My heart needs him… ‘tu me manques’

They say that in French there is no literal translation for ‘I miss you’ – instead they say ‘tu me manqués’ which means more along the lines ‘you are missing from me’. And is that not the most apt description of losing somebody? Because if you miss a person you wish they were there with you – but if a person is missing then something is deeply wrong. They are not where they are supposed to be. So when I say I miss you, what I really mean is –


There is a hole where you used to be and I am incomplete because of it… my world is no longer right because you are meant to be here and you’re not.

– Ranata Suzukj
This is us – 1993

I was inspired by a post I read on Facebook the other day written by a friend who was celebrating her little girl’s first birthday. She was describing the overwhelming and unexpected depth love she felt for her precious daughter and wrote, ‘I didn’t realise my heart needed her… I really didn’t know I would love being a mum this much!’

(shared with permission from Rachel Kjellstadli).

‘I didn’t realise my heart needed her’… what a beautiful expression!

I felt just like that when each of my four children were born. I didn’t know how much my heart needed them – I really didn’t know I would love being a mum this much!

And that love just kept on growing, year after year. My heart still needs them – more than ever; all four of them.

Vic’s wedding – 2011

Becoming a mum evoked a love that I didn’t know existed. It took me by surprise because it was so beautiful and unexpected and powerful.

Then twenty months ago my youngest son Ben suddenly and unexpectedly died. He was twenty five.

The heart that was so bursting with love has broken and torn beyond repair. It still works but it will never heal – not properly anyway.

It doesn’t know how to cope with the abnormal and outrageous pain of loss. Hearts are conditioned for life and love – they’re completely unprepared for the brutal separation of death. Everything feels so wrong. My child should be here – it’s as simple as that.

I know life doesn’t always go to plan and bad things happen – but never in a million years did I expect to have to organise a funeral and bury my gorgeous handsome funny son. Death has completely rocked my safe predictable world! It has devastated our beautiful family.

Just as there are no words to adequately describe the love we feel for our children – equally there are are no words to describe the deepest sadness and excruciating pain of their loss.

‘Tu me manqueshe’s missing from me! He’s not where he should be and the emptiness is torturous!

My heart is bleeding with a mixture of pain and sadness and sorrow and love. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

‘Grief is more than missing someone; it is an unrelenting ache for reality to be different and for the impossible to come true!’

– author unknown

I’m not only battling grief, I’m battling fear because I know if it can happen once it can happen again. Nothing feels safe anymore. I deny myself moments of excitement and anticipation because I think I should be preparing myself for the worst! I know that death is real and can sneak up on anyone. It chooses families at random and for no apparent reason – it chose mine!

It could choose yours!

Twenty months feels like yesterday. I relive the moment he left us every day. The image permeates my thoughts, my conversations, my work, my driving, my sleep. Every morning I wake up to a reality that my brain is reluctant to accept. I still think he can’t be dead.

‘Impossible, caught in your sheltering space of no-time, to grasp that your child is dead when they stay so vividly present as if they haven’t the least intention of lying down gracefully with folded hands’.

⁃ extract from ‘Time Lives Without its Flow’ by Denise Riley.

I’m struggling to come to terms with this changed new world and this changed new me – I don’t suppose I ever will. I’m guessing I’ll just slowly learn how to adapt and live with the hole in my life. I don’t have any choice!

If your child has died you will know exactly what I mean. There is a ‘me too’ solidarity amongst those of us who have to accept this life we didn’t choose and certainly don’t want. It’s a weird existence of conflicting and confusing emotions that change from day to day. We’re like misfits in a world where everyone else appears to be normal (even if they’re not!).

‘Death does something to time. It slows it down then speeds it up, then slows it down again. It makes the ticking clock go silent, then makes it so loud you think your head will explode. It causes losses of memory at some points and a slowed down and vivid recollection at others. It brings with it a longing that you could go backward and have a moment over again as a memory meanders into your mind. It causes you to cry out, “God, just help me to get through this day.”’

⁃ Malcolm Duncan – Good Grief.

But surprisingly there are times that I actually feel moments of peace. I laugh and think about Ben with pride and joy; basking in beautiful memories. I feel his presence and know I’ll always carry him in my heart because he can never truly be dead to me!

Other days I hurt so much that I don’t think I can survive. I feel nothing. The pain presses on my chest so hard that I can hardly breathe. (I’ve just discovered this is an actual condition known as broken heart syndrome – see below)

“As a reaction to emotional or physical stress, the body’s natural response is to release catecholamines, also known as stress hormones, that temporarily stun the heart muscle.”

Dr. Kirsten Fuller physician and clinical writer

Some days I let the things I’m thankful for take precedence. Glimmers of hope and joy stay a little longer before being extinguished by sadness. Hope makes life bearable.

Then other days I can’t see beyond the emptiness, because even clutching at hope doesn’t counteract the pain of grief.

Every day I carry a burden of longing for things to be different. Every day I dream that my beautiful boy will walk back through the door and make our family complete. I conjure up images of a family reunion and imagine the day we will meet again in Heaven.

Grief has definitely made me more thankful for the wonderful people in my life – for their love and kindness.

Grief has given me an empathy for others that is richer and deeper than anything I had before.

Grief draws my attention to the beauty of creation – the extravagance of sunsets and flowers and storms…

I’m even accepting that God really did walk with me through the worst time of my life. That he’s been holding my hand even when I’ve felt desolate and alone. That he understands and feels my pain and anger and confusion – and that he doesn’t judge me! I thought he had abandoned me but I now believe he was actually lovingly carrying me when I felt like I couldn’t walk another step.

‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley …you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’

– Psalm 23:4

I’m learning that love is everything. Love is more powerful than death because it brings healing and light!

Love will keep me moving forward – one day at a time!

I’m choosing love!

‘Although we know that after such a loss the acute state of mourning will subside, we also know we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else. And actually, that is how it should be. It is the only way of perpetuating that love which we do not want to relinquish,’

⁃ letter from Sigmund Freud – April 1929