Rusty

So today was as exciting as expected, so not exciting at all. It was just another day. Woke up later than I wanted, only to realise that there wasn’t much to be awake for anyway. I spent most of the day spring cleaning my laptop which was complaining about lack of iCloud memory. And rather than spend more per month on extra storage, I decided to get rid of a whole heap of unwanted stuff.

Which would be fine, if going through all my photos didn’t mean bumping into hundreds of photo of Matt, or Matt and I. And then there’s the photos he’s not actually in, but I know that I was talking to him at the time they were taken. For nigh on four years, if we weren’t physically together, we were headphones in each others ears, living vicariously together. And then apart from the photos, there’s the file with all our texts, the file with all our WhatsApp messages which I’ve saved because I don’t want to lose them, but reading them, even just a part of them, is like hearing him talk again, like having him in my ear again, and seeing in those words all the hopes and dreams and the love we had, and just wondering where the f*ck it all went wrong, and why, why, why isn’t he still here? It’s like bringing him closer just to emphasise how far away he is now. It’s indescribably painful.

We lived our relationship long distance for years, which was not easy, but it was worth it, because we were going to have forever together. We actually said that, in black and white, in a file that now sits stored for posterity, that means nothing to anyone else but us, and now just me. We said that one day we would look back on it all, on how hard it had been, on how much we’d loved each other then, from the future where we were busy being happy together forever, still loving each other just as much and more for the rest of our lives. Oh man. I wish…god, do I wish…

The long term long distance thing probably explains why I still half want to call him, msg him, text, him, or expect him to be likewise in touch…I was used to him not being physically being here but being able to contact him. Some habits are hard to break as far as my subconscious is concerned.  And now I don’t talk to anyone. I don’t talk to the kids, I haven’t seen a friend in ages, and the only person I’ve properly talked to is my counsellor who, though lovely, is paid to listen.

I just miss him. So much. It’s almost worse as the distance between now and then grows larger. I worry I’ll forget how those hugs felt, what his voice sounded like, the way he laughed, the feel of his hand around mine, the way he looked at and into me. Every day I lose him a little bit more, and I can’t get him, or any of it, back. I miss him. I can’t let go but he’s slipping through my fingers. I miss us. I miss who I was with him, how he made me feel, how he lifted me up, how I could make him laugh, how we cherished the way we supported each other. I know I am never going to be who I was again; that person died when he did. And I have no idea who I am now, or who I’m going to be. I’m not sure I’m anybody. I’m just empty. I’m pretty much just a dead woman walking.

Yesterday Tash said something, I forget what, and I actually laughed briefly. And I realised it had been the first time I’d genuinely laughed in days, if not longer. It felt weird. Rusty. I am so quiet these days, in so many ways. There’s a world full of thoughts and feelings inside that I daren’t touch, and so I segregate my thoughts, and keep to the safe and the routine and thus yet another day will pass, which could have been yesterday or tomorrow, as all my days run/blur together. Today’s spring cleaning meant bumping into far too much, and I didn’t even have anyone to share that with, to share how I was feeling about it, to lean on for support.

Grieving is hard work. It’s tiring. It’s walking down a long featureless road on your own, with no destination, weighed down and crippled by your thoughts and feelings, just putting one foot in front of the other, and hoping that one day the journey starts to make sense or have purpose, without any real faith that that will actually happen.

You know what worries me? That this lockdown will end, but my lockdown won’t. That everyone’s life will get back to ‘normal’, and I still won’t have anyone to see, to talk to, and I won’t have the lockdown to blame that on anymore. I’ll just have to face up to the fact that everyone moves on, everyone has their own lives, as they should, and that it’s really just plain old me now. The kids will move on, back to uni, off to other jobs. And there I’ll be. Just me, myself, and I… It doesn’t just worry me. It properly scares me. I really don’t think I can do this on my own. So when it comes to that point, what then?

Cognitive dissonance

So yeah. Four days of getting up before lunchtime. Of doing a couple of hours of work. And today, of even managing a session on the spin bike. So I guess my ‘new routine’ is continuing. Is it making me feel any better? Hell no.

Being asleep, being busy, working, reading, means my brain is relatively distracted. Sometimes even properly so. It goes back to the place where this is what I did, when life was normal. It gets lost in the work, in the good story, in the conversation, the TV programme. Whatever. And time passes a little faster. Which is all great.

