Monday, 25 April 2011

Feeling stuck

The 30th May is fast approaching and I wonder how many will notice that it’s THE anniversary - the day my boy died. It’s been playing on my mind a lot recently. On that date last year, my youngest insisted on attending the Caribbean Carnival. It had been held a week earlier the year before and so Al had been with us. It's one of the last happy memories I have of us as a family together.

Today is a beautiful day. The sun is shining and it’s warmer outside than in. I should be outside bringing in the washing that’s already dry. I should be watering the vegetables and flowers. I should be checking that the strawberries haven’t been allowed to dry out. But I put it off. I don’t know why but at the back of my mind is that we first planted strawberries the year he died – so he never got any – and after that they weren’t tended so the birds ate the flowers before they developed into the fruit. Maybe this is my way of staying close to him. Any link, however tenuous, however trivial, is grasped tightly and held onto. It’s ridiculous to avoid watering plants I have made the effort to cultivate just because that’s what happened when my boy died – and yet that’s what I’m doing.

Today is egg rolling day in the same park where the Caribbean Carnival procession culminated. It’s billed as a family fun day. Last week I agreed to meet my eldest daughter there. But I don’t want to go. I hadn’t realised where it was held – well I had but I didn’t make the connection at the time. I’ll go of course. I’ve already made the arrangements and I don’t want to let her down but the last thing I want is to be surrounded by people playing at happy families.

I have a mountain of jobs to do and have managed only one during the last two weeks of school break. Several of them involve legal paperwork but because it’s related to Al, I find it so hard to do. I’ve spent two weeks with my settee covered in papers that I’m supposed to be sorting through. Instead, I’ve simply shifted them along so I had room to sit down and, instead of focussing, I’ve played Tetris – a complete timewaster. But it numbs the mind. And I know that’s what I’m doing when I play it.

I feel stuck. I don't want to be stuck yet I don't want to let go.

OK!    Enough!  

Onwards and upwards. Get the washing in, get the plants watered, and get washed, dressed, paint on a smile and face the world. It's only for a few hours and then I can be me again.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I have every right to be angry with this selfish, childish man

Just under two weeks ago, I received an email from my ex husband, Al’s dad. It was short and to the point. He wanted to know how much compensation I had claimed and to be kept informed of the progress of the claim as he felt he was entitled to that courtesy. His entitlement to compensation also seemed to be his main focus shortly after Al died but I let it pass thinking that he was probably in shock and that it was probably easier to think about that than think about how our son was no longer alive. However, even after I pointed out that it was in poor taste to keep asking about money when our boy was hardly cold in the ground, he has continued to do so. Also, rather than simply pick up a phone and call the Coroner’s office, he wanted me to update him on the inquest.
I replied – this was my final attempt to reply with at least a modicum of civility. The first three drafts were a tad angrier.
As I explained at the time, the solicitor rejected the offer of 60% of the statutory payment because Mr C's insurance company were basing that reduction on the belief that Al had been playing chicken. I told the solicitor that the only person to say that Al was playing chicken was Mr C. Two witnesses had quoted this in their statements but neither of them alleged that Al was playing chicken - just that the driver had said that he was. The solicitor said she agreed and that she'd already decided to reject the payment but wanted to check with me first. I said that if they had reduced it because he was using a mobile phone, and therefore not concentrating on the road, I wouldn't have argued because that was true. However, I refused to have his memory tainted by saying he was deliberately taunting drivers and accepting a reduction for that reason would imply that I accepted that he was playing chicken.

Since then the solicitors have written twice asking me for information about Al. I can obtain the info but have been struggling emotionally to do so as I have been more concerned with grieving for Al than interested in obtaining money. It's hard to think of him as a series of £ signs. However, ironically, this week I have made a start and have begun to gather the paperwork together ready for the solicitor's call that I expect next week.

The amount awarded (not 'claimed') is the statutory amount payable which I think is about £11k - previously you seemed to be fully aware of the exact amount after you contacted the Police to ask how much compensation you were entitled to for Al's death. As far as I'm aware, the statutory amount has not changed. I haven't asked because frankly, it is not compensation to me. Nothing can ever compensate. As I said last time you wanted to know when your money would be available, I find it distasteful to speak of Al and money - as if that's all he was worth. For me, even speaking of this just insults his memory.

