One thing you need to know about me. I never really left home, I just transferred from one home to another, from my parents home to where Ray lived, from there to our own home. I never lived on my own. I lived with Mum and Dad and my sister, then she got married a few months before me. Then there was the excitement as I planned my wedding, a short honeymoon and then it was Ray and I building our life together. I know many others of my generation did that too, of course not all of them stayed married for 44 years.Now somehow I feel as if because of that I missed something in life.
I went to the grief consellor this morning. I vowed to not cry all the way through this time and managed to hold off tears until towards the end. She is very good, just summarises what I have said, gently moving me on as much as she can. It is hard enough to be there as it is so I am glad she is not the "do this, do that" type, or the type that just sits there in silence. I do need some guidelines and some homework. Something to think about and something to act on.
I think I learned a lot at today's session, she thinks I am rebuilding my life slowly, thinking about what I am doing, not rushing things, allowing myself to grieve etc. She is right, I know there is such a thing as grief work and that is the head space I am in now. I am trying to be less emotional and more intentional in what I do.
But she also saw a big deficit in my life, I do not have the ability to care for myself. I have spent most of my life caring for others. I was the older sibling so it was "go take care of your sister". Then it was get a job and as a general rousabout in a large office it was taking care of all the little things, then marriage and taking care of Ray and the kids. And then, just as the last child, Trevor, was 15 and able to look out for himself, Ray had the first stroke.
So I transferreed from looking after the kids to looking after Ray. Working was part of that, getting some extra training then getting a job so if Ray did have another stroke he could be home and I could work or we could both work part-time. I had it all planned out. The Chaplaincy and then Parish Assistant job was my indulgence. I dropped back to part -time, three days a week to give three days a week to the Parish for nothing. I know some people are shaking their heads here but I did enjoy the work and saw some transformations happen because of it, so I was well content.
Then in 1999 along came strokes number two and three, our retirement, me looking after Ray for 13 years, his soujourn in the nursing home for twelve months and then his death in September 2012. Thump! Down to earth I came and fast. I still had Mum slowly dying in her nursing home to supervise. Mum died in November 2012. A second blow struck me down but not out. Almost brought me to a dead stop but no, I must go on, I have to plan Christmas for the children and grandchildren, must keep moving, must plan, must do. Are we noticing a pattern here?
Then January came along as it does, summertime and nothing much to do. With nothing to do I was a mess and so I decided I needed outside help, some counselling from someone who could see the big picture instead of the tiny picture I could see. And now I am into February and slowly rebuilding my life. Or I would do if I knew how.
But wait, I don't feel up to this, I have no "go to" person, no plans, no goals, no idea about where to start. I have that feeling of reeling out of control...help me. But: "No" say the grief conunsellor," you do have to do this by yourself. Only you can decide what is right for you. Others can give advice but it might not be right for you. You will have to make the choices, decide what it right for you." But I don't know how...so I cry..I feel so helpless. She looks at me kindly and says: "that is your homework, to find out what is right for you."
Wow. Drums going bang, cymbals clanging...that feeling that I am tied to the stake and the African tribe armed with spears is starting up a war dance...yes, fear of failure looms out of the gloom. Panicking will do nothing at this stage. "Take your time": she says. No rush to find a solution but it has to come from me, out of my own heart, out of my own need. But without the self-knowledge that the confident teens of our time have. We weren't encouraged to have that sort of knowledge, we were educated enough to get by, enough to get a job, enough to raise a family but not enough to get too self-confident. In my parents day self-confidence was frowned on and they passed that onto me.
Skip this paragraph if you are not religious. I was taught that true JOY came in the form: "Jesus, Others, Yourself" so we put others waaaay ahead of ourselves. I was not a princess I was a servant girl and serving others was my lot in life. I don't know if that actually was the message but it was the message as I read it. Don't put yourself forward, look after others and be content with what you have.If I heard that once I heard it 100 times, I know because my mother often told me she was telling me for the 100th time!
Who was important in my family? My sister because she had been sick as a child and my parents because they were working hard to make a good life for us. Having come from England with next to nothing as migrants they had to work hard to make us a home and provide us with all we needed. And in my opinion they did a good job of that. Okay they were not perefect but they did have our best interests at heart and they did make a decent life for us. My sister sees things differently to me, she is from the next generation, the one that wanted more out of life, sometimes even more than they actually deserved.
So here I am at another crossroads, learning another way of looking at things, from my point of view. I have to learn what it is I want before I can set goals and achieve it. No-one is going to do that but me. This goes directly against everything I was taught. So keep me in your prayers, I need all the help I can get.