Tuesday, 25 September 2012

We're Going on a Bear Hunt - a new way to look at grief!

There are many models of the grieving process thought up by lots of learned people with letters after their name.

Well I have a B.A.(Hons) in Library and Information Studies and some experience in this matter now so here are my own theories first posted last year based on a favourite book!

from Textbook Grief and Other Helpful Models? (originally posted 23rd Sept 2011)

I have come up with my own model based on the popular children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen, beautifully illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 

I apologise at the start to anyone who hasn’t read this classic, maybe you would like to pop to the library now and get a copy because there will be SPOILERS to the plot…

This book was a favourite of the boys when they were small and more importantly one Andrew loved to read to them and often quoted when we were out for a walk.

The basic plot is that a family are out on a bear hunt and on the way they encounter a series of obstacles.

We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

That’s grieving in a nutshell.  You can’t go over it!  You can’t go under it!  You can’t even go round it!


It’s something I am constantly learning.  There is no quick fix.  Tick all five stages, you’ve passed the test and can move on as good as new.  You can read all the theory and understand all the models but you have to experience the day to day living without your loved one.  All the inevitable ups and downs of dual process or swirling whirlpool however you wish to label it.

Let me tell you the hurdles that have to be faced in the bear hunt story because they conjure up some great images that also help describe the bereavement process.

Long wavy grass that goes swishy swashy as they sweep through.  It marks like thin paper cuts, niggling and painful to touch leaving tender scars that may fade but are a constant reminder of the journey.

There’s the splosh splash of the deep cold river.  It’s difficult to walk through normally.  All of a sudden your life has a surreal quality about it and when you have negotiated the river you are left feeling uncomfortable and weighed down by too much excess baggage.

You dry out from the water and find thick oozy mud as the next challenge.  It clings and squelches and my favourite word of the book squerches .  Like the water it is hard to get through and slows you down.  You can’t run or hurry in squerchy thick mud.  Each step is an ordeal.

Then there’s the big dark forest that causes you to stumble and trip.  It’s the unseen branches that snag your clothes and pull you back.  Great tree roots that hamper your progress and make you fall down.  With every tumble you have to get back up however hard it may be or you become lost.

A snow storm closes in, sounds to me like last winter all over again.  It batters you from all sides, howling tormenting wind.  Memories, regrets, swirling “what ifs”.

Finally there’s the cave and inside you find the bear but once you confront your fears you don’t really want to be there so you rush back home and hide under the duvet.

These are the many stages or obstacles you have to face in grief but feel free to mix and match and because this is a children’s story not a textbook this model is not to be taken too seriously!

Right at the end of the book on the final page is the bear plodding slowly back to his cave along a moonlit beach.  He had chased the children back home and when they wouldn’t let him in he wanders home alone.

That’s when I always felt most sad.  I remember reading the story to my youngest son and when we got to that page I said, “Aww, poor bear he only wanted to play.”

Eventually my young son would be repeating my words and we both had sympathy for this much maligned character.  I wonder how the author and the artist saw him?

And maybe that’s what’s grief’s about too, wandering on your own, feeling lost and alone, thinking no one understands. 

In the end you just have to "go through it" and hope when you get to the other side you are in a better place to cheer on the next person and encourage them to carry on.

(or as someone commented last time I posted this, we don't ever get "through it" to the other side but we learn to live with the bear. On reflection - that's a great way to look at it!)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Recycled - Reposted!

Here's a post from a year ago showing off some of my other crafty talents ...


Recycled (posted 18th Sept 2011)

