Time and other realities
I really can’t speak for anyone else. Grief, I’ve discovered, is a very personal thing and by that, I mean that everyone grieves differently and there are as many different versions of grief as there are people who are grieving the people they lost.
There’s no right way to grieve; no correct or incorrect way to be or to feel. There’s only your own way and so I feel I’m only qualified to write about my own experience. It may turn out to be similar to yours. It may be completely different. But all of that doesn’t really matter because there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
It’s almost unbelievable to me that we just had another anniversary of Nico’s death. I can write about Nico’s life. The words just flow and writing about him still brings me joy and comfort. Remembering why we loved you so much, my darling boy, remembering all the times we had together. Sharing stories of the people who were part of the journey, the highs and the lows, the laughs and the struggles. But when I come to write about my life without you, my darling boy, my own Niccinoo, my Nicodemus, my fat boy, Mr Handsome, my baby …….that is so much harder.
For a long time, 22 August was the day that time stopped and every day after it was 22 August, or no date at all. The weather may be different, there may even be a Christmas tree in the corner, but it was always 22 August.
I realise this will sound extremely strange to anyone who hasn’t been through it, and I can promise you it’s even stranger to live. It’s taken me a while to understand why this happens and this is the best way I can explain. The world as we knew it, our family life, our whole existence, the people we were and the way we related to each other and to the world around us, our “normal”, ceased abruptly on 22 August. We were one set of people on 21 August and the following morning that just cut off. It ceased to exist. Not just for Nico, but for us too. Literally our lives, our normal, our reality – it just stopped.
Eventually we went back to work, we cleaned the house, we bought food and cooked it, we tidied the garden, and we attended social events and watched the TV. But somehow, instead of this being our “new normal” it felt instead as if we were existing in a strange parallel world – a new and very wrong reality.
It was like living in a science fiction film where everything is almost normal, but there’s one thing missing and that throws everything else askew. We looked like us, sounded like us, but somehow, we were never, ever us. We lived from day to day in this weird parallel world. Every single day I caught myself expecting to find Nico in the sitting room watching a film, or listening to music, or in the kitchen “helping” with the cooking or (and this was the strongest one of all) at the front door waiting to be let in. Some days this was so strong I would run around the house looking for him.
I began to believe that the walls of this new alternative reality were something that I could push through to find Nico waiting for me on the other side, if only I tried hard enough or somehow knew the special code. This became an obsession. Left alone in the house for hours and days on end (while Nico’s father was at work) I tried to be so quiet and still so I would make no movement or sound to disturb this new parallel world, in the hope it would give up its grip and let our real world come back. I held my breath or tried to breathe in tiny little breaths and I waited, day after day, for my Nico to come home.
He didn’t come. Instead I read and wrote long, complicated emails and letters to people who seemed to have no understanding of my anguish. People who considered our new reality as a “case”. People who talking in acronyms and legal jargon crowded into this new normal. I struggled to cope with meetings and conference calls, legal advisors and well-meaning advocacy.
And most horrible of all, little by little, this all became our new normal. Over time, as the months went by, this strange life became our new reality. I found myself caught between a past I could not recapture, no matter how much I wanted to, and a present which was harsh, strange and bewildering, In desperation I tried to squash down the sides of my mind, afraid recall his the sound of his voice, his smell, the way his arms felt around my neck and stroking my face, the sound of his laugh, that special loving look in his eyes. I knew that I could make all this come back to life in my mind, but I ran headlong from it in terror, knowing I wouldn’t be able to bear it.
But now I find I live in terror of the day that I can no longer remember every single little thing about him and so I keep his room exactly the same, a room waiting for a happy boy who will never return to it and I curse myself for being such a fool.