Explaining the unexplainable

You wake up at 4am drenched in sweat. Other people tell you reality takes a minute to hit but for you it punches you fresh in the face… your partner is dead.

I am constantly analysing my dreams since my Marky died. They try to fix puzzles, to solve the mystery… where did he disappear to? Where did he go? Why did he suddenly vanish? How do I process this?

I am two years into this and my dreams and nightmares remain the same. My mind is trying to fix this, solve this, come up with an answer somehow. In some of my dreams he is a missing person, in others he is dead, in others he is dead but has come back to life, in others he has left me and we haven’t talked in years, in others he is dead and remains dead but can communicate with me, in others he is dead but doesn’t realise and can’t understand why I am so affected by his death that never happened, in some he is dead and has returned and cannot understand why I am so paranoid about him dying again.

My mind has thrown up every possible scenario about where my beloved has gone. They all ache. The traditional stages of grief (which were originally about people dealing with their own death, not others) did not tell us that the idea of acceptance of death is really so misinformed. I can stare you straight in the eyes and tell you my Marky died. I saw his dead body. I kissed his cold forehead and whispered to his dead corpse that I would love him for eternity. I saw his body lowered into the ground by his friends. I took earth into my palms and scattered it in the ground. I know he is dead… but tell that to my dreams? They will not believe you.

I have spoken to many fellow widowed friends who have found the same, our minds seem to confront us with every rational possibility of what may have happened to them in our dreams. Disappearance? Check. Vanished? Check. Cheated? Check. Argued? Check. Died? Check… but how? Found by MI5 for a crime? Check. Living a double life? Check. Died and then came back to the living? Check. Died but has to be careful about death? Check. Died but came back as a different form? Check. Died but came back and died again? Check. Check Check. Check. Check.

What is acceptance? I can tell you he is dead, but evidently my mind is playing tricks on me and is still trying to explain his sudden disappearance from my life.

My mind has thrown up every possible scenario about where my beloved has gone. Because nothing explains it. Nothing will ever explain it.

The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death… One year of Grief

In 365 days I have died 365 times. It is true that you do not lose someone just once, you lose them a thousand times, in a thousand ways, on a thousand levels.

I wrote this exactly a year into this grief. I wrote it as a solo statement… somehow hoping I could bring something profound to the table about living with this grief for a whole year. I wanted to write something uplifting or resourceful. I stopped writing when I realised I was stuck and I could not write anything remotely positive. I stopped writing. I think one of the most important parts of grief is to be honest… If you are widowed your life is now full of clichés… people telling you that you can survive, you will ‘find another’ (a phrase that makes me feel ill), that god never gives you more than you can deal with, that they are in a better place… etc etc etc etc… Underneath all of this is the fact that I had consumed all these phrases so well that I could no longer write. I stopped writing and being honest about my grief. I stopped dead.

So more than a year into this journey (a year, three months and 21 days) I have started to write again… not because I have anything to say as such… but because part of this journey into grief is that I feel I should be honest about this grief. I cannot write anything uplifting, so I will write about enduring love… love greater than death.

If I were to describe the first year of grief… my entire description would be a bloody horror film. Your organs have been ripped out but somehow you are left alive, you try to tear off your skin but that cannot save you… you cry so much it makes you vomit every day. You want to die but your body will not give up the ghost. You drink, you abuse, you cry till your eyes swell.

Year two… you are sitting in the debris of destruction left spilled around you.

You stare at the debris and hope it will make sense somehow, fit together or form a shape… but no. It looks dull, pointless, alien… unkind. Upon reflection I was in shock for the entire first year, and it is not a pain I would wish on my worst enemy… but in the second year your body becomes less numb, you realise this is your life… your life really did vanish in an instant. He really did die. He really is not coming back.

I think one of the cruellest things about grief is that it feels like utter hell every second… but a hell that you call a home and settle into because you don’t know what moving forward from that point looks like, and you don’t want to move without your love by your side.

