Remembering Nan at Christmas

How is it December 11th already?! This month has been a whirlwind of house sorting, tantrums (Mainly Emi, honest) seeing visitors and friends and getting ready for the big day on the 25th. Of course, it’s really all about the children when making grand plans for presents and trips to santa,which with a 3 year old, this year is ALL about those things as well as family time. However, this year is going to be a bitter sweet one for me and many others since the loss of Nan in July. It almost feels like it happened longer ago, I have to remind myself sometimes it was only this July we lost her. So I wanted to make sure I remembered the adults this year too as best as I could. This year really is about making sure that EVERYONE is ok, because in all honesty, it’s going to be really strange on the day without her here. WP_20160411_16_59_17_Pro[1]

Last year, even though ill and with very little appetite, Nan still managed quite naturally to insult my cooking to my face across the dinner table saying “Sprouts are a bit crunchy”, whilst making a point of screwing her face up and over exaggerating how difficult she was finding it to chew them with her ill-fitting false teeth. My brother kept his head down, apart from a side glance to see my reaction, probably knowing the effort it had taken me that year simply to hold any sort of Christmas after my partner had moved out only a few months before. Meanwhile, I clenched my teeth and tried not to tell her to go home. (I wouldn’t have really but I was annoyed.)

I had dared to venture away from the standard boiled sprouts option, instead adding lemon, garlic and breadcrumbs, but when faced with a 79 year old woman who knew exactly what she wanted and expected from a christmas dinner, this did not go down well at all. I remember at the time, after hours of cooking, being really annoyed at her for feeling the need to even say anything like that, she could have just politely not eaten them. But then that would be asking for her to be someone else. Now I can look back and laugh. It’s actually a really happy memory for me now because it’s just so silly isn’t it?! To get annoyed over sprouts?! People of a certain age do tend to think they have the right to say and do whatever they like and they let it out of their mouths wherever and whenever they please. Nan was no exception to this theory. It’s a humorous thing really. The best part is, they know full well that because of their age that they will get away with it. And they do. And she did. Because no one dared say anything back. It’s ok for her to upset someone but there’s a natural respect for that generation that I wouldn’t have tried to upset her in return. Funny isn’t it?

What I would give to have her insulting my cooking abilities this year.

There is something about christmas that just makes Nan feel alive again. This was her time of year. Everything reminds me of her. From going to choose the christmas tree, which we always did together (with Emi last year which was special), to seeing the Cherry liquor chocolates in M&S that I bought for her every year (and that she then bought even more of for herself because she loved them so much and often ate a whole box in one sitting whilst watching tv on an evening.) Everywhere I turn there is a reminder of her and it can be really hard sometimes not to just keep crying at the fact she is not here anymore. Most of the reminders are happy ones, but even the good ones can make you tear up. 20161203_1752391

The one thing that reminds me most of her at this time of year is Holly. For as far back as I can remember she made holly wreathes for friends and family all throughout December, trailing up to the local park with her drag bag in the dark so she wouldn’t be seen cutting away at the Holly in daylight. I think we have probably all been up with her at some point helping her get in her supplies. The house was a mess with greenery cuttings and ribbon everywhere all throughout the month but the end result was always stunningly beautiful. People came back to her every year because she was so good at what she did. She didn’t do it to make money. She never made anything from it. She did it because she enjoyed that the people who had them from her loved her work and would return every year for something she had made. They were miles better than anything you saw in standard florists or markets. She had a real sense of pride in everything she made and even though she would never admit satisfaction with anything she produced to anyone else, I know she was proud of her abilities and most of all aware of them herself. She knew.

This year, without Nan to make my wreath, I wanted to remember her in my own way by attempting it myself. Not for myself. I havent made myself one yet. I will. My main purpose in doing them was that I wanted to make one for those people who had one last year and would never get another. I wanted simply to gift them in tribute to Nan and as a way for me to stay connected to her and remember her. To try to practice the skills I picked up only last year when she showed me a few bits in the nick of time. Christmas to me, especially after a loss, is not about what you get. It is about gestures, love, cherishing what you have. We don’t have Nan anymore but we do have everything she taught us. It has been a wonderful experience for me. An emotional one of course too. I have retraced her footsteps and scrounged around the same park she did to get some holly and other greenery. Whilst there, I sat in the sunshine and just remembered her. I felt sad and happy all at the same time. Then I came home and had a go. That was very Nan. Just give it a go and try. I realised there is a bit of Nan in me too, as after I had made a few I started to see what I did wrong with the first one I had already gifted and was kicking myself a bit that it wasnt as good as those that followed. A bit of Nans perfectionism coming out in me I suppose. Now I can see why she was always so particular. The more you do the higher your own standards are. They also take thought, time and patience. I think I understand her a bit more having made a few of these, which I didn’t expect any insight into her when I started them. Funny how things work out. 20161208_1512151

