Grief is a strange thing. I’ve lost people before,. My father, suddenly, when I was 28. My mother, gradually, to Alzheimer’s when I was 53. A bit like childbirth, I think the human psyche, wipes the memory of that pain. And also, like birth every experience is different.
What I do remember, after my father’s sudden death was a feeling that I needed to stop the world to get used to the idea that he was gone forever and I couldn’t understand why perfect strangers were going about their business as though nothing had changed.
When my mother died there was an initial sense of relief that she was out of her pain. I had sat with her for 3 weeks while she had literally starved to death, refusing all food and just being hydrated by drip. Hers was not a dignified or pleasant death and I was angry that I had been unable to provide a more comfortable environment soon enough, than the public crowded ward she was in.
After Michaels funeral, I bought a one way ticket to Paris, because someone on a condolence card suggested I visited and because suddenly I had the freedom to do so and life is too short!
In one sense I was running away, to the place I’d visited many times for retreat, for reflection. But also to revisit good memories of my time there with Michael. In some strange way I felt I had to come here to start the journey through my grief,. …. if that’s what you do.
They say there are 5 stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I don’t know about that. Certainly I’ve experienced all of those emotions over the past three weeks. I look at his photo, which is now the wallpaper on my phone and can’t believe he’s gone forever,. …I’m angry at him because he didn’t tell me he’d made a deal with the doctor to come home, even though he wasn’t ready,. ..if only I’d known that the day before he died,when I’d brought him home, I might have done it differently…….then, on a miserable rainy afternoon, I just cry,…….then I find myself just carrying on doing normal stuff.
But of course it’s early days yet
Amazingly, I have an overwhelming sense of calm. I’m not unhappy, just sad. I think that’s because for a long time I was so afraid to loose him, now that the worst has happened, the fear of death, that awful churn in your stomach thats always lurking,. has gone.
I miss him so much. Ive been to Paris many times alone before and I could ring him and share my day,. I want to ring him to tell him what I’m doing all the time, but of course he’s not there, and never will be again.
I pass places where we made memories. The wonderful Christmas which he booked last-minute. Midnight mass at St Genevieve de mont. The cafe we had lunch in after the Bastille day parade, and the fantastic fireworks display on the Champs de Mars. And so on and so on. Good memories,. But I also look enviously at old couples who are together and I just hope they tell each other every day how much they love each other.
For the first couple of days in Paris I just wandered around, wondering what on earth I was doing here. I got on random buses(96,69,47,) and just rode around the city. I went to an AA meeting, but started to cry every time I tried to share. I don’t know what I was looking for. . I had no sense of loving the city as I normally do. Then my friend Muriel, organised a dinner party with two other women who’d had similar experiences. We laughed and cried all evening with the Eiffel tower sparkling every hour outside the window, almost as if she was sparkling in empathy
One of the ladies invited me to go to the races at Auteuil last Saturday, a fitting tribute to Michael as he’d been there many times,…..I only had one bet, and it WON! I’m sure Michael was sitting on my shoulder whispering which horse to back.
As I said in my Eulogy, my life has changed forever. I have no idea what the future holds ( death does that to you, you realise the fragility and uncertainty of life). and I feel incapable at present making even the simplest of plans or even thinking of what I might do tomorrow. let alone next week….. It’s a surreal state of mind, living completely within the day.
Although we were never the sort of couple who were joined at the hip, indeed we led very individual lives, I realise now that Michael was the centre of my life, my point of reference.
The secret of our relationship was that we each in our own way focussed on making the other happy. Now I’ve lost my focus, my reason for life. But I would not change that for the world.
The pain of loss. Is the price we pay for love. But it’s worth it. What is the point of a life without love?
Where do I go from here?
Well I’ve managed to book a plane ticket back to Birmingham next weekend to stay with my son and his family.
After that, who knows?
Maybe I’ll go to Oxford, as we planned, or maybe I’ll go home.
As Michael would say, all will be revealed, it will turn out alright.