A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
This is a guest post by Sarah Pointer
Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my wife’s death but this time last year life was still perfect. Desreen and I rushed home from work to surprise our son, Jackson, with a selection of new trains that I’d bought him from Hamley’s that day. The three of us were so happy. Little did we know that tragedy would strike the next day.
But for somebody else not too far away, it had already happened. Sarah Pointer, 37, lost her husband a year ago today. Since discovering my blog in February this year we’ve contacted each other every 9th and 10th of the month just to say ‘I’m thinking of you today’. We’ve never met but we chat over Facebook regularly and see how each other are coping through our grief. In Sarah’s guest post today she shares her story and explains how she’s feeling a year on. I’ll do very much the same tomorrow – something that I find myself saying a lot since Sarah introduced herself to me earlier in the year. Sarah, I’ve said it many times before but I want you I know that I’m thinking about you today.
On the 9th of November 2012, I was out doing some early Christmas shopping. I returned home to a note that the police had put through my door, which asked me to call them urgently. I felt panicked when I rang them, thinking I must have done something wrong. As I waited for them to arrive I rang my husband, Mark. No answer. When I opened the door a couple of minutes later, two policeman were standing there holding Mark’s phone. It was ringing in front of me. I realised then that my life, as I knew and loved it, was over. Mark had been killed in an accident at a builder’s yard. He was 44, we had been together 16 years and we have two children, aged 5 and 7.
The next few weeks passed in an awful haze. I don’t remember much of that time. I do remember shutting my eyes and letting people talk at me. I was like a child – if I couldn’t see them then this was not happening to me. The next few months were probably even worse because I no longer had the adrenaline pumping through my veins from the shock of such a sudden loss. There were times when I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get myself and my children through. Quite frankly, I wanted the world to end because mine already had. I felt completely broken, cut adrift and alone. I would scream for him; I just couldn’t understand where he was. I blamed myself for being too happy; I was in utter desperate pain. My brain worked overtime worrying about so many different things and replaying the loss over and over. I would do anything not to shut my eyes at night. I began to question everything: my existence, what was the point of me anymore.
Of course the children’s needs stopped me from going completely mad, because as a parent your instincts are primarily to protect your young. I had no idea how I was going to raise them alone, though. Only love and kindness from my parents, friends and neighbours carried me through this period.
I used to ‘Google’ the stages of grief and wonder how far up the cycle I had progressed. I wanted grief to be controllable and above all I wanted the pain to stop. I needed to know that there wasn’t worse still to come. I couldn’t bear to read that grief is something you carry your whole life; I certainly wanted to be feeling something like acceptance a year on. I imagined myself writing a letter to Mark and letting it sail out to sea along with my sorrow come this Christmas. And that is why today is so significant for me. Not because it is the first anniversary of his death – everyday is a day without him – but because I was racing ahead of myself to reach this point. As though by ticking off the so-called major milestones it would be time to start over.
There is no doubt I have come along way in a year: I no longer wake each day feeling like I am wearing a lead coat; I’m back at work; I can hold conversations that are not about my loss; and, perhaps most importantly, I have had moments of pleasure, which I would never have thought possible a year ago. But I am not ‘over it’. My husband’s death still takes my breath away time and time again. It still stabs me in the heart when I least expect it. Sometimes it takes all my effort and composure to walk into my office or up the school path. Sometimes I still cannot believe he has even gone.
I am not the same person anymore and nor will I ever be. I have a very small social comfort zone now and will avoid situations where I see a Mark-shaped whole. I know I am alienating myself from others but for now life’s about self-preservation and staying strong for the kids.
Have I reached acceptance? Not in a way I thought. Acceptance has come to mean a few things to me after a year of grieving. I now realise that grief is not something you can control or rush. Thoughts, memories and worries have had to come along and punch me a number of times before they hit home and it is bloody hard work. I’ll live with grief forever but I’ll learn to control it. Sometimes I have to hold the pain inside just to be able to function. It’s knowing the awful days do pass. It’s knowing I’m still me under the layers of sorrow. It’s knowing I can unburden myself of the heavy load now and again and enjoy myself.
Grief feels like waiting for something to happen; acceptance to me is knowing nothing will. No one else is coming home each Friday night. No one but I can make myself feel better. There are no cure-all miracles around the corner. Fulfilment has to come from being a tight triangle with my two little ones, and I do feel complete again thanks to them. Acceptance is knowing that all I have is in my hands and I will make our life good again.
In all honesty exhaustion has probably now taken its toll and recently the fight has left me. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that, although I will never let go of what happened to my family, I will try to let go of my expectations of how my life should have turned out. I will try to stop questioning the universe and just let my children’s and my life unfold.
But most of all, I want to look back and think that, despite our loss, we did alright. We had fun. And we rocked.