From the moment I was handed your death certificate, I have had to reluctantly crawl and claw my way back to what non spouse bereaved members of society would call 'normal' whilst crippled by nerves and anxiety, my physical and mental health continually hanging by a thread during a drunken haze of euphoric reflection.
Tell them that at thirty-one years old I was the happiest man alive when I married the love of my life. Tell them that I was utterly bereft when I lost her at thirty-three. Tell them I've thirty-five now and depressed. Tell them that I put a good face on but that the truth is that things haven't really got much easier. Tell them from me how hard it is to be a bereaved single parent.
Grief is entirely individual, and the grieving person has to respond to their grief in a way that is relevant to them. How they respond may change over time. The difficulty with the platitudes detailed above is that they infer a judgement about how the person is grieving, the time they are taking over their grief, or how they are feeling.
When you lose someone, you often find yourself in a cliché firing line as, 'It was their time to go', 'Time is a healer' and 'Everything will be okay' are shot at you. Of course, people are trying to help as best they can (which is appreciated immensely), but it is so difficult to digest anything positive when things are painfully raw and you are suffocating in grief.
Keeping the many facets of our lives going is a great and progressively more common achievement that we have little choice but to challenge ourselves with. However, if you are not paying attention to the areas of your life that matter the most then in the end the success is found to be hollow because we dropped the ball that matters the most...
Instinct and received wisdom tell us to lose a child is the worst bereavement a person can suffer. To watch life ebb from our own precious creation, a life we assumed would endure beyond our own demise, is a cruel disruption to natural order. To the uninitiated, it seems incomprehensible that such a loss would not result in the total collapse of our world around us.
Although it seems a lifetime ago, it feels like yesterday. Time doesn't heal; it just makes grief go out of focus. And anything can bring it sharply back again: a photograph, a scent, a memory or just the endless yearning pall of homesickness so familiar to people who've lost their parents too early.
Thirteen years ago today my mum died. It all feels like a lifetime ago, and actually I can't really remember what life looked and felt like with her in it. I wish I had been given the chance to get to know her, to appreciate her and, of course, I would do anything to thank her for all the things I can now see she did for me and my sister, and all the little ways in which she showed us that she loved us.
Despite our best intentions, we soon forget about the fragility and preciousness of life and carry on as we always have done, sweating the small stuff! However, one very practical thing we can do, even when we fail to live up to our intentions to "make each moment count" is share with our children the values we hold dearest.
Grieving is the bodies way of letting go. Trust your body, it has millions of years of knowing what to do when it comes to loss. Our natural response is to be strong, keep going, to not look back, stiff upper lip and all that. But doing that only stuffs down the feelings and they will eventually come up somewhere or somehow like depression, anger, drinking and drugs.
Some say that the antidote to those very understandable and human difficulties is the willingness to love, forgive and to let go of the past. All too easily can we get stuck in the past, concede control and power of our lives to what has or could have been. With that frame of mind, perspective on life, and heavy heart it is difficult to move on.
I keep collapsing into a ball of tears, mourning my father's departure (as far as euphemisms for death go, that one is bearable, don't you think?) back in September. It was followed swiftly by that of a close friend, Kate, an accomplished artist whose personal kindnesses to me had, over the years, become impossible to keep count of.