Posted in Family life, Happiness, Women's issues, Writing tips

Grief – it affects us all


Grief and how it affects us all

I’m usually a happy person, but when it comes to grief I find it hard to surface from that utter disbelief of losing someone special. I’m feeling that now and it hurts but there are people hurting more than me.

A beautiful orchid was given to us by our neighbours, the Malone's, when Boss passed away. It has bloomed beautifully.
A beautiful orchid was given to us by our neighbours, the Malone’s, when Boss passed away. It has bloomed beautifully.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’d like to hide my feelings sometimes, like a turtle hiding it’s head in its shell. It’s rather useless, as the signs are there to see in my face, in my watery eyes and my withered smile. I cry easily but not through pity or irrelevant things. I just have compassion and empathy. I am moved by the feelings of others.

I know most of us are like that. We cry for a television character, though we don’t know them, we believe their story. We cry reading sad books. We cry when the news is too upsetting. We even cry when we are happy. But the crying we shed in grief is to help us survive the harsh reality, that over our lifetime we are bound to lose someone we love. Crying helps me but it can also be exhausting. Some people can’t even cry at all when they are grieving. Then something triggers in them a need to cry, be it alone, or with someone’s comfort. Eventually most of us cry.

When do you know it’s time to stop – and how can you?

I don’t pretend to understand grief. I’ve had my own grief over my father’s death a long time ago and sometimes it can feel as raw as the day it happened. Each day gets better but some memories can bring that grief back to the surface when you least expect it – events, birthdays, a song, even a smell. I guess it’s about always missing them and regretting that they didn’t get to share the rest of your life. You have to try to let go of that. Their life was what it was and it mattered. You can’t think about the ‘what ifs’ because that just keeps the grief with you too long. It’s difficult but concentrate on the good time and the impact they had in your life. Be grateful for whatever time there was.

Dogs and family and friends

I recently grieved the loss of my dog, Boss, and that is still with me, especially when I see other dogs. I know it’s not the same as a child and I don’t even want to think about that. But I have to, especially on Friday. Friday I will attend a funeral. One I never expected to attend.

Nearly three decades ago I lost two lovely friends to two different accidents, both were only in their twenties. I think about them both on and off, but this last few days I can’t get their images out of my thoughts. Why has this grief resurfaced?

The reason

My own son just lost one of his best mates, aged 24 to a drowning accident. This wonderful human being, and bright light in my son’s life, was experiencing a trip of a lifetime. Who would ever think he’d never make it home? I don’t know how to comfort my son other than to hold him. I don’t know what to say to make it better. There really aren’t words. To tell him I understand is futile.

He’ll endure his own grief in his own way. As for the parents of his friend, I can’t fathom how they feel. My heart aches for them and I am also grieving their son. He often stayed over and we got to know a gentle, happy young man who deserved a long life. It will be strange to never see him walk in our door again with a grin, or leave empty contact lense cases in my bathroom after he’d got ready to a night out with his mates. I wish I’d left them there for a bit longer now.

I want to say to my son our souls still live. I hope they do. I want to say many things but sometimes in grief silence can be reassuring too. I want to hug him tight and give him strength to get through this passage of life, that most of us have to take at some time, but nobody wants to.

I found this quote about souls and flowers. I have created a picture quote with it, using a photo I took of an orchid a dear friend gave me when Boss passed away.

Perhaps if we look to the beauty of nature we can have some solace in our grief. I hope so.

Justine (thank you photographer) in his beloved rugby league jersey.
Justine (thank you photographer) in his beloved rugby league jersey.

RIP Justin Cullen. May your bright smile now be a shining star above us making us smile back each time we see you.

Posted in Family life

Goodbye to Bucket Lists – Hello to Bert’s List


My friend Robert Ashby died age only 52 on 14th July. Robert was, among other things, John and Juliette’s brother, Sue’s brother-in-law, Riley and Conner’s uncle, and Bevil and my friend (there are many more family and friends and his dad is still alive). He lived, what some would say, is an unremarkable life. I disagree. Every life is extraordinary and precious. Some just choose to live a quieter, less materialistic life. Robert, or Bert, was one such soul, and a kind one at that.

Robert Peter John Ashby living forever - online, on my blog at least. RIP.
Robert John Peter Ashby (15.02.1962 – 14.07.2014) living forever – online, on this blog at least. RIP.

Bert’s tragic death makes me ponder ‘The Bucket List’ and why have one. He kicked his bucket too early and had nothing on his list, other than LIVING.

Bert had secondary cancer. He fought like hell against the first, throat cancer, but it ruined his sense of taste and his appetite, not only for food but life (for a while). He was in more pain than he ever let on and his battle was brave. He fought but he couldn’t beat cancer the second time around. By the time a growth was found in his stomach there was little time left – definitely no time to tick anything off a stupid bucket list, let alone write one.

It gives new meaning to ‘time is precious’. Bert never married, didn’t have children, hadn’t travelled widely to tick these things off a list. The things he could tick of were milder, less ambitious but no less worthy of a list. Let’s not call it a ‘Bucket List’ because it’s cliché, and Bert didn’t do cliché.

Here is a down-to-earth ‘Bert List’:

  1. To enjoy my teens, playing football, fishing and chasing girls (because you never know if you’ll die early).
  2. To go out bush for a while and be self-sustained – finding my happy place.
  3. To have a four-legged best friend.
  4. To live a peaceful existence not bothering anyone.
  5. To fish as many days as possible.
  6. To enjoy beers and the occasional happy weed (medicinal of course) with good mates.
  7. To love my family unconditionally and to have that in return.
  8. To thank anyone who helps me through ill-health by gestures as much as words.
  9. To leave a lasting, unique impression, especially for my nephews & nieces.
  10. To say goodbye when I kick the bucket (be it a twitching eye if I’m not awake).

Bert ticked off all the above. Yes, it’s a simple, but no less important list than skydiving, running marathons, trips to exotic destinations, painting masterpieces or writing a novel. This is ‘Bert’s List’, a closer to the heart list. I’m not saying don’t dream big if there are certain things you want to do in life. I do. Bert was all the more special because he didn’t need to. He was a humble, sweet, affable man with few wants. He didn’t want a big, grand bucket list. He wouldn’t have wanted to compete with anyone’s idea of life. Some bucket lists are just created to beat other people’s lists, not to find real joy. Bert’s list is not materialistic. It doesn’t require wealth. One thing it needed was health.

Maybe the best list to create is one while you’re healthy and since you never know when that will be taken away, do one that is for the next six months or year, not till the end of your time. So, let’s stop calling it a ‘Bucket List’ and all create our own ‘Bert’s List’.

This is the view as we shared a beer for you on the day we said goodbye.
This is the view as we shared a beer for you on the day we said goodbye.

Here’s one I wish Bert had been able to write and tick off, if only he’d had years, not days:

  1. To live longer and see my family and friends more often.
  2. To live without pain and not rely on happy weed.
  3. To watch my nephews play footy and grow a few inches taller (at least Riley. Conner you can stop for a bit and let Riley be the BIG brother).
  4. To fish as many days as possible.
  5. To drink beer with friends and enjoy the taste again.
  6. To find a loving partner to kiss me goodbye when I die.
  7. To be healthy enough to grow vegies, have chooks and fish, fish & fish.
  8. To appreciate each new day and enjoy each moment and get outside of my room frequently.
  9. To smile often.
  10. To never have to say goodbye.

Don’t worry Bert number 10 can be ticked off. Your story and picture will be in cyberspace forever online because of this blog posting. If more people share this, the more you will live on.

RIP Robert (Bert) Ashby