Saturday 3 April 2021

Kinga - Two Years in Grief

Hello everyone.

So, it has now been well over two years since Kinga was killed... It is truly difficult to comprehend that it has been so long now. So long since life was 'normal'. So long since I felt her touch. So long since I heard her voice. It has been so long, that I actually hear her accent now, when I listen to recordings of her - as if my ear is not as used to hearing her as often as it once was. Time has become a deeply surreal concept in grief - and whilst there are many physical markers to show the passing of those 843 days since she was killed - it still feels (somewhat dependent on the day) closer to either two minutes, or twenty years since I last saw her alive - and literally no distance of time in between. Some days, the almost-decade I spent with her feels like something I dreamt about - a far cry from this world that I inhabit without her. 

That is not to say that things haven't changed in that deeply distorted view of time, of course. As I talked about in my last post, I believe that bereavement is essentially a lifelong process of adaptation. As much as I often wish life would halt - to the point that it feels downright insulting that her loss isn't enough to literally stop the flow of time - life continues on, unabated. Life doesn't cease to throw up challenges and scenarios that continue to change us - even when we are entirely - perhaps viciously - unwilling to do so. And so today, much as I did after the first year, I am now here to reflect upon my second year of adulthood, in which Kinga has not been physically present.

Many people, I think, look to grief writing as a source of hope - of inspiration, perhaps. It is easy to see why - there is a natural comfort to both reading, and to writing that way. But, I can only write what is real to me - and it goes without saying... Grief is hell. I've struggled with writing this post mostly because of my own mental health dipping considerably - really since around the time of my last post. I would love to consistently say that 'it gets better' - or some similar sounding platitude... But I can't really say that - for me, anyway. The good days, and the bad - neither of them have set dates, or adhere to any kind of logic or reasoning - they just happen - although  am better equipped to deal with those bad days than I at one time was. I have changed in response to Kinga's death - both positively and negatively - but fundamentally - she is always going to be gone - and the life that was laid out before us is gone with it. I doubt there will ever be a day when I don't actively mourn that.

If you are reading this, and are in some variation of my own situation - I feel it is important, before continuing further, to say that my journey is not your journey - and I am not you. My loss is not your loss. It may be very similar - but the way we adapt to that loss is dependent on a whole host of factors - probably the most prevalent simply being who we are as people. This blog is always about Kinga - but she did begin to talk about some of the mental health struggles she had here - and I don't like to muddy that with talking about myself - outside of the grief that emanates from the love that we shared, anyway. But, mental health is something I've always struggled with, independently of grief - even when she was alive (I was a wreck before we met - simply put). My personal instincts usually drive me toward introversion and isolation - and I think that is deeply damaging in my situation. I actively fought against this from the start - but it is all too easy to default into what you know well, sometimes.

Year one was, for me, characterised by movement. I was constantly moving, occupying myself - I would not allow myself to sit for too long, as reality was just literally too painful - because felt over. I couldn't stay inside for long periods, without feeling like the walls were closing in. I couldn't sleep in our bed. Sitting still for too long led to inevitable self-destructive behaviour. There was intensity in every action, almost - an innate feeling of instability - perhaps brought on by the sudden nature of Kinga's death. I went through periods of drinking, self-harm - and honestly, worse - pretty much anything to escape reality. I did establish my own, more positive and productive methods of coping after a few months, however. I made a rule, whereby I had to go out every single day; I sought comfort in talking to people, and established a support network. I made friends - especially through WAY, and reconnected with some old ones. I kept busy, and sought safety in the moment as much as I could.  

Year two, by comparison, was characterised by a quiet stillness - the complete opposite of that first year. This began before the pandemic - it really started around the first year mark - where a withdrawal started to set in, somewhat (tied to the date, more than anything I believe - the year mark was hard). The pandemic hastened this change, of course - and I, as with everyone, had to adapt to survive. This time, very few of the coping methods I had pushed myself so hard to establish in year one  - against my own inherent,  instinctive judgement - were open to me. I couldn't run from my grief - from the indescribable, but ever present feeling of Kinga's absence - I was forced to sit with it. I had fought against isolating myself - but now, isolation was pretty much mandatory. 

