothing.

I didn't come straight home. I called in to see Lynn and Rod. My comments of being 'stupid' were not received well! 6 year old Emily considers it to be a very, very naughty word! They reminded me that people miss trains, lose their way in city centres every day! My only 'crime' had been to enjoy time with my son.

Perhaps I could have been more aware of the time? Perhaps if we hadn't had the drink in the pub those minutes would have made all the difference? Perhaps if I had put the pork back in the fridge for another time and we'd have had beans on toast we would have been on time? Etc. Etc. 

As Lynn had taken herself to bed to watch tv I snuggled up beside her and Rod sat at the bottom of the bed. Clive might not be here physically but he has surrounded me with guardian angels. Amongst some of the family bits and pieces I had found was a card Clive had written for his Mum on the day of his Dad's funeral. The sentiments are breathtaking. 
The card says 'New beginnings' - "In life what sometimes appears to be the end is really the beginning".

So perhaps that is where I am now? We are all on a journey. Sometimes like today for me, what should have been straight forward turned into a stressful one because I chose some less than easy choices! Both Clive and I had thought that our journey for many years was to be together. Sadly his physical heart decided differently.

Yes I am still overwhelmed by the way my journey of life has changed again. I am still in clinical shock perhaps? I want to turn back time. I want to replay the last minutes of my soul mate's life again. I would like to have left the house just 10 minutes earlier tonight, seen Dom safely on the train and returned to relax to watch Dancing on Ice. Yet the reality is that we CANNOT turn back time. The clocks in the UK sprang forward an hour today and perhaps we are all a little out of sync for the next few days because of it. How many things have you done that you wish you had done differently?

Sometimes we are in a position to learn from these situations. I now know that in future I shall allow more time to get to Leeds station; that I will print off the train times when I buy a tickets; that just maybe Dom's Dad would have met me halfway if I had asked?

Another of my Hanzak principles to making life easier is Education. I have learnt today!! 

I am home all of this week. Maybe little by little this week I will allow myself some more time for me? Maybe I need some more bike rides to clear my head and make me shout 'Whoo hoo!'?   Maybe by being kinder to myself I will feel less in a panic and an irrational need for 'everything' to be sorted as soon as possible. I need more time to heal. And although I can appreciate the huge support around me, just as our roast dinner today, some things are simply not meant to be rushed?

So what or who will you make a little more time for today?
What will you do differently and better today based on a similar situation in the past WHICH CANNOT BE REPLAYED?

By the way, who won Dancing on Ice ... I missed it!!!

N nite,

Elaine x

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A giggle or two

Well after a tough start this morning and doing a rather sad blog, I drove to pick up Dominic at Birch Services on the M62. Mum and Dad joined us for a coffee and toast before heading home. We love them soooo much!

It was pure pleasure to bring Dom back home with me! We decided on McD's for lunch. For some reason I have had a craving for a burger the last few days. I got half way through my Happy Meal and felt full! I did eat the rest though.

Rod called and he and Dom went to investigate the loft for the pesky bird. It would appear there are small holes that it must be getting through but we need longer ladders to explore from outside. So looks like I will get an early start again!

Dom did the first lawn cut of the year (come on Mark! Keep up!!!!). The lines aren't quite as perfect as Clive had but he had years of practice. A good effort and much appreciated. I tidied up the borders and enjoyed some more physical work.
Rod noticed I had a puncture on my bike and sorted that. I am surrounded by heroes! Lynn has hurt her back at work - hope you feel better soon sweetheart xxxx

Dom had brought a new camera lens with him and was keen to use it. So we walked across the road to the lambs and sheep in the field. I was sure I could feel Clive's arms around me as I watched Dom taking his pictures. 'See, I told you he'd be here with us one day', I heard him reassure me. That brought a tear to my eyes and a hug from Dom.

I have just had a relaxed evening with my son. I got a bit jittery around 8.30 - 9 p.m. as I recalled the events of 5 weeks ago. It still seems surreal. I wish it wasn't true but so sadly it is.

It is also good to have company. I have made a couple of arrangements for more visitors and I must make some more.

I think that is my key learning from today!

let me leave you with this clip of my niece Sophie, taken several months ago when I was looking after her at my parents. Clive loved it and would often ask me to share it with others. It made him smile and I hope it does you ......

N nite,

Elaine xx

Oh what a night!

