When we found out you were sick, I gave myself a purpose: to help you get better. I wrote up weekly exercise plans (which you did once), went to every scan and medical appointment, moved home, made your smoothies, learnt your medications off by heart and said things like “Today is a new day!” and “Let’s be positive!” You called me ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ but I knew you could see right through me. I was avoiding pain, avoiding the truth and using a ‘positive attitude’ as an escape.
After 8 months, the oncologist told us that you wouldn’t get better. For the first time, you asked for a prognosis. What a brave man you were that day. You actually thanked your doctor for giving you this information. You knew how hard it was for him to tell you and once again, you put someone else’s needs above your own.
You weren’t going to get better therefore, I needed a new purpose. I took time off work and spent every moment I could with you. I wrote a list of questions and along with other family members, recorded you answering them. What was the stupidest thing you ever did? What did you love most about mum? What did you regret?(nothing!)
We spent hours as a family listening to old records, talking about what a great life we had had together. I didn’t think it was possible, but the sicker you became, the more you softened. You were open to talk about what would happen when you were gone. You were strong for us. You made it okay for us to tell you we were scared. It was as though you were in a bubble, surrounded by peace and calm and warmth and love. You made it easy to care for you and for that, I am so thankful.
Most of the time, I choose to forget the day you died. I can say though, something inside of me went with you that day. I didn’t have a purpose anymore. You weren’t there to care for. You didn’t need your morning smoothie or your tablets. I couldn’t listen to James Taylor with you or talk to you about my latest boy drama. I couldn’t take any more pictures with you or ask you to tell me the story of how you met Mum once more.
A terrible symptom of grief is the pressure you put on yourself to move on. To be okay. It’s normal to be sad for a little while but then you be happy again, right? Being a slight perfectionist, I really thought I would cope just fine with my grief but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m doing it all wrong. I talk about you too much or not enough. I cry too much or not enough. It’s an exhausting and lonely experience.
My grief counsellor told me once that the depth of our pain is equal to the depth of our love for the person who has died. As sad as I am and as much as I miss you, I don’t want to ‘get over’ my grief. I want to learn how to use my grief to keep my connection to you, whilst still moving forward with my life. Maybe that’s my purpose now.