It is however, being dealt with. The process is long and slow but is moving forward. I appreciate you are keen to get your money and as soon as it arrives, I give you my word that you will get exactly what you are legally entitled to. I know you haven't explicitly said this but I want to assure you that I have no intention of taking anything that should be yours or of hanging onto it for a minute longer than necessary. Al would not want that - and as with everything I have done in his name (including his tribute) I have striven to be respectful of what he would have wanted. In case you do not trust me, it may also comfort you to know that I am legally bound to apply fair processing and I do not intend to break the law - my career rests upon my integrity and so, even if I wanted, it would be foolish for me to act dishonestly.

There will be no inquest. It seems that the coroner simply accepts the decision of the court. In Al's case, the decision was not taken by a jury but by the CPS lawyers. Yes, I know it stinks. I asked for a full inquest but was told that the court is a higher power than the Coroner is so the court's decision is final. I asked the Coroner to push for recommendations to make the road safer but was told that was an isolated incident so there was no need. Go figure! I found that out from a simple phone call to the Coroner's office when I realised that I'd heard nothing from them. I followed it up with a complaint and they have altered their systems so that people are now automatically informed that no inquest will take place rather than having to call to obtain that info.

You were spared almost all of the mess created by the Coroner, the Police, the Accident and Emergency Dept, and the CPS. On top of my son's death, I was subject to the full force of their incompetence. I have submitted complaints to all of them and have received apologies from all of them. I have not submitted a final complaint to the CPS regarding the late decision to reduce the charge as it seems that they just close ranks so I wouldn't even get an apology but a letter justifying why they sold Al down the river. I'd rather not read that so I've put off making the complaint for so long that I suspect I've run out of time anyway.

When Al died, not only did I have to cope with the shock and horror of his death but also an irate and frankly abusive ex-husband who seemed more interested in his rights. I know that you were in shock but I don't think you have ever considered the appalling way in which you behaved. As you were screaming down the phone at me, I was also in shock - you appeared not to notice that my son had also died. I was stood in the hospital trying to comprehend how Al could be dead and whilst trying to take that in, I was also trying to ascertain whether you were alone, whether you were driving a bus, or about to, because I was concerned for your safety and that of your passengers. I also thought that the last thing the girls needed to hear was that you had crashed your bus because you were too shocked at the news that your son had died. I was trying to do the right thing and you abused me. I let it go because you were in shock. Unlike my actions, clearly your behaviour revealed absolutely no consideration nor compassion for my shock and grief.

I dealt with this on top of the mistakes that were already being made by the hospital and the Police. But then I had the girls to consider. As I pleaded for Al's organs and tissue to be donated as per his wishes, my thoughts were of him and what he wanted - and of the girls and what they needed. And of you and your passengers. And of A and R and J having to drive to Preston to stand around and do nothing because there was nothing to be done. I was too much in shock to consider me and I focussed on everyone else. This was, I admit, probably the only way I could cope with the horror of it all but you thought only of yourself and your 'right to be told over the phone' - as if I was also supposed to be telepathic and simply 'know' this.

So please do not talk to me of courtesy. You were, and have been, awarded more courtesy than you ever deserved. I do this because it is the right thing to do and because it is what Al would have wanted - because he loved you. I have noticed that you have made far more effort with X since Al's death and I was glad that you were finally taking a little more parental responsibility - better late than never. I had also hoped that this new maturity might have resulted in you at least acknowledging your disgusting behaviour after Al died. But instead, you contact me to speak of compensation - and courtesy for you. Let’s be honest, I have given you far more courtesy than you ever deserved.

As I said, as soon as the money comes through, you will get all that you should get. I will not try to wriggle out of giving you anything that you should receive. Also, as soon as it comes through, I will speak to your parents about the contribution of almost half of the funeral costs that they made.

