The Sabbatical That Never Was

So, back in early July I made the bold announcement that I would be going away for a few months.  Dealing with burn-out and the lack of progress in my writing, I would give myself time and space to do some “real writing,” or so I hoped.

Banner: The Sabbatical That Never Was. Image of a woman sat at a window looking out.

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The unthinkable

I didn’t get the sabbatical I planned for.  The reason for that was I took the first two weeks just to decompress and remove the “burn it all to the ground” feeling I’d been cultivating.

Unfortunately, just after that two weeks of calm, I was hit with the unthinkable.

My sister died suddenly.

As well as the shock of our sudden loss, we were in the middle of a lockdown.  I was stuck in N.I isolated from my family and unable to help them when they needed it most.

I finally got back over about 2 weeks later.  While my parents dealt with the funeral arrangements, I took charge of my sister’s estate.  I spent two and a half weeks on the phone to every bank, business and service she was connected with.

Things had to be closed, cancelled, returned, organised.  Everything from basic finances to completing her business taxes fell to me.

We are now in the middle of November and I have not yet finished dealing with the estate. My sister had not kept the best records when it came any official documents, so it is a long drawn-out process.

My sister died without a Will which also made things more complicated and the messy bureacracy of institutions is felt no more intensely than when you are dealing with a death.

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Trying to Cope

While organising with all the paperwork, I also assisted my mother in going through my sister’s personal belongings.  She rented an apartment and so we needed to move things out.

It is never easy having to go through someone’s personal things, rumaging through their whole life.

My parents were not taking the death well (understandably) so I had to make sure I was there for them and stayed strong.  As I was away from my partner, I felt I had no one I could easily talk to at that time.

When I finally returned home, I made the hard decision to sign up for counselling as a way to help me process my grief.

It’s not easy talking to a stranger over zoom about how you feel, especially for someone like me who’s anxiety was already in overdrive.  But in the end, it has helped.

Divider imageRevelations

One thing I didn’t expect, was just how fast you realise who your real friends are. I reached out to a small handful of people when it happened, some where incredible, offering support and solace and saying I could ring them any time.

Others, I heard nothing from.  After the initial call, and some quick words of sympathy they just vanished.  No calls or texts just to check in with me.  It hurt deeply but it gave me a sense of clarity about who I want in my life.

What was surprising, was the few who found out from either the papers or from someone else and reached out to me – checking in frequently, especially on the day of the funeral.

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More upheaval

With all the emotional upheaval I was already going through, my partner and I decided we would go ahead with some big jobs in our house.

They were becoming urgent and also, I was already feeling stressed and I prefer to get all the stress out at once.  It was also a great distraction from my grief at times.

We are currently in the middle of having our house fully re-wired, I have very little internet access and am at my in-laws, working on my laptop in their kitchen.  But in a few weeks, all these big jobs will be over!

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Writer less

Unsurprisingly, I have got almost nothing done with my novels.  I did manage to complete my short story for From Myths to Monsters, the second volume of the Supernatural Beings Anthology.

I am back from my sabbatical, using the normalacy as a way to help me cope and keep my spirits up when they crash down hard.

It’s been a tough few months, but I do have some good days and I am thankful for that.

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Happy writing

Signature & logo of Ari Meghlen

35 thoughts on “The Sabbatical That Never Was

  1. Ari, I am so sorry for all your troubles! What a shock that must have been and then having to deal with your sister’s estate and comfort your parents, you had no time to grieve yourself. I am glad the zoom counselling had some effect but I do understand how impersonal these video sessions can be. You miss out on so much body-language and all the subtle signs that are exchanged between people in the same room as each other. If you cry, no-one passes you a hankie or gives you a cup of tea. It is sobering, finding out who of one’s friends is able to show compassion and who isn’t. Certain people are incapable of dealing with other people’s troubles and run away. Some of those friends are completely selfish and are no loss to you; others are frightened and have no idea how to respond and the longer they leave getting in touch with you the worse it gets. Eventually, those people may pluck up the courage to get in touch. It will be up to you how you respond to them then.
    I am glad you are getting on with your house improvements. As you say, you might as well get on with all the disruption in one go and at least, when you get back home the house will be so much easier to live in (once you’ve cleaned it!). We once had a house we were living in re-wired. We went away on holiday while it was being done and periodically phoned the electrician for an up-date on all the horrors he was finding. It didn’t make for a relaxing holiday but at least we knew that when we got home we’d have enough switches and sockets and we wouldn’t keep fusing all the lights.
    Take care, my dear xx

    1. Hi Clare, thank you so much for your kind words and I’m sorry for the delay in replying. I stepped away around Christmas time and have come back to a flood and it’s taken me time to get through everything.

      You are so right, there was a noticable difference with Zoom counselling, especially if the system slowed or hung and so there was nuances missed and sometimes awkward moments were we couldn’t hear each other.

      Yes, I’ve been keeping in contact with those who reached out to me during the difficult time, those who never contacted me again… I’ve let go, should they come around later that’s fine, but right now I have no interest in being the one making contact.

      The house work has mostly been done, they found woodworm, so that’s the next issue to be dealt with when the current lockdown eases. But we are getting there.

      I’m now trying to sort a schedule and get back to a routine as I am finding things difficult to complete. It’s been a lifetime since I visited any blogs or even read through emails. I need to get back on track.