Above: There is always time for a play in the park, even on our Holly collecting mission…

As it happens, I have been rather pleased with the outcome of my efforts. I will fully accept it when anyone says “Its good but it’s not your Nans” because it’s so true. She just knew what she was doing and if she didn’t it looked like she did. She was beyond practical and would always work it out. She knew how to do everything with ribbon and wire and arrangement. She just knew. I don’t. My version is to buy a base (she made her own) and stick things in as best as I can and hope for the best. As it turns out, I’m not too shabby at it! 20161210_1421231


Once the wreathes are packed away, there will be lots of other things sparking off memories for me of our past times with Nan. My big tree reminds me of her huge real trees she used to get and let us decorate (Probably rearranging our placements once in bed, as I do now with Emi). Hiding Emis presents in the cupboard reminds me of the stacks of presents she used to drag up the road in her wheely bag to us on christmas day. Her face last year watching Emi open the presents she had chosen for her was lovely. The trifle she made every year will be sorely missed. (I never did get her recipe.) Things just keep flooding back to me and I will miss her so much this christmas. However, I am already making my own traditions, with my own little person hopefully remembering all the little things that I do for her too, which is lovely to know that the cycle of life, love and giving is not one that ends with the loss of someone special…..and something tells me Nans traditions are not going to stop at me 😉 xxxx20161210_1212541

Life After Death: A night with Steve Holbrook and a message from Nan.

In 2013, for my 27th birthday, me and my Nan went to our first Steve Holbrook show together at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. I, at the time, had never lost anyone close to me but had been interested in what these type of spiritualist shows consisted of and was eager to give one a go. I think Nan had secretly hoped her parents might come through, as she sat through the talking kicking her legs back and forth like she often did, looking out the window, in her bag and everywhere else other than at the man at the front of the room. It therefore surprised me, when on exiting the building, she said how impressed she had been with the messages people were given and how specific they had sounded. It certainly made us both think about it but we concluded that we guessed we would never really know the truth and that was that. I did enjoy the show so much, however, that I went back the next year with my then partner and had a similar experience of enjoying it and feeling moved by what I had heard, again, being given no personal messages ourselves.

Like all none certain beliefs, I had my questions about how real these demonstrations are. Did they plant people in the audience, for instance. Did they read your body language and make general assumptions based on the safe knowledge that more than likely everyone there will have lost someone? Did they research names and deaths online and make general comments that would resonate with just about everyone in the room? It was with these questions in mind, and an open mind, that after she passed I felt I wanted to go again with the renewed experience of having now lost a close loved one and not just for entertainment purposes. I had also made a deal with Nan, a sort of half soaked one in good jest, about a year before she had passed, when she was really poorly, agreeing that if she passed away and there was a Steve Holbrook show just after, I would go to it and she would come through for me to prove to me that her energy was still around, by saying something to me that no one else would have known. Something specific that only she could have known. I secretly hoped that she would stick to our deal.

So last night, with my mom, sister and our friend (also Nans neighbour) in tow, we went over to Wombourne Civic Centre in Wolverhampton, not really thinking we would get anything but I think all secretly hoping for curiosity’s sake that we each would. It’s not something you want to admit to that you might have hope that energy after death really exists. But lets face it, everyone in that room wanted a message, that is why we all went. It was not only a full moon last night, but after sitting empty for some months now, yesterday a young couple with a baby, brand new life, moved into my nans house, completing the process for me of knowing that as her place. Whilst it sat empty, it still was. Yesterday just seemed like the day. If we were going to hear anything, it would be that night.

The very first message he relayed was for a lady who had lost her mom around June. Mom put her hand up but there was some confusion on the date as Nan passed on 2nd July, so not quite June. The two lines crossed somewhat and Mom dropped it as did he and he found someone else to tell the message to. However, this particular message sounded just for mom. He said how this lady wished things had been different between them in life and that she didn’t get chance to say goodbye. That she had a daughter. The lady at this point receiving the message looked a little confused and didn’t agree with all the information at first but then found things to relate to after this. We all felt, if it was real, that this might have been Nans message to mom, but in the confusion of dates it got lost in translation and given to someone else. It would be so like Nan to make a pact with me about showing her face and making sure she was first in line to do so. We said no more about it at the time, moving on with the first half of the show, transfixed by the seemingly accurate messages everyone else was at that point getting, maybe also a little frustrated that we might have missed our chance for contact because of an error with the dates.

After the interval, he went to the other side of the room and said “January 20th, whose birthday or anniversary is January 20th. And who is John?”. We looked at each other but said nothing to him, as he was half way through another discussion with someone else by this time. Nobody on that side of the room, however, could pick up that date or name, so he started looking back towards our direction. He skirted around a few people but was having a little difficulty pinpointing a person to give it to. There were also a few comments to people on the far side of the room in relation to having some lillies and changing their usual type of milk recently. Again, nobody picked up on this and Nans neighbour and friend was sure that these messages were for her. We had given her nans hall table and she had a picture of nan on with some lillies my mom had bought for her just after nan died. She also wanted to put some lillies on her coffin but couldn’t find any in time. She said she had also bought a different milk to usual and nan always knew which one she used. It’s little details like this you think about afterwards.

