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Thursday, 26 March 2015

One Year on....

A year has now passed since my dear Suzie left this world, and so this seems an appropriate time to reflect on that year and to bring my blog to a close. This has most certainly been the most difficult year of my life.
The anger I was facing a few weeks ago seemed to disappear as abruptly as it came, and was replaced by a deep depression and renewed sense of unbearable loss. The anniversary of Suzie's death brought home the harsh reality that this was simply a moment in time where my first year without my best friend and soul mate becomes my second year without her. It isn't some kind of great achievement that I've survived this year, and now it's over and we can go back to how it was. This is how it is now. 
So much has happened since Suzie first became ill, and I have learnt a great deal from the experience of facing her illness and disability with her, caring for her throughout it, and ultimately coping with life without her. I'm not the same person I was four years ago. In some ways I think I'm now stronger than I was, yet in other ways I'm aware of my vulnerabilities and weaknesses more acutely than ever. My priorities have certainly changed and I place different values on the things of this life. I've learnt a lot about love and friendships. I've learnt that expressions of love and support sometimes come from the most unexpected places, and that true friends are a tremendous blessing. I've learnt to thank God more readily for these blessings, and I would like to think I've learned how to forgive people when, for whatever reason, they haven't been able to walk this painful journey with me in the way that I would have wished. I have also learnt that I still have a great deal more to learn! 
In Church last Sunday I was challenged by a profound message that I believe was God giving me good advice for the future. The message was that I must not spend the rest of my life looking back and yearning for what has gone. My life with Suzie was an amazing part of my life's experience, but it has now ended. I have spent such a lot of time gazing longingly back at it, and hurting so badly as I watched it fade further and further into the past, but the realisation gradually dawned on me that Suzie isn't there any more. She isn't stuck in the past - she has gone on ahead of me. I can look forward, expectantly and eagerly, knowing that I am heading towards the place where she has already gone. Our life together will always be a part of who I am, but it also forms a stepping stone for who I am going to become. My journey hasn't finished yet and I know that God has a whole new chapter waiting for me to discover. I have no idea what it will be like but I'm sure that, one day, I will see the significance of all that I have been through during these last few years. More than anything, I'm certain that I am being guided and constantly protected by the living God who loves me and wants only what's best for those who follow Him. I still have many uncertainties and fears. I'm not happy right now, and I can't even imagine how I can become happy again. But I believe that I will find out in time. 
There are two Bible verses that I hold on to as promises from God, and I trust in His faithfulness to fulfil these promises in my life. 

In Isaiah 43:19 God says: "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun. Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." 

Philippians 1:6 says: "I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Jesus Christ returns."

I do feel like I'm lost in the wilderness right now, but God has already prepared the path ahead of me. I just need to look forwards and focus my gaze on Him. All of the painful experiences that I've been through during these last few years are all part of a bigger picture, and I believe that they have all worked together to equip me and mould me for whatever the future holds.
Suzie will remain in my heart for ever. She's already reached her eternal home, and, one day, I will join her.

My ongoing prayer is that the experiences I've shared throughout this blog will continue to be a blessing and a source of strength to anyone who reads it. I hope that you will feel a deep sense of God's heart of love reaching out to you, whatever trials or difficulties you face in your own life. His love and strength has got me this far, and He is able to do infinitely more than we can even imagine. 
God is my rock and my stronghold. I pray that He will be yours too.

Thank you for your interest in my journey. God bless you. xx

Thursday, 26 February 2015

An unfamiliar emotion.

