The Passing of My Uncle

Today I found out that my uncle passed away from cancer on Sunday 2 December. It was a shock, even though the time frame given when diagnosed was unbelievably short. I think he was only diagnosed four or five months ago. I didn’t know him well, as they live 3,000 kilometres away from us, on the other side of the country. I did, however, have a high opinion of him and was saddened and quite upset to hear of his passing.

Once, before losing Barry, I would have said something stupid like “at least the pain is over”, but now I know these words do nothing to comfort those left behind. Why does anyone have to suffer? It really isn’t fair. Personally, I think life is cruel.

We all grieve in our own way, so I have no idea what my aunt is feeling right now. I can only imagine she is in shock and might be feeling numb. I know family are trying to help her and I pray that she gets through the coming weeks and is able to find peaceful moments in the turmoil. My heart goes out to her. I don’t know what else to say except this is a sad time.

Below is a photo taken in October 2002 – left to right: Graeme (my uncle), David (my brother), Karen (me) and Margaret (my aunt).

family

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Preparing for Another Christmas

This will be our second Christmas without Barry. We survived last year, so there’s a good chance we’ll survive this one too. In fact, you would think our chances are much improved. Although I’ve heard differently.

Last year, I wrote several posts about how we were coping. Today, I went back and read them. Admittedly, my own words upset me, but they also gave me hope. We’ve come a long way in the last twelve months and I hope the journey proves positive for coping over the Christmas season.

Here is what I said last year:

Oh, Christmas Tree

Switched On

Grief and Hope at Christmas

Twinkling Star on Top of the Tree

Our Christmas Tree

Just for Today

Merry Christmas, Barry

Reflections

This year, I have put myself out on a limb and have invited both sides of the family to join us for Christmas. This is something I used to do a lot, but haven’t done for the best part of a decade. My brother and sister-in-law took over from me for several years and there were a few times we all booked a table at a restaurant.

However, this year I decided that my brother and sister-in-law shouldn’t shoulder this burden every year and it’s time for me to do my part. Besides, Gary’s children want to spend the day with him too and it makes sense for everyone to come together at our home. And…it means Daniel has people his own age around, which will make the day more tolerable for him too.

I’m not much of a hostess. I don’t particularly like cooking. Gary does most (all) of the cooking in our house. I get flustered easily and although I try hard not to worry about it, I do worry that my hostessing skills make for a lousy day. I realise that is my problem and I have to deal with it. I also realise that I’m probably the only person worrying and caring about it as well.

I want to do the right thing, but I want to be careful about how it affects my stress levels too.

Whilst the northern hemisphere think about cooked dinners and the possibility of a white Christmas because of the cold weather they experience. In Australia, December is the first month of summer and our Christmas day is usually hot and humid. The last thing most families want is to be cooking hot dinners. We are thinking about how to keep cool, and dreaming about spending the day dipping ourselves in a swimming pool (which my family can dream about until the cows come home, because we don’t have a pool).

With this in mind, Gary and I are going to go with the Aussie BBQ. We (or should I say our sons, hopefully) will cook the meat outdoors and this will be put with an assortment of salads for Christmas lunch. Everything used on the day will be disposable so that at the end of the day…the whole lot can be picked up and thrown away. This will mean no one is lumbered with the washing up.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Then, Now and the Immediate Future

The beginning of last week was…well, what can I say? The word “awful” just doesn’t seem to sum it up well enough. After everything that happened I did, however, give the mother of the girl the opportunity to voice her side of the situation and having done so I have decided that I wasn’t told anything I didn’t already know, I haven’t changed my mind about anything and I stick by my words here. After those events, I took matters into my own hands and have, in fact, wiped my hands of the whole miserable affair.

Since then…

Last week I couldn’t eat. I was hungry and my stomach growled angrily because it wanted food. However, every time I put food of any description in my mouth…I felt so sick. After only a few mouthfuls, I felt full and knew that if I continued to eat I’d be sick. Because I wasn’t able to eat much, I actually lost 4kg in two days.