Then he looked to Mom again saying “The lady I got the date wrong with earlier, you lost your mom?”. Mom said yes. He said he had a lady with him who had tried to get through earlier and would have done sooner if she could have. I believe it was her trying to get through on that first message. My moms birthday is January 20th and my brother is called John. If anyones message was going to be scattered all over the place, it would be nans.

He asked who she was with tonight and asked for the family members to show them selves. Me and my sister put up our hands rather cautiously from what I remember!

He said this lady wants to speak to all of the family, but there’s too many to do individually. He said that she wanted us all to know that she loved us all the same and that there were no favourites.

He said that there had been some questions weighing over us about her death and in a sense we had struggled to put things to rest having had so many unanswered questions.

He said she wanted us to know that how she felt at the end overcame her very quickly and she didn’t know what was going to happen.

He said that had she known how good it would feel where she is now that she would have gone much sooner and stopped trying to be here so long.

He took a stance at the front of the stage, very proud, very strong and made the gesture with his body of great strength. He said this lady is VERY strong and I would use the word fighter.

He said her funeral had been all about her strength of character and her life and how she lived.

He said she had been in hospital sometime prior to her death and that she had recently had tests done just before her passing.

He stressed twice I think that she loved us all the same.

This could sound quite general and I know a few of us were cautious to want to believe this could be happening and rightly so. However, for me, this was a good start. Every point for me was bang on.

He never addressed anyone else in the room asking to speak to all the family, even though they came with some. The message about loving us all the same and wanting to speak to us all really touched me, because after Nans death I think we all felt a bit like some of us thought we should be more upset than others and that Nan had her favourites. We also all really fell out after her death, as happens sometimes, so to address us as a whole I thought really significant. Having spent the most time with her myself this last year also, I had that insecurity that the others were slightly angry at me for feeling so upset at the time of her death,like I felt I had earned the right to grieve more for being her carer or that I thought Nan loved me more for what I did for her. Of course that wasnt the case, but emotional times make everyone insecure.

What he said about our uncertainty over her death was also really strong. Everyone that saw her that week said how well she looked. The day before she was gardening. For me, I had initially felt guilty I wasnt around for her when it happened, as I think we all feel to start with. For weeks, I didn’t accept that she had gone to bed and just died. I had felt the very real possibility that she had, after calling me at 9am to say don’t come round, had a really terrible last day in pain, dragging herself up to bed at the end with a hot water bottle as we found her with and knowing she was going to die. Its made me really uncomfortable to imagine that she knew it was going to happen. I can’t think of anything worse than lying in pain knowing you are alone and about to pass. The answers to these questions are things we will never know because we were not with her. I think we have all felt that she wanted to be on her own and knew it was happening. So to have a message saying it overcame her very quickly at the end, along with the fact we found her in a sleeping position in her bed, did give me great comfort that it wasnt a long drawn out process. She may still have had pain in the end if it all happened quickly but at least it might not have happened quite as I imagined. In those last moments, she may even have realised it was happening. Those facts are things we will never know. But I did find comfort in hearing what I did. It gave me some hope that she just went to sleep as she looked like she did.

The stance he took at the front of the stage made me cry with recognition. Her strong presence was being felt I thought and anyone that knew Nan knew that she was a hell of a force to be reckoned with. We all said how sad it felt after she passed that her little body lay on the bed, with no fight left, no longer with that at times uncomfortable energy that surrounded her. She was such a presence. Her house no longer felt that way after she went. So if Steve Holbrook was feeling her energy and clenching his fist in a strong pose at the front of the stage, I found that all very fitting actually. To say she was a fighter couldn’t have been more apt. This woman survived things that would have killed others instantly. She had the strength of 5 men plus a few horses to boot I think! She had been severely electrocuted, had a gangrenous gallbladder, had burst appendix, had this cancer and probably lived with it for years not knowing. This woman did not want to die and proved she could fight the odds. Fighter is exactly the right word for her.

The comments about her funeral made me smile. We specifically said we didn’t want a religious ceremony because she didn’t want that. She wasnt religious. She thought there was some life force that continued after death and that the body was a vessel. She used to go to spiritualist evenings in her youth, so I know she was open to the idea. We made her funeral a simple humanist ceremony all about her life and her strength. It was spot on.

As was his comments about her being in hospital.She had been a year before she passed and my brother had taken her to her most recent scan only four days before she died. It was all very real.

That bundle of information to me was impressive enough and I was glad he spoke to us all as a whole.I would have been happy with that to be honest.

