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Grief – five months on

July 28, 2015

I think it was somewhere around week thirteen that I stopped counting. It wasn’t conscious. But at some point I noticed that although it was a Thursday, I no longer knew, without looking at the calendar, exactly how many Thursdays had passed since that fateful one when he died. Does it mean I’m moving on? Or starting to forget?

I’ve stopped the useless going over and over the day it happened. The pity of it. What he said. What he meant. I don’t know if I don’t need to think about it any more, or if I’ve simply picked it dry. I suppose it’s another sign that inside my head, stuff is slowly shifting. What upsets me now are things like seeing his signature: casual signs that he was alive – alive! how for granted we took it! – and wanting, raging, offering to give anything, for that time to come back. How can it not come back?

To everyone who asked me (and there are an awful lot of you): yes, I am back at work now, thanks very much. I went back in the middle of April, as it goes, and I would have gone back sooner if my ninety-year-old father hadn’t taken sick after my husband’s funeral. But although I know you want to hear me say that work is helping (and to be honest, I sometimes wonder if ‘are you back at work?’ is just  code for ‘are you back to normal?’), it isn’t – or at least, not very much.

In ED I broke down one day. I’d only gone to collect a patient, but the last time I was there I was with Barry…the day he was admitted…sitting together…in one of those cubicles…and he was alive. I could touch him; I could talk to him; in that cubicle… And now he’s dead.

What floored me, I think, was the strangeness of him looming out at me in the middle of a working day. At home, I’m used to being surrounded by him – his books, his music, his model trains. I’m slowly divesting myself of all the stuff – if I’ve no use for them, I can see no sense in hanging on to things that could give others pleasure. But the things I can’t let go of – oddly perhaps – are not the ones he acquired during our life together, but those that pre-date it.

On the shelf, his Eagle Annual 1965 still sits, a present from Nanny, with fondest love. And amongst the many books on trains, the ones I can’t part with are the yearly ‘BR Locomotives and other Motive Power‘ series – late sixties and early seventies editions. To an outsider they look dull – laughable even: just lists of loco numbers interspersed with black-and-white shots of engines, maybe a carriage or two if you’re lucky. To me though, they’re full of him.

They accompanied him on his earliest adventures with his friends. The trains he spotted are proudly underlined in green biro, a permanent record of what he saw. One book contains a photo he actually took, of Class 451 750v d.c. 3-TIS unit No. 036. They speak to me of my husband in his purest form: an eager boy excited by life, and never thinking of death at all.

I haven’t got used to being alone. I haven’t got used to having to do everything, organise everything – every last little thing – myself, because if I don’t do it, no one will. I keep wondering when this will actually start to feel like my life, instead of someone else’s life that I’ve inexplicably taken over. Everything is too big for me now. My clothes – since I lost so much weight – the house, the garden. I’m walking around in a coat that no longer fits. Will I ever grow back into it?

Sometimes, I admit, I have wondered why I can’t just give it all up and go where he is. I want to be with him so much – but I know I can’t, at least not yet. All I can say is that when my own time does come – as come it must – I will approach without fear. If he died, so can I.


From → Odd and Ends

  1. Hey. I read this and am thinking of you. I have no idea how you feel. Something resonates because my husband also has our house full of loco books and models and it caught me sharply thinking that I could be writing the same sort of stuff. Not being afraid of death is one thing. But please don’t be afraid of life.

    • One of the best things I’ve done since Barry died was get a new front door. For someone who was never very houseproud, the last few months have – oddly – seen me discover my inner Kirsty Allsop. I got home from somewhere one day and got out my key and thought ‘I hate this bloody door’. And my next thought was ‘So I’ll do something about it’. Not having to discuss it with anyone first was sad and strange, but also liberating.

  2. I hadn’t realised this and am shocked by your tragic news. It’s true what they say about social media – how you start to build a relationship with someone you don’t know and have never met. My sincere condolences and hang on in there. My father died 5 months ago, my mother 22 months and that’s bad enough coming to terms with. I can only imagine how it must be for you. Best wishes, Barbara

  3. Thank you Barbara. It sounds like you have been through a pretty rough time too. Best wishes.

  4. A beautiful piece of writing. My thoughts are with you. Take care.

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