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  • Sudha

Somewhere between struggling and surviving

I’ve lost track of time. Last few weeks are blurring into a summary line of tears, arguments, conversations, chores and constant guilt.

2011 February, we were driving from Akaroa to Christchurch in NZ when the massive earthquake hit us. We were lucky that we were in a motorhome and Paul was in charge; ever the calming presence. I was mother hen clucking and panicking inside the motorhome as it swayed from side to side watching traffic lights and streetlights swing violently as though an invisible King Kong was swinging off of them.

Where am I going with this story…..Well….last few weeks/months have been nothing short of periods of panic, pain, anxiety and turmoil broken by short periods of lull and calmness. And it really feels like the tectonic plates are moving violently beneath our feet and we 3 are continuing to feel the aftershocks of the initial quake.

The boys and I are trying hard to soften the aftermath and during the calm times it feels like we’ve coped with the shock of losing Paul and we are ok with a new norm; only a few days later for arguments, tears and tantrums to erupt amongst us – reminding me that these are aftershocks which will carry on for years to come. I can only hope that the aftershocks reduce in frequency and magnitude allowing us to forge ahead with a new normal.

In amongst these tremors, I don’t have words to describe how much I miss Paul. I will always miss him but there are times when the pain is so acute, I actually get angry at him for a fraction of a second. Then I realise the folly in my irrational thought and start to feel guilty - the omnipresent Catholic guilt.

When I started the blog, I had great ambitions to write a post every week. I carried that on for a while. Not having a job was chipping away at my confidence and when I started working, I felt like things were coming together – at least on a practical level. The one thing I didn’t allow for is that working full time means I have less time – less mental time to gather my thoughts and feelings and roll them into a post. I’ve lost count of the number of times I would be itching to write down my thoughts but, there was always something more urgent to do then. Gone are the times when I had the luxury of sitting in bed after the boys went to sleep spending a few hours writing. These days, I’m in bed and fast asleep before the boys.

I want to write more about Paul and the things he was passionate about and all the things he achieved in his short life. But the need to write about what I am feeling and experiencing right now seems to have a bigger pull – for my own sanity. Although I am blessed with so many wonderful friends, there is no denying that I feel so alone; and the blog seems to be the best way to make sense of the raw wordless feelings I feel.

I am starting to meet people who have lost their husbands/partners through WAY - Widowed and Young. I am yet to meet someone who has lost their husband in the same way as me. Paul’s situation, his treatments and the reaction to the final treatment is so unique I am not sure whether there is anyone out there in the same boat. I am torn between wanting to meet someone who has experienced the same as me and hoping that no other human being has gone through the sheer hell we have been through.

Someone asked me a few days ago how I am. Without thinking I typed ‘between struggling and surviving’. That is exactly how I am most of the time. I am surviving by earning a living to keep a roof over our heads and feed the boys; I am struggling every minute of every day; I don’t always show it but I struggle; Perhaps it is the pride of not wanting to be singled out as a widow; as a single parent; But, then I shouldn’t have winced when someone said to me last week ‘well…it is a year and a half since you lost Paul’ implying 'surely you are coping ok'.

Sometimes I will stand in front of a photo or a montage of photos and observe every line, every wrinkle, every freckle on Paul’s face. I get immersed in it so much that when I come out of it, it takes a while to accept that I will never see him, touch him, hug him….Then I revisit the last weeks in hospital, the last few days in ICU and the last few minutes of his life. Just to remind myself.

And I realise how much the boys must be suffering. At least I have a good number of friends I can freely talk to; I have an amazing counsellor who keeps me propped up every time I feel like giving up. Most of all, I WANT to talk about Paul; I WANT to talk about his loss; I WANT to explore my grief. But the boys are not in the same space. They have refused all help. And I ache for them knowing how much unprocessed crap they have.

I’m sitting on the sideline watching Andrew play in defence instead of his usual goalie position (as he tore a ligament in one of his fingers). He kicked the ball backwards over his head (it is called a backward flip, Fiona tells me) and took a tumble. My instinct was to pull my phone and ring Paul and tell him about the amazing save (football fanatics, I’m sure I’ve got the terminology wrong!). Paul is still the first in my favourites on my phone. He will always be. I don’t have the strength to look at any of the texts and emails we have exchanged over the last however many years. We usually exchange 20-30 texts a day and ring each other many times. Some will be practical, but many were silly and loving ones to make each other smile and laugh.

I carry this backpack of grief with me like Quasimodo. I am hunched with the heaviness of it all, but I am still standing. I am still standing while my boys tower over me, albeit still children. They need me for years to come and I need to be strong and learn to carry this backpack better with less debilitating pain so that I am able to focus on them with a clearer mind and heart. In time I can only hope that this backpack calcifies into my back and spine so that it becomes a part me and becomes easy to carry and becomes less painful.

On top of the guilt that I am not able to write more regularly about Paul, I feel double guilt because I also want to write about my support network, my friends, my counsellor who have all been amazing in helping me cope with life. I hope I can find a new rhythm soon to continue writing regular posts to fit in with my work and home schedule. Until then au revoir.

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