And Darkness Covered the Face of the Earth...


My last post on this blog was in March, and was pretty optimistic and upbeat in tone. Well, what a difference a month makes... for in April my world crashed and burned.

Before I continue, I want to say that I have not written what follows out of any sense of self-pity, neither do I seek to elicit pity from others, nor to justify these words by hoping that others in a similar position may find comfort in them (though should that prove to be the case, I wish you well, fellow traveller along this darkest of roads - you are not alone). Rather I am writing as nothing more than a form of therapy for myself, to try to express a little of what I have been holding inside over these last few months. Nothing more, nothing less.

So what's it all about? 

For those that don't know, April was when I lost my best friend, my soulmate, and the love of my life... and the darkness closed in.

Since then, I have been struggling to make sense of a life which seems directionless and empty. One of the many discoveries I have made as I adjust to this terrible new reality is that grief is an extraordinarily complex and unpredictable thing; and while there are certain common factors, everyone reacts to and copes with it differently. There is no yardstick against which you can measure your progress, or 'how well' you're doing. I am surrounded by extremely supportive people, for whom I will forever be grateful, who continually tell me that I'm 'doing well' - but I have no way of judging. Indeed, I contend that grief is THE single most subjective experience we are ever unfortunate enough to have to face. 

Now I thought I understood grief, having dealt with the loss of both my parents and two of my older siblings, but believe me when I tell you - and there are many who will know this only too well - the loss of a life partner is off the scale. It is another level entirely... Grief on steroids. 

A good friend (retired vicar, as it happens) told me that she sees bereavement as being forced to get on a train you don't want to be on, you don't know where it's going, and there's no way of getting off. It's a useful, insightful analogy but for me, not quite accurate, for in this analogy the train IS going somewhere, even if you don't know where that is. My own, still much too raw experience tells me that that there is no appreciable destination, and I am merely treading water, while the days flow past.

Indeed, one of the greatest challenges that I face is to fill the time between getting up in the morning and going back to bed at night. I create enormous lists of jobs that need doing, things that will keep me busy, and stop me 'dwelling' on my situation, but in truth I have neither enthusiasm nor motivation to do any of them. 

Yet I crack on, for as I say, I need to fill the time, and to make sure I am tired enough to ensure that I will sleep. For sleep is the great escape, and I thank God that after the first couple of nights I have had no trouble sleeping.

I often tell people that there are some days when I don't want to get up at all, but that's just one of the many lies that I employ to make people feel more at ease in my company, because the truth is that EVERY day is a day that I don't want to get up - don't want to wake up at all, if I'm being brutally honest. 

But I have my little dog, which means I always have to drag myself out of bed, because he needs attending to... and not just because he needs attending to, but because he gives me a reason to go on, and (as he is a sensitive soul, and like most dogs has an innate ability to pick up on my mood)) gives me love and affection when I most need it. Without him, I couldn't have got through, and that's a fact. But there is still a long way to go.

CS Lewis, who cruelly lost his wife after a mere 4 years together, speaks in his book 'A  Grief Observed' of grief being like a circling bomber... you are always aware of it, can hear it circling, but never know when it will appear overhead and drop its bombs. Another good and useful analogy, though as a science fiction reader and writer, I feel it to be more like a black hole... a huge black hole at the heart of my being, mercilessly sucking every aspect of my former life into it. Everything that I used to do, everything that I used to know, everything that I used to be is sucked into that black hole... and right now I find it hard to believe that they will ever return. I stand on the edge of that huge black hole and stare into the abyss... while the bomber circles overhead.  And in those brief times when I manage to tear myself away from its inexorable pull, I know that it is only a matter of time before it draws me back.

So next time you see me, and ask how I'm doing, and I answer (as I habitually do) 'oh, you know, up and down', you will know that in that one short phrase I have put on the mask with which I choose to face the world - and you will also know that in reality, all that exists behind the mask is that all-consuming, utterly pitiless black hole.

Postscript: it occurs to me that there is not much optimism or hope coming through this post, and I trust you will forgive me for that, and accept that this is an understandable state of affairs, given the circumstances. But consider this... I have found it impossible to write anything since it happened, and yet I have just sat at the keyboard and typed around a thousand vaguely coherent words for this blog. So perhaps the train is travelling in a positive direction after all... 


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