One thing that certainly did change in year two, was the absence of shock - or at least, the distinct lessening of it. In the first year, reality seemed so utterly implausible that I could just... Forget she was dead, sometimes - just for a gut wrenching moment. You could be doing something as mundane as shopping, and see something you think she might want - and just for that split second... You can forget that the most devastating, traumatic event of your entire life even happened, and then immediately relive it. That happened much less in year two - as the initial fog lifted, and revealed the full, devastating scale left behind by her loss. The feeling was less intense, and became more of a bleakness. I think intense grief gave way to a more passive depression, if I were to describe it - but it is difficult to distinguish how much of that is purely grief related, and how much is related to the global pandemic.  

I am at that point in time where I want to try and plan for the future, now - especially as the feeling of limbo created by court situation is starting to reach it's climax. As I have talked about before, my actions, and my voice - they are a big part of her legacy - and I try to use them to do her justice, and make her proud. I feel like any measure of success I have, is a testament to her impact on my life - to her as a person. But... It is hard. It is so hard. There are days, when a future without her feels completely incompatible with my own continued existence - and I retreat back into the moment. Some days, I see a future - and others... I can't. Perhaps when the feeling of stasis - created by both by the never-ending court process, and the pandemic - is in the rear view mirror, a more positive future will feel more possible.

I often think back to what Kinga and I would be doing now, were she alive - perhaps as some form of escapism, or perhaps self-sabotage. In reality, I've no clue what we'd have been doing. The existence of that reality was denied so long ago now - and one thing losing her has taught me, is that life is wholly unpredictable. But I do imagine that the pandemic would have given us time together - something that, due to our respective jobs, was always in somewhat short supply. A lot of people my age are coming out of lockdown with babies - starting, or adding to their respective families - whilst I am forced to sit in what feels like the ruins of my life. Were she here, I think we might well have been one of those couples - we had planned to have children around about now, had life gone to plan. I know a future can exist - where the ripples of her life continue to echo through those whose lives she touched - but what should have been... It stings.

This post may read to some of you as dark and negative - and that is never the intent - I probably say that too much, now  think about it. I can only write what is real to me, and be completely honest. Some things have really improved. In the first year... Memories were always painful, or bittersweet - they'd induce intense and emotive outbursts. Now... They make me smile, usually with no repercussion. I recognise *so much more* how lucky I was, to have found Kinga - and to have spent the defining years of my life with her. I am more appreciative of those people I do have - and care ever so little about the more petty problems of day to day life. Add to that that my head works much better now - the effects of 'widow brain' (look it up -it's a thing) have lessened far more. 

My grief is not a negative. It is simply as real, and as intense as the love I shared with her was. Grief is simply love, by another name - and now, over two years on from losing her... I feel downright privileged to have experienced, and to experience that love - even in her absence. 

We are all on our own timelines, living at our own pace, seeing through our own lense, and being moulded by our experiences. And as I continue to have new experiences - I find comfort in knowing that she will forever be a defining part of who I am, and who I may become. 

Thank you to all who continue to read here - and continue to remember, think about, and talk about Kinga. There are no words for what that truly means. I am also uncertain if the locals of Wick St Lawrence are even aware of this blog - but I owe them a special thank you as well - for continuing to - alongside Kinga's work colleagues I believe - to maintain Kinga's roadside memorial. Every time I have been down there in this past year (which has been challenging with the constant changing restrictions) it has been kept in pristine condition - by essentially strangers. I often feel like that place represents some of the absolute worst of humanity - but also, with acts like this, some of the best.

After the first year post, I talked about how the man who killed Kinga could - as anyone who is in his situation could - continue to drive, afterward. I still, even now, cannot talk about this properly, until the conclusion of the trial in June - but I want to reiterate my commitment to attempting to see this law be changed. It feels like an insurmountable wall to climb, in some regard - but it is a discussion that needs to be had. I feel like if most people were aware of this law - they would be outraged, quite frankly.

I guess, much like the last two years, it is a marathon - seldom a sprint. Here's to the continuation of Kinga's legacy, through 2021 and beyond.

'til the end of time, Cub.

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