Last night I got attacked by one of the worst waves of grief so far.
I had taken myself off to bed early with a cup of Horlicks and snuggled up to read through a bag of greetings cards I had found in the office.
There was a bundle from his 50th birthday. He had a party that night at a club in Tadcaster. There were friends and family from all over. Clive was on sparkling form and so pleased to share it with us. Food was fish and chips from a van he'd ordered! He had put months of planning into the night, including Clive themed games and quizzes!
Next I found Christmas cards. He'd kept one from a dear friend of his .... It had a message about being in a wonderful world. I opened it and it 'sang',

This was the music he had been carried off the pitch at Headingley too. If you missed that look here 

That produced the first tears.

Next I found Valentine, Christmas and birthday cards to each other. That was very, very tough.

Comments from him  like 'I truly adore you with every sinew of my being', 'Just when I thought we had reached our highest level you step up even higher', 'To Elaine, My beautiful, amazing, caring, sometimes too busy, sensual brave Princess, You are truly my 365 Christmas baby, I adore you', just brought the massive waves of grief and emotion cascading through my mind and body like an avalanche. Huge. Terrifying. Out of control. So very, very powerful.

The empty space beside me where I had tried to bring him back to life became a hole that I wanted to fall into. The pain was indescribable.

Instead of telling myself 'enough' I was on a mission to fall deeper. I found an email I had sent him in the early days of our relationship. We both would send each other 'epics' as we called them. I read of the dilemmas I was in at that time and how worried I was of hurting other people due to our relationship. But then I read how I described how I felt about him, as I'd listened to this:-

'I feel that is what I have found in you. I did need rescuing. I need to feel like you make me feel. I love the way you make me tremble when you kiss me; I want the pain kissed away; you do take my breath away; I want to be wrapped in your arms; I want you to celebrate my successes and be there for me when I cry; I want to dance with you at a masked ball, in a steamy night club, an exotic beach; I want to be treated to expensive things but I want to share beans on toast on a Tuesday teatime too; I want to be hugged on escalators: I want to feel the sexy, dynamic, alive woman you make me feel when I with you: I want to build up a circle of friends together; I want to have a Sunday roast with you; I want to do business stuff in coffee shops with you; to get fit together and eat healthy foods; I want to get tipsy and walk home with you from somewhere: I want a snog by the front door; I want to share a stage with you and get a standing ovation; I want us to make a difference to many; I want you and Dominic to be good friends; I want to share my life with you.'

I sobbed and howled. Again the question 'Why did he have to go' smacked me time and time again. That was how he made me feel within weeks of our friendship. The amazing thing is now I look at all that and do you know what? We DID nearly all of it. I should and will take comfort from that.

One line sticks out -  I want to share a stage with you and get a standing ovation. I want us to make a difference to many; Last weekend when I spoke about Clive's death to the 365 hairdressers I got a standing ovation. I have a strong vision now of a huge audience somewhere with me on the platform with a gorgeous picture of Clive behind me - and us both getting that standing ovation and making a difference to many. We did have work planned together with us sharing a stage. I guess we still can, just in a different format.

The sobs and tears continued until I found this card with this quote by Wilferd Peterson,

'Let your light shine.
Be a source of strength and courage.
Share your wisdom.
Radiate love.'

I read it over and over again. And again. Clive had sent me this as a message a few years ago. It actually sums me and my purpose up beautifully. It's what I have been doing for these last six years as a speaker and writer on postnatal depression, through my own experiences. Maybe that is what I am doing now? Maybe that is part of the 'why'? Maybe because my light is one of communication, by sharing my pain perhaps I can help others through theirs? I feel strongly that the ways I coped with depression and now bereavement are valuable lessons to us all faced by loss, crisis and challenges? Would you agree?

Throughout all of this I had two very dear friends texting me. Although the loneliness I feel as regards Clive is immense (there isn't a word big enough) I do not feel alone. One asked me what I would be saying to Clive if he had been the one to be left behind. What a fabulous question.

She responded 'There's your answer then. Plain and simple. And for tonight, which is all you need to worry about for now, that's your guide. You live for him now just as he would have undoubtedly lived for you, no matter what strength it takes. His love is in you. It's the strength you need.'

With that I took a sleeping pill. I just wanted to be switched off, just for then.

