Mental Illness

DEPRESSION AND HOPE (or rather the lack of it)

It is with some trepidation that I write about my long term relationship with depression.

Recently, I have been drawn to people who talk of happiness as a matter of attitude.  People who have had their fair share of struggle, but have looked that struggle square in the face and said “Fuck you!”  Their souls, whilst changed, have not been broken. It is a matter of attitude they say.

I read these blogs, books and articles in magazines and my heart breaks a little bit more.

I think, perhaps, I am beyond help.

My head hurts.

My heart is broken.

I stumble through my day wondering why we exist at all?

It hardly seems fair to be created with sentient awareness, but to have no true purpose.

I have been told that my purpose is to write.  And it is true, I do feel it in my bones.

But I am ruled by fear.  People afflicted with this hideous disease are ruled by fear.

That is the truth of depression.

Some hard wiring has gone astray and we live in a perpetual state of fear.

The voices in our head, that nasty little creature that revels in our misery, tells us, constantly, how it is all going to go wrong, how we will make a laughing stock of ourselves, how we are arrogant to believe that we could be talented in anything, how our lives, really, are just a waste of the space we inhabit, how we just need to die.

And so we sit.  We wait.  To die.

We don’t really want to die, of course.  We just feel incapacitated.  We feel isolated and we feel hopeless.  And hopelessness is the killer.

I once watched an episode of Bones where the serial killer would brick women up into a room with no food nor water.  He would stream video footage of their families to them and then he would watch them as they would scream.  But no-one would come.  And eventually they would lie down and wait for death, all hope lost.  At the end of the episode, when he had been captured, he said that it was this hopelessness, so all encompassing that they would willingly lie down and wait to die, that he could induce in these women that gave him the thrill.  Pretty awful really, but a very good mirror on the human condition.

We need hope to survive.

Survival is dependent on hope.  Hope for a better future, hope that tomorrow will be better, hope that life will be okay in the end.

People who end their lives no longer have hope.

To have no hope is to be empty, to have nothing left.

To have no hope is to die.

I fight for hope.  Every day I wake up and pray for hope.  Depression and hope are interdependent.

It is not self pity.  Many people think it is.  Many people think it is a case of wallowing in our own misery.  Which is why mental illness is still so badly stigmatised, why it is underfunded and why it is now touted that not 1 in 5 but 1 in 2 people will be afflicted with a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime, and only a fraction of those will seek help, and only a fraction of those again will receive the help that will set them on the path to recovery.  That is to say, on a path that will enable them to see hope.

At this point in time I see no hope.

It’s horrible.  Shocking even.  I am a middle aged housewife living in a beautiful home with a beautiful family.  I have no right to feel depressed.  Or so they say.

But the reality is that I do have a right.  I have a right, because it is my reality.  It is a reality I wish didn’t exist.  It is a reality that I suspect will be a part of who I am for the rest of my life.  I will always struggle with finding the joy in a simple day, finding the happiness in a bird’s song.  I will always struggle to ignore the voices in my head that tell me I am not good enough, a waste of space, not worthy of love.

It is reconciling that reality, marrying it to a life of less pain, more vitality, less anguish, more evenness, that is the key.

Today, I am losing the battle.  But as of this day, I am winning the war, for I am alive.


Much love,

SHW Signature



Death.  h?

It is inevitable.  It comes to us all.  But we don’t like to think about that.


Are we afraid?  Afraid to tempt fate, to court the grim ripper for fear he may choose to come too early.  Before we have had chance to live the life we want, the life we struggle for, the life that has eluded us.  For surely the fear stems from a life not well lived, or a life incomplete somehow.

We just don’t talk about death and dying.

And we should.

We should talk about how we would like to die, even if when the time comes we don’t have that choice.

We should talk about how we would like to be buried, or cremated, or not.

We should talk about how we would like to be remembered, leave a legacy behind somehow of the essence of us, so that in death, our lives have some meaning.

I am reading a beautiful book called Lost & Found by Brooke Davis, an Australian author.  The theme is death.  And it is also about renewed life.  But for me, the death part resonates.  Millie, the central character, a 7 year old girl, is not allowed to talk about death, but she is acutely aware that things die.  She does not know why death is a taboo subject.  “It just is,” her father tells her.

