I wrote a post last September about how hard I found it to declutter our home. We were having a car boot sale and kept coming across things that brought back bittersweet memories. Abi’s belongings were still everywhere – a forgotten hairclip, a school pen – and I found the thought of getting rid of things we had ‘when Abi was alive’ (a new marker in our family timeline) too hard to bear. But, a year on, I’ve arrived at a very different place.
In my life, I’m beginning to make changes. Changes that mean I’m starting to move on.
It’s actually taken me a long time to want to write that in a post. ‘Moving on’ is one of the hardest terms I know relating to grief. It makes me feel physically sick and mentally stressed. I have a number of books that all offer ways to help ‘people move on’ that I avoid picking up because to wish it is to want to erase the memory of her. But, it’s essential that I at least try to come to accept it.
This hasn’t come about the easiest way. I haven’t just woken up and thought right, time to ‘get a grip’. The past year has been a huge struggle and I think in large part owing to the fact that, as time moves away from my last day with Abi, I am desperately trying to claw it back. ‘Moving on’ is so very hard when your child is dead.
I was able to realise that I was sinking further and further into depression. I felt like I was standing in sinking sand but had managed to hold on to a branch to stop me being fully submerged. Now, I’ve built up enough energy to try to pull myself out.
I’m looking at my life from the outside in, rather than in the self-absorption of grief. I see a woman who is tired, stressed and lethargic. I see a marriage that is strained. I see a home that is stuck in a time warp, reminding us constantly that we are living with trauma. I see a family suffocated by the memories all around them, in every face they see, every step they take.
Yet, as I try to bring some new order to our home and the daily changes are feeling somewhat positive, and right, I can’t escape the torment that this brings.
At night I dream of Abi and my dreams are stressful. I wake up often with palpitations, my broken heart tearing me from my rest.
I dreamt that my hubby and I had decided that Abi’s ashes needed to be moved. They were buried in our local churchyard and her stone was constantly hidden by mud and dead leaves, so much so it was almost sinking into the earth. So we asked the vicar and some close family to hold another service where we exhumed her box of ashes in order to move it to a nice place.
It was evening. The box was brought out. I held it. It was slightly shabby where it had been buried, the light oak was dark and beginning to rot. I held my girl’s remains and choked back tears.
I remember looking at my hubby and wondering what we were going to do with her ashes; now questioning why we had dug them up in the first place! It was a bit awkward as we realised we had nowhere to put them. I thought that we could put them in a pot and have them at home. I felt a yearning to have Abi close by. But I didn’t voice my thoughts as I knew it wasn’t right. We both knew that, really, she belonged back in the ground.
This dream struck me as my conflicting feelings of wanting to let go (not of Abi but of my grief) yet cling onto Abi and keep her close. I suppose my subconscious was telling me that I can’t bring her back. That the Abi we knew isn’t on Earth anymore, even if her remains are. That I could dig her up and rebury her a thousand times but it wouldn’t change a thing.
I feel, with help, that I can move on in grief. That I can create new memories, as our family is so different to what it was two years ago. I have to let go of a lot of the past. Not of Abi. I will never get over losing her; her life and her death are engraved on my heart. It’s the material and sentimental aspects of grief I feel need to change.
I have to put aside the many photos and mementos, replacing them with simpler versions that enhance rather than dominate our home. We have decided to stay in our house so we will need to completely transform our home into a new space where new memories are made. I want to create a new nest shaped around the remains of what we have. I want to find new interests and ways to use my mind, to spend my time wisely.
I can see, clearly, how in the first two years of grief I have clung to the familiar. Our home and its contents hasn’t changed much. We haven’t travelled far. We’ve stuck to our routines. The familiarity was my comfort blanket. But now that familiarity threatens to draw me into a downward spiral. By keeping things the same, by always everything ‘Abi’, I struggle to find the breathing space I need to live, and that which will allow my other children to just be. And living is what I want to do. I want to treasure this life I have and to live it for Abi as well as for me.
So, while it’ll take time to sort through the clutter that is spilled all over our home, clutter that shows I’ve been clinging onto the loss, and it’ll take money to pay for new carpets and furniture, it’s a transition I feel ready to take, and that’s the most important part. Knowing this feels good and my hope is lifted. I know the journey will be fraught with the guilt and grief that I must feel. I just have to let it be.