24 years ago my partner died.
I have never written about that time, even though I journal and blog. There was always a part of me that didn’t want to bring up those memories again, the time now feels ‘right’ as this month is the anniversary of his death.
Grief is a cruel, ongoing lesson that never stops. Over the years grief changes, but it’s always with us, it leaves permanent scars. There is nothing in life that prepares us for the loss of a loved one, even if we have lost someone before. The avalanche of emotions that it brings up are all consuming, they paralyse us, make it hard to breathe. We are trapped in a living hell, trying to survive, our brains are on auto loop replaying memories and events. We are numbed by pain. We yearn to have more time with them, we shed many tears over many years. Over the years the pain lessens, it’s easier to breathe when the anniversary comes around… but the wound is still there, held on by a lifelong plaster that will be replaced numerous times over our lifetime.
I met Chris when I was 23. I wasn’t in the headspace for a relationship as the previous year I had run away from an abusive relationship and gone into hiding. We met through a mutual friend and found out we had lots in common. I was very defensive, still carrying mental scars from my abusive relationship and I was wary of anyone new.
We didn’t have a lot of time together, death put an abrupt end to that. But in the time we did have, I began to heal and I will always be grateful for that important journey and to Chris for his patience and making me laugh, and most importantly, making me feel safe. I don’t want to go into too many details of our relationship or that time because tears are already flowing hard as I write this.
Chris died of a brain haemorrhage in his sleep. I found out when I was Christmas shopping for his presents. I had a strong feeling I had to call him on my way home and his neighbour answered the phone, he didn’t want to tell me what had happened on the phone. He wanted to tell me in person, I started crying and asked him to say what was going on. I will never forget those words “There’s been an incident. Chris has gone”. I was sobbing hard on the escalators going into the tube station. I was shrieking, I couldn’t breathe.
The moment I had called was five minutes after his family and neighbour had gained entry into his home as no one had heard from him for a week and he hadn’t returned our calls. I went over there straight away, the police and an ambulance was also there. It was the first time I had met his sister, she asked who I was, his neighbour hugged me and said he was so sorry. I could barely garble the words “I’m his girlfriend”, I felt sick and I was in shock. We all were.
I asked the police if I could say goodbye to him, they didn’t want to let me into his bedroom because they said it would be too upsetting. A part of me wishes I had listened to them, but at that moment I had to say goodbye, it felt like the right thing to do. Seeing Chris in that way has tormented me many times over the years. That image is deeply imprinted in my mind, I don’t want to remember him like that. Someone so full of life, vibrant, charismatic, funny, kind and protective to those in his circle – now lifeless.
Chris has sent me little reminders over the years. To let me know even though his physical body is no longer here, his spirit very much is. I find it comforting and heartbreaking at the same time.
Fast forward to now and there is happier news. I am engaged.
I didn’t think I would ever get to this point in a relationship because for so many years after Chris died I had a huge fear that if I allowed myself to love again, I would lose them. My counsellor was amazing, she helped me navigate so many difficult times. Of course we all have to die at some point, but losing a partner so suddenly and unexpectedly changes you in so many ways.
Because I was so young, I used to have people regularly telling me I would be ok as I had plenty of time ahead of me to find love again. Please don’t do that. Don’t ever tell someone who has lost their partner they will find love again. You may think you are helping and giving us hope, but infact your words are incredibly cruel and can be soul destroying. For those of us who have loved and lost, only we can decide when we are ready to start living again. We work to our own timelines, you don’t get to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. You certainly don’t get to impose your expectations onto us at any stage.
I know I am very fortunate to have found a big love again. I am grateful for that every day and it’s something I will never take for granted.
This is part of my story. Thank you for reading.
In loving kindness.
If you want to speak to someone about grief please go to the Cruse website.
One of the best books I have read about grief is by Megan Devine ‘It’s ok that you’re not ok: meeting grief and loss in a culture that doesn’t understand’.