Coming home without her

Having visited Abi in the hospital’s Rainbow Room, we had nothing more to do than to go home. We had vague plans in mind to contact a funeral director the next day to get things moving on her funeral, but no idea how this would come together. It all seemed too much. The hospital staff assured us they would look after her until the funeral director collected her.

We were driven home by relatives. Leaving Abi behind, knowing she was gone but oh the yearning to just be with her, was almost unbearable. I still don’t recall how I did it. I remember closing in on myself, shutting off everything around me to blank out the journey even though inside I wanted to wail and fight anyone who would drag me away. It was a long 45 minutes before we pulled up outside our house. We’d not seen it since the night it happened.

Our children were already there waiting there for us, so that we weren’t walking into an empty home. Stepping over the threshold felt strange, I felt Abi’s presence but there was also a feeling of something missing. We dumped our bags down and spent time with the children. We wandered aimlessly through the rooms, though I didn’t go upstairs until much later. I stepped into our snug room and immediately saw Abi’s brand-new school bag, the bag we’d carefully chosen together, bought only a week before with money she’d saved. It was in the same place she left it when I brought her home from school that day. My stomach lurched and a slightly panicked feeling rose up inside me. The memories weren’t even memories yet – they were still here and now, ‘only yesterday’ occurrences, things my brain hadn’t yet processed. Everywhere I looked there was Abi from ‘just a minute ago’ – notes, clothes, hairbands, photos, food – everything!

My husband went upstairs and came down with watery eyes, we didn’t need to speak. We were both numb, moving like zombies, the life sapped out of us. I suggested we go and get tea from McDonalds as it was by now about 6pm and I couldn’t even contemplate cooking. We knew we needed some quality time with our children as they’d hardly seen us, and now Abi, their sister, was dead.

So we went straight back out and headed to the local drive-through. The children wanted to eat in, so we did, although the prospect of being in public was daunting. Seeing people around us (not in a hospital environment) was strange. People milling about, laughing, shouting, rushing – I felt anxious so I sat us in a corner. We began to eat, but the tears threatened to spill out again. It was the most awful time and I knew instantly that it was a bad idea to come here so soon. Our first family meal without Abi. We ate in silence. I gagged on every mouthful, forcing the food to go down but feeling sick to my stomach.  We couldn’t look at each other for fear of breaking down and left as soon as we could.

Back home, we put on a film for the children and sat together to watch it. We knew we had to get them and us to bed at some point, but we all went up together at about 11pm as we didn’t want to be alone. We were now too tired to think much about what we were doing.

To my relief, the house didn’t feel too different, there was no eerie feeling as such or much memory of the trauma that happened, it still felt like home. It felt safe, and still very much with Abi’s presence – I was glad of that but I couldn’t yet truly believe she wouldn’t be coming back. It wasn’t our home that felt different, it was us. I sensed the stark change in our family and knew that even with familiar surroundings, life would be very different for us from now on. We had to force ourselves to ignore the fact that we’d not been in our bedroom since that awful night, we needed sleep, in the morning we had more things to learn as we got Abi’s funeral plans underway…

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