My mom was diagnosed at that age of 61 with lung cancer.  From the time of diagnosis to the time of her death took just 8 weeks.  She did not want to die.  She was not ready for death.  She worried she would miss us too much.  I would lie on her bed next to her and she would cradle me in her arms as my tears would fall on her pillow and she would say to me, “I am going to miss you so much.”  She wasn’t prepared.  I wasn’t prepared.  I wasn’t ready.  Four and a half years later, I am still not ready.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer she was afraid.  She was afraid of how she would die.  She was afraid, mostly, that she would suffocate to death and be aware of that suffocation.  My dad, a devout Christian, caught in the ravaging grip of grief, couldn’t let her talk about her fears.  He clung to the idea that God would save her.  She was one of the good souls, he had said, and God would save her.

For the longest time she couldn’t express her fear.  And so, I sent Dad on an errand on the same day the palliative nurse came to visit and gave mom the space she needed to face the inevitability of her death.  To face the inevitable reality that for whatever reason her God wasn’t going to save her.  She needed time to talk, to prepare.

How will I die?” she had asked the nurse.

Well, cancer robs your body of energy, so you will feel more and more tired.  You will sleep more, and eventually, in my experience, you will slip into a coma like state and then slip away.”

Will I be aware of dying?”

In my experience, not really.”

Will I be struggling for breath?”

No.  Your body shuts down, so your consciousness is shut down first.  Only the very basic human functions will continue.   Eventually, your breathing will just slow down until it stops.”

The relief on mom’s face, to know that it wasn’t a case of her breathing out and suddenly not being able to breath in again.  She will be unaware, blissfully unaware.

A couple of days later we were in the car.

I want “I am Woman” played at the funeral.

We all jumped.

“And I want Sarah to sing Scarborough Fair and Amazing Grace.”

My poor dad looked at her mortified.  We were on our way to her first radiation therapy session.  The cancer had spread to her brain and they had to treat that before they could ever begin treatment on the inoperable tumour-infested lung.

You can’t have Helen Reddy blasting at your funeral.”  Dad said.  Still so much in denial.

“If that’s what you want mom, then that is what you shall have,” I said, my heart breaking as I gave in to the inevitability of the fact that I would be organising her funeral.

And no one is to wear black.  Only bright colours are allowed.

And so it was.  My mother’s funeral arrangements were made in the car, on the way to the hospital.  Thankfully, she found her voice.  Thankfully, she managed to let us know how she wanted to be honoured on her passing.

The nurse was right, my mom did slip into a coma, just as she said mom would, and her breathing slowed and slowed until, at just after midnight on the 8th July, she took her last breath.  It was a funny breath.   A shallow sigh really.  My dad had witnessed it before, in the passing of his own mother, so when mom took it, he said, “This is it girls.”  We looked at him, confused.  And then he said, “Mom, is gone.”  And then we cried, we howled.  But that is grief, and I will write about that another time.

This is about death and how we really need to be talking about it.

After my mom’s funeral at which “I am woman” was played whilst mom was precessed down the aisle, and whilst a slide show of her beautiful, brave life was shown; at which my sister and I both sang “Scarborough Fair” and “Amazing Grace”; and at which no-one wore black, people came up to us and said it was the best funeral they had ever been to.  My mom would have LOVED that!

At the funeral tea, my aunt told me that she didn’t want to get buried in a cemetery, or have a church funeral.  She said she wanted to be buried under a tree, whole, where her body can become one with the earth.  I know that there are a number of humanist funeral directors that arrange this sort of thing.

Yesterday, I watched a movie called “With Honors” in which Joe Pesci plays a character that is dying.  He writes his own eulogy, beautiful, moving.  When he was writing his eulogy, he seeks advice from Brendon Fraser’s character.  Brendon says, “Write about the things you did for which you are proud.”  I think that is good advice.