Then he looked at me and asked if he could speak to me directly. I said yes. I was already crying at this point, no matter how much you tell yourself you will take it with a pinch of salt, you can’t help feel moved by the detail. And I felt that after how I had been feeling, she knew that I needed to be addressed directly for my own comfort. I felt very moved.

He said that I was the sensitive one in the family (so true).

That I had a birthday or celebration just after she had passed and I had found it really difficult to celebrate that day after her passing (She died 2nd July, I turned 30 on 13th July, my milestone birthday.) He said she was raising a glass to me in spirit to let me know she was celebrating with me.

He said I in particular had been very upset that she didn’t say goodbye to me. (I had been feeling after spending everyday with her that she should have let me know what was happening if she had known herself on the day. To be such a big part of your everyday life and then just be gone, I have found really hard to deal with.)

He said she had already visited me first in a dream and I had been awoken really shaken, being in a daze about it all day the following day. (I had an awful dream a few nights before her 80th birthday on 7th August where I felt her sit on the bed next to me, feeling it go down with the weight. I knew in the dream it was Nan very clearly. I had felt her tickling my back and it scared me rather than comforted me as it felt very real and present in the room with me. I started to shout for Mom, actually shouting in my sleep, waking my daughter up and scaring her in the middle of the night in the process! Doing this, in the dream, seemed to annoy Nan, and she got up off the bed and made a comment as I heard it like “Oh go on, run to your mother again!”. The tickling turned to a sharp full nail scratch down my back as I woke up. It was really terrifying.)

This dream had left me in a cold sweat and I was terrified the next day and have had trouble sleeping since, not wanting to turn the lights off. He said that night it was her visiting me to show me she was still around. I had been so upset about her just leaving and being gone and not saying bye, that this all made sense to me. Nan could also be cold at times, not in a nasty sense, but if she didn’t like something she would be angry about it and refuse to speak to you or snap if she did. So the fact I was calling for my mom when she may have been trying to assure me she was there for me, I am sure, would have pissed her off greatly ha. Especially considering their difficult relationship.

He said that I had recently mentioned to someone about 2 stones in weight and she had heard me speaking about it. (I have said to someone this week that I ideally need to lose about 2 stones but wasnt sure how I would do it.)

He also chuckled to himself and said “Whats this about the perfume, does someone have her perfume? Whats happened to it?”. He was smiling as if finding something amusing. (I had taken Nans only perfume when we cleared the flat. Only the day before the show, I had caught my 3 year old daughter pouring half of it down the bathroom sink! I decided to pour the rest away as she also lost the lid to it. As I poured it I thought of Nan and wondered if I should be doing it.) He said she knows about the perfume and saw it. He seemed to find it amusing which I found nice.

Then he asked us all about her shoes. What happened with her shoes? (I remember when we were debating what to dress her with in the coffin, we asked each other if dead people needed shoes in their coffin. We decided she didn’t and as we weren’t going to view her she didn’t need them. I can imagine she felt half dressed to go without her shoes ha. She also had really bad feet and would have hated anyone seeing her toes.)

I have to say, I was very taken by the whole experience. The details, I felt, were specific to me and those I came with.

I can never have proof as such that life after death exits. However, I do think that energy of some form exists after death and as my sister said, there are some people who do this for a living that just prey on the vulnerable and give them really unspecific things that they can latch onto in the vain hope that their loved ones are still with them. Then there are those that want to do good things and help to heal people, regardless of how genuine it is what they might be relaying.

All I can say, after seeing Steve Holbrook a few times now and after hearing the specifics I was given last night, is that I feel that he is one of the genuine ones. I do think he is picking up on some kind of energy, regardless of whether he is actually seeing or hearing a passed person or just the energy left over. He talks and it flows out of him at fast pace as it is happening. He is not trying desperately to remember anything. He is not making up random bit’s as he goes along. It all seems very fluent, very organic and very genuine. I do believe he does his job for a positive reason. To help people, to heal people, to let them find peace. He has a gift.

Whatever happened last night, I left that centre feeling totally at peace about my Nan. It is a feeling that I have not felt until this point. I woke up today no longer feeling guilty about what happened to her. Whether it was me believing what I wanted to hear or a genuine communication that happened between us, it has helped me at least find peace with her death.If that was Nan keeping to her word and always delivering her promises,  as in life, then I’m really proud of her 😊.

I have seen a  few negative stories about Steve Holbrook on the internet and I think its easy to be a sceptic on things we don’t understand. The people who try to bring him down have never received a message themselves, or felt incredibly touched about what they heard in relation to their own lives. Whether its real or not (and if it’s not, it’s a bloody good job!), it is very convincing and it does do something really positive.

It brings people closure and the ability to find peace if they receive a message like I did last night. Who are we to argue with that? For that, I would like to say thanks to him for giving me a renewed hope that life doesn’t just stop when our bodies fail us.