Sleeping became just a word. Whilst other people slept soundly, I lay awake worrying and feeling angry. Being a person who needs eight hours or more sleep every night, this took its toll and I eventually had to take sleeping tablets. I only took them for a few nights, but it was better to do that and feel somewhat human during the day than not sleep at all and want to rip people’s heads off.

I felt a squeeze of pressure around my chest. Stress has a way of making itself known and the fact that I could not seem to take a deep breath because it felt like someone had a firm grip on my heart didn’t help. This is a warning that I will not ignore.

And then there were the other things, such as the headaches, the lack of motivation and the withdrawal. I’ve found that I don’t want to be around people…and their problems. I don’t want it and I can’t handle it. I’m going to work, but I’ve basically stopped doing everything else.

And now…

I’m eating a bit better…as long as the portions are small. At least I don’t feel sick when I put food in my mouth now, but I still can’t eat much.

I’m sleeping much better too. I’ve stopped taking tablets to help me sleep. I’ve never been much of a “pill popper”, especially when it can be avoided. I do admit that I’m sick and tired of the setbacks I keep experiencing with my sleeping patterns. I guess half a night’s sleep is better than nothing, but I’ll be glad when I can sleep soundly like I used to.

The pressure around my chest is unchanged. I’m acutely aware of this and will be making decisions based on what’s best for me from now on, not what is best for other people.

As for the “other things”, they are unchanged too. I’m looking for a peaceful place to settle in. No, I’m not going to move. I’m talking about mental peace. It seems that when I’m away from people, I’m closer to finding that peaceful place, so this is another area where I’m going to put me first.

The immediate future…

In three weeks it is Christmas. This year the family is coming to our place. That was my choice. I have been given the option to back out of this arrangement, but have decided that I will not do that. Last year, Christmas was a terrible time for our family. Barry was missed like you wouldn’t believe. Immediately after Christmas I became suicidal. This year, I plan on doing things different. Old traditions will be put aside and new traditions will be born. I believe it’s the only way forward for me and, besides, maybe keeping busy will help distract me too.

This doesn’t mean Barry will be forgotten. That will never happen. On Christmas Eve I will visit the cemetery and will “decorate” Barry’s niche. On Christmas day, a single candle will be lit in memory of the son I love and lost.

Uphill Battle

To top off an already bad week, I got the results of the tests I had done last week, which I wrote about in the post called Finding Myself. A blood disorder I had over two years ago … has returned. This means I’ll experience regular migraine headaches, stomach pains and, on most days, a feeling of nausea. I’ve had all these symptoms for the past few weeks. The migraines average out to once every three or four days and the stomach pains every day, but not all day; it’s worse in the mornings. The nausea is more of a seedy feeling than anything else.

Wonderful!

Two years ago, the doctor and specialist both said there has to be a reason for the disorder, but neither could find it. Then on 23 December 2005, I woke up and had no pain. Over Christmas and the New Year period I counted my pleasing with each pain free day. Later tests proved the disorder was righting itself and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Now it’s back. Now I’m with a new doctor and she told me that there has to be a reason for the problem. I told her about the previous tests I’ve had – and there were a lot – and she is requesting copies of those reports so that any new tests can be compared to them.

I have a headache now. I hope it doesn’t develop into a migraine. I’m trying not to hold on to the stress I feel, but it’s difficult and an uphill battle. This is just another problem at Grand Central Station … which is my life.

When the Walls Cave In

One day life is rolling along quite smoothly, even with the bumps in the road, and the next day can find a person swallowed up.

Each day this week gets worse and worse. I feel my life is totally out of my control and it makes me feel worthless. I’m trying to struggle on with the “normal” things, but in all honesty, I see these things as a waste of time. In other words, I’m very quickly giving up the reins.

When I got married and had children no one told me it would be this difficult. No one warned me how desperate things can become. I didn’t think suicide would touch my family. I had no idea I’d have to spend months and years worrying endlessly over my child’s life.