During the last few months I thought I'd gone through all of the expected emotions, but I was wrong. I'm familiar with depression and I've come to accept the wispy melancholic cloud that swirls silently through my world, contaminating it like the smoke from a distant bonfire. Like most things in life, I deal with severe sadness in a rather passive manner. Either I hide from it, behind any apparently pleasurable distraction that comes my way, or I close my eyes and simply acknowledge it, in the hope that my lack of resistance will allow it to pass over me and move on. 
But suddenly there is something even darker lurking menacingly beneath the surface of my existence. It's something that I haven't encountered for many years.... something that I decided long ago was too dangerous an emotion for me to allow in my life. Anger.
It's not that I've never experienced anger before. I have distant yet vivid memories of hurling a baby's bottle across the room and smashing it against the wall because the baby for whom I'd prepared it just wouldn't stop crying.... Of the bedroom door that I slammed so ferociously that its hinges parted company with the wall, causing the door to crash to the floor.... Of the cup of hot coffee that I threw at my errant husband, narrowly missing his head, but drenching him nonetheless with its contents and ricocheting off the wall before smashing on the floor. Yes, I remember anger, and it scares me so much that I have long since banished it from my experience.
I didn't feel any anger, as such, when Suzie's illness was diagnosed, or at any point during the many struggles we faced as a result. I was upset for her, I was frustrated when I couldn't make things better, and I was fearful of what was to come, but not angry. When she died I was inconsolably sad and desolate, but I was able to reconcile that with the fact that my pain only existed because her pain had now ended. During these last few weeks I've been overwhelmed by the 'this time last year' type thoughts that have constantly propelled me back to the most horrible, awful time of Suzie's illness. Even those memories, distressing as they are, can be soothed a little by the knowledge that Suzie has been set free from such terrible suffering. 
People always say 'remember the happy times' or 'hold on to the happy memories', and I've been trying to do that. I've been looking at some old home videos of years gone by.... Suzie was always so full of life and laughter. She loved to entertain people and make them laugh, and she enjoyed having fun. Watching these videos transports me back to a time when life was so good - when love, laughter and hope filled our lives like the warmth of the sunshine on a Spring day.... 
Suddenly I'm filled with absolute rage that all of this has been snatched away from us and that those days are gone for ever. I'm angry with life and with death. I'm so angry with myself for every single moment of Suzie's life that I didn't fully appreciate and perfectly cherish at the time. I'm angry that all the joy and love and fun we shared has been taken away, and I'm so very angry that I'm still here and she isn't.
I don't know how to deal with anger. Unlike sadness and depression, which can be allowed to just 'be there', anger is aggressive and demands a response. Anger is what makes me want to throw things across the room, shout at total strangers, thump inanimate objects until my fists bleed, and attack my own body. This anger makes me curse and swear in a way that is totally unacceptable and appalling to me, for which I hate myself. It makes me want to lash out at everyone and everything. 
Anger frightens me in a way that nothing else does because it's so overpowering and uncontrollable. I don't trust myself to handle it responsibly. Whereas depression causes me to withdraw and hide away in safety, this kind of rage gives way to reckless and impulsive actions that seem to bypass my rational mind. Suppressing it is unsustainable and yet the consequences of not doing so are unthinkable. 
Reading back over these paragraphs I'm struck by the thought that exposing this dark and hideous aspect of my experience may, in itself, be an impulsive action that I will live to regret. I'm ashamed of some of the things I'm feeling and thinking right now, but it occurs to me that there may be others for whom this 'admission' might strike a chord. Maybe there are some nice, respectable and up-standing individuals reading this who are facing similar abhorrent thoughts and emotions, and hating themselves for it. As always, I pray that my openness and honesty might help someone else to feel that they're not alone. 
God bless you. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Sadness and Celebrations....

We're nearly a month into the new year, and my first Christmas without Suzie has been and gone. We enjoyed a good time of family fun and fellowship, and it was heart-warming to hear Suzie's name slipping effortlessly into general conversation. I missed her physical presence immensly, but her spirit and her memory were never far away.
New Year's Eve was, by choice, a solitary evening of quiet reflection. As I contemplated the hugely significant year that was drawing to a close it was like carefully wrapping up a precious treasure and putting it somewhere special. Knowing this precious chapter of my life was now safely stored away I was able to open my heart and mind to embrace the new year that was going to unfold. There were no tears that evening.... Just a peaceful acceptance of 'the way it is', and a prayerful trust in God for whatever is to come.
As January now approaches February, I find my mind inexorably drawn to thoughts of this time last year. These were the weeks when hospital and hospice wards were our home as we faced the final part of our journey together. I have learnt during the last ten months that trying to fight these difficult phases of grief is futile, and so I simply acknowledge the painful emotions and withdraw a little. Right now I feel extremely sad and alone. These next few weeks will be tough, but I know that 'this, too, will pass'.
In the midst of this time of sadness I have some special family celebrations to embrace. My precious daughter and my darling niece both celebrate 'special' birthdays in February, followed by my sister and brother-in-law's wedding anniversary and, not least, my own birthday. Life is a rich tapestry where often it's the most dramatic contrast of light and dark colours that produces the most beautiful picture.
I'm trying to embrace new experiences.... even if it's only driving to the sea front with my free Waitrose coffee or discovering new kinds of TV programmes to watch. I'm pushing myself to go out and try to do a few things that are seriously out of my comfort zone. I've installed a SatNav app on my phone, which I'm hoping will give me the confidence to drive a little further afield. My fight against depression, OCD, and anxiety, is a constant battle, making even seemingly basic activities difficult, exhausting, and often, not even possible. Some days I can push myself harder than others, but there are days when I just have to recognise the need to be quiet and alone. How I miss Suzie at these times. Every so often I'm engulfed by a feeling of being as if on the very edge of a cliff.... that sense of looking down at a vast expanse of 'nothing', and paralysed to the spot. Never before have I faced a new year with such a huge sense of walking into the unknown. It's scary.
As 2015 unfolds I'm sure there will be much sadness and much to celebrate along the way. There will be times of joy and new experiences, and there will be times when days are long and lonely. With God's help I will continue to live each day as best I can, trusting that the dark places are all part of something beautiful in the making.