I do know one thing. I will have to be really careful about what I say and do from now on, just incase she’s watching 😉 x








Fighting Depression

People say that to be a successful writer you have to write about what you know. I only know what I have experienced. A person can touch others with that alone I hope. This blog for me is a progression, something that I hope to learn from and a way to let out what I feel as and when I feel the need to share it. If you fancy joining me, great. If not, that’s fine too. It’s not for everyone.

Today’s attention in my life and others has been on depression. Recently, I have tried, I thought, to help someone I loved dearly to get help with theirs. Sometimes the truth can hurt, but the risk of losing the friendship of someone I loved was always worth it to me if they then got what they needed and addressed the problem, something I am happy to say is now happening I think. I was told today, however,  that I don’t understand depression or what my loved one is going through. Heres why I very much do.

Here goes.

I am depressed. There, I have said it. I have been depressed for about two years since my life unfolded. Admitting this to myself recently was the first step. Its taken me time to get there but I didn’t really know it was that. In the last 12 months my life has changed drastically. I am no longer with my partner and after caring for my Nan she has now passed away. These were two changes I never wanted to happen and still to this day wish didn’t happen. I let myself grieve for them as and when it needed to flow. I also acted as I needed to at the time, something I refuse to apologise for or feel ashamed for, following my heart and hoping for better things always, actively processing what had happened rather than ignoring the fact it had and hiding from the world instead. I acted true to myself and each day was an honest one. Trust me, I let it all out!! It hasn’t always been pretty, it hasn’t always been approved of, but it has allowed me not to cave in on myself, something I feel I have been more than close to in recent months and would have done had I not been allowed to process things the way I have. A lot of people pretend nothings happening and health wise I feel that’s much worse in a way.

For the last two months since Nan’s death I have been at my lowest point ever during my entire adult existence. Dont get me wrong, I was a mess when my partner left me. I was even worse when I realised things hadn’t been as they had seemed and he wouldn’t be coming back. And even worse after that when I didn’t like what had happened and blamed the world for it. I was angry. Really bloody angry. I don’t apologise for that either.14182378_10205315581488342_392549158_n

Above: A photo mom took of me in my room at my brothers wedding last year, 9 days after my partner walked out on me and my baby. I hate this photo and swore I would delete it, but, I feel its important to share this. Its one of my lowest times. My daughter is asleep behind me after a day of celebrations that were simply a blur to me. I put on my evening dress and wanted to look nice but once mom lifted the camera I lost the will to smile and broke down crying just after this. My saddest photo and the start of my depression really, properly anyway.

But just lately, a black cloud has hovered over me, sending me into an overall sadness that I have never experienced before. In all honesty it has scared me. It’s really terrified me actually. For the first time in my life the thought of not living anymore seemed really rather nice. Life is hard, we all know this and when you have been thrown a big steaming pile of shit its damn hard to stand back up and clean yourself off. Nans death was the final straw for me I think. Its like I died for a few weeks actually. I think I did inside. I was hurting still. Suffering inside. It’s still there inside of me. Like an empty feeling constantly making my chest feel heavy. I am really sad a lot of the time. When I am alone at least. I’m not sure when it will go away. But I am at least confronting it and dealing with it rather than pretending it isn’t happening.

During these weeks, I still did what I needed to do. We went to play group (She had fun whilst I sat in a dream) We went to Aldi (She scribbled on my shopping list and took advantage of my dazed state by putting sweets into the trolley whilst I stared at things and got in people’s way) We went to the library (She enthusiastically read to me whilst I pretended I could function enough to listen). I was physically still trying to carry on with everything you simply can’t stop doing. Afterall, all we can do in life is to try. I can say that I did that at least.

However, mentally I have been a zombie. I would get in from shopping and just sit there. One of my favourite  jobs is unpacking the shopping and putting it away (Sad I know!). My mom will testify this as far back as when I was a child (although I am quite sure that raiding the bags for iced buns and crisps back then was the real purpose of my offer to help!).It got so bad that I have woken up most mornings and wished that I hadn’t. It was a relief to sleep. When I could sleep. I don’t think I have had a good nights sleep in 12 months. To wake up again each day to what felt like an empty life felt like a torture to me. Even with my absolutely beautiful girl next to me hogging my bed she has claimed as her own, I knew full well how lucky I was, how lucky I am, to have her, to share my days with her, yet nothing much mattered. I honestly didn’t want to be around.

My daughter would ask for Milk and for me to get up and play, which being as it was usually about 6am, I didn’t muster the energy I usually would (something that annoyed her greatly ha.) I would hope for her to sleep a little longer purely because I couldn’t move myself. How crap is that? Hoping that the person so full of life who loves you most in the world and shows it doesn’t wake up yet? How guilty do you imagine I feel for having felt that way up to now? It wasnt personal of course. My body hurt. My mind was overwhelmed. I was simply exhausted. I still am. I stopped cleaning the house almost completely for a week or so. Can you imagine what it looked like with a three year old doing her stuff?! I am so glad I didn’t have visitors that week!

