Waves and wipeouts

I have been really struggling to get my thoughts in order over the last couple of weeks. Facebook keeps reminding me I haven’t posted, and I look at my half finished blogs - the sad and bitter one I’m not brave enough to post, the others trailing off mid- way through a point, half formed ideas and thoughts that disappear in a puff if I try to grasp them.

The widow-brain is strong this week. On Monday I almost walked out of tescos without the prescription I went in for, having not paid for my shopping - because the machine needed someone to validate that I was old enough to buy matches, and by the time that had happened I had forgotten I still needed to swipe or wave my card and pick up the prescription bag that was still in my basket! The assistant was very understanding and no crimes were committed!

Rationally I know why I’m feeling this way - May to July is my worst time of year (emotionally) and there have been other triggers over the last week There is a tsunami of grief building and I am bracing myself for it, knowing that I will survive but that there is nothing I can do to stop it.This is at least one of the waves that I can predict.

Facebook memories (as well as my actual ones!) are torture through May and June. It will be our wedding anniversary and Chris’s birthday in June, the anniversary of his death in July, so memories from 7 years ago are of the building excitement as I put together the final plans for the big day, and three years ago are of yet another hospital admission, and our last holiday together (which was a nightmare when I look back on it!) and our last ever gig together.

It’s also a year this week since I moved to Somerset, and for a large part of that year we have been in lockdown, so I haven’t been back to where I used to live for several months.The first few times that I went back after we moved it felt like going home, the familiarity was comforting. So the reaction I had when I went back last week took me a bit by surprise and was an example of a wave that I hadn’t predicted or seen coming..

I have always found driving into Reading from the M4 to be a bit depressing (!) but I have never had the reaction I did on Friday. As I drove past the new development that we talked about buying a house on, but they started building too late, and the football stadium where we watched so many matches together, and the B&Q where we went for all our DIY needs, and so on, it was as if our life together was flashing before my eyes. All these familiar places where I could expect to see him, but never will again. All those memories springing up without warning.

In the aftermath of the grief wave that swamped me last weekend and most of this week, I realised two important things. Firstly why I had needed to move away, and secondly, that Somerset is now (or at least, for now) really my home.

While I couldn’t have articulated it a year ago, I really needed to be somewhere new, where I can sometimes imagine him, but never ever expect to see him. I won’t accidentally drive past where we had our first kiss, or our first argument, or our last gig, the place where we got married, or where he died, not now that I’m living a hundred miles away. It took my breath away to enter a place with all those memories all around me, and 5 days later I was still putting myself back together having brave-faced my way through a social bank holiday weekend.

If I’m honest it frustrates the hell out of me that (almost) 3 years on I am still such a wreck. Even I feel like I should be “over it” by now. I have never been a “wallower” - I’m a doer, a fixer. I’m a Scarlett O’Hara, thinking about the bad stuff tomorrow, because it’s another day. I always bounce back. And yet here I am, writing this and feeling utterly overwhelmed and like I’ve gone 10 steps backwards.

A midweek cold swim this week made me feel much better, but I have to keep remembering to accept that this is where I am. I’m not wallowing, but no matter how many times I immerse myself in cold water, write my wins or gratititudes, have a fun night out with friends, Chris will still be dead. That loss, the trauma of his illness, his absence is the undercurrent to all my days. Once I’m past this raft of “-versaries” I know I will settle back into my normal rhythm, the loss and these negative feelings will become less prominent. I also know that the run up to each of these dates will be worse than the day itself.

Last weekend was a wipeout - a week later and I am feeling safe and ok.

In the middle of a wave, all you can do is hold on and wait for it to subside.

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