Wednesday, 27 July 2016

I am thinking about what I have gained

'Next time, let's think about what you have gained,' she says. I feel my hackles rise a little as they do every time someone offers me some platitude about things happening for a reason, or your love being a gift to cherish. And I think to myself that I don't want to think about what I have gained. I don't pay no money to come to this amazing bereavement counselling service week after week to talk about what I have gained. I come here to cry and to tell her what I have lost. I want to sit here and tell her again and again. Does she not understand how big it is? Does she not see yet just how much I have lost?

The truth is, I want to tell everyone what I have lost. I want to talk about it and write about it over and over until I have explained it in every possible way. I want to express it in poetry and prose, with pictures, signs and symbols. I want to find, each day, a new simile, a new metaphor, a new way to tell someone. I want to dance it, walk it, swim it. I want to spread this loss like a disease until everyone is just a little bit infected, until everyone has felt, just for one moment, a homeopathic amount of this grief. And yet.

Today I went out into the Peak District where you lived. I spent the morning with my writing group and then met an old friend/ex-partner for lunch and a walk. We had a good chat. He listened while I told him again how much it hurts and I accomplished my mission of making him sad too which always makes me feel just a little bit better: misery loves company. Together we talked at length about life and death, purpose and meaning. We talked about lack of purpose and lack of meaning too, about the way that, for both of us, sometimes, we're not sure where we're going, or why. The way that sometimes, we lack motivation.

For me, this sense of purposelessness has reached a new level since you died. My bereavement counsellor says that I am having an existential crisis. I am questioning the very point of being alive. I no longer take it for granted that existing is, in of itself, a good thing. Every moment now is framed by the knowledge of death. Big things and small things are seen through this filter. My friend is talking about buying a new sofa and as he's talking I find myself wondering why anyone would bother buying a sofa when we're all going to die. (And then I concede that while he's waiting to die, he may as well have somewhere comfy to sit). We take it further. Why go to work? Why accumulate wealth? Why visit foreign countries? Even my writing feels pointless these days. A friend online says how important this grief writing is but I'm not sure anymore. I write because I can't think of anything else to do but I reflect to her that no amount of writing can bring you back and that feels like all I want. I could turn this into a bestselling memoir and then what? You still won't be here and I'm still going to die one day. It all feels kind of meaningless. The truth is, I tell my friend, when the person you love has died, you just want to go and join them. Without actually feeing suicidal, it's where you want to be and everything feels empty without them. At the beginning I felt that if I hadn't had children, it is where I would have gone.

I don't feel that anymore, I realise.

I am thinking about what I have gained.

I was always painfully honest but I am even more unguarded now. I say what I think. I speak what I feel. A writer friend tells me that writing online so openly would scare her. I tell her that sometimes it scares me too but what's the worst that can happen? It is only words. It is only truth. My truth is that grief has made me fearless. Grief has made me more me.

I am thinking about what I have gained.

I am buying a new house and I'm sure there is a multitude of things to be stressed about but I don't really care. It is only a house. It is only money. I have a different perspective now.

I am thinking about what I have gained.

Since you and my mum died, I have felt more alone than I have ever felt. I am no-one's partner. I am no-one's daughter. I am peripheral to everyone but the children. I tell my friend that I lack support because there is no-one who is there for me day to day. But then I look at him, this old friend, who has caught the train to spend the day with me and I realise it is churlish of me to say that. Here he is, supporting me. I talk online to other bereaved people and I feel their support too. This week I told my Facebook world that I was worried about being alone without my children while they are on holiday with their dad, and friends flocked to fill my diary. So many people offered their company that I am craving alone time, that I have people on a waiting list to see me. I tell my friend that no-one would care if I died and he says that perhaps I might be surprised how many people would care. I would care, he says. People do care. I have learned to ask for what I need. I have learned that there is more than one kind of love. As I sat with my friend eating dosas in the sunshine at the end of the day I felt, for a moment, that I was glad again to be alive.

I am thinking about what I have gained.

I tell my friend that I can't think about the future anymore. Thinking about a future without you is too painful and so I have no choice but to live in the moment. While we are out, I find myself stopping to look at things more closely than I would have done before. I notice things more. I stand and observe the greenness of green, the treeness of tree, the cloudness of cloud. I see what is and nothing more. And I look at everything knowing that one day I won't be here to see it any more so I take it in. I  learned that from you: the man who lived in the moment, who never planned for the future, whose future has been wiped out.

I am thinking about what we gained.

I tell my friend that it was fear of the future that made us doubt whether we could be together. We both knew that, in the moment, it was fantastic; it was the future that we couldn't see. I reflect again that if we hadn't overcome our fears and lived in the present, we could so easily have missed what we had. We took a risk, let our guards down, opened our hearts. We were fully present in each moment together. What we had was something real and brave and fearless. We had true love.

I am thinking about what I gained. I am thinking about what I lost.