I’m still formulating my plan.  I have feared talking about death like everyone else, but I don’t want to fear it anymore. I want to embrace the inevitability of it.  I want to be prepared for it and I want to prepare my family for it.  Because I wasn’t prepared to lose my mom, I wasn’t prepared for her death.  And I think if we talk about it more, then we don’t have to be afraid of it, and then we will be more prepared for it, and then maybe, just maybe, it won’t be scary or hurt quite so much.

Do you talk about death and dying?  Are you afraid of it?  Have you got a plan?

Much love,

SHW Signature




Master J finished school on Friday.

He bounced into the car, full of as much joy as a nearly 17 year old boy can muster.

I’m done.  I’m done for 8 weeks.

I smiled.  I love the school holidays.  It is just he and I at home.  Mornings are lazy.  No time frame constraints and we can do what the hell we like.

Today is Monday, the first day of our summer break.

It is raining outside.

I’m ironing sheets and duvet covers (really exiting summer break this one!).

The holidays are so boring!” Master J has just emerged from his room.  It is 8am.  On the first day of our summer holiday.  The one that we love so much.  The one that, whilst our paths don’t cross that often (meaning he immerses himself in his computer in his room and I busy myself readying for christmas, then relaxing and pottering), we are acutely aware of each others’ presence.  His autism means he finds communication really difficult, but I communicate with him.  I communicate with him through silent connection.  I love that so much.  I love him so much.

What do you mean the holidays are boring,” I protest, “they have barely begun.

Then a few seconds later.

Do you want to go for a movie?

He shakes his head.  I knew he wouldn’t want to – no self respecting teenage boy wants to be seen with his mum in public, autistic or not.

We don’t have parties anymore.  Why don’t we have parties any more?  It is so boring in this house.

It is true.  We used to entertain a lot.  We bought this house for its entertainment value.  Then six months later we became sober, then six months after that my mom died.  I lost my desire to connect.

Then we had a couple of parties,  nothing as plentiful as before, but a few.

Then this year Mr C ended up in hospital.  And I ended up in hospital.  So we haven’t had any parties this year.

Children on the spectrum struggle to connect.

We have parties at our house, and Master J will not move from his room.  But the other children will seek him out and sit with him.  This is him connecting with the world outside.

What he was really saying to me is that he feels isolated, that he needs to connect.

Which may seem weird to people who don’t understand autism, to people who have a stereotypical view of children on the spectrum.

The truth is that whilst anxiety drives them and their subsequent isolation, like any human being, like EVERY human being, they desperately want to connect, even in the smallest way.

I, on the other hand, am driven by depression.  I do not want to connect.  Not right now.  It is christmas and I am sad.  I want to stay indoors with just the two of us.  He in his enclave, me in mine, aware of each other, connecting in our own way.

I look at him.  “It’s really late in the year, Master J, people won’t be available for a party.  But we are going to The C’s for christmas drinks.

It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  That will require effort – to get ready, to travel, to meet people he won’t know.  His face drops.

I tell you what.  How about we have a New Years party?  I don’t know who will be around, but no doubt some people won’t have plans.  Everyone can bring their children.

He nods, contemplating first, then accepting my offer.

I make a mental note to make sure I email everyone to see who might be around.  I also make a mental note to organise a few parties next year.

Connections are important.  They are important to Master C and despite my depression, they are important to me.  And it is important to maintain them throughout the year.  No matter how busy we are, or how ill we may be.  It is too easy to hibernate, to isolate, to lose connection.

You see, we are all connected on this crazy planet we call home.  Whether we like it or not, we are all connected.  We all have a burning desire to belong, to have a tribe of our own.  Even, or perhaps especially, children on the spectrum.  And so it is that I will be working hard to maintain those connections.  And so it is I have written a couple of dates in my diary next year to hold a party or two.  So that I can feel connected.  So that Master J can feel connected.

And so it is that my “I can do what the hell I like” summer holiday has now turned into “who the hell is around on NYE?” summer holiday.

Connections.  They drive us no matter what.  And that isn’t a bad thing.

Until next time,

SHW Signature



This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  Today is Day 8 of the initiative.



To You

Time to let go, time to release


Frantic is the only word to describe my life at the moment.

The silly season is upon us and I am the proverbial chicken without a head, trying desperately to get it all done before the big day.

It isn’t going to happen.  I have to let some things go.

