The evenings are drawing in and summer is drawing to a close. As the days get shorter, the end-of-summer sadness descends. Autumn is nearly upon us. I know a lot of people love autumn. For me though, autumn is never welcomed. Autumn is thrust upon me no matter how much I’d love to hold it back. Autumn is a time of change and separation; a reminder that time moves on and golden days must end. Before I can accept autumn and reconcile myself to it, I must mourn the passing of summer; the end of those golden days together.
In my mind, summer is a fun-filled time of beautiful family moments. Being able to spend whole days together; getting outside with the children, having fun together. Summer is sunshiny days filled with the sound of children’s laughter. Summer is sun and sand and splashing in the paddling pool. Magical moments; a time of joy.
Autumn means change. A new school year starts. Whole days together become moments first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. As I start packing away summer clothes that my children will never wear again, I’m reminded of how relentlessly time moves on. That no matter how much I want to slow time, or go back in time, I have no choice but to be carried forward.
The shift in seasons from summer to autumn feels like a metaphor for living with grief. Mourning for golden days that are forever gone. Golden moments with my girls, listening to them laugh and play together. A time when we were together and happy, and everything felt just right. Moments where we were in our own little family bubble and that little bubble was our world. Moments when we were content and complete. Precious time together – time that no-one else had a claim to.
As summer days come to an end, guilt is lurking under the surface. That golden summer in my head – did reality really live up to it? Did we do enough together, did I make the most of that time with my children? Was that time together enough; was I enough? Or did I allow too many moments to just slip through my fingers, allowing other demands to take priority and not give enough of me?
Looking back on those golden days with Jessica, the guilt is there too. Six and a half precious years – did we make the most of that time we were given? That time when she was ours and we were hers and we felt so very blessed. Did we love her enough? Did we waste too much of that precious time with grumpy days and other distractions? And of course, the question that will always haunt us – did we do enough in those last days? Could we have saved her?
The end of summer brings sadness and guilt and a desperate desire to try and pause time. Trying to hold the happy times as hard as I can; wanting to capture them forever. Not just in photos and videos, but trying to hold on to the feelings and the reality of these moments too. Trying to hold on to this time when my children are still small; while they are still mine to love and hold and have fun with.
Another summer has passed; another year moves on; and each day they grow a little further away from me. Each day, Jessica is a little further in the past; also getting further away from me. And I realise once more how much I cling to my identity as “mummy”. How much of me is wrapped up in them; how I need them as much as they need me and perhaps, sometimes, I need them more.
Just as we are thrust into a new world of changing routines with the start of autumn; child loss thrusts me into a new world of change. Where I long for and mourn for the golden moments that are now in the past and rebel against the reality that now is. Eventually I’ll become reconciled to Autumn and open to the beauty that it brings. Is the same true for life without Jessica? I’m not sure I could ever become reconciled to it, but there are still moments of beauty and joy to be found.
Just as autumn’s joys are more muted than summer joys, our moments of joy these days are similarly muted. There’s a sense that the happiest days are behind us; that life will never be quite as bright and colourful as it was back then. But time moves on and seasons change and all we can do is move forward with it. To open ourselves to the beauty and joy that is still there to be found even though it is a different kind of joy.
Seasons change but the memories remain. Those golden moments will always be there; stored safely inside my heart.