Tuesday 8 September 2020

A Letter, to my Newly Bereaved Self.

Hello everyone.

As lockdown tentatively begins to ease, and the world starts to look just a little bit more recognisable... Lucky, are the people who have survived thus far with all of their loved ones intact. Whilst I am fortunate enough to be one of those people - I am, of course, already intimately acquainted with grief. As more and more people start this same horrendous journey - a journey that I have travelled on for almost 21 months now - and a large amount of them as a direct result of the pandemic - I find myself frequently interacting with people who are much more recently bereaved than I am. That is, in and of itself a challenge - grief is a deeply individual experience, and I cannot begin to understand the extra layers of grief and aggravation that the restrictions have created, that newly bereft people have had to contend with this year. Nevertheless... There remains a sense of unity amongst those affected by grief - the roads that brought us here are innumerable - but the end result is still more or less the same - even if we all experience it according to our own unique lense. 

Time has continued to move me further and further away from my old life with Kinga. The fog of the first year has largely passed for me - I can now see the full emotional, and physical scale of my loss in such clarity - on an almost objective level. Much of my own memory of that early, raw pain has been left in a great cloud of blurriness - a testament to just how overwhelming Kinga's sudden death was for my brain to process. If my brain were a machine, you could say that it's system were overloaded, and it's circuits fried - and it took a lot of time to even start repairing it. It also blocked a lot of things out, as a protection mechanism. I think, in order to continue to understand and explore my grief, however, it is important to stay in tune with those early days - to attempt to decipher that blur - to sift through the memories of those awful, traumatic, and horrendous days - and to try and make some kind of sense of it. To that end, I have attempted to write today's post. 

Mount Teide, Tenerifé, 2018. Our last holiday.

Today, I wanted to write to myself - the self that was thrust into this world on the 12th December of 2018 - like a newborn in an adult's body, forced to instantly learn life from scratch. I write this to myself, because I want to explore the ways that I could have been supported back then - and to see if there is anything to be learned from that time - partly to help me to try and stay connected with those newer to grief. Grief is a deeply individual and unique experience, but I share this here in the hope that some of those who are just starting their journey may find something in it - some small rock to anchor onto in the endless fog of grief. It likely speaks to the difficulty of this task, that it has taken me almost two months just to find the words to complete it. Grief doesn't come with a manual, in the end - it is understood best through sharing our stories, and experiences.

Before I continue, I should preface this. As I have said many times - Grief is very individual, as are the people who experience it. So many people I speak to, I speak to purely because they have experienced it - but  may have little else in common with. What I may tell myself, may not be what another person would want to hear - it may even possibly negatively affect them. Frankly, some of what I have written will not directly apply to everyone. I personally despise positivity and negativity - if they aren't based in reality (my reality, at least). So much of what people say to those who are grieving can come off as a platitude - a phrase that sounds great, but is essentially meaningless - said because it is deemed 'the right thing to say'. Some people look for hope, in grief - and it is easy to see why, when the experience is so covered with absolute despair. I am not suggesting positivity and hope don't exist amongst grief... But, for myself, I cannot speak of either, unless I truly and completely believe in it.

Mr S. Branch
12th December 2018
(Open me in a few days time - no rush)

Hey man.

No, this isn't another form to sign, or another person who needs proof that she is gone. This isn't more painful and soul-crushing death admin. You've done enough of that. They can all wait. They aren't as important as they pretend to be. This is for you. Well, it's for her too - it always will be - but for it to keep being for her, it has to be about you right now. 

Stop. Just stop. You're still here. You're alive. You are. You are going to stay that way - no matter how much you wish it were different. You still matter without her. Yeah, I know. I can feel you rolling your eyes - but it's truer than you can believe right now. I know how badly you want to join her. I ain't gonna tell you not to do it - what's the point? But here I am, 21 months later... We're still here man. We're still here. Not one part of it has been easy, but now? I can smile, sometimes. Laugh, too. We're managing. Surviving - hell, we've survived more than we ever thought was remotely possible. Why do we do it? For a lot of the reasons we used to, actually. So much has changed... But not everything has.

You love her, and she loves you - nothing will ever, ever change that. You will never not care about her. You will never not talk about her - and you will never, ever even begin to remotely forget her. She literally is you now. Realistically... She always has been. People are going to tell you that she is 'always with you', and you're going to hate it. I know. It feels fake, because that is just what people are 'meant to say'. But your relationship with her is an irreversible chemical reaction - we are forever changed - shaped - by her - as she was by us. There is no undoing that - not even slightly. There is so much power in that, and you will learn it in time... But for now, just know that there actually is time. She is always going to matter. I can guarantee that much with absolute certainty- don't doubt it for a single second.

