A memory –
2am, is it 2am? It could be later, I’m unsure. My mum is stood over my bed, I see her through tired eyes, half closed. She needs me to follow her, she looks worried. I sit up and see the light from the living room shining through the hallway, it feels unnatural, uneasy, to have such a bright light glaring out so late, or is it early? What time is it? My mum has been crying, I can tell because she never cries so she looks different. My eyes open, I’m alert. Somethings happened. Are there people in the house? Fear and panic grip my heart, I lose my breath and follow her through the hallway. Two police officers stand there, they look too big for my little living room, they feel unnatural. I look at my mum and turn, running back into my room where my bed is still warm, offering me a chance that this could still be a dream, I could still go back to sleep. My mum follows me again begging me to follow her, her voice cracking. I do so, holding her hand, the last comfort I remember before my world comes crumbling down around me.
2 years ago today someone made a choice that would result in the total heartbreak of me and my family. I don’t want this blogpost to be about the details of that night, rather the grief that followed endlessly after. I know there are so many posts surrounding this topic already but when experiencing loss and despair, as I did, I found such a comfort in reading about how others came to deal with how they felt. I learned that this eternal ache inside me is normal after losing someone so close and that even though that ache forces you to believe you will never be able to return to normality or feel any amount of happiness – it is possible. If I can comfort even one person and help them feel any hope of happiness again, then I’ll know this post has done what I wanted it to.
Those who are close to me and my family will know how much my auntie was loved, and the love she held for us. She became a second mother to my siblings and I after my dad left, and having no children of her own, she loved us as much as any mother could. Every weekend she would bring a wicker bag full of treats for our midnight snacks, armed with tea and groceries for my mum. She spent every christmas, every birthday, every holiday right by our sides, saving my mum from the stress of bringing three young children up on her own. She taught us that a family who love you truly and unconditionally are far more valuable than material items and as long as you are following your dreams and living for yourself, happiness will always follow. To have the death of someone who means the world to you be treat so trivially because others may not understand their role in your life is heartbreaking. No one could understand why I was so distraught, as someone would if their parent had just died and it made me question everything I felt, made me feel as though I was faking my pain and that I should have recovered from the shock of losing her sooner. This only made my grieving worse. I felt as though no one understood the person Wendy was, her endlessly kind heart and her generosity, her wicked humour and how hard she worked everyday to help support our little family.
There are so many different levels of grief that one human can feel – how you feel when your pet dies versus losing a grandparent, losing a grandparent versus losing your child. But while one individual will feel a certain amount of grief for one family member, the next individual could feel 10 times that amount. Do not let anyone decide the right amount of grief you should feel for someone, don’t let them dictate how often you should cry and how soon you should start sleeping without waking in night. What you are going through is your experience and your experience alone and therefore it is you who gets choose how you deal with it.
Initially you’re going to be sad, you’re going to experience pain that is indescribable to those who have yet to be tortured by it, and the walls around you will close in and crumble. You’ll feel desperation and a starvation for who you have lost. They will become a constant in your life; every song, every street, every word will remind you of them and memories that you used to treasure will become your enemies, further reminding you of times you will never again experience. You will feel a pain beyond physical, it will consume your entire body. Your heart will ache unimaginably, and your eyes will grow sore from relentless tears. But during this time you will push on. You will find things to distract your mind from wandering into memories you thought you had forgotten, convince yourself none of it is real. But then this ends, the funeral, the initial shock, it all ends and you’re left with the realisation. Grief will become your new best friend, you’ll think it is the last thing you have of the ones you have lost. It isn’t quite like a giant hole in your heart as many describe it, their absence begins much smaller. Their shoes won’t be by the door where they used to leave them, you’ll call them to talk about their day and when they don’t answer it will feel like they’ve left all over again. They wont ask you to make their tea anymore and they won’t complain that you make it wrong and you’ll miss that. You will miss everything about them, separately and all at once. You’ll miss their laugh. You’ll miss their hair, their smell, their habits. Slowly, these small cracks will make bigger cracks and then bit by bit you are left with a feeling of emptiness that you are sure nothing will fill.
Everyone deals with grief differently, theres no manual, no right way. People might try and offer comfort, telling you not to cry, focus on something else, think of the happy times. But if these offer you no solace don’t pretend as though they do. Cry, cry all the time if you need to, listen to a song that reminds you of them, visit places they would take you and remember them with sadness and love and pain. Or stay silent, hold thoughts of them in your mind and heart, walking through the memories, reliving them quietly, just you and them. Scream at the world, get angry at the cruel inevitablities of life, write about those you have lost and the unfairness of it all. My only advice would be this; immerse yourself in your thoughts of them but do not wade for too long in your sadness or it will follow you everywhere. Think of them as often as you’d like, as often as you can, but try to separate your memories of them from your memories of their death or you may drown.
People will tell you that time will heal it, that time heals everything, but I have come to realise that time cannot heal certain things. Those words are just a script for those who don’t know how else to comfort you. 2 months, 5 months, 7 years, the sadness will only numb but never disappear. You will never heal, only scar. Slowly you’ll be able to listen to songs, visit places, think of them without crying, or even with happiness in your heart, but it won’t be as it was before. You won’t be the person you once were, everything will be different, but maybe that shouldn’t be taken as a bad thing. Your experience will mould you into a different person, a stronger one and while you will lose parts of yourself along the journey you will gain a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the things you still have. You can start a new journey with those you have loved and lost not by your side but in your heart. You can take hold of new opportunities and amazing moments not in spite of the fact that they are not there but instead enjoying those times in memory of them. There will be moments of disbelief that they are still gone and your heart will break again and you will cry, but these moments will become more bearable and further apart with each passing year.
I’m no expert and there will be others out there who may give different advice, advice that could offer more comfort, but this is the reality of my grief and the two years I’ve had to endure without someone I loved so unconditionally. It may seem as though I don’t believe it gets better, but it does, just not in the way the stories tell it. There isn’t a bright light at the end of the tunnel that bleaches your pain away when you reach it. Life is hard, with or without loss, and there will always be someone crying. But there will also be people laughing and the most important part of life is to grab hold of such contentment and hold it close, treasuring it before life has the chance to change its mind and snatch it away.
A memory –
driving, rain pattering on the window, streaming down the windshield like water falls, the road ahead black, beaten by the endless fall of water yet the puddles that lay there made it gleam, reflecting the sun that struggled to wrestle with the weeping clouds. A sense of contentment floated above our heads as we listened to Elvis, singing through blessed smiles and care free giggles. We drove and sang and smiled and talked and argued as all families do. We weren’t free of worries or fears but we were comforted by the knowledge that we had one another, the five of us.