I’m still standing…

October 2020

How many times have you thought ‘I can’t do this any more!!’

How often has the pain in your heart hurt so much that you don’t want to get out of bed and face another day – the sadness so overwhelming you feel you can’t live another minute without your darling child.

I’m pretty sure if I feel like this, you must too!

But somehow we keep going even when it seems impossible – even when the most wretched tormented anguish sneaks up and steals the last reserves of our strength.

Even when we’re hiding away in our homes and our grief seems to be turning us into weird social misfits; when everything feels dark and empty and pointless and our anxiety levels are going through the roof!

Even when it feels like our world has ground to a catastrophic halt and people around us (sometimes even those who love us) seem oblivious to our silent cries and groans.

Days come and go. We can’t stop them; then suddenly we look up and the calendar shows we’ve survived another week, another month, another year!

Incredibly – we realise we’re still standing! We’re still broken; still grieving; still functioning (just about) but most importantly, still standing!

Unbelievably our family has survived two whole years of missing our beautiful boy. Two long years living with broken hearts.

How on earth is this possible?

‘The weird, weird thing about devastating loss is that life actually goes on. When you’re faced with a tragedy, a loss so huge that you have no idea how you can live through it, somehow, the world keeps turning, the seconds keep ticking.’

⁃ James Patterson

I can only assume we must find just enough strength to habitually put one foot in front of the other. Days and nights must roll into one long tunnel of survival as we instinctively keep walking (sometimes crawling on our hands and knees) towards the light.

But the passing of time simply adds another layer to our grief as it takes us further and further away from the last precious moments with our beautiful darling children.

And the prospect of time stretching out indefinitely into the future fills me with absolute terror!!

A voice inside me screams ‘I don’t want to live like this!’

I can honestly say I had never experienced such intense indescribable pain until my child died. There are days I just want to give up; to throw my hands in the air and yell at the top of my voice…

‘I can’t do this any more!’

And now a horrible coronavirus pandemic has added yet another layer of discord, as we’re denied contact with the very people we need most.

Days are hard but nights even worse – they’re long and bleak and arduous.

I lie for hours in the darkness drifting in and out of sleep. Troubled disturbed thoughts dance round and round in circles – tormenting me. My frazzled mind goes into overdrive until eventually I reach for my phone and write it all down.

I write because I have to dump the turmoil from my head. It buys me a little respite which eventually allows me to drift into sleep.

I write for my own sanity but share it in the hope that some of my words may resonate with even one other person, who might say ‘me too!’

Reading became my lifeline after Ben died. I was desperate to know how other parents were coping. I joined bereaved mums Facebook groups and discovered I wasn’t the only person not sleeping – I’m so grateful for those night time chats. I take comfort in knowing I’m surrounded by an invisible army of grieving parents, struggling to put their indescribable heartache into words.

To lose a child means stepping out into a new world – unchartered territory.

Nothing could possibly prepare us for the shock and horror! We have no idea how we’re expected to behave; how to keep living (when we just want to die too); how to put one foot in front of the other and battle through a day!

The death of a child isn’t something we get over because the reminders are always with us – every minute of every day.

The simplest of things confound us. Child loss changes us more than I would have thought possible. We become like chameleons – so much so that we hardly even recognise ourselves. We’re fragile, anxious, vulnerable, misunderstood, out of our depth…

I mourn life as it was and torture myself by comparing it to life as it is.

I talk to God a lot – I pray for calm, for comfort, for purpose, for strength and for the desire to live. I’ve screamed ’why?’ a million times but don’t think I’ll get an answer this side of heaven.

I thank him for the gift of each of our precious children; for the fact that grief has pulled us together not apart; that we are committed to holding each other up; that we can laugh and cry and talk about Ben as naturally as if he were still with us.

But I long for a ‘peace that passes all understanding…’ Philippians 4:7

“I thought faith would say – I’ll take away the pain and discomfort. But what it ended up saying was – I’ll sit with you in it!”

– Brene Brown in ‘Jesus Wept’

Tragedy affects us all differently – some find it deepens their faith, others lose it altogether.