I have lost my christmas mojo.

I don’t like to admit it, but I have.

Partly, it is the seasonal grief that the loss of my mom brings.  Grief is a funny beast and the silly season is one of those times when, for me, it manages to find me and cling to me like sand brought home from the beach.

But I also think it is the notion that I have to have a perfect christmas, full of feast and festivities.  And because I suffer from depression, with my list ever growing, I find that my motivation is ever waning.

I am tired.

It has been a difficult year.  A year of growth, yes, but we only grow when we are prepared to confront those painful aspects of our lives and let them go.  I have done an awful lot of letting go.

Writing has been therapy for me.  Toxic, ugly therapy.  Therapy is not meant to be rainbows and unicorns.  And I’ve grown.  But with any growth there has to be a period of rest.  To recharge, to gain strength.  I am finding my body desperately wanting to rest, my mind begging me to stop.

But I can’t, I tell myself.  I have so much to do.

What is it that drives us to do so much?  To aim for perfection?  A perfection that is a moving target since it means different things to so many different people.  For each of the 12 people that will sit at my christmas table, perfection will mean something different.  I am chasing an illusion.

I have to release this notion of perfection.  I have release this notion that unless I can achieve perfection, I will be viewed as not good enough.

I am enough.

Done is better than perfect.

Done is better than perfect.

Be kind to yourself.

Let some of it go.

The greatest gift we can give to ourselves is the permission to let stuff go, to put things out into the wider world that show imperfections, that are less than, but more than enough.

My to-do list is enormous.

If I don’t get it all done by the time Santa arrives, that is okay.

The world will not come to end.

Life will not stop.

Deep breaths.  In. Out.  In.  Out.

Let.  It.  All.  Go.

Dear Universe, I really wanted to get this shit load of stuff done by the 25th, but I am simply not going to manage it.  I am releasing those less important things to you.  Chances are no-one will notice.  I will notice, but that is okay, I am handing them over to you.  I am a fallible human, and at this time, in this moment, I just simply cannot do it all.  I am choosing my mental health over home made christmas bon bons, hand crafted gift bags and a number of other homestead-y type things.  I know you will  understand.

Much love,

SHW Signature




 This post was written as part of #reverb14 – a blogging initiative hosted by Kat McNally.  The month of December is a good time to reflect on the year that was and for us to contemplate the reverberations that we send out into the world.  Please do hop on over to Kat’s blog and if you feel moved to do so, please join in.  
Make a Card Monday

Make A Card Monday {F-off Monday}

I overslept.  I hate it when that happens.

The dogs kept me awake barking all night.  I have no idea what it was, but almost every hour on the hour, Harry would bark.  I would get up, walk over to the laundry (where they sleep at night), yell at him to shut up and then crawl back into bed.  Over 5 consecutive hours the ritual continued.

I did not wake up full of unicorns and sunshine!

To make matters worse, throughout the course of the weekend, I had forgotten to wash uniforms and PE kits and so I spent the (already late) morning running around trying to scramble some clean clothing together.

Then I got an email from my dad (I know, don’t ask me how I managed to find time to check my emails, but I did).  He sent me this photo of a memorial cross that he lays every year on Rememberence Day (which is tomorrow) for my grandfather who fought in Africa and Italy in the war.  How beautiful does it look in all that foliage?

This mentions my granddad's service number, rank, where he fought in WW2, and his life span.  I miss him so much!
This mentions my granddad’s service number, rank, where he fought in WW2, and his life span. I miss him so much!
This is where he lays the cross every year at the Remembrance Day Service
This is where he lays the cross every year at the Remembrance Day Service

Grief, it is a funny old thing.

I just stared at that photo.

Yesterday, I had gone to a scrapbooking group that I attend every month.  Well, I am meant to attend every month, but this year has been the year from hell and so yesterday, November, was the first one I had attended this year.  It was delightful.  Everybody hugged me and told me how beautiful my hair was {because of course, they had not seen my new hair that I got in April}.

I had just grabbed a couple of photograph envelopes from the box without even looking and a few supplies.

When I opened them up, they were of my mom and my grandad.

Grief, fuck grief.