I can remember being at Brownies and working towards my “thrift badge”.  Basically it involved making something new from something old.  I made a pot holder out of an old towel.  A square piece of yellow towel, double thickness with blanket stitch round the edge and the words POT HOLDER embroidered in the middle just in case you had any doubts as to its identity.
And a “pot holder” is?  Well it lived in the camping box and was used for lifting the kettle off the camping stove to stop you burning your hand in the process of making a pot of tea.  But that would have been far too much to stitch on a small scrap of fabric.
I got my thrift badge which had a bee on it.  Are bees renowned for their thriftiness?
The strange things us young girls got up to in the seventies!  I’m sure there is no longer such a thing as a thrift badge.  It's not a word we use much any more.  The name of course could have been changed to a "recycling challenge badge" but not having girls I have no idea.
The idea of "recycling" or "thrift" or "make do and mend" mentality is not new at all.  It’s come full circle and is all back in fashion. 
There is a lady at our church who has for a long time made handbags from recycled materials, old coats, curtains, skirts.  She has plundered the charity shop for buttons and beads, oddments of wool and made some amazing creations – several of which reside in my wardrobe to be matched and co-ordinated with the appropriately coloured outfits.
As a fundraising idea in the holiday she held a day in the church hall to teach us how to make a bag with a view to sharing her skills and getting more bags made up ready to sell near Christmas in aid of our church hall development project.
We’ve been inspired and several of us have taken up the challenge to make more bags.  I have a few in various stages of manufacture and now I have the hang of them I’m sure I can knock up several more before November.
I have my own limited supply of fabric and buttons but no end of ideas….
One of my many notions involved making a bag out of one of Andrew’s sweatshirts. 
Most of his clothes went a long time ago, I didn’t see the point of holding on to them.  I’m glad I did it then because whatever is still left I can’t bear to let go of now.  I was sniffing an old decorating T shirt I found only yesterday.  I think it mostly smells of the wooden wardrobe it was left in but it’s still comforting and reassuring…
The particular sweatshirt, I wanted to make the bag from, was one of his favourites and he probably had it the first Christmas we were married.  I know it was a present from my mum and dad.  It came from C&A so that dates it! 
He wore it on the first day of the new millennium, I have a picture of him in it; he’s holding son number one on the balcony of our old house looking out at the sunrise.  About three years earlier he had been wearing the same sweatshirt when our eldest son was born.  Again there’s photographic evidence.
It had a soft feel to it, a slight fluffy texture which over the years of wearing and washing had worn flat but it was always very cosy to snuggle up to.
Many times over the years I had tried to put it in the draw of work clothes for him to take away off shore but he’d persist in wearing it out and for special occasions.  For a man who loved anything plain to wear he did have a thing for patterned sweatshirts.
I took it out of the wardrobe and folded it into a bag shape with the arms as the handle.  I figured it would work quite well so with trepidation I laid it out on my cutting board and cut the precious garment.
“You’ve murdered dad’s sweatshirt!”  Was youngest son’s cry of horror.
Too late now.  There was no going back.   
It was a real labour of love as it wasn’t an easy fabric to work with.  I’m not used to sewing knitted fabrics which stretch as you go along.  However yesterday I finished it and today I used it for church.
I didn’t get many compliments; it’s not the kind of special bag that would warrant much attention and adulation.  It’s a bag to carry while wearing jeans, something very casual which is very fitting. 
Something of Andrew I can keep by my side every day.
I don't use the bag every day but it still gets an outing fairly often. It's carried lots of "stuff" over the year and there is some stitching that is coming undone showing it has been used and useful.

It makes me smile to revisit this post the bag is a reminder of all the positive things I have achieved.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

If heaven had a phone ...

Last week I went to see my GP, just for a check up as I collected another prescription for my anti-depressants. I've come to terms with my little pills now although my doctor knows I am keen to stop taking them as soon as possible. We'll review that in 2 months!

While walking home I passed some new houses. There is quite an estate now where there were once allotments. I saw curtains and blinds up at the windows, cars in the driveways, signs of life.

When Andrew died, not yet 2 years ago, these houses weren't even built!

It reminded me of a poem I wrote back in March last year, my one sided conversation with Andrew telling him our news. I mentioned the new houses under construction.

Some people talk to their deceased relatives, and I don't mean through a medium or anything like that, just everyday ordinary conversations but I don't tend to do that. I only ever SHOUT at Andrew when something has gone wrong that he could have fixed!

But maybe I should write an up-dated poem of the things I would tell him now if he could telephone me from heaven like he used to ring me from the oil rig...

(words in italics are what Andrew would say to me in every phone conversation)

Anything else?

Thought I’d write
                Just to let you know
I’m doing fine
Well, as well as can be expected
                                                I suppose

                                Anything else?

The days are getting brighter
The sun has been quite warm
Everything is growing
                But I miss the sound of you on your “tractor” mowing the lawn

                                Anything else?

The shower’s still dripping
Sometimes it sounds like rain
But I got one problem fixed
Did you know we had blocked drains?

                                Anything else?

I know you’d rather hear the “gossip”
But there’s not a lot to say

                                Anything else?

I can tell you of my walk
And what I spied along the way

Those new houses by the school
What was the last you saw?
Roof trusses sit like skeletons now
In a line of four

And you know the “home” beside them?
Was your Dad there for a while?
It’s all knocked down!
The stunning view would really make you smile

                                Any post?

On some days there’s a big pile
And on others there is none
Lots of paperwork to sort out
And more filing to be done

                                How are the boys?

The boys?  On the computer
Still shouting very loud
Good reports from school though
Made me feel quite proud

                                How are you?

Me?  I told you.
Yes I’m fine
and you think fine’s - OK
Not much else to report
I’ll write again another day

                Anything else?

No just this little snapshot
Of what’s been going on
And how our lives continue
Even though you’ve gone…