I’ve only just begun to live again after about ten years of simply surviving. I didn’t realise I was mourning all that time. But I was. It’s only when the mourning period ends that you realise you’ve perhaps been holding on to it a touch too long.
One day you wake up and realise that you’re not happy. For the first time, in a very long time, you take a long, hard look in the mirror and find it hard to recognise the person you’ve become. The shock isn’t the lines or wrinkles, those you’ve got used to. No, it’s the sadness in the eyes. You try to smile but the eyes retain their pain. You’ve tried so hard to love and look after all those around you. But you forgot about the airline advice, adults breath first so they are strong enough to help children.
The automatic instinct is to do everything you can to make sure your children still grow up to be the kind of people you and your lost love dreamed they could be. You try to soften the rawness of their pain in whatever way you can. In my case, I told them Daddy was the blue star, Orion’s right foot. Every night the three of us would curl up in bed and look out at the stars. We would talk to Daddy and tell him all about our day.
Later, when I was alone, I would scream his name in my head, demanding to know why he wasn’t there. Try as I might I just couldn’t sense him at all. I couldn’t see his face in my head, I couldn’t hear his voice, I couldn’t feel his presence at all.
And so I focussed on everything I had to do. At the time I was holding down a full time job, making sure the kids were fine at school and had everything they needed, cooking, washing, tidying up, ferrying kids to various friends’ houses, parties and activities, making sure there was enough time left over for doing things together.
The things I really wanted to do, like writing or yoga or just going out and having fun with friends, were always at the end of the list and I rarely got to them. But that day when I woke up and realised I wasn’t happy, I knew it was time to take care of myself.
That day when I saw my sadness in the mirror, I stopped to ask why. Why was I so sad? The answer wasn’t the one I expected. I suddenly found myself no longer grieving for my husband, it was me I was grieving for. The me who had all but disappeared.
The grief soon turned to anger. How had I allowed my life to become so devoid of joy and pleasure? When had I last danced? When had I last lost myself in music, or film or books? When had I last used my laptop for anything other than work?
It felt like a heavy blanket had been lifted from my bed. I felt light and hyper alert to everything around me. The new green leaves on the trees dancing in the wind, the clouds swanning past their waving branches, the weak sun getting stronger and bursting through the clouds. I decided I was just going to have to make time for things that made me happy. Things that made me feel alive.