And so this morning, my dad sent me that photograph and I was sleep deprived and late and disorganised and still feeling a little sad from yesterday and, well, it was all too much, so I cried.

Then, after I managed to drop Master J off at school on time and with a (relatively) clean uniform to boot, I went for my usual coffee, logged online to my beautiful mentoring group to let them know about my hideous start to the week.

There must be something in the air (moon issues perhaps?) because two other people in my group also had a hideous start to the morning.  We all agreed that we needed to tell Monday to, frankly, fuck off.

I have never been a fan of Mondays.  Ever.

I have never looked at it with excitement thinking “OMG this is the start of a beautiful new week!”

Even as a child my parents could never stir me on the first day of the school week.  Tuesday and the rest of the week was fine, but Mondays?  Just not my thing!

And so I present to you today’s card.  I would love to receive this card, because well, I hate Mondays.  The person that gave this card to me would have hit it right on the nail.  And I figured if I hate Mondays, then hey, there must be at least one other person who hates Mondays too!

The card required nothing more than a simple saying.  I created it using parchment card stock bought at Office Works, and the saying was created with the print and cut function of the Silhouette Cameo – very simple and easy to do.

Monday you suck balls

Fuck off monday

Two cards together


Not the nicest sentiment perhaps, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with the flow, you know?

And so I leave you with this – a song that has been my Monday mantra since it was released when I was 10!


Until next time,

SHW Signature





Today is a day for grief

I am not sure how to write this post.

I am not sure how acceptable it is in the world of blog to talk about the gut wrenching grief I feel right now.

As I sit here watching a TV movie of a woman whose husband is returned to her after 66 years of being missing in action, tears streaming down my face.  As I watch her hug his coffin, finally reunited with the man she so desperately loved, wailing loudly into the room.

Perhaps it is because I have been poorly these last few days.  I don’t do ill well.  I am not that woman who soldiers on.  No sirree, I am not at all.  I whinge and everyone in the house knows that my time has come.  I hate being sick.

It is because of this illness that I missed the anniversary of my mom’s death yesterday.  Until my dad sent me an email to let me know that he and my daughter were travelling to London to release balloons in Hyde Park – an annual tradition that we all do.  I had no strength to buy the balloons, had no strength to grieve.  My thumping head, high fever and vomiting just would not allow it.

I woke up this morning feeling a little better.  I managed to drag myself out of bed and even make myself a little something to eat.  And then my heart broke.  It has been four years since her death.  And lately it has consumed me more than ever.  Only a few weeks ago, I wrote about her on her birthday.  It’s a theme apparently, this grief thing.

Things are changing in my life.  Good things.  And I think that not having her around to share them with have reminded me of the gaping hole she left behind.  This grief has clouded me completely.

I decided that I need to fully sit in my grief.  I need to let the tears flow and my heart ache to the point of explosion.  I need to feel the darkness yet find the crack to let the light pour in.  God, I miss the light.

I need to find a way to negotiate a life without the sure footedness of her love for me.  My own identity was so inherently intertwined with hers that it has been difficult to find my own way without her.

This year I made the choice to consciously steer my ship, to point it headlong into the wind and face that stormy sea.  And since that decision I have been beset with health issues.  And as I have already noted I do not do illness well.

And this last bout of illness has seen me go to pieces, and then the grief set in.  And boy have I cried.  I’m pretty sure I’m dehydrated.

I have faith, though.  I have faith that there is light after the dark, that whilst it may take a little longer than expected time is a great healer.  It is called hope.  And I have always had it.  Even in my darkest hours, I have always had hope.  As sure as the sun rises after the darkest night,  I believe that the bad times do pass.  It is just sometimes I struggle to remember that.  I struggle to look to the horizon.  I struggle.

So this is me, writing about my grief.  It is ugly, but it is real.  I’m hoping tomorrow will bring a little more light.

Much love,

SHW Signature



Dear Child Uncategorized

Dear Child {Some things you should know about grief}

Dear Child,

First of all, it is important to know that grief is a part of our every day existence.  We grieve, no matter how momentarily, when we miss the train, or when we spill something on that freshly washed shirt, or when the driver in front of us is going so slowly you feel sure you could get out of your car and run past him whilst whistling the theme tune to Friends.

