I’m Still Learning How To Live Without You
It is the anniversary of Billy’s death next week and just like that, one whole year has gone by since my beautiful little boy passed away. It is safe to say this has been the worst year of my whole life and I hope there are brighter moments on the horizon. There simply has to be right? We could never repeat such a terrible, tragedy filled year.
I feel like I have just lost a whole year of my life, gone in a puff of smoke, whilst I was forced to come to terms with the tragic deck of cards we’d been dealt that saw us go from a normal couple excitedly preparing for the arrival of our firstborn child, to a couple whose lives could never be the same again. A couple that were catapulted into the dark territories of the unknown world of bereaved parents, grieving the death of their son.
I think I speak for all bereaved parents, however they lost a child, when I say ‘What the actual f*ck?’. None of us expect this, the death of a child is something that happens to other people, something you read about happening to acquaintances and you genuinely feel sad for them and think how tragic that must be, all the while realising that it is something you could never understand or imagine how anyone get’s through something like this.
Until you are that person. Suddenly your happy, normal life becomes a terrain of misery, darkness and bleakness as you navigate the unknown, feeling despair and desperation that you never ever thought possible. How did this happen to you? How did your child die? Why? It is so unfair and the shock literally knocks you sick for a long time to come.
The early days are understandably the hardest, I look back on those first three months and I don’t know how we survived. But somehow we did. Life at that point felt so impossible, full of heavy meltdowns with desperate, hysterical tears. They come unpredictably, sometimes seemingly from nowhere, but of course, they come from that shattered heart you now carry around with you, a heart that will always be broken but will hold a very special place for your lost child.
I did a lot of soul searching in those early days, I didn’t believe we could get through this. I didn’t think there would be any happiness for us now, I didn’t think life would ever feel good again. We went for a lot of long walks and scenic drives during this period, to simply get us out of the house to try and pause the dark depths of grief, even for just an hour. Billy consumed every single thought I had for those early months, I have never felt more alone and isolated than I did then, even though I was surrounded by so much love and support from friends and family. But I was a bereaved mother and none of them were, no one could really understand how this was.
I forged connections and made friends with other bereaved mothers, some of whom I know will be life-long friends. We have a shared connection, the worst possible connection two human beings could ever share. A connection we wish so desperately we didn’t share, but we do and we will always know the pain of saying goodbye to your child before you ever really got to know them. Not many people can ever understand what this is like, for that they should be grateful.
I was told early on that the pain never goes away that it is something you learn to live with. Almost a year on since my son died, I now know this to be true. The shock may fade, the rawness begins to evaporate but the hurt and longing to have your baby back, that is here to stay and that is truly something that you are forced to learn to live with.
Grief is unpredictable and messy, particularly in the early days. I have lost count of the number of very public meltdowns, the tears that came from nowhere, strolling down my cheeks as I ate lunch in a pub. Thank goodness for sunglasses. They hide the sadness in your eyes but also protect your tear stained, swollen eyes from the public. Grief evolves over time, and I guess it does become easier as you learn to live with it.
Billy is still the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. I see his beautiful little face every time I close my eyes. But now I can think of him fondly and not always in the heartbroken way it used to be. I guess that is the thing with time, it doesn’t heal, whoever said that was talking nonsense and had certainly never lost a child, but it does allow you to reflect and process the circumstances you have unprecedently found yourself in.
I miss Billy so much, I wish so desperately that he was here and I was planning his first birthday party and not planning how to survive the anniversary of his death. I believe we all handle this milestone very differently. There is no handbook or checklist for grieving parents and you should do whatever your heart tells you to! If that is a huge party filled with cake, cards and balloons, go for it!! I think it is lovely to see this, but for us personally it feels too hard to have a party and cards for my baby who isn’t here to enjoy them. We are taking ourselves off into the countryside for a few days and are going to reflect quietly on the last year and think about our beautiful boy.
We have come a long way in the last year, in many ways we are stronger than ever before. We are learning to accept that our son died and trying to find happiness in our lives as we try to move forwards. Moving forwards but never on. This changes you and I have accepted that I am no longer the same person I was a year ago. I am positive and hopeful of a happy ending for us, whatever form that may take. I know I will ensure Billy is never forgotten and will always be an important part of our family, forever. He will always be spoken about and always be included in our family, for as long as I have breath in my body!
I miss him every day and I still feel a lot of anger and overbearing sadness that he isn’t here, but I am learning how to piece myself back together and keep going. For him. Grief changes and evolves over time, there is some light at the end of the tunnel and the intensity of those early days, filled with a thick fog of sheer desperation does begin to fade.
You keep going because you have to. You drum up all of that inner strength that you didn’t even know existed. You try to forge happiness in other areas. You will still laugh, you will still smile, you can still be happy. You are still in there! Your life may have changed and you have dealt with more than most people will in a lifetime, but you can still enjoy life and have a lot of things to be grateful for. A positive mindset will keep you strong, it is fine to still have a lot of bad days, even a year down the line. If I have learned one thing form all of this, it would be that we are incredibly strong and have resilience we aren’t aware of until we need to draw upon it.
I believe that the good days give us strength to get through the bad days and that without the lows, we wouldn’t have any highs. It is all a cycle and all a part of processing life without our child as we learn to live a life we could never have prepared for.
My little Stardust will never be forgotten, not after one year since his death, nor after twenty years since his death.
I’m thinking of all of the parents who are coming up to that all important first milestone, I know there are a lot of us, many of whom I connected with at the very start. We will get through the first anniversary, just like we got through this last year.