A few days ago I thought that I was making some progress. Some of the rawness and immediacy of the shock and grief had worn off. There were intervals when I was able to concentrate on other things, slowly re-engaging with some of my interests. I was beginning to lift my head a little, to think about the short term future. I made arrangements to return to work, started to consider what I might do to occupy my spare time and even began to contemplate a holiday later in the year. I still broke down several times a day. The tears didn’t stop and there was obviously no happiness. But neither, for much of the day, was there an overwhelming sense of sadness or despair. I found myself thinking ‘I can survive this’.
I even had the luxury of worrying that I was coping too well, to feel guilty for my lack of obvious distress. I began to wonder what Louise might think of this apparent indifference just 6 weeks after her death. It caused me to challenge myself, question how I could have forgotten so quickly and worry that it meant I didn’t really care. When I did cry I felt almost a sense of relief. Not only that the sadness and despair I felt inside me had been temporarily purged, but also because it validated my grief, proved to me, the world and most importantly to Louise, that I genuinely cared. That this really did hurt.
But as the self centred preoccupation with my own loss, grief and suffering has subsided a little it has created space for me to begin to think about Louise’s torment and loss, which is infinitely harder to deal with. Up until now I have managed to keep the door to that part of my brain firmly locked. I have known that the demons which lie within are much more powerful and debilitating than those I have had to contend with on my own account. Nevertheless, it is becoming harder and harder to resist the compulsion to open the door and confront the darkest conceivable thoughts.
I am therefore now struggling to contend with the reality of the mental and physical torment Louise suffered during those final days and moments. I quite quickly managed to establish her thought processes and movements over the last few hours of her life from the trail of evidence left behind in terms of her notes, the farewell letter, emails, text messages and bank transactions. I know what she did and why. I know from where everything was left when I returned home what Louise did in the house while she made her final preparations. I have a mental image in my mind, almost a video recording, of the sequence of her movements and actions.
Increasingly I am overlaying on that factual record a sense of Louise’s emotions at the time. I am beginning to visualise her last moments and the act itself. To viscerally feel her emotion and struggle. I cannot wholly suppress my imagination and endlessly replay various alternative scenarios around the events of that evening, some of which end with Louise’s survival, others not. All are deeply distressing and leave me feeling emotionally exhausted.
Of course in addition to Louise's pain in the moment there is also her long term loss. The sense of all the love, happiness and achievement that she will miss out on over the years. The hesitant signs of the emergence of Spring with its new life and hope somehow intensifies the thought. Every sunny day, every new flower causes me to shudder afresh at the thought that Louise won’t see it, or anything like it, ever again. I have just come across a text Louise sent me earlier in the winter when she had planted some daffodils and told me she ‘was looking forward to spring’. And I have the certain knowledge that had Louise managed to survive the darkness of those few days she would now be back at work happy and fulfilled, making plans for the future and carrying on her life with her usual zest and energy. I can hear her say to me now, as she did so many times after coming through a depressive episode, ‘I am so lucky and so happy’.
I desperately want to make everything better, to ease Louise’s torment, to fulfil the role that I thought had been assigned to me in life, to help and support the woman I loved so dearly and who gave me so much in return. I feel Louise’s pain even more acutely than my own. Broken though my life is at the moment, I at least have a second chance, an opportunity to rebuild and repair. I will still be able to see and experience the changing seasons, enjoy holidays and, if I am very lucky, maybe one day experience again the joy, beauty and warmth of another loving relationship. It will be different and my life will be forever poorer. The scar tissue which superficially covers the wound will always be tender and perpetually liable to re-open. But nevertheless, I retain the potential for some kind of future. Louise doesn’t. The pain this causes me is beyond description.