Sunday, 13 September 2015


I've been kidding myself in recent weeks. Proud of my strength and resilience I had begun to believe that I had mastered grief, that I was exempt from the setbacks and continuing struggles experienced by others. I was beginning to find living tolerable again and, trying hard to think positively, even to sense hope and opportunity.  I know the theory. I've read the books, talked at length to those further on in this journey than myself.  I should have known better. Grief might temporarily relax its hold but it doesn't give it up that easily. It merely changes its grip, alters its character. 

This is quite different in nature from the early days, not the violent paroxysms of emotional distress, despair and hopelessness. It's less dramatic but nearly as debilitating and more entrenched. I've simply come to a standstill. The accumulated impact of carrying the grief for nearly eight months, the emotional and physical strain, has finally worn me down to the point where I feel as though I can go no further. My reserves of strength have been exhausted. 

I thought that I knew true tiredness before but I was mistaken. Both my mind and body feel as though they are shutting down. I have no energy or motivation even to perform the simplest of tasks - getting out of bed on a morning, never something which came easily to me, is now the biggest single challenge of the day. Earlier this week I was so tired that I overslept the alarm clock and woke to find that I had already missed most of the morning at work. What had previously seemed to be a relatively orderly progression towards recovery and the establishment of a normal - if different - lifestyle suddenly began to feel chaotic. 

For the first time in months I have begun to question my complacent pride in my progress. Louise and I had no children. I therefore do not possess the clear motivation, the essential need, to maintain structures, routine and self discipline that those widowed with young children are likely to. Instead my inspiration, the source from which I draw the strength to keep going and to work towards recovery, is Louise herself. She was always incredibly proud of me. I could never quite work out why. I am not very remarkable. But however undeserved it may have been I drank that pride in like the purest nectar. When Louise told me that she loved me I felt good. When she told me that she was proud of me it felt like nothing I have ever before experienced. So the thought now of letting her down, of not coping, is crushing. 

One of the reasons why Louise took her life was because in the confusion of her mind at that time she thought she was releasing me to have a better future. If I remain locked in my own struggles, if I am unable to go on to build a new and rewarding life, her sacrifice will somehow seem even more ridiculously wasteful than it already does. I must come through this for Louise's sake. Its the only way that I can possibly make any sense of such an utterly bewildering act.

Yet I seem to be going backwards. Six weeks ago I felt that I was coming close to a return to my normal capacity at work. Now my concentration span is once more shredded and my function significantly impaired. The toilet cubicles are again a place of refuge, though this time not to hide my tears but to allow me to close my eyes for five minutes, to snatch enough half-sleep to keep me going for another hour or two. The stress is beginning to have a physical manifestation beyond mere tiredness. The night sweats may have stopped but my long dormant hypochondria is running riot. Worries about my physical health and the strains of a difficult domestic issue have tipped the balance from coping to not coping. And there is always the lack of sleep, my inability to properly manage my routines and sleep patterns, to impose structure and order. I go to bed in the middle of the night. At weekends I get up in the middle of the day. During the week I just get up without sleep.

I should be better than this. I do not like the exhausted and chaotic person I have become. And I am scared of the potential consequences if I continue on the same path; the risk of inadvertent self harm through accident or of psychological damage. To my enormous relief I have, so far, been spared the visions and flashbacks so many warned me of. I pass the spot in the house where I found Louise’s body dozens of times every day. The open plan nature of our house means that it is almost never out of sight whenever I am downstairs. Even the most mundane of daily activities trigger direct memories and associations. Every time that I open the fridge I find myself standing exactly where I did that night. So far I have handled this much more easily than I would have thought possible, but I remain constantly frightened of once again seeing Louise as I did then. It would not just be emotionally devastating but would also, surely, force me out of my home. Emotional and physical exhaustion must make this possibility more likely.

The temptation is to retreat into myself. To take time off work, pull up the drawbridge and curl up in a corner to rest and lick my wounds. But there is danger in this. Work provides structure and distraction and offers some form of validation and an alternative purpose. It would be too easy to find myself at home, isolated, wallowing in introspection. I have kept going over the months through the force of momentum. If I stop I may not find it easy to start again. If I do step back briefly to try and refresh myself I must therefore retain a focus and keep active. 

As I write these words I am forcibly struck by the parallels with Louise's dilemma as she struggled unsuccessfully to cope with the emptiness of time while off work during her last days, beset by the bleakest of outlooks and the darkest of thoughts with nothing to offer uplifting diversion. The challenges facing me are, in some respects, similar. But the parallels stop there. I am not mentally ill, I am tired and grieving. This is my lowest point for a while but I know that it is merely a diversion on the road to recovery. I have already come a long way and briefly glimpsed the hope and possibility that are waiting for me. I continue to believe in their existence. I can still make Louise proud of me.

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