But you wake up. You wake up from sleep, or from wherever your brain has gone, and for a brief moment you’re still there where life was ok…and then whoop there it is, the slap round the face of reality. And some days reality sees fit to use you as a punch bag. Over and over and over again it hits you. And once you’re down for the count, you can’t even distract yourself anymore. Reality is now standing between you and anything and everything, and nothing works anymore. It’s just tears until bedtime.

And no-one even notices when I cry anymore here. Ok, that’s a little unfair, sometimes one of the offspring will notice, and proffer solutions (which is not what I want or need – you can’t just fix me), or do that ‘she’s off again’ thing and kinda smile sympathetically and wait for me to stop again, or find they have somewhere else to be. No-one gives me a hug and just lets me cry it out. So the grief and those tears kind of build, like a pressure cooker with no proper release valve. Sitting in an out of the way corner with those tears running down your cheeks is not enough. It’s too quiet, and too restrained, and too British.

A couple of days ago a good friend of mine let me go and hang out in her field, and I just let it all out to the sky and grass and the trees, however noisy or messy that was. Which makes it sound like letting go was a choice. It wasn’t. I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t. It was primal. And cathartic. I think I’m going to need to do that again. I don’t feel like I can do it here, but I know it’s something I need to do. Bottling things up is not something that works well for me. I shut down, and shut people, and the world out. I withdraw. And my thoughts go to places that aren’t helpful, and my mood spirals downwards, and there I am falling down the rabbit hole again. Gazing into the abyss as it gazes back at me. None of which is conducive to healthy grieving, or healthy living.

I’ve just had to cancel the small gathering I had planned later this month to scatter my half of Matt’s ashes. Because you know, Covid. And, let’s be brutally honest, I am really not in a good place right now, and so it’s probably a blessing in disguise, as it’s probably not the right time to do it. When I do do it, it needs to be right, and I need to be able to cope with it, and  it’s not like there’s really any rush is there? It was a good plan, a good date…but I guess another one will come along, right? Cancelling still upset me though. Another straw for the camel’s back.

Apparently this reality still hasn’t properly taken root in my brain. It still takes me by surprise. I still can’t believe it’s all happened. It’s still all just too surreal. I think it’s maybe some sort of a self-protection device that clearly doesn’t work very well, as the dissonance between then and now resonates painfully through me again and again. It doesn’t stop the pain. Only if it wasn’t there, and I had to feel all the feelings at once, as they say, I think I might crack. Maybe there’s a slow drip, drip, drip of it trickling through in the background, and slowly all this will become something I have come to terms with, bit by bit, one day at a time, without noticing.

They‘ say it gets better/easier with time. Personally I reckon that’s b*ll*cks, since it sure as hell hasn’t yet, but I guess I’ll find out won’t I? I hope ‘they‘ are right.

Boundaries

So. I’ve had a particularly bad patch which, in retrospect was probably at least slightly hormone related, not that that helps any at the time. It was the lowest I’ve been in quite a while, though all these things are relative. These days it’s all just shades of low.

But for the last couple of days I’ve been somewhere in a half nearly OK place. I had another numb contained day. I have seen my friend, in acceptably sociable fashion, and celebrated her birthday with her. I’ve done some work. I’ve sat in the garden. All within strict guidelines, within boundaries. It’s like I’m living in a box. I’ve been in that box, that exclusion zone, where I exclude the outside world and the past and the future and what isn’t and what will never be. I’ve focussed on being in there. I have batted away thoughts and memories and flashbacks. And I have kept the demons at bay, whilst being all too aware that they’re still there, just being glad not to be as down as I had been. But as long as the walls stay up…

Today we went over to my folks; Dad needed his new phone set up, and probably also some company, and so we went, and did what needed to be done, which comes as second nature to you and me, with our 21st century many and multi-phone experience, but not to him. We caught up, kept distanced, had some great food. And the phone is pretty much sorted now – next step new apps. I’ll pop in in the next few days, when he’s had time to play with it a bit, and we’ll add things, and open up his phone world a little more.

