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Family and friends; being active and Looking forward to the future

Posted July 4th 2017 by Mike our guest blogger

Some people kurling

My journey from bereavement to relative normality has been long, difficult and – thanks to my family  – ultimately successful. Whilst this is a personal story I hope that other people in similar circumstances may benefit from me telling it.

In January 2009 my wife Alicyn died. I was totally devastated. At the time we had a small farm where Alicyn had her 4 horses and I pottered about in the garden whenever I had spare time, life was great. Once Alicyn died remaining there was not an option, so I moved to be near my daughters and their families. To my mind this gave my life purpose.

At the same time I moved from full time to part time work, telling myself that this gave me more time to provide help to my family. A few years later on turning 60 I retired altogether, convincing myself that becoming a full time Grandfather was what I needed. In reality I was retreating into a cocoon, occasionally helping with the grandchildren but mostly cutting myself off with my thoughts of what had been and what things could have been. To help with the darker moods I was put on anti depressants that helped with the frequent days I spent never seeing or speaking to another person. Believe it or not, I thought I was coping well with the loss of Alicyn and the new reality.

Luckily my kids saw what was happening to me and made great efforts to get me out and about. They got me to join the Rugby Club. I went to watch my grandchildren train and play, then straight back to my sanctuary. They took me to their cycle races where I would video the races then go home and watch them continually. And then in 2016 they made a last effort to try and get me a life outside grandchildren and self pity.

My daughter came across Ageing Well which offered various activities for the over 55’s.  She chose activities for me – New Age Kurling, Walking Football & Gardening  – and to ensure I went paid for the first 4 sessions and gave them to me as a birthday present from the grandchildren! Emotional blackmail at its worst, in my opinion!

With major reservations I was frog marched to my first Kurling session. As expected I was not very good, but what I didn’t expect was the warmth that came from the group. I fully intended attending the 4 sessions then finding some excuse to get back to my former life. However after the initial sessions I found myself looking forward to going. The Kurling wasn’t improving but the company was. Talking to people around the same age with comparable experiences was the real benefit. Suddenly my life of grandchildren and solitude was less appealing.

People at the Kurling encouraged me to join the local bowling club, which I did. And that is when I found out that inactivity causes its own problems. Having to get out of the car and walk was a major shock. Although the club was a mere half mile from my house, walking there caused excruciating pain in my knees. Before I was able to give up on the grounds of ill health my son in law, correctly guessing my intent, referred me to a physiotherapist, paying for the first appointment obviously.

Again very reluctantly I went along.  She diagnosed that the problem was not my knees but the muscles in my thighs that had wasted away due to 8 years of almost total inactivity. So she set about setting me targets of how far I should walk a day and exercises to do several times a day.  I have now been doing them for a couple of months.  On average I now walk between 8,000-10,000 steps a day and along with the exercise I am beginning to see a real improvement, but it will take time to get back to where I should be.

So what have I learned?

· Grief is normal but shouldn’t become the normal.
· Stay active. Losing muscle is easy, getting it back is difficult.
· As soon as you are able to, get back into society.

I was lucky. My family did not give up on me. They got me into Ageing Well and the benefits have been enormous. I have met lots of people and now have an active social life. I have got out of the car and started walking. Admittedly some alcohol is occasionally involved to sweeten the change.

I have met Cath through the bowling club and we are creating new memories. I am introducing her to opera during this year’s Festival. She has introduced me to walking for walking’s sake! And we are going to start dance classes in August! I have warned her it could end in tears. Both my daughters have been unable to stop laughing long enough to express an opinion!

So the most important step is to join a group activity that helps you meet like minded and/or similarly aged people. I joined Ageing Well but others are there. They help you meet people, the activity helps keep you active and most importantly it leads to other activities that add to your fitness and social circle.

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Comments

  • Posted by Shona Laidlaw on July 19th 2017
    Enjoyed reading your story Mike. Good luck for the future.

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