I am now on Day 52 of grieving and I feel like I can reflect on some of the thought processes, emotions and stages I’ve been through. Maybe it might help someone searching, like I have, for something to relate to in what seems like utter madness and devastation.
People talk about these stages of grief:
Firstly I would say for me at least it doesn’t go in a line or follow a pattern like this. Obviously my grief is related to a very sudden and tragic event which makes it different to those grieving over the death of someone who has died of an illness, for example. I’ve read a lot about how the brain responds to trauma and I think the best explanation is “freeze mode.” Most people know “fight or flight”, but “freeze” is the other thing that happens. This basically means that when you experience a very traumatic event the different parts of your brain disconnect as a defence mechanism. This means that you can’t process what has happened because your brain doesn’t want you to as that would be very traumatising. Instead you go into shock where you can’t really fully understand what’s happened and you don’t really know how to be alive. This is how I would describe the first week of time following Jerry’s death. I look back on it now in disbelief that I even lived in that kind of a state. I was in hospital for most of it and had absolutely no idea what was going on with my own health. I got told that I might be paralysed, may never smell or taste again and that I may never have any feeling in my face. I didn’t feel any emotion about anything. I didn’t even cry when they told me Jerry had died, I said “Oh” and then I closed my eyes and thought if I tried not to breathe I might die too. Obviously that isn’t a thing that can happen so that’s when I got hysterical because I realised I was alive and he wasn’t and that meant I was going to have to deal with all this on my own and how lonely that was.
Shock continued and I didn’t process any information anyone was saying to me. The memories only consist of the main traumatising things that happened in that time period rather than a chronological, rational memory reel. I only had the brain function to go for a wee and that was pretty much all I achieved. I sent whatsapp messages to Jerry telling him about the hospital and asking him to come back, which I’ve since deleted because they’re not a time I need to be reminded of.
Numbness is something that I have experienced against my will, and also I use it willingly as a defence mechanism. When someone dies and you’re involved and you love them and you’re their main connection you have to tell a lot of people what has happened. It helps if you can shut off how you feel so you can tell the story like a robot. It also helps when people say the most inappropriate, insensitive things to you and you could either punch them in the face or not react at all. I haven’t punched anyone yet or even snapped at anyone so I’m pretty good at the appearing numb thing. It’s almost like you can feel a curtain coming down over your brain. When you feel numb and it’s not your choice that’s really stressful. I would always personally feel everything I need to feel about the loss of such an important and beautiful person than feel nothing. There have been times, maybe a few days worth of times, where I’ve tried to think about Jerry and I can’t access anything. That was actually quite frightening because you think “What is happening to me why don’t I care about anything or anyone?” Again though it’s natural because you can’t cope with the pain of losing someone consistently. It’s so painful physically and mentally that at some point you have to numb it down slightly to survive.
Denial is an interesting one. I have been reading a book about the death of a young woman in a road accident and the way that the reaction to her death is written through the eyes of a guy who loved her has been really poignant because it’s so similar to how I have felt. There’s a paragraph where he talks about going to the bathroom upon hearing of the girl’s death and he feels like he might throw up. Then he tells himself that it’s just a bad dream or a joke and he leaves the bathroom thinking that it’s okay because she hasn’t really died. I have had almost this exact thought process in the ambulance. “It’s okay they’re lying to you”. I’ve been through a phase of wondering if we could clone him back from DNA or if I could talk to him through a medium or whether it’s possible to rewind time. Also even when you know someone is dead and it’s been 7 weeks you still have moments of realisation every single day. Something will happen at least once a day and I will think “Oh my god Jerry has died” and then just feel a sensation of paralysis and absolute panic and fear. It used to cause me to break down every time but now I just cut it off, shudder and go back to what I was doing.
Yearning I’m going to brush over because yearning is constant. Everyone knows how it feels to miss someone, you have a physical feeling. This is the most intense physical feeling of missing someone combined with fear that you will forget them and sadness and disbelief that you won’t see them ever again. The concept of literally never ever seeing someone again that you think about 24 hours a day and saw every single day is just absolutely horrendous.
Anger for me hasn’t ever really been a phase, it streams through everything that happens. I am obviously very angry at a lot of people and the situation. I am angry at injustice. I am angry at the hospital. I am angry at people who say things to me that I feel are inappropriate or stupid. I am angry when I see people living their lives as though the world should just carry on. I am angry at people complaining about stuff that isn’t important. I am angry if anyone tells me how to feel or behave. I am angry if someone is not being straight forward or appears not to care. I am angry at myself for suggesting that we hired a bike. I am angry at anyone who says any cliche to me. I’m angry for Jerry, I’m angry for us and I’m just always angry BUT I don’t walk around being horrible to everyone or arguing or anything like that. I just scream at the ceiling in my own time.