Mum was there and yet not there at the same time. She says less and less, and wanders around aimlessly more and more. She’s somehow more absent and more vacant; and I can’t explain why those two things are different but they are. I also think she thinks she’s being held against her will in somewhere that isn’t her home, by strangers, and some of it’s like a prisoner not communicating with her gaoler(s), like she’s biding her time until she can escape somewhere somehow. There’s the odd cutting comment… Her meds have taken the edge off; she hasn’t actually tried to escape lately but…so the doors remain locked, the keys remain out of sight/reach. Sadly the truth is that she’s actually at her home, with Dad, to whom she’s been married for over 50 years, surrounded today by family, her things, the cats… It’s heartbreaking.

And I’m sorting the phone, and chatting, and getting on with it, and coping…until I can get in the car and let Austin drive me home, and then cry because the one person who got me, who got my Mum because he’d been through it, isn’t going to give me a hug and make me feel better and isn’t going to tell me it’s going to get better, because it’s not and he knew that. And the outside leaked into my box…and I remembered just how much I miss Matt and wish he was here, and how am I going to cope with the future without him and his support, and with the kids growing up and spreading their wings, and there being just me? And then I’m looking down a rabbit hole, and it’s time to put me back in the box. Or at least go to sleep and try again tomorrow.

Not so comfortably numb

Today was…weird. If I didn’t know better, I’d say I was stoned. But I wasn’t. Ain’t touched nothing like that in a very long time. So for whatever reason I just felt very cut off, very numb, very spaced out and disconnected, and very, very tired. Very…odd.

But I just went with it. No point fighting some battles is there? I managed to get some shopping done mid afternoon so that we could eat. But other than that I just went with it. I sat and rocked gently in the sunshine, and did the usual inane things I do to pass the time at the moment. I even had to have a nap late afternoon; it’s been a while since that happened. But if that’s what my body and brain needed to be doing today then hey, have at it right?

It wasn’t exactly unpleasant. Or pleasant. Not thinking about anything much at all has its advantages. As a result I’d managed to mostly keep it together, apart from the odd moment here and there, until this evening my 8 year old nephew popped up and rejoined my team on one of the iPad games I play, and told me that he missed Matt, Loren (his sister), and me. Coming as it did, out of the blue, it pretty much floored me. Just heartbreaking. What can you say? Me too? There’s nothing to be said that can make a damn bit of difference…though I did my best. I can’t get my head around it all at my age, how on earth is he supposed to at his age? Instead we flew dragons together for a bit and chatted about nothing, before parting ways to respectively head for the land of nod. I have a funny feeling he should probably have been asleep already anyway, not playing games with me 😉

So off to bed I go in my turn. I need to do some actual work tomorrow. And sit on a spin bike. Provided I don’t feel like I did today that is. Then all bets are off…

Cold to the bones you made from me

In the morning I wake, and roll over, and sleep, and wake,…and sometime this morning in that rolling routine, when I went back into a dream in which I’d already been, there he was. He’d been away, working, but he was back, back to me, happy to see me, though in need of a shave, and just as it was going so well….my brain woke me up. Ripped me away from where I was happy. Like my subconscious wouldn’t let me stay in a lie, and yet I so, so, so wanted to stay there. I already knew it was a lie; would it have been wrong to stay with him for just a little bit longer?… It was just so nice to be with him again, to touch, to talk to, to hold…

Which was a pretty inauspicious start to my day. And, having shut my crap away in a box for 48 hours or so, to get through a hell that was not truly mine and to support those for whom it was, today was pay back day. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, and all the distractions, and games, and reading, and work, could not put me back together again. Tbh I should probably have stayed in bed. Come to think of it, I don’t know why I didn’t. I guess getting out of bed is just what you do, right?

Today is my amazing, beautiful daughter Tash’s 20th birthday, and sadly I even managed to screw that up. Even though I’d paid for things to deliberately be there in time, none of them were. I know she says she doesn’t mind, but I don’t believe her, because I know I’d mind. We’ve messaged, and talked, and stuff but…I’d just like at least one of my presents to her to have arrived in time. Yet another lockdown casualty… And I’m gutted we can’t actually be together for her birthday, especially as one of the photos we both chose for me to post on FB to mark her birthday was from two years ago, when the whole family was together to celebrate her 18th birthday, including Matt, and it’s just the two of them messing around with a balloon, and having a laugh, and it’s just lovely… And now he’s not here, and neither is she. Hopefully she’ll be home in a couple of weeks though. That’s something. I miss my girl, and I’ve not seen her since January, which seems like forever ago.

