I have been thinking and researching about grief and what it feels like, and how to survive it and come out the other side stronger and a better person.
I found an article by Patrick Swayze's widow, Lisa Niemi, which resonated with all I've experienced.
I recognise all of that - grief being "an animal all of it's own" and "your body not being your own". I couldn't believe it was possible to have such strong emotions and I remember sitting in deep despair saying to my wonderful friend, Michael, "People do survive this, don't they?"
I found one book that helped me a lot, 'The Empty Bed - Bereavement and the Loss of Love' by Susan Wallbank who was a CRUISE councillor for many years, but apart from that there didn't seem to be much out there in a form I could deal with and to inspire me to hang on in there as there would be light at the end of the tunnel.
Above all else I needed reassurance that I would not only survive but I could use the whole experience to enrich my life and make me stronger, which is what I believe I am doing. I needed someone who'd been through it to tell me that they'd been exactly where I was and that it wouldn't last forever, and would be worth the fight and the enormous amount of energy and sheer hard work it takes to get through that amount of grief.
If I'd had that I might have been less afraid.
My equally wonderful friend Peter said that he'd tried endlessly to put himself in my place, to try and imagine how I might be feeling and how best to help me. If he'd had some reference to help him it would have made life easier for him too. Luckily for me he and his brother are very empathetic and knew David very well so they instinctively did the right things - they were always there to talk to, kept me company and kept me busy whenever they could, gave me a project to work on and a future to work for - turning this farm around and making it earn my keep so I could stay here. They treated me normally and made life carry on normally around me, teased me unmercifully (if very gently) and made me laugh at every possible opportunity.
I met someone the other day whose husband of 18 years died 3 months after David. She said what she misses the most, apart from the companionship, warmth and cuddles, is the way her husband teased and gently mocked her, making her laugh at herself, and what she hates the most now is the way that people walk on eggshells around her, afraid to mention him or to say the wrong thing.
In my experience what you lose the most when someone that close to you dies is all sense of normality. When you've shared every aspect of your lives and the one person who was always there for you and you could always rely on is gone, leaving you alone with your main point of reference gone forever, it seems like you're in a dream that you'll never wake up from and nothing will ever seem normal again.
People who haven't been through it can't know that. They don't know what you need or how to help and not many are as empathetic as my two friends are, or as brave and persistent (18 months of hard work for them too!) because it must have been very hard for them at times, especially Michael who nearly lost his own wife and soul mate once. She was on a ventilator in Intensive Care, and I know exactly what seeing someone you love in that position is like, and it must have dragged it all back up for him, time and time again.
They are both wonderful and devoted parents which I think had a lot to do with how brilliant they were, and still are, with and for me. I owe both of them my sanity and my relatively rapid progress through grief, and they've kept the faith alive in me that I will find someone else, and hopefully soon!!!
Along with another very special friend in Scotland who gave me all the confidence and reassurance about myself, and about men, that I needed to do so. He has more wisdom and is more intuitively caring, considerate and honourable than he'll ever realise or admit to, and if he's reading this I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
Anyway, I thought I might try to write a book - something like 'Grief - What it Feels Like and How To Survive it'. I'm quite lucky in that I'm reasonably good at putting my feelings into words, which not everyone can do, so I thought it might help others if I do. It might also make something good and worthwhile out of all of this.
In the meantime I've written this poem. I hope you like it:
For David, With Love
I strain my ears to hear the voice I know should be there
Amongst the voices speaking in this room
I search kind eyes to find the ones I long to find here
That light that died and left me far too soon.
I knew you had to go although you fought so hard to stay
I know you did the best that you could do
But I never realised how hard my battle then would be
To find my way alone now, without you.
I learnt life’s lessons well from you, of cabbages and kings
Of mice and men and all those other things
You taught me how to live and then you showed me how to die
To face with grace and courage all fate brings.
I taught you childish wonder in the beauty all around
And how to throw your heart before your head
And keeping hopes and dreams alive when all our hopes and dreams
Lay scattered all around us, seeming dead.
You once told me that I’d never know how much I needed you
Until it was too late and you were gone
And life will never be the same without you next to me
But the strength and hope you gave me will live on.
My life has changed forever now, there is no turning back
But I can face the future come what may
There is so much of you still here and everywhere I see
That love lives on and shines to light the way.
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