Warning: This post is about grief and child-loss.
It is the anniversary of my lads’ death, the scent of May blossom lingering in the air.
I lost two of my children, within five years of each other – one age16 and the other 24. They were both adopted, which doesn’t make any difference, though a well-wisher at the death of my lad, said at least it wasn’t one of my real children, meaning the four I’d given birth to.
It was a long time ago, but anniversaries have a funny way of concertinaing time, then and now pressed against each other, shoulder to shoulder.
For me, grief was like walking along the road, and everything is fine, well not fine. Everything is grey and wintery and washed out, but you try to be fine.
You are walking along and suddenly you are in the puddle of emotion, up to your neck -Vicar of Dibley-style, only not so much smiling and not nearly as funny.
The grief soaks you, standing there in your puddle. It is cold and wet. It blots out the sun and demands to be the centre of your attention. You can’t breathe. You can’t think. The taste of it is in your skin.
Somehow you drag yourself out of the puddle, shaking yourself down like a dog, only to take a few steps and fall, neck-deep into another one.
This is how it goes.
Normal life, with a sequence of puddles that threaten to overwhelm. Trying to wash the dishes, get the tea on, find some socks.
After a time, the puddles get further away, more spaced out. You can be walking along for ages, years even, without falling in a puddle.
And maybe the puddle isn’t so deep, or maybe your clothes are a little more waterproof. Instead of having to go home and curl up in bed to dry out, you can give yourself a shake and you’re good. Carry on walking with slightly damp feet.
I don’t think I handled grief well. Looking back, I wanted to protect my kids from puddles, be strong for them, hold their space safe. But all that seemed to swallow up the words. My silence on the subject of our lost kids, on our complicated familial arrangements, on these two bright and beautiful young people who were with us for a while, and then were not, was the best I could do at the time.
But the silence felt like a betrayal.
For years I dodged the puddles, scared of disappearing once I was in them. They would lurk and hide, appearing in places when I would least expect them or was least prepared.
Remembering was hard, fraught with dampness and a fear.
Time doesn’t so much heal as give you better waterproofs. Some anniversaries are easier. Some years I still get wet through.
This year I have an umbrella.
This year, nearly a lifetime later, I can tell you I lost two children, talk about how funny and clever and annoying they were. I can offer you my arm in case you fall into a puddle of your own, hold and share your sorrow.
I no longer live with the fear of drowning.