You don't have to make any big decisions. Not now, not yet. You don't have to throw all of our stuff away, either. Yeah, you are going to have to move out... We really can't avoid that. Always about money, right? But christ. Take it all with you. It doesn't matter. There's time for that. There's space in your flat. You can sort it properly in time. Because there is still time. Don't rush going back to work, either - it isn't expected of you... Even if it was, why should we care? Kinga loved to say that we work to live - not the other way around. Right now, living itself is hard work - we needn't add to that. Not right away. There is still time. 

You are severely - and I mean severely - underestimating people. Nothing new there, right? It's not weak to accept help. Not at all. You aren't failing her, if you do. You aren't forgoing your duty to her. People you never dreamed would care genuinely want to help - let them! You'll learn in time the value of those people - and the value of those you have yet to meet. No one is expecting anything of you, except yourself. No one is expecting you to be fine. I know your first instinct is to want to be alone - but for once - just once - try and let people help you - at least with the practical things, if nothing else.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. You don't have to fight it. You don't have to look, or act a certain way. The only pressure is the pressure you're putting on yourself right now. If you need to cry, cry until there are no tears left. Then cry some more. If you need to shout, or scream, do it. Please, don't use what little energy we have left on fighting yourself. We can't change how we feel - and our feelings, no matter how dark, are completely valid. 

She is as essential to your life now, as she has ever been. She is you now. Her voice is yours now. You don't need to find it right away - like I need you to hear so much right now... There's time for all of that. Her story isn't over yet. It'll last longer, if you keep telling it. We can do so much with all that she has taught us - and all that she has inspired us to be. We've got to be around to do that, though. She needs us to be. Take it one minute at a time. Breathe. Keep going. Push on. That's all that you can do right now - and that is okay.

It's not okay. It will never be right. It's absolute hell. But this isn't how the story ends - for either of you. You have time to recover. You have time to find the words. You can make her legacy shine even brighter. You have that power. But for now... Grieve. Survive. The world can wait for you. She can wait for you. You're doing fine.

Future You.

P.S. The printer doesn't work. That'll save you some stress later.
P.P.S No judgement, but a few less needless 'f it' expenses will save us hassle in the long run! 
P.P.P.S People. Care. I know you won't believe it, so I thought you needed the reminder.

Kinga took this of me in Tenerifé. It has always felt very fitting, as a visual analogy of grief.

Thank you, as always to those who continue to read here. The last two months have been... Challenging - and I have really struggled to formulate the words that normally come much more easily to me. We had our first court dates for the man who... 'is accused'... of killing Kinga. Needless to say, I legally can't speak to circumstances - but he pleaded not guilty, and we are going to have a full trial some time next year - covid has created a substantial backlog, so it may be some time. It is funny, almost... It is something we have waited so long for, and willed to come sooner - but when it is here... None of us want to live it. Not at all. None of us want to sit in that room, with the person who ended her life and hear... Excuses. There is no good outcome for this situation - the best we can hope for, is that it simply doesn't get worse.

It was also Kinga's birthday, on the 13th of August. Her second one, since she passed. She would be 28, now. I don't often share pictures of where she is buried - but I'll make an exception, this one time. As with last year, I spent the full day with her. There was a storm due that morning - but it got delayed until the afternoon... Then again to the evening - leaving it dry all day. I often associate the weather with her - perhaps I will talk about that more, sometime. I find her birthday hard - as with any occasion... But for me, it is a little lighter to continue celebrating it, even after she is gone. We had our mutually favourite wine, vegan birthday cake, and played her favourite songs... Things that we would likely have done, had she lived.

I also did do an Instagram 'Tawk' last month (link here - regrettably, you will need an Instagram account to watch it), with my good friend, and fellow WAYer Kate Banks Siegler. It is essentially an informal interview. We talked about grief, about Kinga... Just everything, really. There is so much more I could have said in hindsight - but that always seems to be the way of these things. Speaking doesn't come as naturally to me as writing ordinarily does - so I thank anyone who took the time to watch this. I'd highly recommend this series in general - as Kate does give light to a lot of different experiences amongst young, bereaved people.
Thank you all so much for your continuing support - it truly does mean the world. Also, I have to give a special shout out to those who donated to my mum's 50th birthday fundraiser for WAY - I know a few of you are reading. Over £400.00 was raised - which is truly unexpected, and staggering. I know that money will go a long way to helping others in my position to find the support they need.

'til the end of time, eh Cub? Always.

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