16 months on & I still can’t visualise my future

At the early stages of grief you’re expected to be sad, cry at any time & people are sympathetic. I feel now that I have to put my big girl pants on every day before I can face the world. I’ve found it really tough over the last few months because this is the time when people tend to think you’re moving forward. The questions & the insensitive (though well meant) statements. “You’re still young enough to meet someone else” … What the heck? Derek was the love of my life, my soulmate, our future in Spain was planned, we’d taken early retirement, should have moved over last year. I want that life with him & I can’t find my way past that. I can’t even get over to our little place that we bought, our little piece of paradise. The days are going by & I don’t know how I get through them but i do, days go into weeks & into months but I’m just treading water. It’s hard to talk to anyone about it because I can’t quite say to our girls that I don’t want the future as it is, I want what it should be. I’m generally a very positive person but really struggling at the moment to find that part of me.
Take care everyone x

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I understand what you mean. I now look at it this way, the past is where we were the happiest, the present is another day I get through and the future does not bear thinking about because if the last seven years since I lost my beloved husband are anything to go by, nothing is going to change in the future, in fact it will get worse because since Peter died, both our sons got divorced, I no longer see two of our grandchildren as our son’s ex wife moved far away with her new husband, our other son has also moved away and I only see him every so many months but he is now talking about going to live abroad. Luckily our youngest son only lives an hour away and I see him, our daughter in law and toddler grandson for a couple of hours every month. So the future looks pretty bleak, all our friends from the 60’s still have their partners, all the clubs I used to attend have closed down due to the pandemic and not going to re-open, I used to look forward to their day trips. It is a lonely life.

I was going to start looking after our toddler grandson, 3, from next Monday but they have decided it is too far to travel there and back and now want me to move to be nearer them so I can child mind our grandson for them. It will mean selling the only home we have ever known and the thought of it is killing me inside.

What to do, what to do.xx

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Dear Sheila,
What a predicament. The way I see it is this.
If you move to be nearer them, that may be fine for a year or two while he is still small but what happens once he goes to school? Will the family be expecting you to look after him at the end of his school day as well? Or do they need you only until his full time education starts? If the latter is the case, would you resent giving up your home once childcare is not needed and you don’t see so much of him to compensate for that?
If the care is only needed until he starts school, that means you will be tied for about 18 months. That might be do-able for you. If, however, the care will be needed outside school hours as well, then you will, in effect, be living your life for him. In the school holidays, would you be expected to have him full time? What about your interests and your friends? When he is bigger and you aren’t needed as a childminder, that’s when you might realise the sacrifice you have made.
I know from experience as a grandmother of four, that however close you are to them, they understandably and quite rightly start to shape their own lifestyle as they grow up. In my case, for example, one grandson is moving abroad to the Far East with his work. I will hardly see him once that happens, and I am glad I saw him so much when he was growing up. I think what I am trying to say is, see as much as you can of him while he is little, but keep your own lifestyle going. Hope this helps you to decide.
Hugs, Ann

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Dear Ann,

Peter and I have looked after our three grandchildren since they were born, during the week and weekends up until they started going to school, then we had them through the school holidays and weekends, took them on holiday and days out. When Peter became ill, we still looked after them at weekends and school holidays right up until he died and then I looked after them all. Then two of our grandsons moved away with our son’s ex wife and her new husband so I never see them now, I send them messages, presents but never get a reply back. Our eldest grandchild is 16 and I don’t see her either as she lives with her mum and her new husband, I get the occasional text. Our youngest grandson is three and our son has made it clear that they want me to move nearer to them so I can look after him until he starts school and then after school and in the school holidays so they can continue working.

I don’t have a life at all, they visit me for two hours in my home, I put on a meal, get all the toys out and then they leave me with all the clearing up. I would just once like them to ask me to go out to the park and sit and have afternoon tea outside. I am in a bubble with them so we could do it but they never do. They came to see me last Sunday and I went in to make coffee, when I came out with coffee and cakes all three of them were sitting there with an ice cream, he had gone to the ice cream van that comes round and got them all ice creams. I said, where’s mine, and he said, I didn’t think you wanted one, so I said of course I would and you could have asked.

I feel as though I am being used. I wish I was a million miles away from them all.