I have no control. I don’t know what to do. I feel like running away and never coming back. But that’s the coward’s opinion, isn’t it? One thing I have discovered is that no matter how much you know about suicide and “the signs” it doesn’t mean you can do anything to stop it. I don’t care what anyone says about that. Some things you can’t change, no matter how hard you try. No matter how hard you want to!

An ostrich stuffs its head in the dirt so it doesn’t know what’s going on around it. I want to do that. How I wish people would go away and leave me alone. Right now, I just don’t care about anything.

I guess I’m going through a bout of depression. I know my son is. I know Gary is. We can all sit in the black hole together and wallow. I’ve had enough and I just want it to stop.

Believe in Miracles

Today, Gary told me that sometimes he thinks Barry is just away. Away from home. Away visiting a friend. Away on holiday. Away staying with his father in England. But he’ll come back home and we’ll be here waiting for him.

It’s a simple wish and I wish this was true.

Tonight, there was a show on TV that talked about miracles. I didn’t watch it, because as far as I’m concerned miracles don’t happen. If they did, Barry would come through our back door again, “Hi Muzza, good looking’s home.”

Life is hard. It always has been. There’s a standard joke in our family, which I won’t reveal here, but even now my parents refer to it…and so do I. I have always referred to my life as Grand Central Station and like all crowded stations whatever can go wrong, does go wrong. There’s never a quiet moment.

In truth, I feel I’ve had my fair share. It is now someone else’s turn. But maybe it’s that attitude that brings on the next set of problems. When I look back over my life, I see one bad thing after another troubling me…and then there was the death of my son and I thought this has to be the end of it. Nothing else can possibly be in store for me now. Haven’t I been punished enough, I thought. That just goes to show how little we know.

I read a book that convinced me that I wasn’t really being punished. OK, I accept that. But, of course, more things have gone wrong, because trouble seems to hover around me. Some men think they are babe magnets. Well, I’m not a man, but I think I’m a trouble magnet. If there’s going to be trouble, I’m right there in the midst of it. It just comes crashing in around me and I have no way of stopping it from happening.

This isn’t the post I had intended to write. I sound bitter, don’t I? Well, I am. I’ve had enough of the bad stuff and I think it’s only fair that some of the good stuff comes my way now. I’ve removed myself from society. I’ve backed away from almost everything I once loved. Yet still bad things hover close by, making me feel sick to the stomach.

Today, it has been 18 months since Barry ended his time on this earth. I have thought about Barry every day of those 18 months. I have wished for a miracle every day of those 18 months. I have hoped that it was the longest dream a person could ever have, and that one day I’d wake up and Barry would be sitting there waiting for me, “Hi Muzza.”

But no. That might work for other people, but it would never work for me. And I don’t really want much. I’m not greedy. I don’t want a million dollar riverside mansion. I don’t want a fancy car. I don’t even want to see the world.

All I want is to hear, “Hi Muzza, good looking’s home.” I’d give anything to hear those words right now. I want to hug my son. I need to know he’s safe. Is that too much to ask for?

You’ll have to forgive me, but I don’t believe in miracles.

Finding Myself

Over the last six months, my outlook on life has improved a lot. I no longer feel like murdering people for no reason, so that’s a definite step in the right direction. I’m sleeping reasonably well, which does wonders for a person’s mental state. I don’t burst into tears at the drop of a hat. Yes, tears well in my eyes, but I no longer sob like I once did.

This all means that I’m moving along the road of grief and I’m doing well.

However, the last two months has seen me feeling exhausted. Even with plenty of sleep, I feel tired all day. Some days, which is becoming more regular, I can hardly drag myself out of bed, let alone get through the day.

Today, I decided to go to the doctor. My usual doctor is cutting back his hours and his surgery is no longer open before or after work, or at lunchtime. And he hasn’t opened on a Saturday for a couple of years. I find that if I leave work early, his surgery is shut too, even though it’s supposed to be open. So…I went to another doctor.