I’ve been crying on and off since I woke up, with a brief break for some work stuff and a catch up with Gill. And I guess it’s probably just all the bottled up emotions coming out. And the aftermath of Loren’s funeral. A whole heap of everything really. And I can tell it’s a bad day, because I can’t get warm. It’s like I’m chilled to the bone. Outside, inside, sun or shade, I’m cold. Right now I’m wrapped up in my duvet, praying that sleep comes early tonight. I’m pretty sure it will, as I’m drained and exhausted again.

In expectation of sunnier days to come, I have bought my safe place, my garden swing seat, some solar powered led fairy lights. They’re lovely. I set them up yesterday, and when they’re on, and especially when you pull the cover down, it’s like being in your own little nest. Which sounds lovely, and it kind of is, and it should be…except all it did this evening was remind me that it’s an empty nest. That Matt would have loved them, but that he’s not here to love them, or to love me. And no-one else cares about such things at all. As ever. there’s no-one to share it with. It is, like so many things these days, pointless. Pretty, but pointless.

Happy Birthday to my no longer teenage daughter. I felt old already, now I feel ancient! We’ll celebrate all our birthdays when we’re all allowed to do so properly. I’m glad other gifts got to you, and that you have friends who thought of you and made it special for you.

Bubble

I’ve deliberately spent the last two/three days in my own little bubble. Austin has been working mostly. The sun has shone, until today. I have sat, I have read, I have listened to podcasts, I have played Evony and War Dragons, and I have achieved very little of any consequence. And when he has been home, we have hung out and watched films and eaten food etc, and I have generally spent most of the time trying very very hard not to think about anything in particular. Mostly successfully, apart from those breakthrough moments when some memory, some thought, breaks down those carefully constructed walls, and there you are, crying like a bereft child once again.

It’s like there’s a little voice in the back of your mind constantly going “I just want him back, please can I have him back?” and you can’t shut it up, how ever much you try, even though you know that can never happen. I never knew what it was like to want something so badly, and to simultaneously know you can never have it. I could want to be famous, I could want to win the lottery, I could want to win a medal. With work, or luck or training…there’s a possibility these things could happen, however slim. I can never, ever, have Matt back again. I recently rediscovered the word ‘yearning’, and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long, but that’s what it is. An endless painful yearning for what can never be…

We accidentally ended up in the Square, running errands, on VE day at the same time as the British Legion were doing a very limited socially distanced marking of the event, complete with a respectful toast to those who have gone before, on the Church steps. And there were quite a few people out to witness, watch, partake. More people than I’ve seen in quite a while. Several of whom clearly have no idea of what two metres is. But that wasn’t my real issue. It was more that town was suddenly a place of people again. It was a small, but limited, Axbridge celebration. And I was suddenly surrounded by people who know me, who know what’s happened, and Matt wasn’t there sharing it with me, when he always would have been, and my anxiety levels went through the roof, and I suddenly felt very self conscious and naked and vulnerable and scared and emotional, and I just had to go home before I lost it in public. Looks like I get to add social anxiety and possible agoraphobia to life now too doesn’t it? I can’t really explain it, but I didn’t feel safe out there; I wasn’t, and am not, ready to cope with facing up to it all in public again. Social distancing and lock down may suck, does suck, but it does also give you permission and justification for not facing up to anything or anyone. It has made hermits out of many of us.

You see most of the time I’m kind of used to him not being at home. I don’t like it, but there he isn’t. Thanks to my keeping busy work, I now have my two safe spaces there, one indoor, one out. My places were I can sit, and rock myself gently back and forward in comforting fashion, and pretend, and not think, and just be in my little make believe chilled little isolated bubble. But out there, outside my front door, wherever I go, he should be there with me. And I haven’t had to face up to his absence in such a way for quite a while. It hurt. And yes, I know it’s coming. I know the world will start turning again, and people will go back to doing what they always did, but I’ll still be here, or out there, missing him, wishing he was with me, feeling his absence everywhere I go. It’s like you all got to join my weird little socially isolated world for a while…but I’ll still be here when you get to leave. Lock down has made my life, and my mental health, a lot worse, but once it goes away, I’ll still be stuck here, in my self-imposed isolation, wondering what the f*ck happened, and how the f*ck I go on doing this, and when on earth it gets better, if it ever does.

