There is an expectation by others that grief has some form of an expiry date. We should be moving on, getting on and embracing life. But how do you learn to enjoy life again without the most important person in it?
I have 2 masks. My mask of normalcy and the mask beneath the mask. My mask of normalcy can get up in the morning and function. We moved house 6 weeks after Eddie was born and there are rooms that are still unfinished, that were meant to stay unfinished as we were too busy juggling life with a new baby. Since we now have so much time on our hands, we have embarked on a new house project. Our weekends which were meant to be reserved for family outings have now been replaced with outings to furniture and kitchen stores.
My mask of normalcy allows me to speak to builders, research paints and colours and such. I can now hold normal conversations with people I know, and strangers, without immediately bursting into floods of tears. There are times that I can smile and even laugh. And in those moments, I catch glimpses of my old self.
But even though I have the ability to function, it does not lessen my grief and my sadness. It does not mean that I am enjoying life. It means I am functioning, coping and existing. There is a mask beneath the mask that is the new me. The person who questions whether they will ever experience happiness again and who desperately wants her old life back. A life which was full of hope and optimism. A life where I held my baby boy in my arms and not just in my heart.
It’s 10 weeks today since we lost Eddie. We’re soon going to be grieving longer than when Eddie was alive and that’s a scary thought. I hate the fact that time moves forward even though it has stood still for us. And I hate the fact that every day and week that goes past, takes me further away from my baby boy. I have said this before, I still want to do things for Eddie, to feel like I can still be a mummy to him.
So I finally got round to writing to Glenda Jackson, MP for Camden today to complain about the way Eddie’s case was handled by the coroners office. Through Eddie’s loss, I hope we can help to make some positive change so other parents won’t have to go through the same ordeal that we have.
In better news, we have planted a tree for Eddie. It’s a Royal Star Magnolia kindly bought for us from my wonderful mother-in-law and it’s perfect. It will bloom around late March- April with showy, star shaped, fragrant white flowers symbolising Eddie’s purity. It will flourish and grow stronger each year and whilst Eddie is physically no longer with us, the life of the tree will keep his memory alive…
It will be his everlasting legacy.
This is the year of firsts. The first time we have to do something is inevitably the most difficult and each situation we find ourselves in brings its own unique triggers. The first time I go somewhere or do something that I used to do with Eddie hits me hard. Going to the park, a local cafe, or a friends house reminds me that Eddie’s not here and I’m not meant to be there without him.
Going out for dinner for the first time with friends throws up different emotions. Trying to have somewhat normal conversations and not allowing my mind to drift to Eddie is a toilsome chore. Sitting at a dinner table, speaking about things that I have absolutely no interest in, putting on a brave face and forcing a smile. Having to suffer my grief in silence. Bumping into people we know, meeting people we don’t know. Dealing with the awkward silences when I tell someone what has happened; I know it’s just as difficult for them as it is for me. And I have to brace myself that however strong I want to be, sometimes the tears just flow when you don’t want them to. Or when its least expected.
Silly as it sounds, the first time doing anything that resembles something normal, just serves to remind me that I am trying so hard to adapt to this new life we have been catapulted into. The day to day events we took for granted, that required no effort, have become a daily struggle. And it’s exhausting.
I hate days that exist because of commercial opportunism. Days that dictate how you should behave and feel because someone, somewhere, told you so. I have always hated valentines day for that reason. I hated it when I was single as it highlighted that I didn’t have a boyfriend and I hated it when I had a boyfriend as it felt fake and contrived. Why did we have to celebrate love on that particular day? It was an irritating excuse for restaurants and florists to unnecessarily hike up their prices. Bah humbug.
And now I hate mothers day and fathers day for those reasons. Why should one day honour parents? Every day was mothers day and fathers day for us. Every day was a celebration that we were parents to our darling boy, not one isolated day in the calendar year.
Just because it’s fathers day today doesn’t make our grief any worse, it’s just another reminder that Eddie should be here. Another reminder that Chris was the best daddy in the world. Ever.
My life has been divided into 3 parts. Life before Eddie, life with Eddie and life after Eddie.
Life before Eddie was filled with hopes, aspirations and dreams. Life with Eddie was when those hopes and dreams became a reality. Life after Eddie is a path into the dark unknown.
It’s amazing how my perspective on life and luck has altered. Life before Eddie, being unlucky meant Chris was made redundant just a few months before our wedding. Back then, we said life was not always an upward curve and it strengthened us a couple. Being unlucky was having torrential rain on our wedding day (unlucky, not ironic, Alanis Morissette). Being unlucky was having morning sickness in pregnancy, the occasional bleed and a long, induced labour. And when we were unlucky back then, boy did we moan and complain. I look at that person now and think how ungrateful I was because really, I had nothing to complain about at all. The Jen before Eddie was innocent to the darker side of life; tragedy would only ever happen to someone else. Not me, not us.
I have always thought there is something quite special about receiving hand written letters. Along with Eddie’s memories, we will always be grateful for the words of support given to us from family and friends. In a digital world of emails and texts, letters have permanence. And we will always cherish them.
A friend of ours wrote a letter which I have re-read time and time again. So I wanted to share a quote which has provided a source of comfort in our darkest hour.
“I’ve always thought of grief as love not knowing where to put itself, and that the process of it is locating their memories, those connections, those depths of your soul in which that love can sit most comfortably. As you must be feeling, Edward’s light has not been turned out, nor will it ever be. It glows within you and all those who loved him. Of course it now glows with some pain but in time, and with your will, it will be a glow of strength, of unity, of courage, even of joy”