Since going back to work in July I’ve been surprised by the amount of times people have commented something along the lines of “Being back at work must help take your mind off it.” The reason I’m dedicating a blog post to it is not because these comments upset me (so if you said it to me please don’t be worrying!!). On the other side of grief, I suppose it seems quite logical, filling my time with work means less time to be alone with my sad thoughts and the dark places that may take me. But I’ve thought about this a lot and I cannot comprehend such a thing as being able to “take my mind off’ the fact Gareth died and I’m now a widow. For me, this is for two reasons;
Firstly, the loss of Gareth is so great it infiltrates every area of my life. I still don’t go more than a minute or two without thinking about him/us/life with him/without him, no matter where I am, who I’m with or what I’m doing. Ironically the nearest thing I have to compare this too is how it felt getting used to being Mrs Kingdon, when on 5th July 2008 life changed wonderfully drastically, I became Ga’s wife, him my husband and we physically set up home together, embraced other physical stuff, and continued learning how to do life together as a team. From that day on, wherever I was, whoever I was with, or whatever I was doing, it was with the continual knowledge, excitement, newness and at times frustration in sharing ALL my life with him. Over the years that initial excitement may have died down a little bit (but was still there 5 years on for both of us), only to be replaced by that cosiness and comfortableness in knowing someone so well you often (but not always) know what they are thinking before they say anything. 21st March 2013 brought with it a tragically drastic change and now rather than excitement there’s deep sadness and pain, and rather than embracing building a life together, I’m having to embrace the breakup of our life together and readjust to not being his teammate anymore.
Secondly, I am a nurse in the hospital where Gareth spent his last 10 days on earth in Intensive Care. To get to my office each morning I have to pass the entrance to ITU, and then numerous times during the day as I work throughout the hospital. In the last couple of months I have worked alongside some of the same physios and nurses that cared for Gareth. I have walked past the bed in which Gareth died. I have seen reminders of treatments and the struggles he had in those last few weeks throughout my daily workload. In such a work environment it is impossible to “take my mind off it.” Again I’d like to point out that my work colleagues have been excellent in their care for me, and have put absolutely no pressure on me to do any of the above…it was my choice to go to these areas and expose myself to what I saw. I wanted to see what I could manage (although there have been several days where I have only been able to hide in the office doing paperwork). But after two weeks back there, something snapped in me and I realised I no longer wanted to be there, doing that job. The constant reminders are just not healthy or conductive to me healing well from losing Ga.
Looking back now, it’s quite amazing how smoothly things have fallen into place. That night (it was a bad night with tears and little sleep) I searched for other jobs online, wanting anything outside the NHS. I didn’t find anything so looked at NHS jobs and there it was…a nursing post I had previously been interested in before my current role, that is just perfect for me. It involves working with a group of patients with another chronic health condition within the outpatient department and in the community. You see, I’ve realised that for the majority of my time spent as a qualified nurse within the inpatient environment, I have been with Gareth. And over that time, my experience of his struggles with chronic ill health and the support we both got from NHS services specialised in his chronic condition have changed my perspective on where I want to make a difference to patients within nursing. Right now, whilst the memories of his last three weeks are traumatic and uncomfortable (mostly), the seven years of cystic fibrosis influences and treatment aren’t, and I actually miss them. So I applied for the job, had an interview and got the position! I’ve handed my notice in (and am wonderfully supported by my manager and colleagues) and start the new job in October.
The risk is that this is a fixed term temporary post of 6 months only (with a strong possibility of it being made permanent), so I’m not completely sure what will happen come April. But after facing the biggest risk of all – the loss of one’s life, this risk is firmly put into perspective. I did also discuss this all with a few close friends who know me well and agree it sounds like a very positive and sensible thing for me to be doing, and not a emotionally charged widow reaction.
I’m excited and pleased with this new direction in my life… and hope Ga would be proud of me, and the influence he’s had in me getting here.