The other day, I was having a little bit of a battle with Sophie over her home learning. Just one of those ordinary everyday moments of family life. Not something that I would have expected to have been a big grief trigger. But then I remembered doing home schooling with Jessica after her surgery and having the odd battle with her as one or other of us would get frustrated about something. I remembered the moment, but I couldn’t hear Jessica’s voice in my mind, couldn’t recall how she’d sounded when she got cross with me.
That’s the worst thing about the passing of time, the way that memories that were once sharp become blurred around the edges or fade away completely and there is often no way to bring those memories back again. There are the odd moments captured on video, but the bulk of everyday life was just lived. Little ordinary, everyday things forgotten: how Jessica sounded when she cried, how it felt to hold her little hand in mine, her favourite thing to have for dinner.
They’re memories that have faded with all my children – I can’t remember exactly how it felt to hold a newborn Thomas for instance, or the sound of Sophie’s cry as a toddler, but those memories are constantly being replaced by new ones.
With Jessica, the memories are all we have.
I can’t ask her what her favourite dinner is or was. I can’t make new memories with her to fill the holes left by those that are disappearing. And while I can write things down as they occur to me, I cannot bring back just how that moment felt. Her scent on the clothes in her memory box has faded away, the little everyday signs of Jessica around the house feel detached from the rest of our family life – little parts of a shrine to the life that we once had, not the life we have now.
As time moves on, the ‘realness’ of Jessica becomes increasingly blurry. Our life with her moves further away into the past as her siblings grow and overtake her milestones. This is why time doesn’t heal when it comes to child loss. Grief doesn’t really lessen, it just changes. There are different triggers, different ways in which grief catches us off-guard.
There are moments, of course, when something triggers a memory and I can recall it in sharp detail. But they are few and far between, and all too often are the memories that are most painful to recall – the ones around her death. Oh yes, I have no problem recalling the sounds and the smells and the sights of the most awful moments. But the beautiful everyday memories of life with my beautiful brave girl – those ones slip through my fingers and leave me desperately trying to find the reality of those moments once more.
The memories are all we have. And slowly, but surely, they are fading.
It hurts so much that I cannot hear Jessica’s voice in my head as clearly as I once did. That the picture of her in my mind is not quite as sharp as it once was.
That longing to bottle the moments is one that most parents can relate to. If only we could bottle the moments and store them up to be able to return to whenever we would like. But we can’t – we can take photos and videos and store some kind of digital version of moments, but never quite capture them for real. I’m grateful for all the many photos and the videos that help remind me of the moments that once were. I often wish I could step right into them and be back in those moments again. But I can’t. All I can do is move forward and do my best to hold on to as many memories as I can, trying to trigger the ones that have faded through the photos and videos I have.
It’s not enough. It never will be enough. But it’s all I have and I’ll hold on to it as best I can.