Some days I feel like grief has slapped me in the face so hard. This was one of them, about four months (in July) after Abi died. I wrote about this particular day as it was a full 24 hours of challenging thoughts and emotions…
Last night, I dreamed about ending my life. Well, to put it more accurately, you know that time before you drop off to sleep, when your brain is slowing down and you’re clearing your head and thinking of peaceful things to help you drift off. Well, last night my last, peaceful thought was about committing suicide. I didn’t have to think too hard about it. The scenario came all too easily to me, and I felt both comforted and terrified by it.
That day, the day of this dream, I felt particularly emotional about my bereavement. I’m not keen on the term ‘emotional’, it makes me think of a ‘hysterical, over-sensitive woman’, I don’t know why, perhaps because it seems to be related to a woman’s hormonal cycle, PMT, and is almost a throwaway comment. ‘Oh she’s just feeling a bit emotional’ (wink, wink). I prefer to say that I feel ‘sensitive’ or ‘fragile’ if I’m having a bad day. Anyway, from the moment I opened my eyes, I felt low.
I’d not slept well, it was hot and I felt bothered. Still, I took the dog for a slow three-mile run, as this usually makes me feel better. But I was even hotter and more tired after just 30 minutes.
I took the dog to visit Abi (her memorial at the cemetery) and found that the gardener had accidentally knocked her memorial vase over and chipped two of the ornaments we’d left there with the mower. He’d clearly tried to rectify this, but in doing so had placed the main vase at the wrong angle.
This might sound trivial, but it was my first experience at feeling protective over a grave. I’ve read stories of people arguing about what they can and cannot leave at gravesides and understood that emotions run very high if things are done against their wishes. I felt some of that when I saw Abi’s memorial this day. I didn’t get upset about it, not directly anyway, but it stayed with me, adding to the low mood. I talked to her briefly, telling her I missed her and that I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with this, then left.
When I got home, I heard on the radio that a celebrity had lost her long fight with breast cancer. I tried to imagine what that was like for her, knowing her death was so close, and then I’m truly ashamed to say I felt a pang of envy. I had an unwelcome longing to be ‘at peace’. This woman’s terrible suffering was now over, she was at peace from her illness. I say this with no disrespect to her or her family. I’m sure she would very much wish to be alive still, suffering or not; however, I cannot deny what I felt, in my own grief, at that moment, and I feel it’s important to share it. People reading this may relate to these feelings, of wanting to die, to be free of the physical/emotional pain or to ‘be with’ their departed loved one. Or perhaps it’s just me! This is one of those confusing aspects of life, or rather death, that is simply not discussed openly, if at all. Why on earth would it be?
I cannot hurt those close to me by telling them how these crazy thoughts intrude my mind, so I don’t say anything, but this cycle of pushing on through life, making vague plans for the future, and then wanting it all to just go away keeps on repeating in me.
That afternoon, I had to attend my other children’s sports day at school. As I arrived, I noticed they’d set it out exactly as the previous year (when Abi was there too) and my chest tightened further as I was transported back to the year before. I knew this wasn’t going to go well for me, but I couldn’t not go. I sat next to my husband, who seemed in good spirits, but I was tense. I watched my children take part in their races with pride, of course, but there were long gaps in between while they worked through the events. Neither my son nor daughter were much into it, and both were nervous, but I kept thinking Abi would have loved it. I saw a blonde-haired girl like her, bouncing around being helpful to the teachers, just like Abi would have done and indeed did the year before. I was so choked up; I wanted to run away but I was trapped.
Then, a woman sat in front of me started shouting support for her daughter, who was (unfortunately for me) called Abigail. She called her name over and over again with such enthusiasm and love, as you would expect, but I sat numb. In my mind, I shouted at her to stop it. I almost wanted to tell her that my daughter Abigail died just four months ago, as though we had a common bond! I don’t know why, and of course I didn’t. I knew I had to get over this, her name belongs to many people, so I tried to pretend it didn’t matter. But the knot in my chest only grew tighter.
I contemplated leaving, but it was soon the end of the school day and I was taking my children home, so I just sat there, looking miserable I expect to everyone else, and prayed that no one said anything to me, for if they did, I knew I would crack. My husband asked me what was up, almost irritated that I wasn’t showing much enthusiasm, perhaps because I wasn’t hiding my feelings enough or making him feel uncomfortable. ‘I’m feeling fragile’ was all I could say, which he understood immediately giving me a look. When you’re on a different page to your partner in terms of feeling the grief, it can be difficult. I couldn’t understand how he could be so okay with this, but of course, he was throwing his emotion into supporting our children. It was quite helpful in a way, as it wouldn’t do to have two glum parents on the sidelines.
I left the sports field sharpish and had a small weep behind my sunglasses. I managed to compose myself and, as the children spilled out of school, there was suddenly, wonderfully, little time to wallow. The rest of the afternoon at home passed peacefully enough, I had my children’s demands to keep me occupied, though I found I was comfort eating on biscuits.
That evening, I was low again; I felt tired and couldn’t be bothered. We did the usual putting the children to bed routine and it was going okay until one of them woke and wouldn’t settle. We were all exhausted by then. I had planned a long run in the morning, not more important than my children of course, but it just added to my overall tension.
Then, to top it all, in the night my tooth started aching. I knew I needed a couple of fillings but I’d been putting it off, not wanting to face that mini trauma of the dentist’s drill. I’d been clenching my teeth more lately and had obviously aggravated a nerve. So I was up again, taking Ibuprofen and rubbing Sensodyne on my sore teeth. The thought of death seemed comforting at this time in the middle of the night.
Grief is like a terrible toothache, you cannot escape it. This kind of pain can’t be extracted by anyone or anything. When I’m overcome by my feelings, getting up and leaving the room or trying to watch a tv show doesn’t help. I can’t shake the pain, I have to just accept it.
Still, and this is, I suppose, the most important part of this rather sorrowful account, I woke up on time the next day, got the children to school (albeit us all yawning all the way), and drove to my running club. I cannot express enough the strong desire I had not to do it, to sit at home, or to go somewhere else and just stare absent-mindedly, but I somehow managed to keep on track. The run was 5.5 miles and through a shaded wood, so I was sheltered from the heat (I’m not a lover of sunny runs!). It was hard going (I didn’t realise I was pregnant at this point!), but seeing other people, exercising and being outdoors was quite simply the best therapy after the terrible day before. I still felt the grief close by, but those few hours of mental and physical distraction was a brief holiday from the nightmare days that seem to be puncturing my life at the moment.
Thankfully, bad days like this are becoming rarer and, as I work through each year and relive similar events time and again, I’ll adjust to it and won’t find it quite so hard. Even six months on, with a new baby soon to be born, I read back on this now and can see that there is always tomorrow.