I am legally in charge of administering Al’s estate. Have a little patience and respect for the mother of your son - who is grieving for her son and happens to be doing the right thing as quickly as she is able. Is the thought of having to wait for a few grand really so important to you?
He has yet to reply but to be honest, I don’t expect one.
However yesterday, on hearing that we would be travelling down south, he informed our daughter that I could drive her to a motorway services close to his home so that he can spend a little time with her. This will be the first time he has seen her in almost a year. Apart from the fact that he makes a very short call to her twice weekly (this is a massive improvement compared with how it was before Al died) she has seen him (in the flesh) around half a dozen times in the last five years. On average, the visits lasted around an hour, two at the most.
I am angry that this man cannot be bothered to take the trouble to visit his daughter but instead expects me to add a couple of hours onto my already six-hour journey so that he can see her. I’ve agreed to it subject to traffic conditions – after all, he may be an idiot, but he’s the only father she has. I’m just so fed up of having to compensate (that word again!) for him.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tired, angry and emotional

My brother mentioned my father last week. Even the mere mention of him is sufficient to impact on me. It was something about some gold rings that were once mine but I think he has now given to my brother. Or perhaps he has passed them to my brother to give to me. I'm not really clear about it as my brother isn't the most communicative at the best of times and unfortunately, hearing that the subject was my father left me feeling stressed before the conversation started so I was only taking in half of what was said. The rings weren't mine any more anyway. I foolishly sold them when I was a teenager so I have no right to them at all. I'd forgotten they ever existed until the subject was raised last week. And as always when I am reminded of his existence, I am left with an uncomfortable feeling and a fear of whether he will appear and I’ll be expected to make polite conversation when all I want to do is scream at him.
Anyway, it should have come as no surprise that last night I had a dream in which my father appeared. I think the last time he visited my house was a few days after Al died so I was wondering what he wanted when he appeared.
He said that his brother was terminally ill. I haven’t seen this man for over twenty years so although it was sad to get this news, I was still surprised that he would pay me a visit to tell me this. However, he then said that it was related to a hereditary condition. One that I, or my children, could have inherited. The children had a 1 in 6 chance of having it. I don’t remember even asking about my risk but I grabbed my laptop and went straight to Google to get some info. He talked as I Googled and said that the condition would be treatable if caught early enough. Then he let slip that he’d known for over a year but hadn’t approached me because, “Well I always seem to get it wrong with you – I always seem to say or do the wrong thing . . . but if it’s any consolation, your brother and sisters and all of their children are all tested and fine.”
I was stunned. (I had no idea that this was a dream - right then nothing could be more real.) So this man had known for a year that my kids were at risk of a life-threatening condition that could be treated if caught early enough, but had instead delayed telling me and possibly delayed getting potentially life-saving treatment. He had chosen to say nothing because he was embarrassed that he might say the wrong thing. My youngest was sat next to me. She looked up, her face etched with fear. “Mum am I going to die?”
I woke up shaking although I knew that it had just been a dream.
But it was so representative of my relationship with my father and family. If he can, he will avoid me but at the same time, will tell my family that he just can’t seem to say the right thing to me – yet somehow this is always interpreted as my fault. My reaction to his lack of compassion and tact is seen as wrong because . . .  well I don’t know why. I think there is an expectation that I should be more accommodating, that I should sympathise with him for his lack of ability to see that his comments and actions border on the inhumane. However, surely no one should be expected to sympathise with the man who has just stabbed them? And his actions almost always feel like that to me.
When Al died, my father’s only observation was that I should be more understanding and have some compassion for my ex-husband because he was suffering. This was in response to him learning that my ex had behaved in the most abusive and appalling way towards me. There was no compassion or understanding that I might be suffering – just an expectation that I should ‘be strong’ and simply cope with whatever was put my way because others were suffering. And the irony is that none of my family seem to be able to comprehend that these expectations are completely unreasonable. I’m expected to stand alone and unsupported. The thing is that they are completely oblivious to this - they simply don’t see it. Or if they do, they choose not to acknowledge it.
And as much as they are pretending not to see/blind to the fact that I’m crumbling, they expect me to calmly, rationally, and gently support those who are suffering – regardless of how abusive they are towards me. All this with no acknowledgement that I’m expected to do this whilst sinking into quicksand. Just sad, judgemental shakes of their heads whilst saying, “Well if you can’t be bothered to be nice and support those in greater need than you, then what can we do? Get in touch when you’re ready to behave in a way we can accept.”
I’m tired, angry and emotional today – and it all stemmed from a dream. It seems utterly daft to get wound up because of a dream. It wasn’t real. I know that. The thing is, that dream encapsulated so much of what is wrong. No wonder I’m knackered.

