I have come to dread people asking me how I am. I don't know how to respond, to come even remotely close to articulating in a few passing words the confused, powerful and often contradictory emotions swirling around within me, to describe the deep lows, the occasional highs and the almost ever present and all encompassing dull void. If I had several hours, a good thesaurus and a skilled counsellor to help me give form to my thoughts I might be able to come close. In the absence of such resources I usually settle for 'as good as could reasonably be expected in the circumstances'.
Saturday, 27 June 2015
Bereavement is almost always accompanied by a sense of responsibility and guilt on the part of those left behind. The relatives of people who have died of cancer agonise over whether they should have encouraged them to seek medical advice earlier or pressed for a different form of treatment, those who lost somebody in an accident find themselves wishing they had delayed them leaving the house that morning until the car with the drunken driver was safely elsewhere, or conversely, perhaps, not delayed them. The partners of heart attack victims spend the rest of their lives regretting that stressful argument they had the previous day. But the scope for guilt seems to loom even larger where the cause of death is suicide because, superficially at least, it seems so avoidable. This was an act of Man rather than God and thus it must follow that either in some way we were responsible for it ourselves or it was within our gift to prevent it.
Friday, 19 June 2015
Its very easy, and in many senses comfortable and rewarding, to assume the role of victim that society wants to assign to me. I receive sympathy, favours and have few expectations placed upon me. I barely need to make it out of my front door fully dressed to be praised for my strength and bravery. This can be very gratifying and rewarding. There are times when I genuinely need those allowances and favours and that sympathy, times when I want to pour my heart out to the stranger on the other end of the phone line, or to the supermarket cashier or the hairdresser. Times when I need to tell them that my wife has died and I am broken and to receive their support and understanding, or at least soothing noises which I optimistically choose to interpret as understanding.
Saturday, 13 June 2015
Death brings with it a succession of intensely painful ceremonies and events which have to be endured before we are finally left alone to grieve in peace; the farewell visit to the undertakers, the funeral, the memorial service (two in Louise's case), the scattering of the ashes. Now, after months of frustrating delay the very last of these hurdles is finally in sight; the inquest. This presents me with possibly the biggest and most distressing dilemma of all. How much do I want to know about the way Louise died?
Wednesday, 10 June 2015
Grief has an uncanny way of catching out the unwary or the overconfident. I've astonished myself at how well I've been coping in recent weeks. Of course the underlying sadness, bewilderment and sense of loss is ever present but I've been conscious, 4 1/2 months in, of a steadying of the emotions and at least a partial re-engagement with the world. My concentration levels at work are much improved. I enjoyed an evening at the cricket with friends without feeling the need to constantly talk about Louise. Some sort of routine, empty though it may be, has begun to emerge. For the first time in 133 days I even went a whole 24 hours without crying. But my pride in my resilience was misplaced. This week marks the fifth anniversary of Louise entering my life and it has completely floored me.
Sunday, 7 June 2015
I've decided that I need to take the sympathy cards down. They started arriving within 24 hours of Louise's death in the darkness of midwinter and were soon overflowing from the shelves on to the dining room table. Meals were eaten next to a forest of sorrowful messages and tributes, bottles of ketchup jostling for table space with 'thinking of you at this sad time' cards until space was cleared in the conservatory to absorb the excess. Now, two seasons on in full summer, it seems to be time to pack the cards away in a memory box, if only to preserve them from damage. They will come down together with our last Valentines cards to each other. (Louise died three weeks before Valentines Day but I found her card to me, unwritten, in her bedside drawer). It could be interpreted as a step forward. A sign, to use that ugly phrase beloved of the non bereaved but rarely used by those who have suffered real loss, of 'moving on'. Maybe it is. But for me it also feels like a step away, a further break in my bonds with Louise and one less sign of her presence within the house.
Wednesday, 3 June 2015
Its times like tonight when I miss Louise the most. Of course I miss her all the time. I feel constantly incomplete, almost physically so, as if one of my limbs has been amputated. There is a void where she should be. But its often in the most mundane moments of life that her absence is most deeply felt. Like coming home from work.