And tomorrow is my beautiful sparkly niece Loren’s funeral. Which are words that should never ever go together. How is this even a thing? But it is. Somehow it is. So I am taking my Dad up to London, whilst Austin Granny sits, and then we’re coming back again afterwards, when I intend to drink far too much white wine until I go to sleep again. I’m dreading it. I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know how a funeral with only 10 people works, I don’t know how I’ll handle it, and I also know that how I’m feeling about it all must be just a tiny fraction of how they’re all feeling. In fact I feel bad even talking about how I’m feeling. I’m just worried, because I’m not really coping with me at the moment, yet I want to be there for them, because this is SO not about me, and I don’t want to get it wrong. So I kind of need to seal my crap away into a box for the day, with iron bars around it, and man the f*ck up, and do my best to do what needs to be done. For them. And for her.  And man, she would have loved the DMs I’m going to wear for her, in her honour. Her kooky Aunt will be out in force, living up to expectations.

I can’t imagine how we’re all going to get through it, whilst at the same time knowing that we will because none of us have any choice. It’s going to be a long and hideous and difficult day, and I just hope they know how much I love them all, how much I feel for them all, and that I wish I could do more for them. There are no words, and not enough {{{hugs}}} in the world for a time like this.

Sometimes life just sucks, and it’s not fair, and that’s all there is to it.

Super moon

Tonight is the Super Flower Moon. And from where I’m lying, with the curtains partially opened, I can see it. And yes, it is big, and bright, and beautiful, and its light is streaming into our room…and once again I am not sharing it with him.

I am so low, so flat, and so lonely, at the moment. I just can’t pull my socks up, pick myself up from the bottom. Every day is the same day over and over again. Nothing changes. Nothing improves. My blood tests were clear, which you’d think was a good thing, but all it means is that I still have all the symptoms, and the pain, and no answers, thus no treatment. A referral, advice that might be forthcoming, an appointment that might happen if the world ever gets back to whatever normal was, but no answers. No help. Just more pain, on top of the usual pain (which is worse because my period finally arrived), on top of the pain of grief that is still ripping me apart however hard I try to be distracted, busy, focussed elsewhere… None of it works, and nothing is helping.

I’m just so damn f*cking sad all the time. I’m trying to avoid triggers, only to discover you can’t. They lurk, and then jump out and get you when you’re least expecting them – a random memory, phrase, something you see, hear…and I’m gone again, like I’ve regressed back to the early days, and the tears are falling, and the lump in my throat is back, and it just hurts all over, and over, and over again.

I’ve not just lost him, I’ve lost so much more than that. I’ve lost the me I was then, and am now someone I don’t even recognise, or like, and I’ve no idea who I’m going to end up being.

I can’t listen to music any more, when it’s been a massive part of my life for longer than I can remember.

I can’t drink fizz just for no particular reason at all, like just because it’s Wednesday and we fancied walking up the hill and drinking fizz, and even when there’s a genuine reason for fizz, it just feels all wrong somehow, to be drinking it without him.

I haven’t been able to go to a beach, any beach, since he died. And now I can’t even if I wanted to, and I don’t know if it would help or just make me feel worse anyway. We were never happier than when we were at a beach together, and I almost feel like I’d be betraying him by going there without him.

I can’t, and don’t want to, ride a bike without him, even though I’ve made it as far as the spin bike, I can’t imagine getting out on the road on my own, without him, without his support, without knowing that he’s there to get me home if it all gets too much.

I had music before him, and I had beaches before him, and I cycled long before him, but I don’t seem to be able to get those things back now that he has gone, having spent those years when all those things were done with him; always together, never apart. That was us. Even when we weren’t physically together, we were always in touch, always talking, texting. Always together, never apart. And now it’s never together and always apart. From one extreme to a very painful other. Together, alone. (take a listen, the lyrics pretty much cover it).

Time does not heal. Time just makes the distance between where you are now and where you were then greater. It takes you further away from your person when all you want to be is closer. Sometimes it makes the ache, and the yearning, even stronger. As time passes, I guess/hope I just get better at carrying those feelings, the loss, the insecurities, the void, with and within me. It’s pretty clear I’m not there yet…

And I know there are probably those thinking I should be moving on, I should be “over it” by now. I’ve already lost one friend, many months ago, who basically said he couldn’t read this anymore, that I was wallowing too much, and so he’d be taking his leave. So long and thanks for all the fish. Fine. Off you go then. Because that’s b*ll*cks.