I slept well until that bloody bird woke me! Rod - let's get that sorted today!!!

I look scary - I am very, very pale. I feel like a bath must when all the water has drained and there is a rasping noise with that last bit of water going down the plug hole. (Okay, so I know baths don't have feelings ... but just play along, ey?)

I now have just over half an hour to get myself moving and out. I am off to meet my parents and Dom at Birch services on the M62 and bring him back with me for the rest of the weekend. Hooray!!

Perhaps as the weekend progresses with him we shall begin to fill in a little of the hollow, fragile, delicate egg shell I feel right now. (Just re-read that before posting. Pathetic Elaine, pathetic!!)

And I must focus on the first of my 'Hanzak' principles - HOPE.

Let's have a great weekend - and as Clive said 5 weeks ago today - 'let's make it count'.

Elaine x 

Friday, 25 March 2011

What's on your list?

I have spent some time today having a further tidy up. Today I braved the office!
I came across a list that Clive had written about two years ago of things for us to do.

Hits some balls - around 10 days before Clive died we had an amazing, romantic night at Oulton Hall Hotel. following morning Clive watched as I had my first golf lesson.

Walk the walls in York - last year I did not know what to get him for his birthday so I booked us a nights B and B in York - 9 miles from home and we had two days as tourists. We 'did' all the museums, the walls, ate in unusual places and had a cruise of the river. In his 52 years Clive has always lived within 10 miles of York and had never done most of this! We had a fab time.

Visit and climb the Minster - Clive had been a firefighter on the 9th July 1984 when York Minster caught fire and the roof of the South Transept was destroyed. As we went round it and up on the roof last summer Clive gave me a running commentary as to his involvement on the night.

Do the ghost walk in York - this was fun, on his birthday evening! We were surprised how much bigger the group got as we walked around. It appeared that you only paid when leaving the Minster and others then tagged along for free! We learnt about plenty of spooky things about York.

Climb Pen-y- Ghent - we did this a couple of years ago. Not quite our vision of 'Stand with you on a mountain', but it was close! Just before Clive died he suggested that we both climbed Mont Blanc.

 Us two on the top of Pen-y-ghent!

Do the other two - by this he meant Whernside and Ingleborough. We didn't get to do this. Perhaps this could be a challenge for his Foundation (when I have the energy to set it up). Anybody interested? The three together are often billed as the 'Yorkshire 3 peaks Challenge'.

Full Harewood House walk - often would take Peeka for a walk here before she was poorly last year and wasn't up to a long walk. We often 'put the world to rights' as we walked. I miss him so much. I loved to stroll hand in hand. 

Healaugh walk - this is the local village where he grew up. Although we didn't walk it the weeks before he died we did cycle round there. We had hoped to spend our retirement in a small cottage there.......

Weekend in Liverpool - we did get to spend a night staying at The Beatles themed hotel. I have to say we weren't impressed! There was a room adjoining ours and the occupants came in during the early hours and were talking loudly - it was as if they were in the same room! Sound proofing needs sorting in that place! We did have a stunning evening in The Cavern watching a Beatles tribute band. He kept saying all evening how much his brother Malcolm would like it and how one day we should take him. What do you reckon Malcolm? Are you game?

Weekend in Manchester - do Canal St - we had several nights in Manchester, often linked into him working there. We never managed the second part though! I did it once on a fab night out with the girls when I worked as a Virgin Vie consultant. Not fussed about going back!

Go bowling - Hmmm. He surprised me with this one evening. He didn't tell me how brilliant he was at it! Virtually a strike every time. Clever bugger!

Camp out - we did this last summer at our friends Bob and Nic's. It was a fancy dress theme.....

We had a wonderful evening and then slept in a tent at the top of the garden on an airbed. Fun, fun, fun!

Host a dinner party - I have always enjoyed entertaining at home. My parents are incredibly good hosts and it is part of me too. In recent months Clive and I had decorated our lounge and dining room and were keen to show it off. I love to cook but equally Clive did. His specialty was fillet steak. We had a few challenge nights with friends when each male was to cook and bring a course. Tell you what ladies, it saves us a heck of a lot of bother and I highly recommend it!

Host a BBQ  - the last two summers we have done this on several occasions, with family and friends. Clive was already planning ours for this August. Guess that is another date I simply have to keep! We were emerging as a very sociable couple, doing couple things. His days of just rugby, betting and the local pub had passed and he was truly embracing our new lifestyle.