We grieve at these things because we expect things to go our way.  We are, as Alain de Botton so eloquently puts it, eternally optimistic about how our lives should go.  Our brains predict a certain course of action and when it doesn’t quite go according to plan, we grieve. Not of course in a life-ending “I can’t face the world” kind of way, though I have seen some people react this way, but more in a “I need to let off some steam, or cry, or yell” kind of way.

It is our acceptance of these little aggrevations that determine our ability to cope with this often frequent daily dose of grief.

But let’s shelve that for a moment.

What I would like to talk about is the kind of grief you get when you lose someone you love.

When I was 25 I lost my first husband.  You, my dear Miss 21, were just 16 months old.  There we were, my sister and I, at the cinema watching Mrs Doubtfire (have you seen that movie?  You really should, it is quite funny), when we suddenly noticed a bobbing light coming down the aisle.  I immediately recognised the stature of my dad’s body behind the usher and immediately said to my sister,

Oh my God, Dad has bought me a car.”

Because I had been wanting a car and my husband and I couldn’t afford a car and I thought it was perfectly reasonable for my dad to buy me one.

Of course, I was mistaken.  As soon as I saw Dad’s face I knew that there was no car.  Instead, my darling husband, the man I had been with since I was 14 years old, had died.  Drowned in a scuba diving accident.

My next brush with death was when, four years ago, my mom died of lung cancer.  It was just 8 weeks from diagnosis to death.  Hardly time for any of us to get ready for such a momentous thing.

These two departings have had a significant impact on the person that I am as of this date and I thought it would be good to impart to you my feelings on the subject of grief.  It is probably important to note that each person is different, and that this perspective is only my own but may be helpful to you when you get to experience the same thing.  And darlings, you will, because we all do.  It is just when that changes.


  • No matter how you think you are going to react when a person dies (and we all try to imagine what we would do), it isn’t anything like that.  For instance, I did not imagine for a second that when they came to remove my mom’s body from the house that I would throw myself on her body refusing to let the undertakers close the body bag.  My brother and dad had to pry myself from her.  I imagined my sister to have this reaction, perhaps, but not myself. It is absolutely okay to react in which ever way your mind and your body see fit.  Do not fight it.  Let it happen.  It’s important to do that.
  • After the initial shock of the death and the funeral, people find it really difficult to know what to say.  They avoid the subject like the plague.  They say, “How are you?” but they don’t really want to know the truth.  They want you to be okay, which is understandable.  In our culture we don’t cope well with extreme emotion.  I have often debated about how to handle this situation.  Do I be truthful to how I am feeling, or do I protect them and their aversion to the chance of tears uncontrollable sobs.  Depending on who it is will determine how you cope with this.  On the whole, I have found honesty to be the best policy.  If I am having a crap day I say so, if not then I smile and say “I’m fine, thank you.
  • This links to the one above.  People also will expect you to “get over” the death at some point.  I do not grieve now, some 20 years later, as much for my husband as I do for my mom.  I remarried two years after he died, and that companionship I shared with him was largely filled, although I hasten to add in a completely different way (more on this below).  For most of us, however, there is only one mother.  This void can never be filled.  I have grieved that enormously.  For me, the loss of my mom has meant the loss of the person who gave me life, knew all of my faults and loved me unconditionally anyway.  It has been four years now and without warning I still cry and have some very dark days because I cannot hear her voice.  This is okay.  I know people who grieve for their parents well into their old age.  There is some belief, I think, that we should just accept and move on.  Perhaps we should and I know that many people are able to do this.  If you aren’t able to do this, that is okay.
  • If you are unfortunate enough to lose your partner and then lucky enough to find someone that you love enough to marry, do it.  Do not feel like you are betraying the departed partner.  You are not.  When I married your dad, for weeks before the wedding I had nightmares about my first husband returning and demanding that I don’t marry your dad.  It was pretty harrowing.  I was racked with guilt over the choice to marry again.  It was so silly to feel this guilt.  Why should I feel so guilty to finally find someone who would bring me so much joy and light again. 18 years later, I am so glad that I did not let my fear and guilt get in the way.
  • You may or may not shout out the dead partner’s name whilst making love to the new partner.  This is okay.  Do not beat yourself up about it.  You have had one significant other for a long time, then he/she died.  Now you have another one.  You are bound to get them mixed up in the heat of the moment.  This, I assume, will pass.
  • Grief is our way of coping with an incredible loss in our lives.  There is absolutely no time limit on when that will finish its course.  I would wager that it is never.  Time may be a great healer to some, but my experience has been one not of healing as such but the ability to move through each day with greater ease.  There is something to be said for that.
  • The loss of a loved one and the consequent grief changes you.  How can it not?  You know at that moment, when the life has eked out of your loved one, that your life will change forever.  The road on your journey of life has forked and you are now walking in a different direction.  There is no getting away from this.  Know that through grief, we do become stronger and, in my opinion, better, more compassionate people.
  • Expect to cry a lot more easily and frequently in movies.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk of the person that died.  I had a friend who cried every time I spoke of my mom.  I would comfort her and it was okay.  I still talked about her and I still do.  It is good to talk.