The tantalising proof that belief in God makes you happier and healthier

I met a friend for coffee last week. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly just three months ago. One of the things she said was that she tells people, “I know I look OK but I’m not.” She’s had a monumental amount of support. A friend or relative has spent the night in her house almost every night since her loss. She didn’t even buy any food for weeks as her fridge always seemed to be refilled by visitors. She always has company when she wants it and she feels no pressure to return to work.
She also has her faith. It runs through her like the threads in a piece of fabric. To lose her faith would result in the fabric being frayed and full of glaring holes. Her faith gives her a glow and it shines out of her even in her dark moments. Her friends are her church. They support and love her. And she knows that she is loved.
In contrast, I was dropped like a hot potato almost as soon as Al’s funeral was over. My sister, who had insisted she stay with me, left a few days before his funeral. After that, apart from a weekly visit from my sister-in-law, (and they’ve now dwindled to almost nothing) I was on my own.
I feel unable to talk about things at work because a colleague has made it so difficult to do so - just last week, I started to mention that I’d been a guest speaker on a Police training day, and before I could get any further, he interrupted to change the subject. Of course, I wasn’t about to launch into an in-depth analysis of my son’s death – I was about to make a jokey aside that it served me right if I’d gained a bit of weight because I’d felt slightly stressed and so had troughed a couple of chocolate brownies on my way to the venue. This was more a laugh at my pathetic excuses for poor eating patterns but I was prevented from continuing because the Police training day was connected to Al’s death and my colleague just does not want to hear about it at all. And will, quite rudely, shut me up if he thinks I might refer to it in any way– regardless of how tenuous the link is.
It hasn’t helped to know that I often said that I was struggling to cope but, unlike my friend, my comments have fallen on deaf ears. The only time I mention that now is with my counsellor or here.
It’s not that I begrudge my friend her support – I don’t. I just wish that I had a little of the same. Just that fact that someone might call to ask, “How are you coping?” would be enough.
I recently read a newspaper article - OK it was in the Daily Mail [] but it made me think anyway. Anyway, one part leapt out at me.
“They discovered that many of the health benefits of religion materialise only if you go to church regularly and have good friends there. In other words, it’s the ‘organised’ part of organised religion that does a lot of the good stuff. “
That didn’t feel like news to me. It’s a thought I’ve had several times over the years. But each time it appears in my mind, it feels very true. As if I’m missing out on something and if I could just find a way to accept this thing I ‘know’ to be untrue, I would find my Utopia. Maybe for me, that’s where this resurgent interest in Theology stems from.

However, if I’m honest, I’ve still no intention of dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn on a Sunday to spend time with people with whom I don't know how to share fundamental beliefs just so that they will be my friend. I guess my own laziness will be my downfall.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A bit of a boost for a change and ...Police training day

On Monday, I had an interview for an extra day of work each week. I was competing with two colleagues which I found difficult. Anyway, I got the position. It's only temporary as it covers another colleague's hours as she is off work sick. I miss her and am looking forward to her return so I'm happy to give up the hours ASAP if it means she'll be back and in good health again. However, in the short term, I have to admit that the extra money will come in handy.
The Police Family Liaison Officer training day went OK. Well I think it did - I haven’t had feedback yet.
They looked somewhat nervous and uncomfortable as I read from my blog about the fury I felt when the Restorative Justice was turned down. My need for revenge was evident as I talked of my fantasy of shooting bullets at people’s knees. I stopped reading three times to smile at them and say, “Of course we need to be aware that I’m not in that place anymore.” I could feel the tension in the room and thought they needed some reassuring. When I’d finished they said that it brought it home just how awful I had felt and how damaging the wrong interventions could be.
We all agreed that although a few issues had been caused by people who clearly didn’t give a damn, most were the result of a lack of training and/or a lack of awareness/people skills.
It helped me to be able to talk it over to them. And to feel that perhaps another family might be spared what I was forced to endure.
It’s left me feeling very tired though. Am in for another early night.