There is no timetable. Everyone walks this path their own way, and if you’ve never had to walk it, well lucky you. Don’t you think I’d like to be feeling better, and happier, and positive? That was who I used to be. This is not the person I was used to being. But it’s just not who I am now. And I can no more make me turn from this into that, than you can hold back the tide. I will end up, once the waves have receded, washed up on my own internal beach, and I will never be the person I was. When something like this happens to you, your story becomes split. There is the life you had before it happened, and then there is the life that comes after it. And to have cared and been cared for, loved deeply and been loved deeply in return, and then to have lost that? How can you ever be the same again?

I am trying to learn to be kinder to myself. To not expect so much of myself. To not let other people’s ideas of how grieving is, or how it should be done, or when it should be over and done with, influence me. To take each day as it comes and to do what I can, when I can, to do what feels right for me. And if all I can do is sit and cry, then that should be ok too. Right now I really can’t imagine a time when I will ever be happy again. All I can do is hope that maybe that time will come, whenever that may be, and ride out the waves the best I can in the meantime. I just hope they don’t completely swamp me before then. Because I’m so tired of it all. I feel old, ugly, worn down, eroded; not waving but drowning. I cannot picture my future.

It is what it is. One day at a time.

Three years

I’d known today was going to be bad. Firsts always are. In the run up to them I get emotional and anxious and stressed…but then they’re generally not quite as sh*t as I think they’ll be… And therein lies the rub. ‘Generally’.

Because not so this one. This one went off the scale…

So. Today marked three years since Matt and I got engaged, on a beach in South Wales, just the two of us. As I’ve said before, I wasn’t too bothered about getting married again, but it was what he really wanted, and when Matt’s mind was set on something…that was that. He said he wanted to stand up and tell the world how much he loved me. His first wedding was a small pretty much non-event, and this time he wanted to do it all properly, to have the wedding he’d always wanted to have. With me. And who wouldn’t swoon and melt when someone wants that and feels that way about you, especially when you feel the same way about him too? It’s like hitting the mother lode, the jackpot, your dreams come true…

So although I’d agreed, and we’d decided it was something that would happen at some point, and we’d found a ring we both liked, I didn’t know when he’d actually do it…until that day three years ago when he got down on one knee and officially asked me if I’d marry him. I said yes, obvs. Even if I did insist he swap in the real ring for the haribo one he initially used – which I ate… 😉

Only we didn’t get to have the wedding we wanted, did we? Not only had he not managed to get around to getting divorced, although he had just become legally separated for long enough to do so more easily, but he left us, me, before that could happen.  And so those plans, along with so many hopes and dreams, and our entire future, are just so much smoke in the wind, all blown away by the storm. Gone. So much is gone.

My birthday was bad enough. But it was my birthday, which was at least a little celebratory, and came with cake and presents and Austin, and thus company for being up on the hill. It was a my thing, celebrated without him. Not good, but, doable. Today was an US thing, marked without him, unlike the last two years when we celebrated it together, marked since there is nothing to celebrate now. Which was way, way worse. And I had to do it all on my own, literally, as Austin was at work, for a very long day. I gave up on today, and just let it be and go however it felt like going. There’s been lot of sitting and a hell of a lot of crying, and precious little else.

 As is ever the way, the only place that I have to go to, to be with him, to be at his favourite place, where we were us and happy and above the world, is up the hill. So I trudged up there very slowly, in the sunshine and chilly wind, for a glass of fizz and more tears. I managed to knock the bottle over twice, which actually seemed a little like Matt taking his share, in an odd kind of way, as well as being totally indicative of the kind of klutz I am at the moment.

And then I trudged back down. And then I had to go to bed for a while because I was drained, my ankles were killing me, I was exhausted, and basically just too sad to be awake anymore. I needed to check out for a bit. So I did, and I’ve basically been on or in bed ever since. Austin arrived home eventually, we chatted some, which helped a bit and now he’s gone to bed early. (It’s a big day tomorrow for him on a possible better job front, so please send positive vibes and best wishes his way.)

