Grief in the sixth month

Essay

Do you wanna know how many times
I tore myself apart cos you’re not here?
-Stone Sour, Imperfect

train carriage
by Matthew Wiebe

May 5th marks my family going into the sixth month of mourning my nan. My life since December 5th has been the same as it was before, really. I got a new job, my flat got redecorated and I put money away for a trip – new things but really, same old. All of these experiences were underlined by grief. A dark undertone that I can never quite adjust to. I’ve had a complicated life, and I have dealt with traumatic experiences but this one is completely new to me.

My go-to emotion when things get tough is anger. Angry that it’s happened, angry that I let it happen- whatever. I get angry. Anger is comfortable, you don’t need to find forgiveness or reason within anger. For a while, it softens the blow. I’m not angry about Annie’s death. I want to be. I want the sweet release, the comfort of anger but I’m not angry. Her death was too soon, and for me – a bit sudden. I knew she was ill but not so ill that I expected to never see her again after the last time I kissed her head. She was really young, only 67 and man, that stung but I made peace with that fairly quickly. I actually surprised myself. Never angry.

What I have is a serious hole in my soul. I miss my best pal so much. I miss our chats, I miss her stories, I miss how happy she sounded when she answered the phone to me. I can’t get used to the idea that she’s gone and it still fills me with so much fear. Fear that I’ll forget her voice, her smile, her stories.

My nan was both gentle and harsh, warm and stand-offish. She saved her heart for those that deserved it and didn’t bother with those that didn’t. She had so much love for our tiny family and everybody in it. She was so unapologetically real at all times and even now, that’s so refreshing to think of. She was on my side, no matter what. I couldn’t do wrong, and even if I did, it was always with good reason. Even when I was at my worst, she saw the best in me and that carried me through the most trying times in my life. She did this for everyone. I absolutely adored her, idolised her and hoped to God that she was proud of me. I’m never really one to seek approval, and I’ve lived by my own rules but I always hoped she was proud of me being that way, because she encouraged it.

After she died, I had to keep moving. I had to. She died 20 days before Christmas… I had no choice, really. I still hadn’t been shopping, I had a Christmas ball to go with, I had work to do, I had to send my nan flowers, I really needed to get round to- oh. Once the shopping was done, the formalities were out the way and work was done, I let myself feel.

I was shopping for a record for my boyfriend and The Beatles came on in store. The Beatles were played at her funeral (that I missed because I couldn’t face travelling there and back alone, 8 hours, in my own mind? I couldn’t), The Beatles were her first love and fuck I did not need to hear the fucking Beatles. But I did. And I cried on a step, in a shop, on Christmas Eve. I live in the friendliest city in the world- I was asked over and over if I was okay. That both helped and hindered the downpour until after a few minutes, I just stood and walked out. I was in a daze. It had all hit me at once and the blow was harsh.

My nan loved Christmas. Now wasn’t the time to be heartbroken- she’d want me to be happy. I carried on.

I got through the festivities – just about. The last time I saw my nan was my birthday. I wondered if I’d ever enjoy my birthday or Christmas again. I wondered if I’d ever truly enjoy anything again. I wondered if I’d be able to get through the rest of my life with this ball of sadness weighing down my stomach. I couldn’t be there for my family, I was too lost. My loss was personal and I regret not being there for others more but, I was working over New Year. Chin up.

I went to the toilet three times for a private cry at New Year. Apparently I was the life of the party. Good. I didn’t feel like it. I felt like I was leaving the last year that I’d had my nan for and entering a new one, for the first time in my life, without her. Without her phonecall at midnight. I’m glad I was fun that night, she would have been delighted.

Around the end of February, almost 3 months after her passing, the knot in my stomach eased up. I still cried every day but not for as long. I could talk about her without getting teary. I couldn’t visit her house, yet For both practical and emotional reasons. It wasn’t time and I needed to find a new job. After a couple of months the sympathy stops pouring from people’s mouths and it turns into ‘you really need to move on from this’. I’ll move the fuck on when I’m good and ready. I’m not ready. I spent 25 years loving somebody, it won’t take me a matter of months to move on from their death.

Now, I think I’m in the acceptance phase. I am accepting her loss but I don’t want to. How can I accept something so devastating? Can I forgive myself for moving on? I don’t want to forget her, I don’t want to forget our bond and I know I won’t but the fear remains.

The difference between this heartbreaking event and others I’ve experienced is, I don’t feel anger because I’m so grateful. I’m grateful that I experienced such a beautiful bond, I’m grateful that I was part of her tiny inner circle, I’m grateful that my family are so young and I had my beautiful nan around for such a long time. I’m grateful that I’ve made it through. I’m grateful for the people that took the time to hold me and listen to me. To those that checked in on me every day following her death. And I’m grateful to her.

I tend to be fairly misunderstood. People read me completely wrongly and I have no idea how to change it. Writing helps, and people reading my writing helps but then there are those that think I’m insincere. I never had to explain or prove myself to Annie. I had no money, no job prospects and for a while, no home (I stayed at a friend’s, there’s always love around me) and she still told me she was proud of me because I’d come so far in my life. Annie never once misunderstood me because we were one and the same.

Will I be okay? Abso-fucking-lutely. I have her blood in me, I’ve come so far. Will I ever get over this loss? Probably not. But the strength I gained from her unwavering love is still there so in a way, so is she.

6 months is no time at-all but I made it here and that’s something, right?

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