This doctor knows nothing about me so she asked a lot of questions. I knew it was inevitable that I’d have to mention Barry, but I thought that after almost 18 months I’d be fine with that.

I wasn’t.

As soon as I had to say his name, the tears came. I felt like a blubbering idiot, but she was understanding and waited patiently for me to continue. I told her everything that had happened in the last 18 months – the suicide, the attempted suicide, the loss of will to live, the sleepless nights, the anger, the pain, my memory problems and my lack of focus (which continues to plague me). She typed it all into my file and then gave me a physical. I’m to have a range of blood tests done to find out if there’s a medical reason for my exhaustion.

Later, I sat at home and realised there was a lot I didn’t tell her too. I’m not the same person I was before I lost Barry. I know I’ll never be that person again. I’ve become less tolerant of people and their ways. I get annoyed quite easily and find myself thinking how stupid people are for wasting their lives wanting worthless things. I get angry when people tell me the most important thing in this world is money. I want to tell them, convince them, that happiness is the most important thing. Money is nothing without happiness.

The biggest change in me, is that I don’t like being around people anymore. I never was a social butterfly, but I always tolerated functions and outings and made the best of them. These days, I don’t want to be around other people. I no longer hate people, or the world, for what happened to Barry, but I feel safer and more content when I’m just with the small group of people I call my family (and some of them are friends). I’ve become a loner.

One incident in a person’s life can change a person…for good or bad. Barry’s death certainly had a lasting affect on many people, including me. Finding myself has been more difficult than you can imagine.

I Saw Him Today

I live close enough to my workplace that I can go home for lunch…and that’s exactly what I do everyday. Today, on the way back to work, I drove along our street and in the distance walking towards me…

…was Barry.

I stopped the car in the middle of the road, right there on a corner, and stared. Heaven help me, it’s been over seventeen months and I knew it couldn’t possibly be Barry. But still…

The young man was Barry’s height, his build, his colouring, he wore the same type of clothing, and he had the same hair style. But what pained my heart the most was that he walked just like Barry.

It couldn’t be Barry. But I sat in my car, stationary, in the middle of the road, watching him come closer and closer. I watched the walk I knew so well, unable to tear my gaze away. Luckily, the street I live in is quiet and no cars came along.

He walked along the foot path; his gait easy and relaxed. Then I realised he had earphones on, and that made him more Barry than before. He concentrated on what was happening in the ear phones, he smiled and did a little jig. Barry all the more.

I continued to sit and watch.

He drew closer and became aware of the car and the strange woman staring at him. His gait didn’t change. He came closer still. Now he was staring at me.

Everything about this person was Barry. He wasn’t close enough for me to have a clear view of his face. My heart ached for it to be my son, but my brain suddenly felt self-conscious and urged me to drive on. Barry has been dead for seventeen months so how could he be walking down our street?

I pulled my gaze away and drove around the corner and away from the young man. I had to stop at the lights and I sat staring in my rear view mirror. The young man should have come around the corner by now, but he didn’t. I wanted to have one more glimpse of Barry, but it didn’t happen.

Now, I know it was a stranger just walking along the street, doing his own thing, but my heart won’t let go of the fact that everything about the person was Barry. I never got a clear view of his face. If I had, it would have settled the matter once and for all. But I didn’t and now I’m left wondering what I had really seen…

The Things I Want to Say

Seventeen months ago, my youngest son died by suicide. Four months later, my oldest son attempted to do the same thing. Three months after that, I no longer cared about life and didn’t care if I lived or died. Two months further along the track, Gary started having suicidal thoughts too.

Seven months have passed since then and we all seem to have found a quiet place to settle down in and call life (except Barry, of course).

