That’s a nice cheery title, wah?! For a long time I have toyed with writing this post. It plays on my mind. I turn it over and over in my head and then for whatever reason I don’t get around to sitting at the laptop to type up the words. It has followed me around though, the words churning in my head and I suppose they want to come out. I typed up a few words, but then nervously saved the post as a draft. And now here I am again, typing. I know that like me so many of you have lost someone who you loved, and continue to love, dearly. And, like me, you probably think that you are going or have gone about this grieving business all the wrong way.
There are no instructions you see. It’s a bit like learning how to swim the hard way, being fucked in at the deep end and left to figure out how to float before you sink. And for some reason we don’t talk about it. If asked how we are we draw an answer from the list of stock phrases, “ah I’m grand, thanks”, “getting there”, “you know yourself”, “sure don’t we just have to get on with it”. So when it happens to you you naturally assume that you must be grand and you must get on with it. Wrong. We’re like pretty little snowflakes, each of us different and each of us delicate, so we must deal with things in an equally unique way.
The first thing to say is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You don’t have to do things exactly the same way as your best friend/cousin/colleague. Maybe you need to cry a lot. Maybe you need to surround yourself with people. Maybe you need to take a break. Maybe you need to talk at length. Maybe the tears just won’t come. Maybe you need to take some time out alone. Under the duvet. With an extra-large bar of chocolate. Maybe you need to throw yourself into activities to keep you both physically and mentally occupied. Maybe you need to process exactly how you feel before you can utter a word to anyone. Maybe you need to do all of the above to find what works for you.
You don’t have to cry. And if you don’t it doesn’t mean that you are a heartless beast. Initially you might feel quite numb. You are facing a rather alien situation and emotions are confused. If the tears don’t flow don’t beat yourself up. They will come when they are ready. And you should have the tissues on standby, because once they start to flow they might not stop for a while.
There is no set time frame. You don’t have to race the clock in an attempt to get your grieving over and done with. It takes time. Quite a long time. Your emotions and approach to it will morph over time. Don’t rush it. Allow yourself to go through the motions, however long they take. And just when you think you’re done, something will crop up to tell you otherwise. That old adage of ‘time is a great healer’ is a load of bollocks. I’m sorry to break it to you so bluntly, but it is. But what time will do is allow you to adjust your life, and learn to live without that person present. So if it still hurts in 5 years, 10 years or many more, that’s OK. You’re not doing things wrong.
You don’t have to pull yourself together. There will be that one person who thinks they are doing good by you by harassing you into being active, getting out there, socialising, generally pulling yourself together and getting on with things. Going through the motions of your day-to-day life is important, and the routine will help. But if at the weekend or evenings you don’t fancy going clubbing/taking that foreign language class/mountain hiking then simply say thank you, but no. You know what’s best for you, don’t let others make you believe that they do.
I wish someone had told me these things a long time ago, just to set my mind at ease that doing things my way was exactly the right thing to do. That is the most important thing to remember, do things your way. And now I think we could all do with some cake after that. A nice lemon cake to be precise. It’s the perfect cup of tea (or coffee) cake. It’s a well-known fact that tea makes everything better, and lemon cake can brighten up any day. So turn on the kettle, and cut yourself a nice slice. Or two.
Lemon Milk Cake
This recipe is based on the recipe for the chocolate milk cake in my book
3 large eggs
1 x 397g tin of condensed milk
100g unsalted butter, melted
Zest of 1 lemon
100g ground almonds
100g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Icing sugar to dust, optional
Lemon zest to decorate, optional
Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Grease the base and sides of a 23cm/9in round springform tin, and line the base with parchment paper. Place the baking tin onto a lipped baking sheet, the batter is very runny so this catches any that might escape at the start of baking.
In a large bowl beat the eggs using an electric hand whisk/standalone mixer for approximately 2 minutes, until they are pale and fluffy.
Add the condensed milk, melted butter and lemon zest and beat just until they are mixed through.
Sift in the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt and gently fold through until evenly incorporated.
Pour into the prepared baking tin, it will be very runny so don’t panic, and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, the cake is done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and pierce all over with a skewer. Mix together the caster sugar and lemon juice and mix to make a syrup. Spoon the syrup over the cake. Allow to cool completely in the tin. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with some thin strips of lemon zest if you wish.