Four months on… what is grief anyway?

[This blog was taken from notes I’d written whilst sat with Abi at the cemetery around 10th June 2013.]

Four months on, is that right? Have I grieved? Have I even started…?

What is the point of all that crying if at the end I still feel such deep and painful sorrow? Crying usually releases a tension, helps me feel better. But these tears are different; they flow easily enough but the emotion changes from despair and hurt, to sadness and depression. I suppose, if I didn’t feel able to cry, rant, write or talk then I’d be in a very bad place by now. So, to grieve must be to let my emotions surface as I mourn my darling child, but it feels like that is all it is. There seems to be no benefit, no end to it. Yet, even still, I can see that recently I have been able to laugh sometimes, though not as sincerely as before; I can converse, can think, can function apparently normally.

Four months on and I’m attempting to bake again, I’m planning family meals (just about and always with an extra portion for Abi through habit). I’ve even considered reading for pleasure… well, I bought a new book (The Great Gatsby) so the intention is there [update: it hasn’t happened. A year on and I’ve still not read a fiction book, I can’t seem to maintain enough interest in something made up, unreal]. I’ve attempted creative hobbies, and bought things to spruce up the house (although my spending is random, I buy something and then hate it!). I’m looking at new clothes, though I know I’ve put on weight. I’m laughing at the TV, making jokes…well, to a degree; networking with my business and accepting more work. My prayers are not just through despair now, but for thanks and hope too.

I cannot believe it’s been 16 weeks since Abi died, so much seems to have happened yet it feels as though time has stood still. On paper, it looks too short – how can I be so composed? But I have lived every single day of those 16 weeks as though it were a week. Each day, long and emotional. It feels as though more time should have passed, but when I think about it I feel some shock and guilt that I’ve adjusted this much, this soon. It can hit me suddenly at any moment in the day. For example, as I’m sat reading to Abi’s sister in their ‘old’ bedroom, now rearranged, and I notice that I’m feeling comfortable with the change (from always juggling two children and their possessions in one small space to giving lots of space to one, having ‘packed’ Abi away). I feel a panic rise inside me, my breathing quickens and tears threaten to spring from my eyes in an instant. My throat closes up and I find it hard to continue reading without my voice cracking. Living with this loss is a constant battle between adjusting because you have to, and not wanting to adjust for fear of moving on.

Adjustment is not forgetting, but it doesn’t half feel like it. By living a day or even a moment at a time, I feel I’ve been able to adjust to certain things gradually. I can now sit down to family meals (the position of the chairs changed slightly) without choking my food down through tears. I can look at Abi’s photo without crying (though I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to watch her on video, to see her as though she were alive).

Consider when you wake up in the morning, those very first moments when you open your eyes… How long does it take for you to remember what day it is? Most of us experience that short window of relaxation upon waking before we realise that it’s actually Monday, not the weekend, and we have to get up and get to work or the children to school. We don’t immediately remember what we need to do that day. When Abi died, sleep wasn’t easy in any case, but, on waking, I would feel the loss and despair immediately. In the hospital, while waiting and asleep, I cried out for her in my fitful dreams. I would wake with tears in my eyes.

I always thought starting a new day after sleep I would feel a little bit refreshed, even for a while, before I felt the grief again. But that’s not the case. I’d often wake and feel so, so sad and heavy-hearted, and I’d spend the morning crying.

Now, four months on, I realise this morning that I didn’t immediately remember. I am beginning to notice more time before the reality creeps in. Not much, but enough not to wake up crying and for me to know that my mind has begun to adjust to or process the fact that Abi isn’t here. Abi would always be the one to wake me with a kiss before bouncing off to school. For many weeks after she died, when I woke I still expected that routine and, oh, did it ever stab at my heart. But now I don’t expect this. I’ve not forgotten about it, but I think I’ve begun to accept it… accept that the routine has changed.

Getting to sleep is a different matter entirely, and is often worse than the morning without the distraction of preparing for a day ahead. As soon as the lights go out, my mind starts to think of Abi. I cry. I miss the joy of seeing her vibrant and alive, I can hear her voice and laughter; I remember the intense trauma of watching her falling into a coma on our bed and passing into death in my arms; and I think of the bleak sorrow of her dead and departed. I have to force myself not to let these thoughts take hold, as it can prevent me from sleeping at all and I feel terrible, but surely I must allow myself to think them or I face living in perpetual denial?

The flashbacks are more obvious now. I cuddle a pillow tightly to comfort myself and wish there was a pill I could take to just numb the pain. But I don’t want pills, what pill could numb so many memories? I want and need to feel this. Above all, I know that I need to retain my sanity, to not let myself get sucked into the void of grief or I risk creating even more damage to myself and my family… I must stay strong.