My husband’s car is on its last legs. We need to start thinking about replacing it before we spend too much more on it. He’s put it off for far too long and spent too much money keeping it going, but I know he loves the car mostly because of the times he spent with Abi in it.
The chats they’d had on the way home from a club, the trips they took together. It’s hardly been cleaned since she died (and it’s grim inside!), but I don’t push it. I know the sweet wrappers are hers. I know the hair clips are hers. I know he doesn’t want to lose even the dust that might be hers. It’s his space so I leave it to him (like a man shed on wheels!). We’ve changed my car and transformed our home. Abi hasn’t been erased by any means, and I’m always finding her hair clips around even now, but I know his car is the last big reminder.
When talking about replacing it, we were trying to remember when we bought it. Our marker… how long before Abi died.
You see, we’ve reached a point in our grief journey where life has become about ‘before’ and ‘after’ Abi.
We chat and can’t remember how long ago something was… When was the last time we came here? When did we buy this or that? When did that happen?
‘Was it before Abi?’ we say, all too naturally.
Rather than trying to put Abi into our past, this brings her into our present. We recognise that before Abi died our life was different. It was our happy, anxiety-free family life.
Our life up to 6th February 2013 was filled with normal problems such as what holiday to go on next, sorting out the children’s social lives, bedtime routines, parenting with discipline, keeping up with homework, day dreaming, planning well ahead, wanting/doing more, living to work, rush, rush, rush.
The ‘after Abi’ is still happy but the happiness is clouded by loss, longing, hearts trying to mend. It’s a deeper love for one another. More patient and focused on what is important. Appreciating the smallest of things.
It’s also more worrying and at times suffocating. It’s an inability to plan too far ahead. It’s visits to the doctors. It’s aches and pains. It’s bed time routines out of the window because we need us all to feel safe and live every waking minute with them, even if we’re arguing. It’s not wanting to say no. It’s working to live, it’s slow, slow, slow.
In many ways our perspective is better. I’m not going to moan when Monday comes around. I’m not going to stress if my child doesn’t live up to the school’s standards, I’m not sweating the small stuff. I’m seeing the things I never saw before. And I’m thankful for all that.
But it’s also missing the pastimes we loved such as reading a book for pleasure, going for a run, listening to music without hearing the lyrics. It’s missing being able to go out without my heart racing. It’s missing the carefree confidence of parenting, brushing off the common aches and pains. It’s missing being able to say to our children ‘It’ll be OK’.
Three years on, I’m learning to live with the before and after, that the ‘after’ is ‘forever after’, not just for now, but I’m also looking forward to the day when those times will become one.