I totally agree, Peter and I had the best years with our other three grandchildren so I have no regrets about that. But, if I am going to move I don’t want to move to a housing estate. Where I am now, I have a wonderful park at the end of my street, a bus stop where I can catch a bus anywhere, I have a large detached property with a massive garden and nothing around me but flowering hedges.

Dear Sheila,
You and I have been corresponding for some time now so I know you are happy where you live. As you will remember, I live not too far away.
Your latest message rather indicates that you have tilted towards staying put, and I think that’s what I would do. You are not just a glorified nanny, and I think the way your family treated you over the ice cream was cruel and unfeeling. They don’t deserve you, Sheila, and I think you should decide what will make you happy and go for it!
Please write again if you want to. I am always pleased to chat with you.
Hugs, Ann x

Dear Ann,

I will Private message you.

Sheila.x

Dear Ann,

I totally agree, I have been building up to a confrontation with them as it is all one sided. It just hurts when I get a Whats App message photo showing them on the park and having tea and coffee in one of the parks mansions. Our other son who live 80 miles away sends me photos of him and his partner holding a pint of beer saying ‘Cheers Mum’. They are always telling me to get out more even before the pandemic started but I keep telling them I have no-one to go out with, every single one of our friends from the 1960’s all still have their partners, I do not know anyone local who doesn’t have a partner and who is not ill, that I can go out with. I am always alone.

I am a fit and healthy nearly 80 year old going on 21, I am in a time warp really, I am old in years but young in mind, I still belt out my rock n roll music, and jive around the back garden with my sweeping brush. I wear my headphones playing rock n roll music when cutting the hedges, or cleaning the windows etc.

Even our sons say that I have more energy than they will ever have and I often wonder if that is why they don’t worry about me and expect me to do things for them all the time, they don’t think of me as an old woman because I don’t act like one, but it would be nice to get a phone call every so often but when I ring them it goes to voicemail and they never, ever ring me back. One of these days they will get a voicemail from me saying, Hi, just to let you know I died this morning.

Sheila.xx

You do make me laugh, Sheila. Thank you for that. Xx

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Hi lonely
I think your family take for granted your kind way. You were raised in a generation where family comes first as was I but I am younger. My mum always put us 1st well as we got older I think the dogs came 1st😊
This said she was there for us helping with grandkids and all but she died yound at 68. So she missed out on the greatcgrandchildren. We took her on holidays not because she was alone but because we wanted to.
I now look after my grandaughter because we dont want outsiders doing what we can do better. Your sons should be greatfull you care enough to want to do it. The icecream situation would have been the straw that broke the camals back. My mouth would have over took my brain.
This said falling out with family is never good so I like to ponder a day or two before i speak my mind so my thoughts are calm. Once we say it it can never be unsaid. Your boys need to know how you feel.

Dear Jodel712

There’s never an okay time to lose someone we love, but I personally feel that grieving during a pandemic is even tougher. You had so many plans with your husband, so I imagine you are understandably devastated to lose them too. I appreciate it’s really difficult to talk about this, especially to your children. Have you been able to have any counselling?

Take care, Kathy.

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Hi Kathy
Thank you for your reply.
I’ve never really thought about counselling, I’ve found just getting things written down & out of my head helps a lot. Joining this forum & sharing has been a huge help too.
I think you’re right, this pandemic hasn’t helped I think it has probably stopped a lot of people being able to grieve properly with family & friends. It also facilitates you hiding from the world. The thought of getting back to ‘normal’ is scary. Although I want to scream every time I hear that, for some people life will never get back to normal.
I had a good walk yesterday to clear my head, that also helps.
Wishing you well with your journey.
Jo x

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Dear Tillwemeetagain,

Thank you, We never had anyone to help us out as Peter lost his family just after we met, then my dad died, then my sister, then my mum so it was only the four of us. I worked weekends so Peter could look after our sons and he worked during the week so I could be there for them going to and coming home from school. I didn’t go to work during the week until the youngest was 13 then I went part-time, I was lucky I had Peter who was able to support us.

This morning our eldest son rang me, he is 51 years old and asked me if I had been out anywhere, I said, where am I supposed to go, he said you could go for a walk around the shops, so I said it costs me £20 in taxi fare to get there and back as there are no buses at the moment where I live, and then I have to wander about alone and when I don’t need anything what is the point.