I stopped believing in magic the day he died. I didn’t believe in much before he died… I felt myself agnostic, and as someone who identifies themselves as an activist, a feminist and a leftie… I was under no delusions that life was fair. Yet something in me died the day he did. A deeper sadness filled into my bones… One of missing, one of longing, one of aching. One of mourning rather than grief.

I suppose even though I was 26 when he died, I had the optimism of a 16 year old… I felt life really could be as beautiful as the love I felt. It’s strange how one minute life can feel so short… I had so much to fit in; travelling, experiences, moving… everything before children and then children are a whole different part of your life. Now my life feels so long… unreasonably long to live without the one you were supposed to grow old with. All I think every day is how many years I have to live without him. As soon as he died I started counting the hours till those I loved would die and I could take my life peacefully without interrupting my loves.

Grief is love I repeat to myself…

I miss how he would say he loved me to Gallifrey and back. I miss how he used to count our days till we saw each other next in sleeps. I miss how we would say “do the thing” and I would know it meant to shuffle up in bed. I miss how we would even say those words when 180 miles apart from each other, in different countries. I miss how our intimacy could span that distance, our nights of watching Netflix together and phoning till the small hours of the morning. I miss the dinosaur he would leave me with a post-it note on the floor to welcome me home. I miss how he would check when he hadn’t heard from me. I miss how he would try so hard to stay awake to talk to me on my night shifts. I miss his hyper mornings. I miss the way he would kiss me on the nose after his morning shower when I was sat on the floor doing my make-up. I miss his singing in the shower. I miss how he would send my bunny cards all of his own for birthdays and Christmas. I miss how he would talk about Doctor Who and how he said I was the only person he could ever watch it with. I miss his youtube playlists like a mix CD. I miss how often we would think the same thought and shout “SAME BRAINS!” at each other and how much we giggled. I miss how I would get a new stuffed animal of some sort because I can’t walk past them without naming them and he would say “let me guess… it is called whatever-the-animal-was-pot”. I miss sitting in a pub near Charing Cross with him and discussing how my idol feminist was slut-shaming. I miss that he got this. I miss that he wanted me to move to Wales, but after watching the episode of Gavin and Stacey together where Stacey finds it so hard to be away from her family, he told me he would move anywhere in the world with me. I miss his voice, his laugh, his beauty, his passion, his music, his cuddle, his love. I miss my future. I miss the future we should have had together. I miss our children. I miss the way we would have painted their bedrooms, the values we would have tried to instil in them. I miss thinking life could have been that fucking beautiful. I miss how even when in different countries, we were so inseparable that we would fall asleep on the phone together… hours of silence and sleep till one of us would wake and realise the phone was beside our face, whisper goodnight and finally hang up the phone.

I miss my best friend. My love endures, it still grows… I hold it within me alongside this grief. Love, just like grief, is a living thing. I will always love you.

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” ― Oscar Wilde

I will never stop hating the universe for taking you but I love the universe for making you in the first place.

Living with Loss

People say grief comes in waves. In shock, especially with sudden loss like with losing my Marky, the world is turned into a nightmare within the split second it took the police who showed up at my door to tell me that the love of my life was found dead in the street that afternoon… and I did not find that grief came in waves. Grief came in debilitating overwhelming pain that would not cease. I could hardly stand up… it was hard to physically breathe for months. Almost a year on and I finally understand that grief does grow into something that crashes over you in waves because it starts to live inside you. A deeper sadness is filling into my bones. One of missing, one of longing, one of aching. One of mourning rather than grief you could say. I carry my grief with me everywhere I go…. Sometimes I can smile, I can function unlike in the first ten months but it is with me all the time as an undercurrent. Other times the waves envelop me and all I can do is lean in and collapse into the wave that leaves me crawling on my hands and knees begging for life to take me too. I let the wave fill my lungs and I try to embrace grief and turn it into an act of love so that my love for him can live on.

Waves often come as bloodied punches to the face. At least once a day I get this sudden hit of ‘he is really gone’ and I feel this sharp pain in my chest and suddenly can’t breathe again… it becomes hard to inhale.

