A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
This post was written sporadically over the course of about 18 hours.
As I write this post I’m experiencing the worst kind of insomnia. It’s the type where the time on the clock tells you it’s more like morning than night. I’ve been in bed for five hours and I haven’t nodded off for even a minute. I’m rested but my mind is racing. For once I can’t even bear to document what’s going through my head. I can’t imagine anyone would want to know.
These days I tend to find that I can’t slow the pace of my thoughts unless I translate them into written words. It’s not an easy thing to do in the middle of the night though. It’s a bit like lying awake and needing the toilet. You know you won’t sleep unless you go, but it still feels almost impossible to summon the energy to drag your bladder to the bathroom. Only once you’ve relieved yourself can you get any proper rest. Currently my release doesn’t seem to come, however, until I’ve pass words. Yet I’ve acquired the literary equivalent of urinary retention. I know I’ve got a brain bursting with thoughts but I can’t express how I feel. Suddenly the English lexicon is proving to be an inadequate collection of words that won’t allow me to convey my innermost thoughts.
For much of this week I’ve felt like this thing I’m living is not really my own life. It’s all too unfamiliar to truly be mine. I suddenly wonder if we are defined not only by the lives we have lived to date but also by the lives we had previously seen on the horizon. When a dense fog drops and your skyline disappears, how do you know what direction to go in anymore? How can you be the same person you thought you were going to be when you can’t see yourself for the haze? When you’re on stage playing yourself and then suddenly a director tells you to switch roles, how are you supposed to know the lines?
I think this is the reason why I feel sick to my stomach and crazed in my head. Having spent my life feeling confident enough to shape the future, as if it were mine to mould, I suddenly find myself unable to plan ahead. I don’t really want to in case I can’t be bothered by the time the events come around. Today I even bothered to think about how I couldn’t be bothered to think about Christmas. And it’s only March.
Maybe I finally understand why people use the expression ‘one day at a time’.
It’s not because grief is neat and tidy or considerate enough to come in consistent 24 hour doses. It’s because if you bother to think about a more distant future – the summer wedding you’ll attend alone, the holiday you’ll plan without your wife, your child’s first day at school – it just feels too big and empty to contemplate.
And even though you might still appreciate everything you still have in life, it’s what won’t be there in the days, weeks, months and years ahead that hurts your head. That breaks your heart. That keeps you awake at night. And that makes you completely re-evaluate your definition of the word future.