Saturday, 14 November 2015

Waiting for Signs

I had resisted the temptation for months until finally I cracked. Sitting under the trees around which Louise's ashes were scattered, in a moment of desperation I choked back the tears for long enough to ask her for a sign, an indication that she was in heaven and that she was happy.

One of the privileges of this journey through grief (and they do exist even if you have to look very hard to find them) is that it has enabled me to finally understand what pure love is, and to know that I have been blessed to experience it. The highest form of love isn't really about desire, longing, attraction, passion, compassion, understanding or a need for physical contact and intimacy, though all of those things feature in it. I have discovered, that it is, rather, essentially about an intrinsic unselfishness, an intense desire for the happiness and wellbeing of another person to the point where you place their interests and needs above your own. Had I been a parent I might have come to this realisation earlier. But now Louise has enabled me to know. I find myself caring more about what is happening to her, what she is now experiencing, than I do my own immediate needs. 

I tell myself over and over that separation from Louise, her absence from my life, would be tolerable provided that I know that she still exists in some meaningful and recognisable form and is happy. If Louise is happy then so shall I be. The not knowing, however, is unbearable. She has disappeared into a complete void. Nobody can provide me with the reassurance I crave other than Louise herself. 

Others in my position report signs, events or experiences that confirm in their own mind the continuing presence and happiness of their partner. Putting aside rationality and scepticism in my emotional vulnerability I yearn for the comfort that this must bring. But however hard I have looked I have found nothing myself. Not so much as a single coincidence that I could hold on to. A particularly vivid dream in the early days, one in which Louise was leaning over me as I lay in bed and was so lifelike that for the briefest of moments, a split second,  I experienced the most remarkable inner glow of peace and happiness was dismissed as just that; a vivid dream.

To my astonishment I briefly found myself contemplating an attempt to make contact with Louise via a spiritualist. As somebody who in addition to those aspirations to high minded rationalism still also holds a primitive fear of the consequences of calling up unknown worlds it was the last place that I expected to find myself in. But I should know by now that this journey leads us to unlikely destinations and I was eventually only dissuaded by the knowledge of Louise's probable disappointment with me for thinking in such terms. 

Or rather, that was one of the reasons. The other, equally compelling, was a fear of asking in case it brought no response. What would that mean then? The risk was every bit as great as the potential reward.

So I was careful not to ask for anything until that moment under Louise's trees when I weakened. In the days and weeks that followed I waited anxiously for some extraordinary coincidence or inexplicable event to answer my cry for acknowledgement and reassurance. I didn't know what I was looking for but felt sure that I would recognise it as soon as I saw it.


Not a single thing turned up that I could hold on to. Since I cannot believe that Louise would not answer me, seek to comfort me, if she possibly could, and for the sake of my sanity I cannot allow myself to believe that she does not do so because she no longer exists in any form, I now need to rationalise this disappointment. Perhaps Louise has previously reached out to me and I have missed the significance - was I meant to find meaning in that battered old family hand-me-down nursing manual which mysteriously fell off the bookcase? But then why should she speak to me so opaquely? Why does it seem that such messages only ever come wrapped in riddles? Maybe, knowing my nervousness of ghosts and the spirit world, Louise has decided not to frighten me, not to give me any more cause to be anxious in my own home.

Or perhaps, as her Christian friends and family hold, Louise has simply moved on to a higher plane and genuinely found peace with God in a place where she can no longer connect with this world. If that is the right place for her to be then I am genuinely happy for her, even if the thought simultaneously makes me feel even more lost and alone for myself.

None of these explanations entirely convince me but any or all of them are sufficiently plausible to serve to continue to allow me to hope; for Louise's continuing being, for her happiness and for the possibility of us one day being reunited. I will not get closer to a definitive answer, so in this life at least they will have to suffice. Louise continues to speak to me, even in the silence.


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    1. Thanks for your kind words again Meave, that means a lot to me. I often wonder if those who have gone are able to feel and observe their partners suffering, perhaps particularly in the case of suicide where, at least superficially, there is the appearance of choice in their death. It leaves many of those who lost their partner to suicide angry at the circumstances they have been left to deal with. I'm quite unusual in not responding in quite the same way as I tend to view Louise's death as more akin to Dan's, an accident, or the result of an illness, something which she had no more control over than Dan did.

      Yes, I too often ponder on the chronology of things, how one life can continue in blissful ignorance of the pain of another. It works both ways too, because while you were being hit by the rawest of pain, just entering the depth of your worst nightmares, I was beginning to find hope and lift my head to look forward a little - just as you will in time.

      Please don't worry about not being in touch yet. I know that you will feel as though this journey has already lasted an eternity, that you are a veteran of it. But It's still very early days. I know exactly what you mean about that haze and struggle for energy. If there ever comes a time when you would like to talk though do feel free to email me - my address is my first and last name all in one (lower case) at

      Wishing you peace, strength and hope.