I think that is all for now.  It’s turning into an epic!  Just know that grief is nothing to be afraid of, ashamed of or to be shied away from.  It is a natural and healthy part of the human condition.  It means you ARE human.  And when you grieve for someone so greatly, it means that you have been extraordinarily lucky.  For you got to experience the kind of love that elicited that grief and, my dear darling children, that is a rare gift indeed.

From my heart to yours,


Dear Mom

Dear Mom

Hi there mom,

How are you (wherever you are)?

Today is your birthday.  It is a normal Thursday.  A day that started off like any other.  Except for the knowing that you were gone.

Grief.  It wrenches us from the normality of the day into a deep dark chasm from which we fear we will never emerge.  My heart aches so so much.

I miss you mom.  I want you to be sitting opposite me, in this beautiful vintage booth with its plush upholstered seats, pretending we are members of the 50s rat pack, sipping coffee and laughing.  I miss laughing.  With you.

Tears.  They roll so freely when I think of the rest of my life without you.  Cold.

How on earth do people manage it?  How do they carry on?  How did you carry on when your mother died so young?  Did you think about her every single day?  Did you want to call her countless times in a week just to hear her voice?  Did you ache to tell her your celebrations and to be comforted when life handed you tragedy?  Did you pray that her spirit was somewhere close by, always? Did it get any easier?

Birthdays.  A day of celebration.  Not today.  Not for me.

No daughter should be without her mother too early.  Ever.  It tears the fabric of her existence.  Father time, feel free to step in any time to heal this grief.

I want to tell you all the everyday things that happen in our life, mom.  I can’t seem to find the words.

Instead, know that you were more significant than I think you ever realised, that you touched everyone who met you, that you meant and mattered so much.  Know that love is too little a word to describe how I feel about you.

Have a good long rest, mom.  Mizpah.

From my heart to yours,

SHW Signature

Autism Depression

When you miss a beat -Tuesday 15 May – 32 weeks and 3 days

I wake up with a start.  I immediately know that I have overslept.  I curse.  Bloody alarm.  I set it and it didn’t go off.  I know what is to come and I dread it.  I jump out of bed, as much as I can jump out of bed, and run to the laundry.  I grab the uniform, iron it and burst into JC’s room.  “Wakey, wakey, rise and shine,” I say as cheerfully as possible.  Maybe he won’t notice.

“What time is it?”

“It’s time to get up,” I reply, hopefully.

JC lifts his head and sees the light streaming through his blinds.  “Mum, it’s light!” he shouts.

“Well, I may have overslept a bit,” I say, trying to remain calm, “so up you get up and into the shower.”  JC himself jumps up out of bed and checks the clock in the dining room.

“Mum!  It’s ten past seven!  That’s it, dad can wake me at 5am when he goes to work.  Where is dad!”

The yelling, it’s the yelling that wears me down.  I avoid it at all costs especially as JC is now bigger and stronger than I am.  I don’t live in fear, per se, but I do live with some anxiety that things may possibly fly across the room.

“Dad’s at work, you know it is budget week and he has to be at work early.  Now, get in the shower, JC.”