I could have so easily lost myself. I was at the point for weeks. Nobody would have known. Then I thought of her. Stuck here alone if something happened to me. I have never felt as guilty for even entertaining those thoughts than I did in that moment. It’s amazing how children can bring you back from the brink. Last week I was playing with my daughter and she smiled at me with her massive big blue eyes and said that she had missed me whilst she was asleep the night before. I cried. She asked why of course (how to explain ha). Then we cuddled and I kissed her, we laughed at silly mommy crying and I told her I loved her and that was my moment. My wake up call. She was in front of me all along, the embodiment of life itself aged three, yet I had not been able to see. I love that girl more than anything in this world and more to the point, she loves me. She wants me here. She wants to tell me she loves me. How lovely is that? She has time for me and needs me. She is my purpose each day at the moment and she is the reason I woke up and chose to choose life over sinking. I don’t think even I realised how close I had been to giving up. I very nearly did. 20160810_111359[1].jpg

Above: My reason to carry on. One of them x

The next day I took myself to the doctors. Not to get any pills. I don’t believe that masking the problem with pills will heal anyone. I just wanted it on record that I am struggling, so that I am not dealing with it alone. So that someone checks in with me once in a while. To admit it is the first step to fixing it. To say it to a stranger makes it real. I asked for advice and people I could talk to if I needed. That is all. But that was enough as I said, to make it very real.

The next step has been being present again in my own life. Enjoying more with Emi. Not missing anymore precious time with her. Age three is an amazing time. We are making good memories and bonding. I look forward to going to bed for a cuddle and although it’s still a struggle in the morning as I still don’t sleep well I adore being woken up by that face (Ok, maybe not at 6am!), she is a joy to be with and I will never take her time for granted again. These are all things I will continue to work on.

The next stage is me. Seeing my positives and setting my challenges. We all need things to look forward to. I thought I had none. Turns out I could make my own. I have signed up for an English Degree which I am really looking forward to and am loving seeing the different readers on my blog each time I post one. It brings me comfort I can reach out to others with my own experiences. I also went running for the first time in about 6 years last night and loved it (My shins didn’t!). Healthy body healthy mind and all that. I am really actively trying to live again and it feels good. I am not saying I wont have down days anymore. I still don’t like certain things and they hurt a lot. I just hope they don’t take up the whole day. I can let it out for half hour when she’s in bed but it doesn’t have to control my life anymore.

So to the person who told me I don’t understand depression today, I know it came from an upset place, but I assure you, I really do and I hope that if this post helps only one person either understand it a bit better or come to terms with their own, I will be happy. Heres to trying xx20160806_082146[1].jpg


Death and Life: A tribute to my Nan x

Hi everyone. I’ve not blogged for a while. I was getting into the swing of it too. Then my Nan died suddenly on 2nd July 2016. There seemed nothing much worth saying anymore for a while. The shock is clearing a little now, three weeks later and I am happy to say that routine has started to creep back in within the last few days.Just enough to feel I would like to share my experience of this process if anyone would like to listen.This is quite a lengthy one. Read it if you have time.

This is my first experience of losing anyone close to me in terms of death. I have known friends who have lost a Grandparent, a Wife, an Uncle.You find yourself saying the usual “I am so sorry for your loss”. Then you hug them, turn around, get on with your own life and don’t really think anymore about it. It’s not that I didn’t mean it when I said I was sorry for them. I could see the pain on their faces. I could see the tears rolling down their cheeks. I said I understood and reassured them I was there for them. But death never really felt real to me before now. It’s not something I had ever experienced myself personally. I never, and couldn’t have, felt what they were feeling, because it hadn’t happened to me yet.Having now lost Nan quite unexpectedly, I have some understanding of the pain experienced when a loved one passes. If life is about learning, then I have gained a new level of feeling in terms of grief. Its something I have found really difficult to understand, if I am honest, death that is. How someone can be there one minute, then suddenly be dead the next. Where did all that restless energy go Nan.