He said, well, we come to visit you when we can so I said yes you do but it is always at my home, it would be nice just once for you to ask me to go out for a few hours and have a coffee somewhere, but then he blamed the pandemic so I told him that his dad had been dead for nearly 7 years and not once have either you or your brother asked me to go out for the day, you asked me to childmind and I did, you asked to stay over at my house when you went out drinking with your friends so I said yes but not once have I been able to get out of the house unless I go out alone.

I told him I was thinking of selling up and buying a luxury caravan near the coast and he said I was being silly. I told him that my mum, after my dad died when I was young, was taken out every weekend by his dad and I, she never spent a weekend alone, she came to our home for Easter, Mother’s day, Bank holidays etc. etc. but all I get from you is a What’s App message saying Cheers mum, when you are out and about having a meal or drinks. He said, I could still get dressed up and go for a walk round the shops, he said don’t you have friends you can go with, I said, yes, I have but they all have their husbands and want to spend time with them.

I ended up slamming down the phone. I have gone and done it now. He will be telling his brother what happened so I will have him ringing me as well. I am fed up of them, I really am. I have lost three grand childen because they got divorced and their exes moved away and now they want me to childmind the toddler grandson that I have so they can go to work. I am such an idiot.

Lonely.xx

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It sounds as though you were very thoughtful when the generation above you needed support and care. It’s such a shame that you are not having the same consideration from the next generation down. You sound as though you are caring and lovely - you deserve some care and loveliness back. Sending hugs.

I am now waiting for our other son to call me and ask me what is the matter. I wish I had kept my mouth shut. Our daughter in law does not work, she takes our grandson out every single day to animal farms and parks, I could get a bus and meet them half way and spend a few hours together but she never asks. I once asked to visit her at their home, before the pandemic, which meant me getting three buses, I told her I could get there for 11 am which meant leaving home early in the morning, but she said it was inconvenient and could I come after 2 pm, that would mean I would only have about an hour with them before getting three buses back home again and in the rush hour it would take forever. I said no and I never asked again and was never invited. They knew where to come when they wanted money to pay off all their large debts when they got divorced, I was a bank to them.

Dear Lonely
I am sad for you that the family don’t make the effort. Some people are the chasers when it comes to meeting up & others either don’t try or give up on efforts too soon. We are so hurt, confused, scared, worried & lonely that our brains are not processing things in a normal way. If my husband was still here, would the friends & family be making the same effort to include me & do the garden visits currently allowed? I think yes, as we as a couple were welcoming, fun, entertaining. Now I am just hard work, annoyed sometimes at lack of understanding & effort on their part & the contrary part of me just wants to be left alone, yet when that happens I feel a bit sad they are letting me down.
I am just not normal, I know that (14 weeks this week, 42 years together) & wonder if I’ll ever be. I get to see & spend time with family including youngest toddler & i could ask for more & it would be given freely. But i don’t really want anything other than the obvious. We loved our family with a passion & were always there for them, we truly were.
Now I struggle to feel anything, I look at clock all the time wishing them to go home, cos there is no joy, no heart-bursting feelings of love as before when the wee one smiles or laughs. So not just my husband that was taken from me, the cruelty of the loss is just piling higher & higher. The lonely we suffer from can’t be filled with anything or anyone else.

Dear Lonely

I am going through something similar at the moment. Me and my husband were there for our son his partner and baby the whole nine months until my husband died. I then took up the mantle of looking after grandson alone. Another grandson was born a week ago. It was an emotional time, my husband was not going to be there to see this one so when they asked me to stay I said that I could not do every night. Instead her mother stepped up to the plate. Since then I feel side-lined. Everything we did previous just completely forgotten. They have gone out to the beach today but I am sitting at home alone. This is a time of celebration for my son and his partner. I will keep my mouth shut but I am hurt. If I do not continue to get to see the grandkids on a daily basis then there is no point in being here - they keep me going.

