It’s probably the question I’ve been asked most but find the hardest to answer. So why not blog about it, I hear you (probably not) ask.
I don’t mind at all being asked how I’m doing, I’m always grateful for people enquiring, but my response is initially the same most of the time: “I don’t know.”
That’s because I genuinely don’t. One minute I’m dealing with things quite well and the next I’m a blubbering wreck because something has pushed the ‘grief button’ and set all the emotions rolling.
I try and be reasonably composed when I have company. I don’t like the thought of disintegrating into an emotional mess around other people, just because others might rightly be unsure how to react and indeed it might upset them too. I know it’s an expected scenario and nobody would begrudge me being upset, but I try and keep the more serious ‘wobbles’ to when I’m alone.
Those tend to be numerous. I might go a day without one and then the next day I have several. Following on from the incredibly difficult job of sorting through Nicola’s belongings, in the last couple of days I’ve been looking at a lot of pictures and videos that have Nicola in them from throughout the last 11 years, sometimes doing it with Grace. Needless to say, it’s sent the mercury rising to the top on the ‘griefometer’.
Pictures and videos are so important and I’m realising that now more than ever. Thankfully I’ve always been one to whip the camera out given half the chance and I have thousands that feature Nicola. Whilst they’re of course hard to look at right now, I’m so glad they exist because not only do they remind me of the good times, they’re also great for our little girl to see not just now, but perhaps most importantly as she grows up and tries to form an accurate image of her mummy that I don’t think she can fully achieve through just being told about her.
Videos are perhaps that bit more poignant because I can hear Nicola’s voice and her laugh and see her beaming personality shining through. For a few seconds, if I shut my eyes, I can almost imagine she’s in the room with me which can be a combination of a comfort and then a heartbreaker when the video stops and I’m brought back to the reality that she’s gone and that I can’t enjoy those moments with her again. Without fail that’s bringing the tears on at the moment but I hope it’ll improve.
When it comes to the grieving process as a whole, I’ve tried not to be too quick to go down the ‘woe is me’ and ‘it’s so unfair’ line because the fact remains that this is life, these things (and worse) happen to an awful lot of people and, above all, because I have SO much to be thankful for from the times I had with Nicola.
Yes, the fact I’ve been denied more great times with her hurts, a lot, but as I said in the eulogy I delivered at her funeral, the fabulous memories we created will go a little way to easing the pain of her not being alongside me as we grow old.
Having said all of that, there is an inevitability that one does sit and feel extremely hard done by because that’s a natural human instinct. We’re good people, with great families and friends and a beautiful young daughter, and yet life dealt us this horrid situation that we had virtually no control over and it’s ripped us apart in more ways than one, although I’m keen to emphasise that I mean that in a mental and emotional sense because it’s probably brought us all much closer together as individuals.
So, in the last couple of days I’ve perhaps gone down the ‘it’s not fair’ route a little more than usual because the memories generated from looking back at photos and videos have, in slightly simple terms, made me feel like a baby that has its favourite toy cruelly snatched away, and has probably generated a similar reaction!
Overall, the days seem to be passing by in a bit of a blur. I’ve started phasing back into work, but even though I work from home the whole process hasn’t been as ‘straightforward’ as I thought it might have been. I’m incredibly lucky to have a very supportive team around me, but motivation is difficult and I sometimes feel guilty that, just six weeks on, I’m sitting there doing something so ‘normal’ in the sense that it’s something I did routinely before Nicola died.
After all, how can anyone be expected to slip back into any kind of normality or routine so soon after the love of your life has passed away?
That’s a natural reaction, I think, and people have told me not to feel guilty about feeling guilty, but it’s prominent at the moment. It can’t be something I dwell on too much, and certainly can’t hold me back from at least trying to get back into what will be a very new sense of normality. The alternative is that the whole thing causes me to stagnate and Nicola would be the first in line to launch me if I let that happen, not least for Grace’s sake.
Speaking of Grace, she’s been so important to all of Nicola’s close family since Nicola died. Being the bright, intelligent and entertaining three-year-old that she is, she’s been a great distraction and lifts us all psychologically, the importance of which is easy to underestimate. Quite literally a ‘saving grace’, if you will.
My toughest times are when I’m at home on my own or when Grace is in bed, such is the positive distraction she proves to be when I’m in her company. I take her out for dinner, on excursions (we’ve been to the zoo today), to the shops – you name it, we tend to do it. That’s how I always want it to be, and whilst it will never be the same doing those things without Nicola, if I keep letting that factor be a barrier we’d end up doing nothing. Again, Nicola would not be happy!
To coin an oft-used cliché, ‘time is a healer’, and I know that things on all levels will get better. I’ll always love and miss Nicola terribly, that will never change, and I’ll always feel incredibly hard done by that she’s gone, but I owe it to myself, Grace, Nicola’s family and perhaps most importantly to Nicola herself to not let this whole situation consume me to the point where it’s any more detrimental to our lives than it naturally will be.
I’m always comforted by Nicola’s strong belief that she ‘won at life’, that she was happy with her lot and that despite the way and manner in which it’s all ended so prematurely, she’d live her whole life over and over again if she could. Whilst I’m fortunate enough to be able to feel the same way about my own life, and that’s despite the pain I’m now going through in this particular part of it, I’m now keen to make sure I can progress in a way that before too long, when I’m asked the question at the top of this post, I can forever say: “I’m really good, thank you.”