Me and my Nan, Irene, had become really close this last year. I had been her registered carer since July 2015, although she was so fiercely independent that I struggled to allow her to let me do as much as I should or could have been. She was diagnosed with bowel cancer about 18 months ago, undergoing two major operations within a four-week period, then simply coming home and getting on with things, no chemotherapy, no pain relief, she just wanted to come home and get on. She refused any help from the hospital in terms of aftercare,getting on with each day as she had before, proving to herself and everyone around her that even the dreaded C-word was not going to stop her from living her life on her terms. She had looked and seemed generally well in the few days before her death, with many neighbours seeing her out gardening. (Doing a first class job of trimming the Holly hedge, something she assured me we would do together when the weather was better!)WP_20160703_10_07_55_Pro.jpgAbove: Her last big job. So pleased you finished this one Nan x

Her latest scan from only a week before her death was not bad at all, with the area originally effected being clear. She still had cancer, but it wasn’t raging through her as far as we knew. So it has definitely come as a shock to the family. To her friends also. We expected it. But we didn’t expect it yet. This was Nan. Who had escaped death several times. (Gangrenous Gallbladder, Burst Appendix, Electrocution…She would be proudly smiling at that list I just wrote if she could hear me reeling them off, as she did in life. She used to chuckle at it all. I think she might have almost believed her own immortality herself sometimes.) We always joked that Nan couldn’t die. So when I popped in late Saturday afternoon with a bag of shopping for her, to find her tiny lifeless body cold on her bed, suddenly very still, eyes slightly ajar, not responding to my words, I had to take a few minutes just to breathe myself and check it was all real. The hard part was, I had found her looking more than a bit dead on many occasions before, with her mouth wide open, head flung back, not much movement going on. I would cautiously approach her and talk to her quietly and she would jolt up from her chair really quickly which always made me jump! I would always be so relieved and would always tell her she looked like she was dead, which often made her laugh, with her saying something like “Not this time love”, before patting my back and going to put the kettle on for us. Living next door, I knew deep down that when the time came, it would be me that found her. So for her to not get up this time, to not move, it all felt very real, yet completely surreal at the same time.

I remained in a shock for about 5 days afterwards, whilst trying to be of use with all the practical things that needed doing. I don’t remember much of that first week if I am honest. WP_20160411_16_59_17_Pro[1].jpgAbove: Nan and Emi, taken June 2016

Me and my daughter saw her everyday, sometimes for 5 hours to help sort her house out, other days just for a cup of tea and a quick chat (always followed by at least two phone calls as the day went on.) Some days we went shopping together, other days she was too ill to shop and I would go alone, then just go and sit with her for a while afterwards, her talking to me whilst I restocked her fridge, with Emi in the background causing havoc. We would often do her garden with her. Two weeks before she died I took some gorgeous photos of my girl smiling lovingly at someone out of shot. It was Nan. So many photos I have of just her hand, aiding something Emi was doing at the time. She was always just there. IMG-20160618-WA0010[1]

Some days I combed her hair for her like I used to do as a child (She found it relaxing) whilst others she very clearly wasnt ok and wanted to be alone. Me and Emi being under her feet would get on her nerves at times. (She didn’t hide it well!) Other days she would ring me three times or more just to tell me random bits and bobs that didn’t really matter, the sort of stuff that could wait. I would roll my eyes at the fourth phone call per hour some days, annoyed with her for flapping or being forgetful. Now I look at my phone, still expecting her name to pop up. Now its just silent. It’s very hard to get your head around. I knew those times she was really calling because she was lonely and wondered what I was up to.We were not too affectionate by any means. On a day-to-day basis we didn’t kiss or hug. But I like to think we didn’t have to. She was always the first to my door on my birthday with my card and a big hug and a reassuring Nan back rub as she pulled you in. She showed affection when she wanted to, when she felt comfortable doing so. I never pushed for her. That was enough for me. When my parter left me, she didn’t say much. Just enough to quietly let me know that she was there, if I needed it. Some days I would go round and she could just tell I was about to cry or just feeling low in the early days after he went. Those days she said nothing, but those days she did hug me, then switch the kettle on and make me some tea. I needed her too more than I knew. To know she was there was a great comfort.

My Nan was a really complex character. She was frustrating and stubborn at times, going out of her way often to seemingly make life harder for herself by refusing to allow anyone else to help her, avoiding obvious solutions to problems or taking on a greater workload than was necessary. She started messy jobs like sanding her chairs in the house (again!) and never finished them. She would knit Emi a jumper, dislike her work, then completely undo it all, starting again and never finishing it in the process. I think she had three on the go at the time of her passing. She adopted nearly the entire ratio of cats to our avenue, raising her living costs in cat food and giving herself endless work to do night and day, something she continued right up until her death. We never understood it much. I suppose it doesn’t matter why in the end. It was her life and she did as she pleased with it. WP_20160527_15_06_27_Pro[1].jpgAbove: Suki. Her last loyal friend to the end x

Seeing her daily gave me the advantage of really getting to see a different side to her personality each week, something I had never been able to do before. As a kid, for instance, when your Nan is just Nan, she’s just there isn’t she, to take money from when it’s offered on the sly behind your moms back,to empty her biscuit barrel with a cup of tea with more sugar in than you’re allowed at home, to be the one that lets you get away with not brushing your teeth when you stay over (After all that sugar!). Nan was always just Nan before. She looked after me. This last year, that role had been reversed and I know she struggled to come to terms with it initially. However, these last few months especially, she really started to open up to me, allow me to help more and let her guard down in terms of the situation she was in. She seemed calm the last time I saw her. She had come to terms with a lot I feel.I am grateful for that.

