Grief and life after Jessica: after the funeral

Organising a funeral is similar to organising a wedding – only without being fun. There are flowers to organise, halls to book, catering to organise, service sheets to put together. On the day, there are so many people to try and talk to, so much to focus on and it passed by quickly in a big blur of emotion and saying farewell to our beautiful girl.

 

Organising the celebration of Jessica’s life gave us a focus over the last few weeks. It was something that we could do for Jessica; a way of showing our love for her, showing how special she was. We spent hours on it – picking our favourite photos for the slide show, looking over video clips, choosing music that had significance or the right words to convey what we wanted to say.

 

The flower arrangement at Jessica's funeral - "Grief and life after Jessica: after the funeral"

 

In the couple of days before the funeral, we had the opportunity to be with Jessica once more – to sit with her, to hold her hand, stroke her hair, give her kisses, tuck her in with her Kerry, read her stories and tell her over and over again how much we love her. Walking away for the last time was incredibly hard. Knowing that we would never be able to look upon Jessica’s face again or hold her hand was utterly heartbreaking even though we knew that all the things that had made her Jessica had already gone.

 

I think the adrenaline rush and exhaustion from the day of her funeral carried us through that evening. The pain hit hard the next morning. Looking through Timehop and seeing a picture of Jessica in her ballet costume, remembering how excited she was to be trying it on in the run-up to the ballet show. Then at that moment, hearing “Marry Me” by Bruno Mars on the radio – the song that she had danced to in that ballet show, wearing that costume. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard. I just wanted to go back in time, to be able to be back in that moment again, standing in that kitchen seeing Jessica’s beaming smile. I couldn’t face taking Sophie to her ballet class. I just wanted to hide away at home.

 

This week feels like Jessica has just died all over again. The pain is so raw, so overwhelming at times. In between the pain, we feel completely empty, no knowing what to do with ourselves. Carrying out even the smallest daily functions is like wading through treacle. We’re trying to parent Sophie as best we can but there are times when we feel like we don’t know how. Trying to give her the love and support she needs when we barely have the emotional energy to do so. We’ve created a safe space for her in Jessica’s bedroom so she has somewhere to go when she needs time by herself. So far it seems to be helping her.

 

Sophie in the safe space of her princess tent

 

There are moments of calmness in amongst all the emotion. Moments when I feel able to do things; moments when I feel I’m coping. Grief is like a rollercoaster though and the twists and turns can be unexpected and overwhelming. There have been moments when I just want to get in my car and drive away – just keep driving and driving and driving in an attempt to get away from this life that I find myself living. Knowing that driving away wouldn’t help at all – I’d still be living this awful life without Jessica only instead of being home, I’d be a hundred miles away and then I’d have to get in the car and drive back again and face it again.

 

Grief is exhausting and yet robs me of sleep too. Each night, the exhaustion takes over. Falling asleep isn’t usually a problem. It’s when I wake in the night and memories go round and round in my head, making it hard to go back to sleep. I am either exhausted and asleep or wide awake with thoughts going around my head.

 

Now that the funeral is over, we are faced with the reality of everyday life without Jessica. Trying to learn to live in this new normal and rebelling desperately against having to do so. We have beautiful memories, but we don’t want memories – we just want Jessica. We want to be able to go back in time, to have Jessica with us again, to be a normal happy family once more. And the knowledge that we can never do so is heart-breaking and overwhelming.

 

There are moments of sunshine in amongst the storm. Times when we laugh and smile over things; moments when we feel we can keep going. The moments of happiness are always underscored with a tinge of pain – wishing that Jessica could be here to share them – but they can still bring smiles. I’m still able to find something to be thankful for each day even though sometimes it feels like I really have to look hard for it. I’m especially thankful for my hubby. Knowing that we are there for each other, that we don’t have to walk this journey alone, that each of us understands and accepts the thoughts and emotions that come along the way does help. We give each other strength, we hold each other close when it all becomes too much and we will learn to navigate this new life and help Sophie through it together.

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12 Comments

  1. May 23, 2018 / 7:55 am

    Oh Louis – there are no words.

    Sending love & hugs xxxx

  2. Laura: Adventures with J
    May 23, 2018 / 8:25 am

    You are so good at putting words to emotions that many can’t even process let alone verbalise and I hope that this will help you in the long run. You sound like you are doing a brilliant job at helping Sophie but remember it isn’t just up to the 2 of you. Try to take up the offers for help and support for as long as they are there no matter how small they seem as it is better to have that support than for it to fade because people think you don’t want it. When you are drowning let others offer you a life ring. It may only keep you bobbing for a little while but gradually you will find those moments of bobbing up and down rather than slipping under the waves last a bit longer and then a little longer again. It is never about forgetting or moving on but about finding a new path despite the pain. I am sorry that I am not as good as writing about it as you are but I hope you get the gist. Xxxxx

  3. May 23, 2018 / 10:05 am

    Sounds like Sophie’s doing really well, the idea of a safe space in Jessica’s room sounds perfect for any time she needs there. Hope you’re both able to find some peace as time goes on, and remember the memories without so much of the pain.

  4. May 23, 2018 / 10:08 am

    Louise,

    Much love to you all. ((( )))

  5. May 23, 2018 / 10:56 am

    I have no words….I just want to let you know I am thinking of you and your family xxx

  6. May 23, 2018 / 11:27 am

    I’m so sorry Lou. I have no words only love to send xxx

  7. May 23, 2018 / 12:12 pm

    You are so eloquent Louise. The safe space for sophie sounds wonderful. Sending you so much love as you continue to navigate the rollercoaster that is carrying you through these awful days and nights. Xxxxxxx

  8. May 23, 2018 / 12:34 pm

    Thinking of you and your lovely family…. Sending love and prayers. xxx

  9. May 23, 2018 / 2:13 pm

    What a brave and touching blog post to write that I’m sure will be a source of comfort to others. There are no words at this time and although it’s my first time reading this blog, my thoughts are with you and your family

    Kay xx

  10. May 24, 2018 / 8:04 am

    Beautifully written as ever, but absolutely heartbreaking. I hate that you all have to go through this. It must have been awful hearing the Bruno Mars song just after seeing the photo of Jessica in her ballet outfit. I know just how much hearing songs from my daughter’s pantos affect me and she is still with us to enjoy them.
    It sounds like Sophie’s safe space is working well for her. X

  11. June 13, 2018 / 7:54 pm

    I remember my daughters funeral 7 years ago. What I don’t remember is organising it. My head was elsewhere and I just sort of went along with all the suggestions etc. I also managed to get through the funeral without much emotion but the next morning & weeks/months that followed were the worst, it was like an empty void, not going out if I could avoid it, wanting to talk but having no one I felt I could talk to. Hating other mothers with babies etc. It was an awful place to be in. 7 years on and I’m still not fully through the grief tho it does get easier xx

    • Louise
      Author
      June 19, 2018 / 5:30 am

      Those days afterwards were so hard. Being able to talk about our children isn’t always easy either. I talk a lot about Jessica but it can be hard at times to express the emptiness and longing that I feel for her. I can imagine how hard those days must have been for you. I guess that grief is something that we learn to live with though rather than something that we are able to get through xx

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