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@Jodel712
Jo, I think that getting things out of.your head in whatever way you chose is a positive. For me, counselling was way to openly explore and express my emotions, anger, guilt, despair… I didn’t have to worry about upsetting others who were close to Paul, it was a safe, non judgemental space just for me and it really helped me. I’d recommend it.
I really identify with what you say about going back to 'normal '. Everyone is understandably keen, but I just feel fearful. It will be hard to see everyone else return to their previous routine, whereas mine, ours are irrevocably changed.
On a more positive note, I do recognise that I feel stronger than I did say, six month’s ago and I keep reminding myself that I’m going In the right direction. It’s such a tough journey and one that none of us would want, but I find that keeping busy and a positive mental attitude have helped.
Take good care, Kathy x

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Dear Maigret and Sheila,

Maigret, what you said about there being no joy, no heart-bursting feelings of love as before when the children smile or laugh, that is exactly what I feel like and yes, if Peter was here we would be going out for family days out, but the difference now is I can’t drive so they would have to pick me up and bring me home, I have offered to get a bus or a taxi but they won’t here of it so I never get out.

Sheila26,

This is what happens to me, our daughter in laws mum and dad go out for the day with our daughter in law and toddler grandson, they go to the coast, they even book a chalet for the week at the coast and I am sitting at home.

The difference is I am on my own, our daughter in laws parents are still together, I often wonder if they are afraid of being asked to do something for me. Our eldest son, just after his dad died, told me that I have now enough money to pay for jobs doing so don’t ask them as they are busy people, so I wonder if that is the case, they are afraid of being lumbered with me. The stupid thing is, if they want anything, they come to me for it. Do you have this, or do you have that, have you any spare drinks you don’t want. Our youngest, nearly 50, when he comes, goes through my cupboards and fridge to see if he can take anything home to save him buying it.

I have now put my foot down, I am sick of buying things and then our sons taking them, they never bring it back. I have even been told to stop spending money on clothes and things I don’t need, and if I have any money spare to give it to them. I told them to s## off I have given them enough money, I could have bought a top of the range luxury caravan on a site and pay site fees for 12 years with the money I have given to them to clear their debts.

What hurts me the most is that all our other three grandchilden, from being 6 months of age were looked after by myself and my husband, when the youngest turned three Peter started being ill and for the next eight years, even though he was deteriorating on a monthly basis we still looked after the three grandchilden, when they went to school we had them in the school holidays, or I did as Peter was too ill to look after them and it was hard as I was looking after Peter as well as our grandchildren. Peter said it was too much for me but I didn’t want to let our children down as they were working and didn’t want to pay for childcare otherwise there was no point in their mums going to work at all.

After Peter died, I still looked after all three because our sons said it would be company for me but now they were getting older I found I didn’t have the energy or the patience to look after three under 10 children that needed feeding, playing with, taking out etc. I was 75 years of age by then, my hair was falling out due to stress of losing Peter and looking after him for the eight years prior, I even bought a wig that was like my hair so when I went out with the kiddies I could plonk it on and honestly you could not tell it was a wig.

Then our sons ex-wives met their future husbands and moved away so I have not seen the three grandchildren now for two years. When I ring them they don’t answer, I send them birthday and Christmas cards with cheques and a text message wishing them a lovely Christmas or a happy birthday but never get a reply or a thank you for the presents. I bought all three of them their first computers for school. Peter and I had promised them we would buy them their first cars, when they passed their test but they can whistle for them now.

All I want is for our sons to ring me up and say, ‘would you like to go out for the afternoon’ I would jump at the chance, but even though it is the pandemic, they didn’t do it before so they won’t start now.

If Peter had been alive and healthy it would have been all so different and I have never been as lonely as I have been since the day he died.

Our eldest son told me that before his dad died, he made them promise to take care of me and they said they would. My husband would be incensed how things have turned out and how much of his hard earned pension I have given to them to clear their debts.

Dear Sheila

It is shocking isn’t it? My son just been on the phone to tell me what they have all done today. He asked where I had been and told him nowhere and he changed the subject. Like yourself it will be me they come running to when there is something to sort out. I really do not know what I will do if I am cut out. Like yourself all my friends still have their husbands.

The loneliness is all consuming and I miss having the support of my husband. I am no longer important to anyone and it hurts so much.

Take care
Sheila

Dear Lonely
Such a tragic story & your dear husband would indeed be disappointed that you have been treated so badly. This is their shame. If I was in a similar position, I don’t think I would have the strength of character to even speak to them when they clearly show how little they are concerned about you. When its their turn, they will understand how hard it is. We were a priority to our dear partners, we are not a priority to our families - but that shouldn’t stop kindness, concern, comfort, love & company from being offered.
I really do feel for you. I know we are hard work but its bad enough to lose your loved one, but then to feel as if you are just their family bank …

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