      I hope you had a nice Christmas and that this new year brings positivity and hope. xx

      1. Dear Ari,
        I have been away from WordPress since Christmas because my mother’s house flooded on Christmas Eve causing a lot of work and so haven’t been able to enquire how you are getting on. I hope you are well and that this year will be a much better one than last year was for you. xx

      2. Hi Clare, sorry for the long delay, I just can’t seem to get my head in the game at the moment. Things have been a little better, though sadly we are STILL dealing with my late sister’s estate and all the accompanying stress that brings. I think the pandemic has made things a lot harder to get companies to actually deal with such issues now.

        I’m sorry to hear your mother’s house flooded last year, what an awful thing to happen at such a bad time!

        I hope this year is working out well for you

      3. Thank you, Ari. I am so sorry everything is taking so much longer than it should. Grief is hard enough to deal with without all these delays.
        We are fine and Mum is okay though we still haven’t been able to get her repairs done or new floor-coverings in her home yet. They will be done eventually, I am sure but she has her 91st birthday next week and she really ought to be living more comfortably than she is!
        Take care, my friend xx

      4. You are so right, I never expected that bereavement would have been filled with almost 6 months of paperwork and red tape. A sad business indeed.

        I’m sorry the repairs have not been able to be completed. I hope they can be done soon, as you said, she should be able to live in comfort at her age.

        An early Happy Birthday to her 🙂 xx

  2. I’m sorry for the loss of your sister Ari. The year has been tough enough with COVID and this new norm without such a big loss for you and your parents. Even tougher when it is a sudden death. I admire your tenacity because in such a difficult year, having contractors in/remodeling would be the cherry on the top of the sundae of stressful situations to go through in a pandemic. Your holiday season will be tough on you and your parents … I hope you all cope well. Stay safe and my best to you, your partner and parents to get through this year and beyond.

    1. Thank you Linda. Yes, this year has been horrendous and I cannot wait for it to be over. We just passed my sister’s birthday, which was hard and Christmas will definitely be tough on us, especially as it was my sister’s favourite time of the year.

      Sadly, we needed to have some of the work done on the house – it had been planned for earlier in the year then COVID made it almost impossible but it was getting serious enough that when the lockdowns eased and people were able to work, we got them in to rewire the house as our wiring was so old it was edging towards fire hazard.

      Thank you again for your kindness.

      1. And you had the move, which was disruptive enough, the year before. Well, I don’t blame you for wanting to start anew. Good thing you at least got the fire hazard taken care of – owning a house sometimes feels like continuous maintenance. Take care and best wishes for 2021 Ari.

  3. I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my Nan a couple of months ago, followed about a month later by my great aunt. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, especially with my Nan who was in her early 90s and whose health hadn’t been all that great for several years, not to mention the couple of weeks she was in the hospital leading up to it, but it’s never easy losing someone. It must have been even harder for your family with the unexpectedness of the loss of your sister. Like you said, it’s times like that you learn who your real friends are.

    I’m glad the work on the house is coming along nicely… It’s good to have some positive news at least.

    1. Thank you, Victoria, I appreciate your kind words. I am so sorry you have suffered your own losses recently, it has been a horrible year. I hope you and your family are doing okay.

  4. Condolences to you and your family, Ari. A loss is always hard, but during a pandemic, it is especially hard. I’m glad to hear you’ve had support from friends and professionals ❤️.

  5. Oh Ari, I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Those goodbyes are so very hard, especially when they’re unexpected- and in the middle of lockdown and everything else- I can’t imagine what a year it’s been for you. It’s ok not to be ok, and I’m glad to hear you’ve found support and some return to normalcy. I’m praying for peace for you and yours.

    1. Thank you, Anne for your kind words. This year has been… horrendous and I cannot wait to put it behind me. “It’s ok, not to be ok” is a perfect mantra for me right now.

  6. Well, it seems like your experience was even worse, and I’m sorry to hear it. I admit I’m not sure what to say, as the last time I lost anyone close was when I was too young to truly understand.

    I hope brighter days are coming for you.

    1. Thank you, Tomas. I appreciate it is not always clear what to say when someone has suffered a loss. But just reaching out like this, makes a big difference. I hadn’t realised just how much it does until this year. When my sister passed away, I was stuck here for a few weeks – during that time my parents and brother were receiving messages of condolence and offers of support from friends and family back in England. I received nothing, no family member reached out to me.

      In the end, my parents needed it more and my brother is younger than me so I’m glad they were all together to help each other. I did reach out to a few friends who make such a difference, letting know they were there.

  7. I am deeply sorry to hear of your loss, but I imagine that writing this did help you through some of your feelings and hopefully left you feeling a little more grounded!

    Sending love and positivity. 🙂

    1. Thank you Jaya, yes writing it helped immensely. I took my time before I did as I wasn’t ready to discuss the death after it happened. Thank you for your kindness

  8. So sorry for your loss, even though my sister is on the other side of the world and couldn’t come over when my husband died, I can’t imagine not having her to talk to. With my husband’s death being expected we were well organised and of course I am still in our home. But I know how many things there are to deal with. Marie Curie charity helped with his care and continue to ring me up and chat; it helps to talk about some of the medical things friends and family might not understand.

    1. I am sorry you lost your husband, I cannot begin to imagine how that must have been – even with expecting it. The Marie Curie charity is incredible, we lost an uncle last year and their nurses were incredible.

      It has been hard, we are dealing with it as best we can and I am just hoping to finally get her estate sorted because I feel like I can’t grieve properly with all this hanging over us. Once I can close the book on this, I will have the time and focus to deal with my own feelings

    1. Thank you so much Darlene, apologies for the delay, I am still going through a lot of comments from before Christmas when I just had to step away from a lot of online stuff

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