To the world we are finding a new normality and are coping well. To each other I guess this is almost true too. Yet, we can never be sure of how another person feels, can we? And when that person has adapted to pretending and they are extremely good at it, it becomes more difficult to see potential problems. However, maybe there are no problems to be seen. Maybe it’s just the imaginings of an active imagination. Whatever it is, the vigilance and fear have never left me completely. I wonder if they ever will.

There are things I want to write about, things that are troubling me, but this blog is frequented by many people who know my family (and who are my family) and that stops me from writing about some of the things I want to say. Words can build and they can destroy. I can’t afford for my words to be misinterpreted. But they are my words and now I feel I have to censor them.

Things happen and feelings change on a daily basis. A simple action or statement can make a huge difference in a family who have suffered a death by suicide. Knowing what to do with information shared is no easy task. Trusting your gut instincts are often relied upon. Thing is, my gut has already let me down and I can’t afford to let that happen again. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last seventeen months … it is to ask questions. I’m not saying this is always a good thing, because asking questions can lead to half answered replies and that only leads to more anxiety. Asking questions can open doors to the unknown where much can be learned, but it can also cause worry, and even more fear, when you suspect the whole truth is not being told.

Masks are worn in life…and I don’t mean by the grieving only. We hide ourselves and then feel let down and overlooked, which only disappoints us. The longer we hide, the harder it is to become visible again. Most of us don’t care much about this, but when we are always watching and waiting those masks become something evil. Barry moulded his mask to perfection. Now his family have learned to mould their own flawless masks. If only I could destroy the masks…

I’m tired of worrying. I’m tired of the fear. These things are leaving me feeling exhausted and defeated. When can I cast aside everything that is holding me in this cage and be free? When will I learn to trust again? When will I fall asleep at night and feel whole (and rested) in the morning?

I wish I could write the things I wish to say.

Life Goes On

I’m happy to say that life, in general, is as normal as it can be right now. Each day we move forward, each of us dealing with our grief in a slightly different way.

Speaking for myself, I still think about Barry every day. I doubt that will change any time soon. Whilst I think about him all the time, I no longer feel the need to say his name every five minutes. Sometimes a whole day slips by and his name isn’t uttered once. Deep in my heart, I’ve accepted that Barry did exist and always will in the memories of those who loved him. Sometimes I bring his image into my mind to ensure I can still remember what he looks like. Some days the image is a bit fuzzy, other days it is sharp and clear and that makes me smile. I find I think of him mostly in “still” photo images now. It’s been 17 months since I saw the living, moving version of him and I guess I’m finding it harder and harder to picture a moving, talking Barry in my mind because of that. I try not to let this upset me.

This morning, I sat on Barry’s bed and looked around his room. Nothing is different in there, except for the fact that he’s no longer there and we can no longer smell the aroma of his deodorant. I just sat quietly and looked at his surfing posters stuck to the walls, at the writing on his wardrobe (I love Natty; Nor loves Mark), the DVD’s in a stand near the door (Seinfeld, Terminator, Jackass, Blade, The Great Rock & Roll Swindle and so many more), the pile of empty cardboard boxes hidden beside the wardrobe (he was a hoarder and loved boxes), the row of shoes beneath the window, the CD player connected to large speakers sitting on top of his chest of drawers, the TV rigged up to the Playstation in the corner of the room and the Bulldogs clock and mug sitting on his bedside table. I sat there, looking at all these things, knowing they are reminders of the boy who once lived in the room and dreading the day that I would have to pack it all away.

Of course, my gaze then found the large photo of Barry, which we have placed in the room since his death. I sat and studied my son’s features and, even after all this time, I tried to understand why. I read something a few days ago that I tend to agree with. I can’t remember the exact words, but the writer said that even if we managed to sit down and ask the person who died by suicide why they did it, their reasoning would probably be unclear…even to them. I understand I’ll never really understand why any of this happened, but I do need to accept it (which I haven’t done 100% yet).

Life goes on. My family and I are carving a new life out of the rubble. What we have forged isn’t as smooth and elegant as before, but it’s liveable and that’s all we can really ask for right now.