It’s the uncontrollable truth: time keeps marching on. Every morning the sun comes up, it sets, and the world keeps turning. I have had a love/hate relationship with this truth since Nathan died; it is both a gift and a curse. The closing of each day took me one day further from the last moment I heard his voice, his hearty laugh, felt his touch, saw his smiling face and bright blue eyes. And yet, simultaneously, I desperately wanted time to fast forward me out of the agony of all consuming grief. Some words penned in the early days…
“One month. One month since my heart was violently ripped out of my chest and crushed to pieces. One month since the most excruciating experience of our lives became news headlines across the world. One month since the storm clouds covered the sun, leaving us wonder if we would ever know its warmth again. One month of living without the one and only love of my life and wondering how on earth I can live without it for even one more moment. Of fighting the word "widow" that is now mine to hold at 40. One month of sleepless nights and little food. One month of moments of panic, clueless to what the future now holds and if I can be strong enough to navigate it. Or even if I want to be strong enough. Because every.single.moment of our future will have him missing and nothing will ever be normal again. One month of pushing the pain deep, deep down because feeling it is way too scary and I'm not sure that I'll ever recover if I let it course through my veins. One month of holding the fear and grief of two little people who can't sleep and now don't want to leave my side in case I die also. One month of navigating some of the most confronting meetings and decisions I'll ever have to make, and watching his name disappear from the paperwork of our lives”.
Grief is a physical, psychological, emotional, and physiological experience and it really does feel like it is unsurvivable. There were many days early on that I’m not sure I would have chosen to keep living had I not had my daughters who desperately needed me, or felt the very real expression of love flooding our way from our community. I remember being asked about three months on from Nathan dying how I was doing, if I was doing any better? I think, at that stage, the shock and adrenaline I had been existing in was only really just starting to fade, leaving in its wake unrelenting agony. Shock is so protective – our brain has an amazing way of sheltering us from things that are too hard to process. The women who had to make all of those terrible decisions over those first weeks leading up to the funeral, is someone I don’t actually know or recognise now. It was as if I had been stolen away and a robot been left in my place.
And somehow, despite all of this, I’ve arrived to a place 17 months on, still living and breathing. The journey in those 17 months is going to take some fleshing out. What does grief look like now? Acute grief has transitioned to chronic grief. In practical terms, I’m able to get dressed, do my hair, manage my household, cook dinners, pay bills, have light conversations with friends, concentrate on work for moments at a time – all things I was unable to do in the early days. People would say “things would get better in time” and I guess, in a practical way, they have. There are lighter days now, and I can laugh and smile - but grief hasn’t lessened. What has happened over time, is the frequency of experiencing that deep vacuum of grief has changed – in order to survive, I’ve had to learn how to avoid the triggers (a pretty hard thing to do while living in his house) whilst always carrying the undercurrents of pain. But when grief rears it’s ugly head and is no longer containable – I’m sent back to that place, described before, of the suffocating, “I can’t/don’t want to survive this”, all consuming pain. Because death cannot be reversed. He is still missing from our lives, and all of those that loved him – that Nathan shaped gap in our lives continues to exist. Chronic grief takes a toll, has a cost. My body tells the tale of 17 months of chronic stress – I have more grey hairs, more wrinkles (so so many tears), disturbed hormones, ongoing poor sleep, weight loss, decreased appetite, and very little reserve to cope physically and emotionally with events outside of the everyday rhythm of life.
But here’s the miracle. My heart has continued to beat, my lungs continue to inhale and exhale. My desire to live continues to grow. New dreams are forming inside of my heart, and somehow, there remains a capacity to love, to know joy, to smile, to enjoy deep friendships and connection – even whilst paralleling chronic grief, loss and trauma. I’m not sure how the two live side by side, but they do, and I’m constantly amazed by this truth. Life now is not either/or – it is both. The integration of the pleasure, and the pain. Human capacity is a miraculous thing to witness, and I am enormously grateful for it. Even for me – in those first few early days, weeks and months I could never have imagined arriving at a place of living, of WANTING to live. It was unfathomable. Yet here is where I find myself. With H.O.P.E.
And if the depths of grief is where you find yourself - I believe the same for you, too. You, WE, can do hard things.
Much love, Skye xx