Ground Zero + 24 Months

Anniversaries seem to make me enter a zone where reflection is forced, rather than chosen. It’s impossible not to think about my loss, and what I’ve survived over the last two years. Two years. It sounds like a long time and yet I’ve lived in a vortex when time seemed to stand still, for so long. The 29th November 2018, the darkest day in my life when Nathan died, was ground zero for me. It drew a solid black line in my story that separated my life into two halves – the life where I knew love, and partnership, thought I had control and plans, and security…versus the life that disintegrated into pain, confusion, fear, loss, insecurity, and loneliness.

I made only a couple of phone calls the afternoon I found out that Nathan had died. The screaming and distress that met me on the other side of the phone when I shared the shocking news stopped me from making any further calls – it was unbearable. One of the phone calls I made was to a dear friend in another state – I remember her repeatedly saying “Skeet!! (a nickname Nathan gave me many years ago and seemed to have stuck) – how are you going to do this?! What are you going to do?!”. I just remember repeatedly saying “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know”.

I honestly did not think I could continue to exist, or that I had the capacity or resources not only to survive shock, trauma, and grief but to be independently navigate life as a responsible adult and parent. And I didn’t want to continue to exist without Nathan in my future. A life without him felt worthless and empty. All of my future dreams and hopes and aspirations included him, just as my past had. It was unfathomable that I might have to endure half of my life without him. My close circle of friends and family were so worried about my ability to stay, and were very vigilant keeping watch on my wellbeing especially during the first few weeks, and year – everybody who knew and had watched Nathan and I operate as a couple were not sure how I would continue. This is not a judgment on how they saw my ability to be resilient – it was that I didn’t know any other way to exist.

Now that I’ve passed the two-year milestone, I am an awe and wonder. That despite all of the doubt, the crippling pain, the fear, and living through many, many days that I thought were unsurvivable – I am still here. I did not think I could get here, and indeed, in the early days, did not want to. But with a lot of help, love, and big and small acts of kindness along the way, I am living. I am growing, I am learning to be an independent woman. Somehow for two years I have run a household, tended to my two dear and grieving daughters, organised holidays, made all of the gut wrenching decisions that have had to be made, have worked, survived fires, floods, and a pandemic, and kept a BnB running. Somehow I have laughed again, amidst the ocean of tears. I have forged new and deep relationships. I have discovered that I can dig deeper and find deep reserviors of strength that had previously laid dormant. Somewhere along the way, I made a very conscious decision that I would keep living and embrace the life I was given to live. And I know, that this season of my life which has felt all consuming while I’ve been in it, will not always feel this way.

It has taken two years for me to feel like I can start to exhale. To wake up from the slumber of deep acute grief and gently start walking back into the world. With much help, and love, and encouragement, somehow I have come through the other side, where shafts of light start penetrating the darkness. And even though I know how hard I’ve fought to get here, it still leaves me stunned that I have done it. I have moved from a place of deepest pain, into a place of growing acceptance. I am no longer fearful of the future that awaits me. I’m learning to walk into what today holds for me with a deep knowing that I can deal with whatever comes my way. The last two years have taught me this.

This is not to say that I don’t miss Nathan. He will always have a home deep inside of my heart. I miss his heartfelt laugh, the smile that lit up the room and the lighthearted joy and ease he carried into life. I miss the soul that knew mine intimately and knew the words to bring peace to my anxious thoughts, the father who led his daughters and our family into adventure and fun. I miss being the affectionate text messages and ever evolving nicknames. The way he drew out my best, and had my back in life. I miss seeing the beauty of the world through his eyes, through his photographs. I miss the person who was witness to my life for so many years and shared the memories of our lives together. I will always feel robbed and angry that we were never given the opportunity to say goodbye, and know closure.

Grief and loss have changed me. I loved deeply, and so I grieved deeply. I now have trauma triggers that sit deep within my physical cells. I am much more vulnerable, and my ability to stretch emotionally is more limited than before. I tire easily and need to remind myself to have low expectations. I no longer manage stress and pressure or have capacity to push through busy seasons the same way I once could. Sleep and food are things that are not always easy. My body still holds the effects of chronic stress. I have had to learn new emotional skills - to protect myself, to set boundaries, to understand how to handle complex emotions, to parent kids who are grieving. I’ve also had to learn new practical skills – how to get sell and buy a car, how to get it serviced, how to manage my finances and figure out all the bills, how to solo parent and stay sane. The list goes on. Somehow my heart has expanded – I have greater ability for empathy and to sit in other people’s pain; I’ve realised it is not my place to make judgment on other people’s stories, experiences, or choices – as I have not walked in their shoes. For whatever reason, I have been given a story that has made me experience the darkness and fragility of life. And so, I see life differently. I make decisions differently. My beliefs have changed. I have changed. I continue to get to know the women who showed up at my door unexpectedly when I was 40.

I don’t write all of this for sympathy, pity, praise or accolades. I write all of this to say: Yes, my story is a tragic one. It is the hardest story I could have ever imagined having to tell. I will always carry the loss of the dear love that I held for a man who had my heart for 21 years. Deep pain is now knitted into the fibers of my soul. I will always be completely broken for my daughters who only got to spend 9 and 7 years with the father they adored. I may not ever return to being the woman I was two years ago, with drive and energy. I don’t know. There’s alot about my new life that still remains a mystery to me.

And yet, despite all of these things – I do know that there is hope. The human spirit is a gift – it strives to live, to grow, and to expand. It can surprise us, with its ability to fight and continue against all odds. Even when the future seems impossible, there is hope. I know this to be true, because two years on from my ground zero, I’m living proof.

We are, and will be okay. And I want to say, if you are at your own Ground Zero - that you will be okay, too – with whatever mountain you need to climb. I know it seems impossible. You may be forever changed, and carry a new weight with you into the future, but you will be okay. One minute, one moment, one day at a time.

Hold on to hope, dear ones. The future awaits.

Much love, Skye xx

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