“How are you?” Such a natural question and so difficult to answer at times. I have my standard responses now. I’m ok. Surviving. Up and down. Taking it moment by moment. Getting through as best I can. Sometimes, all I can do in response to the question is just shrug.
How am I?
Well, chances are if I’m making social contact then it’s one of my slightly stronger moments. I’ve taken a deep breath and managed to face the world. In this moment, I’m coping. I might even be feeling fairly “normal”. Able to smile, to laugh, to carry on with the everyday.
How I am can change so quickly.
Right this moment, I might be ok. Showing a brave face. Able to find something to be grateful for.
But there are so many other moments when it is so very different.
The moments in the middle of the night when I relive that last day; those last moments with Jessica. Moments when I am bombarded with questions – the what ifs, the whys? Asking myself if I failed her. I hear her voice once more: “Mummy, can you snuggle me?”, “Daddy, my back! My back!” I see myself sitting on the bed, feel the fear rising – that moment just before she collapsed when I suddenly knew that something was very, very wrong. I go through the previous hours in my mind, wonder once again if I could have done more. Knowing that the questions are futile, that asking them cannot change what happened.
There are mornings when I wake up feeling angry with everything. When everything winds me up. When it all feels so very unfair and I shout and rant and ask “why?” and hear no answer.
Moments when the words “strong” and “inspirational” make me want to scream. I’m neither of those things. I’m broken and overwhelmed. So broken that I wonder sometimes if the pieces can ever be put back together. I don’t cope with this because I have some amazing superhuman strength. I cope because I have no other choice.
I find moments of gratitude here and there because it often helps me to do so. There are times when I don’t feel grateful for anything at all. Sometimes that gratitude post that you see on Instagram – that moment when I try to find a positive – has been posted through tears and gritted teeth. I might not always feel the gratitude that I express, but it still helps a little to look for it.
There are moments when I am acutely aware of the passing of time. I wonder how I have managed to endure so many days without Jessica. I look ahead and see my life stretching out before me – all the days that I have yet to live. Each day another day without Jessica in it. Sometimes I cannot bear the thought of all those days that lie ahead. Moments when I don’t want to keep living this life without Jessica in it. And yet live it, I must. For Sophie’s sake if nothing else.
There are times when I just want to shut myself away from the rest of the world. Moments when I just don’t have the strength to interact. It might be good to talk, but I don’t have the energy to deal with the responses, no matter how sympathetic and well-meaning they may be. There are no right words sometimes.
There are many moments where the longing for Jessica is overwhelming. When I look at the photos and wish I could pull her out of them and experience that moment once more. I hate the fact that all we have are the memories. I would give anything to snuggle her on the sofa again, to feel her physical presence close once more. Knowing that I will never again have those moments utterly breaks my heart.
The rare moments when I dream of Jessica are the closest I can come to experiencing her physical presence once again. In those few moments when I first awake from dreaming about her, I hold the memory of the dream as close as I can. Savouring the feeling of having her come so close, wanting to remember every little detail. Finding comfort in the feeling that she hasn’t really left me after all.
There are times when I look for little signs that she is still with me. A dragonfly lingering on Sophie’s hat, a tiny moth landing on my nose. Sometimes it feels like a sign. Most of the time, it’s just nature carrying on as normal. It’s not really Jessica telling me that she’s still here – it’s just wishful thinking.
There are moments when I am filled with envy. When I scroll through social media and all I can see are happy, complete families. People taking the everyday moments for granted. Able to enjoy the little moments as they should. Moments when I look through my window and see parents on the school run and I wonder if they know how lucky they are. The little moments of parenting that we all take for granted. That I still take for granted at times with Sophie.
Sometimes I have moments of disbelief. When I look at photos and videos and ask “how can you not be here?” How can someone so full of life suddenly be gone? When I look at her empty bed and it doesn’t quite feel possible that I will never see her sleeping in it again.
Sometimes it feels as if the realness of our life with Jessica is slipping away from me. Moments when I try desperately to recall what our life with her felt like. When I look at Sophie, searching for the things that remind me of Jessica. Half-closing my eyes in an attempt to see Jessica there. Moments when I am terrified that I am forgetting. When life with Jessica feels so long ago, feels like a dream.
There are the moments which catch me by surprise. When a memory suddenly hits without warning, when grief suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelms me.
And then, there are the moments when life carries on. When the ache of missing Jessica is just something that is part of who I am now. When I accept that this is our life and we just have to keep going as best we can. Moments when I can function as normal and the stormy sea of grief becomes calm and clear.
I know that it’s okay to feel happy. That life has to carry on. That Sophie deserves a happy childhood too, that we should be able to laugh and smile and enjoy life without feeling guilty for doing so. No matter how wrong it feels at times that life can carry on without Jessica.
The moments when the pain of losing Jessica hits me are as raw as they ever were. There are times when I actively seek that pain. Moments when the stormy sea of grief is a reminder of my love for Jessica; of the fact that she was real, that her life mattered. That she was, and is, so incredibly precious to me.
How am I?
A shrug. I’m ok. Surviving. Up and down. Taking it moment by moment. Getting through as best I can.