a young widowed father opening up about living with loss
When people who pluck up the courage to ask me how I feel about my wife’s death, I tell them, ‘I’ve accepted it but I simply can’t absorb it.’
What I mean is that although my brain thinks about the fact she’s dead every waking minute of the day, sometimes the same pink matter plays tricks on me and forgets that it is so.
I’ve never been able to articulate this feeling, this phenomenon, until this week. Then all of a sudden it came to me whilst I was engaged in an email exchange with someone I’ve known for some time but who has recently become a friend, generous with their spirit in so many ways.
I compared this cerebral sensation to an egg timer, a kind of grief mechanism that only releases a few grains of understanding at a time so we don’t become overwhelmed or hysterical about our loss.
I’ve had so many conversations this week that would suggest that this is an appropriate analogy, that years can pass and people’s brains still can’t fully accept their tragic loss.
Friends talk about it manifesting itself in many ways: thinking they see their loved one in the street; reaching for their phone to let them know that they have landed when they take a plane to a foreign destination; turning to share a joke that they know would have made them laugh. They’ve gone, we haven’t seen them for days, weeks, months and then, suddenly, years. But shock, self-protection, hope, God only knows what else, doesn’t allow the reality of the situation to be absorbed into our entire physical and mental being.
It hasn’t happened to me for a while but I felt this familiar feeling so suddenly and intensely just yesterday. My friends have taken me away for a couple of days. I heard one of them say it was like being on a stag do when they arrived. My dark sense of humour, perhaps a side of me that is just trying to be light hearted when my heart feels so heavy, has privately referred to it as a ‘widower’s weekend’. Note the position of the apostrophe being before the s rather than after. I’m the only one. We’re all in our early 30s and I’m sure none of the lads that made it to my stag weekend would have thought this situation even possible as we lived it up in Ibiza just a year and a half ago.
As we arrived at our destination yesterday, I unpacked my bag and settled in.
‘I must text Des’, my brain told me as I reached for my phone. But it was me who closed her account with Vodafone. It was me who had to send the company her death certificate as proof that she was no longer alive. The letter explaining that her contract had been terminated and that there would be no further costs was addressed to me. Yet still I wanted to let her know that I was safe. That she’d love the place where we’re staying. That I was thinking about her. That I already missed her when I’d only been away from home for two hours.
Nearly four months on since her death, I can’t decide what’s worse. The reality that she’s gone, or the empty hope in my subconscious mind created by fact this egg timer can only release its sands through the slowest of streams. The hourglass finds itself locked in time and perhaps I will find that these little grains of understanding will never fully empty from top to bottom.