I am really struggling with the upcoming anniversary this year, more so than last year which has taken me by surprise in some ways. There’s something about five years, about how long that is, that I am finding really very difficult this year – it hasn’t ‘just happened’ and yet the loss is still so real and raw. There is a Jess-shaped hole in me, and there always will be – time doesn’t fill it, it just makes it harder to believe she was ever here. I sometimes doubt our connection, worry I made it up and that she didn’t even really like me that much, which I guess is the legacy of a narcissistic mother who made me doubt my own reality. I need to constantly remind myself that it was real, otherwise I feel ashamed for finding it so hard that she is gone, as if I am totally over-reacting and have no right to these feelings.
Last year wasn’t fun by any means, but it was also much more tangled with my estranged mother’s 70th birthday (which is the same day as Jess died). This year I’m barely thinking of my Mum, it’s all about Jess, and it feels very raw and quite frightening if I’m honest. I think there is still a lot of shock and disbelief around too – it is still so hard to comprehend that she really won’t be back. K said how, without that chance to say goodbye, the mind never has chance to catch up with what happened and, especially with the level of dissociation I experience, it might never feel real for me. And she said how it feels so other, that when I describe her with her arms up ready for a hug, and her liveliness (she was so alive) then it is truly shocking that her physical body is no longer here. And I know that I agreed to identify her body so that it could be released in time for the funeral in part so that it might feel more real, but I can never really match up the image of her so alive – dancing, cooking, riding her bike, laughing – with that cold, blue, bloated ghost in the morgue, so it didn’t really work in many ways.
And every year young parts have some kind of meltdown because they can’t seem to get what has happened. I can feel them getting excited as the anniversary approaches, because it is ‘Jess’s day’ and it feels like we are getting ready to see her again – they just can’t understand that we are not going to, that this is not what anniversaries are about, that we never will see her again. I hear little voices asking when she’s coming back. It seems to make it harder than ever, because of course we have to go through the whole ‘she’s dead’ ‘is dead forever?’ thing all over again. This makes me worry I sound crazy, but it is what it is. Having young parts complicates everything (a lot). It was actually the first anniversary of Jess’ suicide, 4 years ago, when we’d been seeing K for around 3 months, that I first really knew that she understood and would be able to help me. We’d only just started to figure out I had alters, and I remember her saying how hard it was for very young parts to understand something as huge as suicide – a sudden death was bad enough, but when that person chose to die it makes it so much more complicated and shocking and incomprehensible. At that point everything shifted for me I think as I began to understood my own reactions and behaviours and experiences and I realised K was capable of really understanding and helping us all.
K and I had an extra session today and we have one next Thursday as well (the actual anniversary is the 10th). I worried that me asking for these extra sessions was unnecessary this year, but I was so grateful after work to have those 90 minutes with her and to be able to put down some of the heaviness and let her hold some of what I’ve been carrying. I’ve felt so tightly coiled the last few days, aware of this pit of grief and loss and confusion inside me but having nowhere for it to go except into my physical body, which aches and hurts from being held so tightly. I’ve managed at work and it’s been kind of fine and kind of awful at the same time, but it’s hard keeping everything inside at work and at home.
We talked a lot about Jess and suicide and my mum’s mother’s suicide when she was 12. And we talked about my own suicidality and what happened for me after Jess died. I have so much shame over how losing Jess affected me and how lost and dysregulated and unable to cope I was. It is a shame I cannot shake, the worst shame I experience, and nothing seems to loosen it. It feels like it is eating me from the inside and I want to cut out of my skin to be free of it, to be someone else, someone who is good and doesn’t do bad things. I managed to share a little more with K than I have before about that time, and she was very validating and compassionate about how much pain I was in and how I didn’t know back then that I was dissociated and had complex trauma and young parts, but I feel so disgusting inside about it. I feel like I really need to write about it and share it with her, to loosen its hold and begin to let some of the shame go, and I would love this year to be the year I do this, but I am so scared to face what’s inside me over that time. I know she will make me feel better about it, I know that shame is healed in relationship and that sharing it will begin to dismantle its power, but the thought of sitting down and writing about that time makes me feel so bad.
K and I talked about how far I’ve come since we first met, when killing myself and Nina seemed not only to be the only way out, but also an entirely rational option given the pain I was in, the transgenerational trauma, the horrors I must have inflicted on her and what a painful future was ahead of her. It took so much work to get to a point where I could see Nina was happy and secure and safe, that I had been ‘good enough’, and that I couldn’t take her life. It’s good to see that progress, and to see that, for the most part, I can trust that Nina is okay, but it feels incongruous at the same time for my grief over Jess to still be the same size as it was back then.I really don’t want to go to work tomorrow or next week. I really need some space and time to myself to write and think about Jess. I wish I didn’t have to work. Or parent. Not forever but for a little while. I need to see the sea and walk and feel close to Jess again.
The road you’ve taken leads to the stars and for a while you’ll dance ahead,
But I know my soul will find yours there in the place where you have led.
Together we’ll stand still in time, friends forever – come what may.
And as kindred spirits we’ll dance again; our mortal years will fade to grey.
4 thoughts on “Jess-shaped hole”
Today also happens to be the day after 2 of our former students drowned, so I am in a mournful state anyway, but I could relate so deeply to some of what you wrote as it relates to my own loss. One has to do with time. Nata has been dead for 33 years now and it remains fresh–probably because it’s too traumatic to process. The shock of the way she died makes it too difficult to complete the process of grieving, and so it remains impossible to believe that I won’t see her again. I also relate to the strangeness of the dead body. The body without aliveness inside is no longer that person and it’s difficult for young parts to understand where she went. There was a period of time when it was a daily thing: where is Nata? As though she got lost and needed to be found.
My mother was suicidal a lot of my childhood. Other suicides among people I know touch on experiences of my mother’s attempts or threats.
Thanks for sharing your struggles with us.
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Thank you so much for this – it really helped so much and I read it to K last night in our session. It makes me feel less melodramatic and self-absorbed to hear your experiences and explanation – K completely agreed about the psyche being unable to complete the process of grief. And also the thing about young parts – I sometimes worry I use the parts to say ‘things are worse for me’ but actually having young parts does complicate things and make it a different process.
I’m so sorry to hear of the losses and shock you’ve experienced and about your mother’s suicidality – such a tough burden to carry and it’s no wonder suicide is so triggering for those of us who’ve experienced suicide and suicidality in our childhoods.
Thank you again for taking the time to comment x
I don’t know that things are worse with parts, but they are different. The fact of the difference makes it more isolating. There is all this inherited cultural knowledge about how to cope that just doesn’t seem to apply, so I think that makes it harder.
Exactly. I sometimes worry that in trying to articulate my experience of having parts I am being narcissistic and saying it’s worse for me, but actually it’s just different and fits with the experience of so few of the people I meet in my life. And it’s such a taboo to talk about death at all, so add in suicide and parts (which no one wants to know about at all…) and you’re right – it’s very isolating.
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