Share a proper holiday. For those of you who have read his last book 'It's not Your Time, It's the Time you have', you will know we did this last year. We had what we declared was a honeymoon without being married on a Royal Caribbean East Mediterranean cruise. So many happy, romantic, special and now treasured memories.

I reckon we did pretty well on this list!

So how has today been? A good one. After a big down day on Wednesday, yesterday was an 'up' - today was more of a mellow medium!

Once again the bird in the loft woke me up - Rod is coming tomorrow to see what he can do!
Then Clive's incredible undertaker came, Tony, and brought Clive's ashes.
I confess that I have little 'attachment' to this aspect as my Uncle once told us what goes on in crematoriums. I am not convinced it is 100% Clive! Tony is a marvelous character - so warm and friendly. I did him a hot cross bun, which was rather overdone. I teased that another 30 seconds in the toaster and we'd have had more ashes! Tony has a unique quality to be extremely respectful and professional but also to make you at ease in an awful situation.

I then headed off with my friend Chris who wanted to take me out for a real break. This time I was a good girl and left my phone in my bag and only checked it when back in the car. We drove to Helmsley in the North Yorks Moors, on the edge of Ryedale. 'A wonderful place to visit, not far from Malton, Pickering and Kirkbymoorside,' according to the website. I felt sad seeing the sign for Kirkbymoorside as I know that was one of Clive's favourite golf courses.

We had a mooch around the pretty market and stocked up on some local cheeses, chutney and other goodies and walked up to the castle for a picnic.Chris's wife Joe died last April and her inquest is next week. I guess we both needed to escape today. I actually ate a good amount and really tasted it. Some cava slipped down nicely too. Thanks Chris for a fab afternoon.

Then back home to do some sorting and here I am back at my desk ....

So what have I learnt today?
  1. That reflection on an old 'list' can be very pleasurable and rewarding
  2. That such a list can give you direction and tasks for the future, even if the person that wanted to do it is no longer here - let's share the pleasure
  3. That if you take a few hours 'off' and truly relax, then you come back to your tasks with renewed energy and do twice as much in half the time!
I do feel more content tonight that although our list wasn't complete, we had made a terrific attempt at it. I can honestly say that Clive and I did not waste any time together. I have no regrets other than I wish he was still here.

Tonight we should have been celebrating that he would have been able to drive again after his knee operation.
Instead I have his ashes to look at.

I was okay until I typed that last line. Forgive me whilst I cry and let the tears devour me.

Meanwhile I ask you this - what is on your list of happy things to do with your loved ones?
And what on earth is stopping you from arranging something RIGHT NOW?

Elaine x

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Humour, adventure and mischief!

We all know that yesterday was a tough day for me! However, I guess today I have shown that after a big down - there is only one way - up!

I did well last night and was in bed with the light off by midnight. First time in weeks. Slept without the need for a tablet - my tonic was the number of late night 'are you ok' texts I received. You guys are brilliant! Just knowing there were so many people willing to speak to me then was a huge comfort - thank you so much.

I was woken up just after six by a bird scuttling about in the roof. We had this problem last summer and thought it had all been sorted - obviously not. By 7.30 I was jumping on the bed, smacking the ceiling with my slipper telling the bird to 'b****r off'! I must have dosed off again and was stunned to see it was almost 8.30 a.m. Biggest sleep yet I reckon.

The sun streamed in but I still felt flat. Another morning I could happily have stayed in bed and let the world just go by. Even though there is a television in the bedroom I haven't watched anything for weeks, apart from putting it on for noise sometimes. The news is just all so depressing. My first few texts this morning were still in 'poor me' mode.

I could hear Clive saying to me 'when you don't feel like doing anything, just do something'.
Simple as that. So I got up. I know - breakfast in the back garden again. We loved to sit here.

I had some cereal and a drink then decided I would try to do 'something'.

I realised last night that the house phone wasn't working. Clive had had two lines - a fax and broadband one then a separate land line number. When I had switched to me paying the bill I had wanted to use the land line number and transfer broadband to it. Somehow it had all got in a muddle. I called BT to be told I would have to cancel this, do this, do that. It just seemed too much! I burst into tears and in a little voice pleaded 'what do I have to do to make you sort it simply for me?' I think the assistant must have pressed a 'crier' alert as within a few minutes all was sorted! Well done and thanks BT. So at least I now have Broadband and Clive's original land line number. Phew. My only challenge now is when I get the 'cold callers' asking to speak to him.
Anyone got a direct dial to where he is???

