I am not the only person grieving, especially not at this time. People who know me know that I am a bit of a prepper. A prepper, for those who don’t know, is someone who is ‘prepped’ for the end of the world. In my case in means I always have a fully stocked pantry, fridge and freezer. Every time we have moved the biggest issue for friends and family is that they have to move my tins…again! I am taking solace in the comforting feeling that comes with the experience of the last two years; it has ‘prepped’ me to be able manage emotionally during this difficult time. It seems to have gifted me with an ability to stay calm in the face of this ever-increasing shit storm that is engulfing the globe. I know others don’t feel the same and I know that families are losing loved ones. I wish I could do more to help. This is my way of trying to reach out across the madness. I want them to know that as difficult as things may be now, it will get better.
I’m no expert in grief; I’m just a mum who is dealing with it in the best way she can. I have learned a few things as the months have moved on. The first is just that – time moves on. It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to move further away from your loved one or that you have had to live another day without them. It simply carries on like they were never there. It’s a harsh but true reality, the world keeps on turning whether you want it to or not. There is much more to say on this topic but for now I’m going to leave it there. I want to talk about the waves.
The analogy of the wave as a way to describe grief is, I believe the best way of illustrating how deep unbridled grief sweeps over you. The grief I’m talking about is the type that eats at your soul and stays with you forever. This grief never leaves you, it comes back and forth in waves. At first these waves are like a storm surge in a hurricane or the constant bashing of waves at a sea wall in gale force winds. It is unrelenting, devastating and destructive. It destroys everything in its path. The storm rages for weeks even months before it dies down. Afterwards you are left with nothing but broken pieces of who you were and you have to find a way to put yourself back together before the next storm hits – because it will hit again.
Now some storms you can prepare for. You know when they are going to come so you can steel yourself for the onslaught. You can put up walls and you can map out how you are going to get through it. It will be ok because you can see the storm in the distance, and you are ready. At these times people will tell you that you are amazing or that ‘they don’t know how you are doing it.’ The truth is nor will you but do it you will. You will put one foot in front of another, you will smile, you will say thank you, you will say ‘I’m ok.’ All the while you will feel like a fraud because inside you are just about holding the pieces together. When the storm dies down and everyone is gone, you will sob, and you must sob. Give yourself completely to the darkness because it is the only way to see the light.
The old adage of ‘you can’t predict the weather’ is so very true. You can’t always predict when a storm is building so you can’t prepare for the destructive force of the wave of grief. It’s these unpredictable events that hurt the most. One day it can be something as simple as dribble marks on a bedsheet that were made by your loved one or a picture you weren’t expecting to see or a thoughtful gift from a friend or catching sight of someone that helped you in your darkest hour. At these times the wave will almost crush you. For me it’s a very real physical reaction to the shock; a crushing sensation in my chest which causes me to hold my breath until the wave has passed. It hurts, it really bloody hurts. Along with the pressure in my chest I get a wave of nausea. Once these have passed the tears come and the they very often don’t stop for hours. I spend a lot of my time trying to avoid situations where I can be blindsided, but you can’t run from them forever. To find a new normal you have to go out into the world. You have to carry on. Inherent in this action is the acceptance that there will be moments of unexpected overwhelming grief. You will just get better at navigating through those moments. You will become adept at putting the pieces back together and each time it gets a little quicker.
As the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months you find it easier to cope with the grief. The cruel truth is that it will never go away, you just learn to function. The intensity of the feelings never changes, you just get better at tolerating them. Sometimes I feel like I’m floating through my days. I’m going through the motions, I’m getting things done, I’m functioning but I’m completely flat inside. Some days I have nothing to give – which is difficult when you have two small children to love (again more on this to come). I can be laughing and joking but still feel completely numb. It’s almost other worldly. It is on these days that the waves build slowly over time. Everything can seem serine and calm, but the waves begin to pick up strength. It’s the constant lapping of these waves that erodes you down to tiny little pieces that get swept away with the evening tide. Today was one of those days and I had to write before it all drifted away into oblivion.
It started small – a simple look from Megan that was strikingly similar to Eleri; a bracelet found in with some toys; books that were originally bought for Eleri but I was reading to Megan; Owen saying ‘I really miss Eleri’ because he was playing with a toy that we had bought on our last family holiday together; bathing Megan and thinking back to a time when I took photographs of Eleri in the bath. Each wave penetrates a little deeper into the cracks until they break open completely and you have nothing to stop the grief taking control. It is at the end of days like this, I crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep. I might go a few days or even a week before it happens again, but I can be sure it will.
People will look at you and think you are moving on because they are moving on. It is the nature of life. My reality is , and I think always will be, that I will never move on. I will never be able to rationalise the death of our little girl. That is hard for me to accept. I’m good at moving on. I’m resourceful and like to embrace new situations I find myself in but, I can’t move on from the loss of Eleri. I don’t think I want to; if I do, I will feel like I am betraying her in some way. There will always be a part of me stuck in September 2019. The hole will never be filled, but life will become bearable again. I will always carry the grief and the waves will always come, but I will weather the storm. If you are reading this, take comfort that although your experience may be different from mine, you too will weather the storm. You too will find a way to a new normal. Keep on going, you can do it. This too shall pass.