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.
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.
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.