Next choice was what to wear. I slid into a pair of pale blue jeans I got a couple of years ago. Last summer they remained on their hanger as they were too close for comfort. My stone and a half of weight loss meant I felt great in them today!

That lifted my mood and I got things ready for my meeting to sort finances, etc. for probate. A steep learning curve. Guess that is my 'education' bit of my Hanzak principles being applied. It is all making me feel very conscious of how important it is for all of us to get our 'affairs' in order and not keep putting it off under the assumption that we have years to go ....

Next stage was food shopping. The freezer and store cupboards are full and I shall wade my way through them I guess but the fridge certainly needed filling. I actually enjoyed choosing things. However, at the till I handed over a coupon (I usually have one) to be told that I hadn't spent enough. I then got in a muddle with my card and apologised to the cashier and explained I was having to adjust to buying for one, and told her why. She reached out to hold my arm and with a warm smile and empathetic eyes told me that she knew what I was going through as she had lost her husband suddenly seven years ago. She reassured me that it does get easier.

Back home I nipped in to see Michelle. She has become such a wonderful friend through all of this. She is a true star.

Then something amazing happened - I MADE MYSELF SOME LUNCH!  I scrambled the goose egg that Rod had given me and had toast with it. Then had a yoghurt. It actually tasted of something!

The last few hours I have been buzzing! An inventory has to be made of all Clive's things. It appears that it is part of the process. I was aware it has to be done but so far I haven't really been in enough or have been to raw to even begin. We had a good sort and clear out over the last few months - when Clive did his body detox in January we also did a house one. Nonetheless I have actually enjoyed today sorting things a bit more. I had the radio on (another sign of progress), windows open and determination in me. I coped well with many things. I took all his coats off the pegs under the stairs and put them in a wardrobe. One had a furry hood - I nestled my face in that one and caught a vague Clive aroma. Loved it. I realised too how much I am everywhere in our home. Apart from underwear drawers so much is mingled.

Then the trouser press got me! Goodness only knows why. The last pair of trousers he had worn were still in there. He was a big fan of his trouser press - through years of hotel travel I guess. I stroked his black trousers in there complete with a grubby stain (he was a messy eater!)  and the avalanche of tears came. I lay on our bed, where he had died, stroking the mattress and howling 'why'?  Why did he have to be taken from us? Why could he not even have had a few weeks more? He even had the staples in his knee operation? Why couldn't we have had more time together? Why, why, why, why?

The mascara I dripped over the sheets reminded me of the stain I had left on his T-shirt in his coffin. I still have such vivid images of that. The coldness of his hands. The bristles as I kissed his lips for the last time. The smell of his Forever aftershave.

I wiped my eyes. Blew my nose and then just carried on. I emptied his car of things such as his Sat Nav and smiled at the 'fun' we'd had the night in Bradford a few weeks before he died when it kept telling us to turn left - but there were roadworks. He'd received a fine for 'being in a bus lane' that arrived a day or two after he died! I also found his Paolo Nutini CD which he loved. He would sing this to me, especially on 'roof down, shades on' days.

We did grow together.

I reoganised a couple of cupboards between his and my things to make it easier for 'the list'. Perhaps I needed some physical exertion. The PC and the mound of emails is still a challenge and one I will get to. But for now the tidying continues.

I rang Lynn to see if she would pop round as I had found a couple of 'family' photos she would like. I even put a meal in the oven and ate it in front of her! Food really does have taste after all.

I had found some 'keepsakes' today and some diary notes Clive had made when we were first becoming more than just friends. He'd said he wanted to share 'humour, adventure and mischief' with me!

That was another goal he achieved in his life! We had all three on a regular basis. For that I am truly thankful.

To round the day off Dominic phoned me in a bright and chatty mood, to check if I was okay. That has me beaming now from ear to ear.

So what have I learnt today?

  1. That an up has to follow a down
  2. That when you don't feel like doing anything, do something - the rest will follow
  3. That food does have different flavours
  4. That my story from yesterday is true -
    "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
N nite,

Elaine x

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Michael's story

Today actually has not been one of my best. I think I peaked too early this morning!