“Oh no, I’m not showering, not now, it is too late.  I am meant to be woken at ten past six.  You are an hour late.  I know you were just too lazy to get out of bed.”

I ignore the hurtful remark.  “If you want your iPod any time soon, you will get into that shower.”

“That’s not fair.”  It’s the only leverage I have that I know will get him to do what I need him to do.

I have now lost my patience.  “Well, life isn’t fair!  Now get in that shower.  And make sure you use soap!”

JC storms into the bathroom and I hear the shower door open and shut with a bang.  I know he probably will not use soap and it is absolutely no time to remind him to wash his hair, since he hasn’t washed it in over a week.  I retreat to the laundry and put on some washing.

My mood is plummeting.  I have been feeling it for a few days now.  It’s that wretched mother’s day.  Mom was diagnosed with cancer around mother’s day and died 8 weeks later.  Now, I no longer have a mother to spoil on mother’s day and even now, two years later, I feel a great sense of loss.  Being a natural giver, rather than a receiver, means I no longer enjoy mother’s day.  The bombardment of “Happy mother’s day!” and “Mum, I love you.” all over the place is literally more than I can bare.

Dee came home last night to find me in tears.  He put his arm around me and asked what was the matter.  I felt silly saying that I missed my mom, that I missed her voice, the stability and evenness that she brought to my life.  Now, here I am missing her even more than when she first died.  I need her to listen to me download, to listen to how hard I find it sometimes, being a mother to a child with autism, my fears of his long term independence, my anger and sadness at my own sense of disappointment and loss of not having a normal child.

I hear JC emerge from the shower.  He shouts something at me, but I choose to ignore it, since I didn’t hear what it was.  I move into the kitchen and start making his lunch.  I go to pick up the vegemite and drop the jar on the tiled floor.  It shatters.  “Shit! Shit!” I say.

“That’s called karma!” JC shouts from his lounge.

My blood boils.  I storm into his room.  “You just show some respect!” I yell at him.  “The appropriate response is ‘Are you okay, Mum’!”  This is a futile exercise.  Children with autism, and especially teenagers with autism are extremely self-centred.  Not in the selfish the-world-is-all-about-me kind of way, but in the I-live-in-and-can-only-operate-in-my-own-world kind of way.  They have to learn empathy in the way we have to learn to drive, they aren’t born with it.  It is impossible for JC to see that I may have been hurt by shattered glass.

“You have to earn respect,” he says without looking up.

I’m human, and I have reached boiling point.  “Respect!” I yell, “Respect!” (just in case he didn’t hear the thunderous voice the first time around).  “I have earned that respect by being your mother, for carrying you for nine months, pushing you out with great pain, nurturing you and giving you as much love, shelter and care as any mother could give.  I have earned it by understanding your autism and fighting for you every single step of the way!  Oh, my boy, I have earned that respect!”

I know he isn’t listening.  Children with autism have a wonderful way of retreating into their own world.  He just says “karma” and retreats.  I walk away, knowing that it is pointless.  I broke his routine.  His routine that is so precious to him, as it is to all children with autism, and I disregarded it.  As far as he is concerned, I trashed his routine and that does not deserve respect, even when I explained to him that I did set the alarm and it didn’t go off.

I head off to the shower myself.  I am tired and I haven’t even begun my day.  As the warm water warms my skin I wonder about karma.  I head off down a self pitying train of thought of being a really bad person in my previous life to warrant a teenage pregnant daughter and a teenage son with autism.  I shake myself.  This is a dangerous road for me and I cannot go down it.

“Mum, are you ready, we need to go.”

“I’m just about done JC.  Five more minutes.”

We get into the car.  JC blares his music in his ears.  I listen to the radio.  Both of us are absorbed in our own thoughts.  God, I miss my mom.  “Have a good day at school.  I love you,” I say as JC alights from the car, as I always do, part of his morning routine.

He grunts.  “You know, I know you overslept on purpose.”

I smile, promise him that it was a mistake and drive off.  I get home and check the alarm clock making sure it works for tomorrow morning.  Missing that beat cost me, and JC, and I don’t intend to let that happen again.