Yesterday marks a major milestone in my life. It has been twelve months since my daughter in law died.
It has been a long and horrible year, there is no other way to put. My family has been pulled apart, my life has been turned inside out and I feel completely wrung out and done.
I suppose I felt that if I could just make it to the twelve month mark, then it would get easier. It was like a beacon in the dark storm that I have been journeying through. I have held on to that magic number waiting for the moment that I could finally breathe and say that I made it. It has been twelve long months and I have fought the good fight and now, now it will get easier, now I will turn the corner and things will get better. But today has shown me that that is not the case. Nothing has changed or become easier just because the magical twelve month mark has passed.
To people on the outside, I probably look like I’m doing ok. I get up every morning, I go to work. I’m productive, in fact I’ve written eight books this year. I’m sociable at work, I smile, I even laugh occasionally. But my grief is still with me, hanging over me like a black cloud.
Some days are worse than others. Some moments are crippling, others steal my breath with pain. Sometimes I feel like there is hope, that the future is something to look forward to and it is to those moments that I cling, they are my lifeline, they get me through.
Grief has changed me, and I don’t mean the type of change that is temporary. I kept waiting to wake up and feel like my old self, to feel like the person I was before, but I’ve come to realise that that is never going to happen. I am profoundly and irrevocably changed.
This is surprising for me. I didn’t know what to expect, really. I knew, theoretically, about the different stages of grief, but I didn’t understand that when you reach the end, you don’t go back to being the person you used to be. At each stage I have been changed, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but always changed. I don’t even recognise the person I am becoming, I don’t know who she is, and that is probably the hardest thing.
People have told me throughout this journey that everyone grieves differently, but it has always been said with an undertone of ‘you’re not doing it right’. I have found myself at times thinking, ‘I don’t know if I’m allowed to feel this way’ and it has made my grief confusing. I am only the mother in law, I only knew her for a relatively short time. We had a good relationship, but didn’t have a profound relationship, we were friends, but we weren’t best friends. She was part of my family and I loved her. I still don’t know how I am supposed to feel, I don’t know if I am doing it right, I just know that there is a hole in my heart where she should be.
I have come to understand that that hole will always be there. Whoever else comes into my family, there will always be a Kari shaped hole in my life. That doesn’t mean that anyone else is less important, it doesn’t mean that I will love others less or that there will be no room in my life for new people, it just means that I will always feel like something isn’t quite right, like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece. But I’ve come to realise that sometimes, like great pieces of art, we are defined more by the negative space in our lives.
It has been really hard to put these feelings in writing. I thought I would do it yesterday, but I couldn’t, they were to big, too raw. Even today it is hard to pull them from my heart. I am so full of emotions that I don’t know what to do with them all. Much like this blog post, they are jumbled and confusing with no real form or structure. A metaphor for my life perhaps.
I spent yesterday hiding from the world, apart from one particular outing. I did something that I never thought I would ever do. I got a tattoo. There are many reasons why this tattoo is significant to me, but the main reason I got it was to have a physical, permanent reminder of Kari. The words say ‘Alis Volat Propriis’ and it means ‘She flies with her own wings’. When I think of Kari, this is how I think of her, flying free.