I once described life on PICU as being a rollercoaster of emotions and it was. It was a bumpy ride next to the rollercoaster we have been riding this week. Emotions that change from minute to minute, that come thick and fast, alarming in their suddenness and intensity. They leave me exhausted and drained. Sometimes I embrace them; sometimes I just want to be able to get off this rollercoaster and escape from the reality that is life after losing Jessica.
In those first few minutes came guilt. Guilt for not staying in hospital longer; for not being able to save her. It was swiftly followed by numbness. This didn’t feel real. I stroked Jessica’s hair, talked to her, told her how wonderful she was, how thankful I was for the time we had with her. Half-expecting her to open her eyes and look at me; knowing deep down that she never would again and yet not really being able to believe that to be true. I wondered why I didn’t feel more; felt guilty for not feeling enough but at the same time didn’t want the bubble of numbness to end and the pain to hit me. It wasn’t until we left the hospital – one of us holding Sophie’s hand; the other holding a memory box with Jessica’s hand and foot prints and a lock of her hair – that the edges of the numbness started to wear off and the first tears came.
I’d had 30 minutes of sleep the night before. I didn’t want to sleep though. Sleeping would mean I’d have to wake in this new world we’d found ourselves in. A world that we’d never wanted to be in and one we’d never be able to leave. Exhaustion finally forced me to give in to sleep late that night. I woke up at 2.46am – the time that Jessica died.
Most of the time at the moment, it doesn’t feel quite real. I go through the day, not really knowing what to do with myself. I’m thankful that my mum has been here with us to help with Sophie. There are times when I just feel like I switch off from everything – lost in the middle of a swirling storm with no sense of direction.
The pain hits me suddenly. It is often the smallest of things that triggers it. Yesterday lunchtime, it was the sight of a clay pot that Jessica had made at school and two small indents in it where her fingers had once moulded the clay. The sorrow is all-consuming and utterly unbearable. I have experienced the pain of loss before but not to this extent.
Sometimes I actively seek things that I know will be painful. Watching the children go back to school for the first day of term. Sometimes I need that pain. The numbness makes me feel guilty that I don’t feel enough; the pain reminds me that all those feelings are very much there – my love for Jessica and my heartbreak at losing her.
There are moments when the anger and unfairness of it all hits me. I am angry at the spring. I have longed for spring to finally arrive; hoping that it would help Jessica to get better again. It seemed so cruel that the warm sunny weather finally arrived just at the point that she was no longer here to enjoy it.
I am sad for Sophie; for the little playmate and the sibling bond that she has lost. She will always be our middle child and yet will never be a middle child. She has gone from little sister to effectively being an only, and then will become a big sister to Peanut. The sibling bond she will share with Peanut will be a very different one. A five-year gap instead of a two-year one. They won’t be playmates together in the same way that she and Jessica were playmates. I used to love watching them together; love the way they were so equal in play; love listening to the way they would chatter away to each other. Now she has only us to play with her.
I was never very good at arranging playdates with other children. Jessica and Sophie had each other and loved each other’s company so much that there never felt the need to make the effort to invite friends around regularly. I will need to start doing so – to make sure that Sophie has other children to play with.
I don’t think Sophie really understood in those first couple of days. She knew that Mummy and Daddy were sad and missing Jessica but I think she thought that Jessica was poorly and in hospital. The reality hit her though when we were visiting the woodland burial ground which is likely to be the location of Jessica’s forever bed. She was so distraught when she realised that Jessica wouldn’t wake up again “not any day”. I am thankful though that she is little. The realisation hits her briefly and then she is back to normal again – a slightly clingier, more subdued-at-times normal, but her smile and laugh are as bright as always. She has been a little ray of sunshine.
I am thankful for all the messages of love and support that we have received; the flowers, the cards, the small gifts that let us know that we are in the thoughts of so many. Often the beautiful words we read make us cry and yet it is a comfort to know that we are surrounded by love and prayers and that Jessica touched the hearts of so many people in her life on this earth. We have received so many that it has been impossible to thank everyone individually but we are so thankful for them.
We are also thankful for all the many acts of kindness shown to us – the food shop that arrived unexpectedly the day after Jessica’s passing; the JustGiving page set up by a blogging friend; the toys for Sophie and all the wordless hugs.
We need to start making the practical arrangements over the next few days. This has been the hardest thing to do so far. I do not even know where to begin at times. I am often angry that I have to do them when I don’t want to do them. Other times, they give me something to focus on.
Our faith continues to help us through this most difficult part of our journey as a heart family. I do believe that God is with us; that His love surrounds us and that Jessica is with Him watching down on us. That she hasn’t really left us – she is just somewhere beyond our reach – and that one day we will be with her once again.
For now, we are taking things moment by moment and holding each other close. We have talked so much over the past few days, relived so many beautiful memories of our time with Jessica. The fun moments, the little “Jessica-isms” that have become part of our everyday vocabulary, the memories that can never be taken away from us.
I am thankful for this blog. Writing has always helped me process my emotions and it gives me this space to continue to do so. It has also captured so many memories of the last few years – moments that I may not have captured otherwise. I have yet to share the memories of our last family holiday together and the days out we enjoyed. I will be sharing them on the blog over the coming weeks; capturing them as I would have done had Jessica still been with us.