The day we got engaged was an amazing one. We were going to the beach every weekend – this one marked number 6 out of the eventual 10 we managed. We were at the beach, we were together, and massively happy, and he proposed and it was just perfect. He even got to go surfing (badly!). We left and popped into see his mate Gra and his family, and Mollie (Matt’s dog, who had ended up with Gra as he couldn’t take him with him one house move or a few before). Mollie was on her last legs, and it meant so much to Matt to see her one last time, and also for the first time he shared his good news to be with one of his best most long term mates. We then came home via my folks, and shared the news, and they were SO genuinely pleased for us both, and we all drank fizz, and celebrated, and Dad took some beautiful photos, which I’m so grateful to have now. All my family and friends were thrilled for us.

Matt’s family – not so much so. I don’t think they ever expected us to be a permanent thing – more just some sort of lfing. Us being the real deal was inconvenient and didn’t fit in with how they’d thought things would be once he’d left his wife. I know the difference in responses to our engagement really upset him. He wanted them to be happy for him, for us, and to support him in his choices…but the cupboard was bare. His Mum sent us a card and some fizz, once the dust had settled a bit, but I don’t think they ever got how much we meant to each other. I think they thought I had Matt under my thumb and he just did whatever I wanted. As if…! (As anyone who really knew Matt will tell you, that’s not how Matt worked. He was his own man, he did what he wanted, made his own decisions and owned them. There was no telling him to do anything!). When his kids found out we were engaged, they were far more supportive, and excited, and happy for us. Which is probably why, amongst other reasons, I’m still in touch with them, and not the others, I guess. That and the fact that his kids don’t blame me for his death, and the rest of the family does.

Today turned out to hurt a whole heap worse than I’d even imagined it would, from dawn ’til dusk. I just miss him SO much, every day, every where, in every way and in every thing, and especially today.  I wish we could have had the day we were going to have, on a beach somewhere, surrounded by those who truly loved and supported us, making what we already knew official, and sharing it with them, the sun, the sand, and the sea. I miss the life we were going to have together.

I had been starting to have the occasional better day, but now? In the world as it is now? The loneliness is crippling, the isolation is claustrophobic, and the depression and grief and pain can be overwhelming… I am stuck in a world where I can’t move forward even if I wanted to, even if I could.

At least it’s pretty much bedtime, and another first, another truly sh*tty day, is behind me.

PS: had my blood tests this morning – should find out more next Wednesday. Let’s see if my pessimism is justified shall we?

Grief is…

There was a FaceBook post somewhere earlier that asked people to answer the question “Grief is…” with what it means to them. I was going to answer there, but I didn’t. I decided I’d put it here instead. Rather than being something popping up in feeds saying “Jennifer just commented on…”. Besides, I think it’s going to take me a while to reply…

So, grief is…?

Grief is endless, relentless, hopelessness.
It’s literally painful; your insides ache from either crying or trying not to cry, your skin is blotchy, and the face you see in the mirror is old and drained. Everything about how you walk, talk, eat and exist changes overnight.
It’s realising what heartbroken actually means.
It’s overwhelming loneliness, and the constant yearning for something you can never have again.
It’s the tears that are always just a thought away, and sometimes not knowing if they’ll ever stop once they start. And there’s not a day that passes without tears.
It’s not being able to imagine a time, a future, when you’ll be truly happy. You keep faking it, and faking it, and somehow you’re still not making it. Sometimes you wonder if it’s something about you, that you don’t deserve to be happy. Maybe karma is getting you back for something you did, but you can’t for the life of you think what you can have done that was so bad that this is appropriate punishment.
It’s not being able to believe that you were given something so amazing, flaws included, and then had it taken away from you, and wondering if maybe you just imagined the whole thing, because love like that happens to other people, and then wondering what’s so wrong with you that you didn’t get to have the happy ending you so both wanted. Rational thought frequently goes out the window…

It’s the memories and flashbacks that come out of nowhere and then swamp you, just when you think you’ve got it together for a bit. A glimpse out of the corner of your eye, a certain sound, a movement, and there you are, back then, and he’s so close that you feel if you reached out just far enough…
It’s knowing that even your better days are only temporary, because grief is not linear, you don’t just suddenly “get over it” as it is, and always will be, with you, and peaks are always followed by troughs.

It’s not being able to look around your house without seeing something that reminds you of him, but not being able to hide those things away either, because they mean too much.
It’s having literally hundreds of wonderful happy photos of you both together, and the places you went, and not being able to look at any of them without losing it, because all they do is remind you of what was and what will never be again.
It’s not being able to listen to music anymore, because it sets you off too much, or to watch huge swathes of movies that either have too many associations, or that have love stories with happy endings, and your story didn’t.