There were times of pure calmness also, happy moments spent laughing at something stupid Emi had done, like when she tried to fill Nans cat litter tray by herself and ended up falling in and crying because she was all dusty. Nan loved that. She liked to wind her up too by shouting “Nosey” every time Emi was lost in thought picking her nose. Emi would shout back “Dont look at me!” whilst pointing a stern finger in Nans direction. That particular game between them made Nan chuckle a lot.

There were other times there would be silence. On those days she was so tired. I sensed in those times she was happy just to have us around. For security, for company, I don’t know, just to be there really. I was happy to be. Those were the times I watched her in secret, without much to say, smiling at my daughter playing or singing to herself in her mirror. (Nan would clean that mirror everyday and everyday Emi would come in and smudge it all up again! It brought Nan humour and annoyance in equal measure!) She looked exhausted yet so full of joy watching my girl. She looked happy. Calm and happy. I would watch her face smile, really naturally, lost in her own thoughts. There was always a sadness to Nan, something unsettled within her that never quite went away. Other days she was so angry at life, unhappy with her circumstances or just down right fed up. So to witness these rare moments of pure relaxed happiness were very special to me, especially knowing how much my daughters birth healed a lot of personal things for her. I will cherish those memories forever.1146722_4987846033233_1547546795_n.jpg

Its funny really, since Nan passed, I have naturally looked through my calls and messages from her, re running everything over in my mind, like why didn’t I speak to her for longer on that phone call, or make more effort on a particular message in reply to hers. Of course I know that the answer is that life isn’t ideal most of the time, and if I only sent a three word reply back to one of her messages, it was more than likely because my daughter was hanging off me crying about something ridiculous whilst I tried to do eighteen other jobs at once being a single parent. I know that she would have completely understood that. She told me so often. It doesn’t stop the feeling of guilt though initially.

Guilt was my main feeling for the first week. The tears didn’t stop for 5 days or so. Then I was practical. Clearing her house, sorting her finances along with Mom. These jobs simply had to be done. After the guilt came anger, something that unfortunately I have had continued bouts of on and off. It’s settled a bit now.Right now, at least, I feel calm.

I didn’t cry again until 21st July, her funeral. It was simple, private and just how Nan would have wanted it (Well, we couldn’t ACTUALLY just put you in a bag and burn you Nan!). She wanted no fuss, straight to the point and practical to the end. We chose and arranged flowers ourselves, some from her own garden. We chose music she had liked that touched our hearts during this time. The strangest part was seeing the tiny coffin arriving, knowing that our Nan was inside and that she already wouldn’t have looked the way we remembered her. It was a simple Humanist ceremony, fuss free yet completely moving. My three-year old daughter put her arm around my neck and wiped away my tears as I cried. I loved her so much more than I thought possible that day. Having her there, running around the crematorium grounds also made us all aware that new life goes on. She made a lot of people feel happy that day. I am very proud of her for (1)

It has not been easy after the day itself. The realisation of how much there is still to do has set in , tensions have been high and family has naturally fallen out on and off over the last few weeks.We have each been dealing with our own personal losses, finding it hard to see each others pain and points of view. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about or love each other. They do say that time is a healer and I can only wish that everyone takes the time and space they need after this intense time and come back together stronger in the end. Or at the very least find peace with their own loss. I do know that she was very proud of each of us in her own way too. That will help me ease any guilt I feel in time at not being with her in the end. Because I know its how she wanted it. Dignified and on her terms.FB_20151015_21_44_36_Saved_Picture[1].jpg Above: My brothers wedding last August. Nan did the flowers x

There is no right or wrong way to deal with death and even if there was, most of us would deal with it the wrong way anyway, because, how can you prepare for this? You can’t.We are human, we make mistakes, we feel pain. But if I have learned anything, it’s that life simply has to go on and it will go on regardless of whether you are continuing to join in with it or not. I found that when I tried to go shopping a few days after she died. I felt strange that the world was just carrying on as normal whilst Nan lay cold. Her life was over. I still had to take my daughter to feed the ducks as promised. Having a child has really helped me as I could have so easily just given up. I can’t. I see why some people do after a bereavement. We are, however, all stronger if we have someone by our sides to get us through it. I am so blessed to have my daughter during this time. It is a welcome distraction and has actually made me remember more of the funnier, happier times I  had with Nan, rather than a lot of her illness. I had life with Nan. It’s the life I will choose to remember.

I will miss her pancakes (Perfectly browned and thin), her double ring at my door bell to let me know it was her in advance, her talented hands which started to teach me how to make cushions properly, her always being there when it was most counted for and her loyalty to her immediate family and friends. I have never known a loss until now Nan. Me and Emi will keep talking about your funny ways x