I felt completely overwhelmed with everything. I looked at my list and it just was too big. I looked at my emails - there must be thousands there. Text messages - loads. I am normally a very efficient and organised person but right now it is all simply TOO MUCH. I am exhausted but cannot sleep for more than 5 or 6 hours a night. I eat like a sparrow. Add to that the indescribable hole I have without Clive and it's one recipe that says simply - enough.  Perhaps if I took a break now I will buzz again tomorrow?

After a few supportive phone calls I called for Michelle and we took Harvey dog for a walk - down the lane I used to go regularly with Clive. Another 'last time' place crossed off the list.

I decided to be good to me and drove over to my parents. I had planned to do so today even when Clive was still here. We would plan midweek trips as long as we made up time in the office at evenings or a weekend. That's the beauty of self-employment. We probably would have arranged to meet a client too.

So I went. Once at their house I had a nibble to eat and we went to pick up Claire and Sophie and went for a walk in Delamere Forest. Sophie was wearing the cute little golfing T-shirt I had bought her when Clive and I met up with staff from The Belfry. Clive was going to be training some staff there. I recalled how smart he looked that day. He was like a boy in a sweet shop looking at all the golf equipment and was so excited to be going back to play there. He won't now. In the past I have spent many hours at Delamere taking my pupils from a local special school for walks (in the days when you were allowed out without having to fill in 27 forms!) and have many happy memories there with Nick and Dominic as he was growing up. There is now a cafe.

 Ooh! Quavers!

Stupidly I took my Blackberry with me. I completely forgot my own advice of 'be in the moment'. I should have been soaking in the sunshine, listening to the birds, appreciating my family - but no, I could not switch off. I was still taking calls, checking for messages the whole way round. Okay folks - I know - BIG mistake. When you need a break that is what you should do - take one! I just felt so sad. I described to Claire that I do feel like a gingerbread man cutter. I am just a vague outline with all my stuffing knocked out.

We like teal!

After our walk we dropped off Claire to enjoy her birthday evening with husband Martin and we kept Sophie for a sleepover! En route back we picked up Dom.

Even back at Mum's surrounded by my darling son, parents and niece I just could not hack it today. I was feeding Sophie (who is a truly delightful baby) and picking at my meal when for no logical thought I just cried.

All I feel I have achieved today is worrying my family even more. I haven't applied my 'Hanzak' principles to myself and it's been an extremely tough day.

I drove back tonight so I can make the most out of tomorrow but really I should have stayed for a girlie sleepover. A cuddle in bed with Sophie in the morning would have been a real tonic.

Instead here I am back. Perhaps the fridge represents how I feel tonight:-


Our good friend Paul McGee (The SUMO guy) describes a Hippo phase in change - when you wallow, 'managing emotions and developing resilience under pressure'.

Maybe that is what today has been.

So what shall I do?

  • Go to bed and try to sleep
  • Acknowledge that today has gone - tomorrow is a fresh one
  • Remember that I am still officially 'unfit for work' so stop beating myself up
As of today my whizzing around stops. Tomorrow I shall go and fill the fridge with tasty food. 

What have I learnt?
  1. That I have many amazing people reading this blog! Including someone I was at infant school with! Your support keeps me going - thank you
  2. That there are so many people cheering me on and it helps so much
  3. That when I tell myself I need a break - do it properly!
N nite,

Elaine x

P.S. Last night my friend Harriet posted this on her Facebook page. I thought you'd like it:-

Here's a story I stumbled across on the internet, I read it every time I'm in a bad mood and it gives me that positive attitude I need! ♥...

Michael is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!" He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Michael was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Michael and asked him,

"I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?"

Michael replied,

"Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or ... you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or ... I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or... I can point out the positive side of life. I Choose the positive side of life."

"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.

"Yes, it is," Michael said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live your life."

I reflected on what Michael said. Soon thereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it. Several years later, I heard that Michael was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Michael was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back. I saw Michael about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied.

"If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?"

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.

"The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be-born daughter," Michael replied. "Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or ... I could choose to die. I chose to live."

"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked. Michael continued,

"...the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read "he's a dead man. I knew I needed to take action."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Michael. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes', I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Gravity.' "

Over their laughter, I told them,

"I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."

Michael lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.