I didn’t lose mine but I’ve had to rethink it. I’ve had to scale it right back to the basics and simply focus on God’s love. I think of Jesus dying on the cross saying ‘My God my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and know he understands my pain.

My brain is still too fuddled and confused to try and grasp how or why God could have allowed Ben to die. But I’ve come to accept that bad things just happen and God sits in our dark hole with us.

There is nothing good about Ben’s death but I think about how I can use this pointless tragedy to bring meaning back into life. I know it’s going to be a long drawn out process that will probably take forever – but at least I’m trying!

I feel like a failure; like I should be stronger; coping better.

I’m thankful to God for friends that have stepped into my life and stayed (despite seeing me at my absolute worst) but grieve those that I’ve lost along the way. I agonise over what I’ve done wrong; how I could have done things differently

I remember the happy times when our family was normal and life was simple – but memories make me agitated and restless. Time takes me further and further from the sound of Ben’s voice, his infectious laugh; his beautiful hugs!

I’m afraid I’m starting to forget!

I’m constantly trying to accept something that feels so wrong; something that I can’t change.

I think about tragedies worse than mine. It doesn’t help – my loss is my loss and it simply hurts.

Some nights I’m blessed with a few hours uninterrupted sleep but these moments of reprieve are short lived. Two years on I still get that brutal punch in my gut every time I remember Ben’s never coming back.

I often wake with tears wet on my face – I can’t remember the dream; just know it was sad.

Some days the storms are so ferocious I feel like I’m drowning in sorrow. Yet there are other days when, for no apparent reason, living feels a little lighter, a little easier. As though someone is lifting the weight of grief gently off my shoulders – just enough to give me a little breathing space!

Could this be because someone is praying for me?

There are days I can laugh and smile and days I can’t.

There are moments when I feel almost happy and others when I think I’ll never feel happy again.

There are days when I want to live and days when I don’t

This confuses me as nothing actually changes. Happy or sad – Ben is still gone.

I’m not healed or fixed and I haven’t moved on, yet I finally get that it really is possible to feel happy at the same time as feeling sad.

‘Happiness does not require the absence of sadness’

⁃ whatsyourgrief.com

I’ve accepted that joy doesn’t negate the reality of Ben’s death; it isn’t a betrayal of my love for him. In fact I know he would want me to try and be happy but he would also understand when I was sad.

I’ve never stopped believing that God cares and know he is always there, even when I doubt him. I believe he’s been holding my hand through all this horrible pain and heartache and that when I cry, he cries with me.

I really hope these rambled thoughts might make sense to someone!! This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do – unless you too have lost your child it must be impossible to understand. I probably just sound crazy or morose or manically depressed.

Maybe I am.

It’s taken two years, but I think God’s love is slowly starting to soften my broken heart. I’m starting to remember random things and see them as blessings instead of just sad reminders. I don’t think my heart will ever mend and I’ll always walk with a limp but I’m determined to try and let happiness and sadness sit comfortably together in our home – I want it to be a place where Ben is talked about with ease every day.

There is… ‘A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.’

Ecclesiastes 3:4

A beautiful memory recently popped into my head. Ben phoned me from a school where he was doing teaching practice – his car had broken down and he needed to use my breakdown cover. I drove to the school and we ended up sitting in his car chatting (waiting for the recovery van) for about two hours. We talked non stop about anything and everything! We laughed and reminisced and planned! What could have been a huge inconvenience was actually a priceless gift. Ben was always amazing at turning the mundane into an adventure. Those impromptu stolen hours are such a poignant reminder to make every moment matter.

I’m so thankful that our love for Ben and his love for us is a gift we get to keep forever 💛

‘May you never forget how far you’ve come, for you have traveled many miles to get to this place. May you never forget the starless nights that shaped you and the morning skies that have given you the hope and strength to carry on. For after all the years you have made it through, over and over, Light has found its way to you. And even though you still have a long way to go, all the miles you have travelled matter more than you know. ‘

⁃ Morgan Harper Nichols