‘Delayed grief reaction’, they call it.
It is not as if I have only just realised Hugo has died.
Or as if I am only just starting to grieve for him.
Far from it.
It is that now I am really starting to feel the grief. Feel that this loss happened to me. To try and deal with the grief.
The six weeks leading up to Hugo’s death were terrifying. A serious illness for me; so many tests, wires, doctors, midwives; two hospitals and an ambulance journey; a stay in intensive care for me; two weeks in hospital in total. My precious baby in neonatal intensive care, crushing emotional torture. Hopes raised, hopes dashed. Going home without him.
Last year, my brain tried to protect me from the worst of this trauma, this pain. You see, the brain is a clever organ. There are huge gaps in my memory: some due to medication, some from trauma. In an act of self-preservation my brain thought it best that I did not have to deal with these memories while also trying to process the loss of Hugo.
Some memories slip through, though, many as flashbacks. They are terrifying.
On top of that, I was angry (I still am, to be honest). Hugely angry. Angry with the world. Angry that my pregnancy nearly killed me, and that illness killed my precious baby. Angry that an illness that is so rare most people (including me) have never heard of it happened to me. To my family.
Feeling guilty. That it was my fault. That I had failed Hugo, my other half.
Burying myself in my writing, in creating Hugo’s Legacy was a way of channelling that anger and that guilt into creative energy. Diverting my energy away from dealing with my grief.
Not dealing with my grief because I thought that would involve ‘wasting’ days of my life, a life I felt I had been returned to me, and that has been denied to Hugo. I felt that if I indulged my grief I would crumble, collapse, fall apart. Never be put back together again.
This belief was exacerbated by the first psychiatrist I saw who told me I was ‘unwell’. He also told me that in the light of me being not suicidal my refusal to accept medication meant he “couldn’t section me”. That was intended as light-hearted I am sure, but it make me think I had to hold it together, be high-performing. I could not let the grief in because I would crumble, collapse, fall apart. Have men in white coats come and take me away.
A referral to psychotherapy was made. A referral that would take three months, I was told. Then six. Then…who knows?
My feelings, my grief were too much to deal with. Too scary, too heavy. I did not want to crumble.
My grief was put away in a box, with the lid locked shut.
Writing, writing, writing. Emotive writing. But all the time, feeling like I was writing someone else’s story. Feeling like a fantasist. Hoping I would awake and none of what I had written about had actually happened.
A futile hope.
Counselling sessions in the meantime. Useful, up to a point. Not the counsellor’s fault. I held it together during the sessions. Disconnected from the feelings. Cannot fall apart. The only session I cried in was the last.
Things had to get bad, very bad for that referral to be expedited. It is not the way it should be.
More fighting. More anger. More emotional energy directed away from dealing with my grief.
That continues today.
But I am now getting the support, the support I need.
It is tough, like a scab being ripped off.
Living with grief is a skill that needs to be learned.
To learn for it to somehow walk hand-in-hand with my life.
It is not easy.
I have to unlearn all the coping, survival habits I developed last year.
Grief is painful. Scary.
It made me think I was going mad.
But I was not going mad.
These emotions are an understandable response to trauma, to loss, to grief.
Not dealing with them grief does not make it go away.
They must be faced.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief. But there are helpful and unhelpful ways of dealing with it.
Trying to learn helpful ways for dealing with grief.
Learning a new vocabulary. That things are not ok, and that’s not ok. Instead, finding a tolerance for my current way of life. Weaving it in to my life.
Learning that anger is a part of grief.
Learning that exhaustion is a part of grief. So learning to be more kind to myself.
Learning that I can allow myself to be sad, to wallow. Indeed that I need to wallow. It is not a sign of weakness. Nor is it a ‘waste’ of time.
Learning that while there may seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel, that light might just be faint at the moment. Or, there might be lots of twists and turns in the tunnel that means I can’t see that light right now.
Learning how to be happy. Genuine happiness, a joy that is not forced, feeling like I ‘should’ be enjoying something. Changed me, changed circumstances, changed priorities means finding new things to find an interest in.
Learning that while this is not a life I chose, I have choices to make in how I live it.
Learning that I do not have to be a superhero. I have nothing to atone for. I do not need to punish myself.
Hugo’s Legacy will not bring him back.
But it will keep his memory alive.
Hugo’s Mummy needs to take better care of herself to make sure that legacy continues.