The day I heard that my partners body had been found, my emotions for him paused and I remained stuck in a world of guilt for many years. Guilt because I was still living, and my life was still moving forwards without him. Discovering that I was pregnant a month after his death enabled me to have a focus big enough to allow me to see some positive in my future but with it came pain and anxiety.
At the funeral of my partner, a cold day in February, I arranged with my brother that he would sit with me. I wasn’t able to have my mum by my side because the emotional connection was too close. I knew that she would need support from me which I didn’t have to give. For the walk to the church and throughout the whole ceremony I held my brothers hand. This only made possible because I had a pair of leather gloves on. Without them I couldn’t have dealt with the skin to skin contact.
And that’s how I remained for many years. I was only capable of emotional connections that didn’t require too much from me.
I remember my pregnancy days fondly. It was just me, my partner in my heart and my baby in my tummy. I blocked out all other connections to anyone. It felt to me that the people who loved me we’re lucky, they still had me here, alive. Not having my emotional connection was something they would have to deal with because as far as I was concerned for them to deal with that was nothing compared to what I was having to live with.
So much around me felt insignificant. The news, the weather, people’s birthdays or celebrations, work, none of it felt like it had any weight to it anymore. No substance. I had no interest in it. I would watch tv but only light hearted programmes, ones that I didn’t have to think about.
People would try to give me their love but I didn’t want it. I couldn’t accept it, I had no space available for it to go.
I watched friends and loved ones go through their own difficult times but felt helpless to support them. My mind was too full. It was full to the brim with thoughts on a daily basis. I was actually still able to carry on with a normal life. Still able to do what I needed to do in my daily routine but it was as if I was living my life whilst wearing a rucksack full of my past and my emotions n my back, which meant that it wasn’t possible to take on more. It was as if I had put my everything into the rucksack the day he had died and for every day following, for 12 years, I added to it. By the time I had therapy two years ago the image I described to my therapist was that the rucksack was the size of a house and I was carrying it around with me 24/7. I was exhausted.
When I look back at my life before my partner died I was good at being there for the people that I cared about. It’s an instinct that I have. I worked as a care assistant in a nursing home for 4 years in my 20’s and I loved that I could make a positive difference to people’s day. That instinct had to take a back seat when I needed to get through a life changing experience. What I was able to do though, was to keep it going for my son and luckily it felt safe for me to love him and give him the support that he needed as well as accept his love that he gave me. I guess it was because he didn’t need the me that was before the event. He accepted me as I was, there and then. He wasn’t going to judge me on how I was doing, he wasn’t going to tell me that I needed to cry. Likewise, he wasn’t going to tell me not to be silly if I showed fear of doing something. He loved me for who I was and for giving him all of me, even though there was a part of me missing, as did my now husband.
I realise that one day, when my eldest son is a grown man, he may say that he felt that there were some things that I didn’t do right or that he felt I didn’t give him but I believe that he will know I did my best given the circumstances.
As for the part that I play in the void where his father should be, that I can’t fill, no matter what I do. My husband has never tried to fill that space either, not completely. That would be impossible. I’ve always told him that I love him enough for two but all of the traits, the fun and laughter and the lessons that his father could have taught him, no one could replicate that.
I was diagnosed with PTSD two years ago and with many counselling sessions I am beginning to bring out that part of me that was locked away for so long. It’s only now that I’ve started to unload that house sized rucksack that I can begin to process it piece by piece.