a young widowed father opening up about living with loss
I first suffered grief, along with many friends and colleagues, when I was just 23-years-old. We lost a friend 10 years ago in December. She just dropped dead one day. No real reason. She just stopped living.
When your first real experience of death comes during the party time of your life, at the party season of the year, the party itself tends to come to a swift stop.
The life and soul of my inner party which made me easygoing, fun-loving and content disappeared. People probably still saw those qualities in me but rather that being innate, they became acted.
I’ve probably only told five people this in my life but the psychological effects of our friend’s death made me an insomniac for a year. Exhausted from months without sleep and playing the role of my former self in the day, I’d nod off momentarily only for my body to abruptly jolt me back to consciousness. I awoke with my fingers in my mouth gripping the tongue I feared I’d swallow causing my own untimely death. Irrational fear from sleep deprivation and the stress caused by grief.
When I look back at that time I re-write the story and end on a chapter that suggests I educated my way out of insomnia. In the plot I became the Defender of the Pillow, learning the art of sleep and heroically delivering rest back to myself. I became an expert fighting sleep deprivation, dishing out advice to weary folk with dark circles around their eyes along the way.
But lying awake right now waiting for morning to relieve my mourning, I can suddenly separate that fiction from the facts. I’ve realised that happiness brought me peace; that Desreen was the security blanket I’d needed to get through a night uninterrupted by the slow steady snake of sleeplessness. It has ocurred to me that I’ve never woken in the middle of the night because I am happy. That my leg has never twitched so strongly nor my body spasmed so hard that it shocked me out of sleep because my sub conscience just told me a funny joke. It’s woe that wakes me.
And now I can feel that snake making its way back into the room uninvited. I can feel it gradually coiling itself around me, making me its prey, preparing to squeeze the life out of me and making me the understudy of my own life once more. And I’m scared.
This feels strange because fear has been an unfamiliar feeling to me for many years. I can go on live TV without butterflies in my stomach. I can speak in public without any nerves. I’m comfortable standing up to people who are bigger than me (so most adults) if I think they are wrong.
Our relationship gave me the confidence I’d always sought, yet there is one fear I never overcame while Desreen was alive. Just months ago I told a mate (two in fact, on separate occasions) that I was only scared of one thing. Losing Desreen and being left to bring up our son alone. Remarkably, it turns out she said exactly the same thing to one of her friends around the same time. The same way round too. Not anxious that something might happen to me leaving the two of them alone, but that she too would unwittingly leave us behind.
And then it happened.
So as I lie awake in bed wondering what fear has in stall for me today, it tells me that we’re going to a party, just like we did 10 years ago. It’s a birthday party for a two three-year-olds that go to nursery with my son, and I’m scared.
I’m scared that the parents might not have heard about what’s happened and that they’ll ask after my beautiful wife. I’m worried that they won’t have read this blog and won’t know that I prefer to be treated like a complete individual rather than half of a reduced couple. I’m concerned about how my son will act when he sees that every other child there has a mummy and his can no longer make it.
I’m 33, I’ve done two live TV shows in front of millions of people this week, revealed my soul to the world through my blog and yet I’m frighted of going to a kids’ birthday party which, judging by the invitation, will be watched over by Spider-Man.
But then I guess I’ve been here before and I know that that fucking sleepless snake can crush even the strongest of super heroes.