When that sharp pain of reality hits it feels like the memory of when the police were in my living room all over again only there is no fog of shock to disarm it even slightly. I always carry around the ache of grief yet in those moments it feels like the pain hits with more clarity. Some days it feels like my mind is intent on torturing me and replaying that moment in my head. I wonder if this is my brain trying to drill ‘acceptance’ into me… whatever the word acceptance means when it comes to death. I have nightmares where my brain throws up so many scenarios, as if my mind is playing out a puzzle of ‘where did he disappear to’ where my brain can’t process death or how suddenly it came to be. I have so many nightmares where he is missing or lost and I am desperately trying to get in touch with him. They echo the day he died as I hadn’t heard from him in hours and I was starting to panic but trying to reassure myself that he had got back to The Shire and fallen asleep.  I kissed him only three hours before. As logically as I understand death, the soul or psyche or mind or whatever we have in our heads… it either does not want to understand or simply does not grasp the sudden disappearance of the most important person in your life.

In Levels of Life Julian Barnes writes… ‘Perhaps grief, which destroys all patterns, destroys even more: the belief that any pattern exists’ and the second I read this sentence it struck me. Grief comes in many forms, one of them is a crisis of faith. When someone you love dies you don’t just lose that person, you don’t even just lose your future with that person… you can lose your faith, your core, the pattern of life that you on some level have believed in. I am not talking personally here about religious faith as I do not have one, but of a faith that goes right to the core of your very being and of who you are. Even if you have no belief in an afterlife or even a soul, suddenly the world makes so little sense that everything becomes meaningless. When the best person you know dies young, nothing in this universe makes sense any more.

A friend says to me ‘your existence still means something’ when I tell her that life feels meaningless, but as much as I know she loves me and is trying to help, this isn’t about ego or myself. Existence feels futile in every sense, not my life, not even someone else’s life… but if the universe makes no sense then what meaning is there to derive? What is the point? I never needed a point before. My philosophy on life has always been that none of us know the answers while we are here, so just live life… yet when the most beautiful person is taken from this world so suddenly you need answers in a way you never knew before.

My friend says she can see that I feel betrayed by the universe… I answer that ‘betrayed by the universe’ is a perfect way of putting it. Julian Barnes wrote that many feel an anger not directly at the world but the indifference of it… The indifference of life merely continuing until it merely ends’.

I cannot describe how earth shattering sudden loss is. It is not simply the death of a person who you love and miss. It shakes you so fundamentally that you don’t even know if you believe in the same things anymore. Someone has cracked you open at the centre so that you simply don’t trust anything anymore, you have no plan, you just fight to survive and on some days even that one day you have to get through seems so horrifically awful to survive through. That is what makes attempting ‘normal’ life so hard… you are no longer normal. You don’t see the point in anything, and you don’t want to be around anything that seems even in the slightest bit like a ‘normal’ world, it feels surreal, detached from you, and often insulting that life has just carried on and people live their lives around you while you don’t even know how to stand up anymore and loss is all you care about. The best person died, so why is the world still living?

…and this is what carrying grief with you feels like. We survive, we fight on… every minute that passes can be a battle. We carry with us infinite love and gratitude, a survival instinct that will make you cower, a love for life that can often surpass life itself but a pain that grounds us daily and makes our minds dig underground and want nothing more than to be with the dead. Our love lives on.

I have not written about grief in months because of this. I have even found it very hard to reach out to my support groups… because living with this grief is so exhausting but we carry on. In many ways we are the living dead, carrying the weight of death, loss and infinite love within us.

 

 

The Story

On the 4th January 2015, the love of my life died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack.

Mark will always be love of my life. I cannot even begin to describe him as a person and how much joy and wonder he brought into my life.