Depression is a given. I am still refusing to take anti depressants. I did however accept Lorazepam because I can’t sleep and after taking them I felt peaceful for the first time since this happened. This is a very addictive feeling when you feel very sad and I was very acutely aware of the fact I was relaxed. I’m not taking it again because it’s a slippery slope becoming addicted to the feeling of not carrying all of this around every minute of the day. Just try and function as best as you can without relying on medication would be my advice.
Uncertainty happens every day. What do I do now? Can I get through this? Do I want to keep trying? What’s the point in anything? Who cares about (insert thing)? Will I ever feel better? Is it possible for me to move on? Where is Jerry? Can he see me and hear me? Is he ok? Am I ok? Am I mental? Am I dealing with this correctly? Do other people think I am dealing with this well? Do people think about me? Am I a burden to everyone? Does anyone understand me? Etc.
Sadness I am defined by sadness at the moment. I am always sad at different levels and intensities. The only emotions I properly experience are negative. “I’m just so sad” and “It’s just so sad” are two of the things I say most frequently. It’s really sad. I expect to be sad in some way for the rest of my life, but hopefully won’t be a walking advert for it forever.
Acceptance also isn’t really just a definite thing that has happened. I’ve accepted that this has happened to me because I have several physical medical issues to remind me constantly, loads of media articles, people talking to me all day and my own memories to know that. However the death of someone you love is very hard to fully comprehend. It seems so unlikely to have happened, avoidable and tragic that it often feels like it can’t really have happened. “I can’t believe this has happened” is another thing I say a lot, It’s not that I actually can’t believe it it’s more that I wish it wasn’t really reality. We were so happy and fine and then it was all just taken away. It shouldn’t be like that and we didn’t deserve this.
Letting go I don’t really know how to feel about. What is “letting go?” Moving on or forgetting the person or not caring as much? I’m not sure but I’m not there and no matter what I do in the future, who I am with or where I am I will always love Jerry and remember him because that is what he deserves. Maybe letting go of the burden of grief so you can live with it more easily, but still it’s not letting go it’s more moulding it into something you can live with.
Action planning is very difficult. We tried to plan and then one of us died so why would I ever dare to plan anything again? Time doesn’t exist properly to me so planning is weird and an abstract concept but it is improving. I know I’m going home next week, I know I’m going to Borneo at Easter, that’s as far as I have achieved. Daily goals I’ve also become better at. Get up, shower, eat something, waste 6 hours staring out the window, nap, etc.
My advice for grieving would be most importantly to try and find one person that you can really connect with. This for me had to be someone who has been in a similar situation and thankfully I have Kate. Kate absolutely saves my life by talking to me every single day. She loved Jerry, she knows what loss is, she knows what grief is and she’s very patient with me. She’s an inspiration to me.
I would also say to just write about it if that’s something you can do. I write down far more than I ever publicise on here. Get it out of your head.
Don’t listen to cliches. They will not help you, they are not something you can grasp on to at this time.
Learn which friends are helpful and which ones just don’t know what the fuck to do. It will be very clear. Try not to get angry with them but just erase them from the list of people to send an SOS to when you need to. Get an inner circle, be honest with them and then allow yourself to lean on people until you can do some things for yourself.
Talk about the person who has died. No one should tell you not to and it will probably make you happier and you need to remember that they were alive and why they’re important.
Be selfish in your decisions. For me this is actually really difficult because I’m a chronic people pleaser and Jerry was always telling me off for that. You have to put yourself first and if you don’t feel certain about something then just don’t do it.
It does feel like you can’t remember who you are or what you were doing before death took over your life. I’ve spent time looking at photos of everyone close to Jerry just for some evidence that they were actually people with lives and happiness before this. Grief is a physical burden and people just don’t look right anymore. The brave face is so obvious and the strain can be seen on everyone’s faces. I can only imagine what people see when they look at me. Also I no longer fear my own death because I’ve realised that it’s nowhere near as frightening as other people dying.
Once again a huge thank you to everyone who holds me together. I’m having some medical and financial issues which are always going on behind the scenes of this nightmare so please if you would like to click the link below.
Here’s some writing and poems to finish this, obviously.