It’s the trips you’ll never take, the places you can’t imagine going without him, the conversations you’ll never have again, the sentences that he will never finish for you or you for him, the way you always said just what he was thinking and vice versa, the shared stories that are lost, the in jokes that will never make anyone laugh again.
It’s the things that you’d never shared with anyone else before, and will never share with anyone else again. The trust you built, the bonds you made; all broken. The memories that belong to the two of you alone and that now matter to no-one else but you.
It’s the loss of all the plans and dreams you made together; a future swept away by the tsunami.
It’s the road ahead that suddenly leads nowhere…

It’s feeling like people expect you to be over it; it was months ago after all right?
It’s not wanting to talk to anyone about it because you don’t want to drag them down into your depths. And whatever anyone says or does isn’t going to make it better anyway, so it’s just easier not to say anything, and so your life gets even quieter.
It’s knowing you’re not the person you were, and you never will be, and fearing that even your friends won’t like who you are now because, let’s face it, you don’t like who you are now much either.
It’s feeling alone even when you’re surrounded by people, friends, family, because the only person you want to be there is not, and where he is gone, you cannot follow.

It’s the hardest and most painful thing you have ever done and will ever do, and you struggle just to get from day to day in the hope that one day you’ll learn to carry the void within you rather than being swallowed up by it. And then you worry that maybe even worse will actually happen, because it turns out that unbelievably things can always get worse, what can go wrong will go wrong; and you realise you’ve added anxiety and panic attacks to your repertoire.

And today, it’s spending hours hacking back the garden, until my fingers hurt from using the secateurs too much, my arms ache from using the hedge trimmer so much, and I’m covered in a hundred stinging scratches, and then standing back and looking at my work and not having him there to share it with, to be proud of me, and then wondering why I bothered and what the point was, and what the point to anything is.

Finally, though I’m sure there’s more, it’s knowing that there’s no point trying to explain it because if you know, you know, and I don’t need to explain, and if I need to explain, I’ll never be able to make you understand. As I’ve said before, if you don’t understand, don’t judge me for how I’m coping, for how I choose to grieve, and for long I need to grieve for. You’re lucky enough to be ignorant, and ignorance is bliss. Just be grateful that you don’t understand, and leave it at that. I wish I was you.

I can lie to myself

It’s been a tough few days.
I’ve been up.
I’ve been down.
I don’t feel entitled to be down when my brother and his family are going through so much.
But I can’t help how I feel.
And grief is not a competition.
I can’t turn it off, much though I’d like to.

So it’s been a long few days.
An Easter weekend, a four day break, a thing that would once have been a special weekend; time away, time by the beach, time being us.
Two years ago we went to see The Wonderstuff for what was for me, not him, the first time.
I, and my 18 year old self, loved it SO much, and love sharing that with him.
Another highlight in many years’ worth of memories with him.

And the days pass, not that anyone knows what day it is anymore.
Lock down has removed any sense of routine, of schedule, of normality.

Sometimes Austin is working, sometimes he isn’t.
I try and keep busy.
I sleep a lot.
I dream; spending time in a hundred different vivid worlds.
The other night we were back together; just us doing whatever the dream had in store for us, like life was normal, almost like he was checking in.
Oddly it didn’t upset me.
I was just pleased to hang out with him for a while.
If you’re out there, pop back any time, I can pretty much guarantee to be asleep for 12 hours straight once I’m out for the count.

And then there’s the hours I have to be awake.
I read. I listen to podcasts. I spin bike. I tidy. I walk. I do chores.
I sort through things I don’t want to sort through or deal with, but I make myself.
I’m rediscovering the garden, inch by secateured inch.
I’ve discovered I’m pretty good with hedge trimmers, though my health & safety measures probably leave a lot to be desired, though I haven’t ended up in in casualty yet…
I’m covered in scratches and thorns and sore bits and aching muscles.
But if I’m doing, I’m not thinking.
If I’m not thinking, I’m not missing him, or her, or feeling for them.
If I’m not missing him, then I’m not hurting, and crying, and thinking of all the plans we had for the garden and the house, and our life together.

I can try and tell myself I’m not missing him, that I’m doing ok.
But I can’t even lie to myself.
I’m not ok.
But I’m doing the best I can to get by.

And I do miss him.
So much.