I have tried writing how our love felt. I have tried to pour the overwhelming perfection of two people who fit so well together into words and I find I cannot. I am reminded of the book ‘Guess how much I love you’… Marky used to say he loved me to Gallifrey and back. It was the kind of love that made you feel in harmony and at peace. True love changes you. You learn to love differently, to think differently… to give in a way that is selfless because all you want in the world is for this person to be happy. I walked around in the world in my own little impenetrable bubble of happiness. I am not sure how he did it but he managed to make every day feel magical. It was the most love, the most happiness, and most fun I could ever imagine having. I cannot even imagine having that much in common with another human being again. We used to practically shout “SAME BRAINS!” at each other for how much we thought alike. It was with Marky that I came to know what love was supposed to feel like… warm, close, secure, nurturing, happy and magical and adventurous all at the same time.  I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams I could have been lucky enough to meet someone so fun, so magical, so geeky, so weird, so intelligent, so hyper in the mornings and so well connected to me. His life was taken only three hours since we kissed last. He was far too young. We had our whole lives to live yet. He was 39, myself 26.

We met through the group to get Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah to number one in 2008. Pretty soon we had the oddest in-jokes and he was sending me huge boxes of quavers and wotsits from Amazon… but I won’t tell the joke behind it! I sent him dinosaurs and a duck teapot. Our friendship evolved till we were spending day and night messaging each other, having not even met in person yet. When we finally met we were inseparable from that day.

He sneakily let on in November that he knew how he was going to propose. He joked that we were “engaged to be engaged to be engaged” because he would ask me so many times during morning cuddles if I would spend the rest of my life with him. We talked about our wedding a lot… it would have been in the forest. There would have been a TARDIS somewhere hidden in the woods for people to discover. Chandeliers would have hung from the trees, tents would have sprung up with carnival type treats for people to enjoy. We were both neither conservative nor traditional and our wedding would have reflected the magic that was true love.

We planned so much because we knew we were for eternity. We knew our first daughters name. We were going to paint our children’s bedrooms like the universe and teach them about science and the wondrous nature of the universe.

In our time together we had so many adventures. We travelled to Paris, Edinburgh, London and Cardiff… and we had so much fun… so many gigs, so many hotel parties giggling like idiots, fancy hotel rooms and awful hotel rooms… he got the whole of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club to sing along to Fairy Tale of New York. He was that amazing. I was always so in love with how passionately he would talk about music. The gigs we shared together were the best of my life. We were always at the front, getting shoved and bruised in the crowd and clinging to each other and kissing when our favourite songs were played. It felt like us against the world and it felt so alive. We did long distance (Marky in Wales, myself in London) so we went over the top on our adventures. However when he moved to a new home in Wales he would call it “ours”… if I ever called it his, he would correct me… and he moved all of heaven and earth to make me feel like it was ours. It was my weekend home. I did not need anything other than him… just me and him, our little part of the universe which was my part time home at The Shire… our shared youtube playlists and dancing. I would usually arrive at The Shire a few hours before he finished work and he would leave me lush post-it notes all over the apartment to welcome me home. Marky said it was our own little part of the universe.

I wanted my whole life to be with him. I felt I could face anything if he was beside me.

I want to shout from rooftops how amazing Marky was. I want to tell the world of his ridiculous jokes, his creative ways with words, his soulfulness, his intelligence and fiercely political nature, his humour and eccentricities, how utterly completely weird he could be, how hyper he was in the mornings, his stories of imaginary made up animals, his passion for music, how beautiful his intense geekiness was, how I could listen to his musings on our favourite shared geek (Doctor Who) for hours. I want to tell you that this amazing human being existed… the kindest person you could imagine, the most giving and sweetest. I want the world to know that someone this beautiful and majestic existed. My best friend was all of this and so much more. Nothing I could ever say about him could be big or bright enough for someone so beautiful.

You start to realise how little language conveys with this experience… ‘I miss him’ says so little. The ache of missing him turns into physical pain and language does not convey the measure of that ache in my soul to be able to speak to him and touch his face and hear his voice and I miss him alone says utterly nothing. I miss him so much that my bones ache and I feel like I cannot walk and the sheer horror of never being able to speak to him feels as if someone punched me and then I feel numb and I feel trapped in human constraints and I just need him. I love him to Gallifrey and back and I will never stop.

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