Loss upon loss

***trigger warning: talk of suicide***

I heard this morning that Ana, Jess’ mum, passed away peacefully last week. She had bowel cancer which had metastasised into her liver and lungs last year. When I saw her in August I knew she didn’t have long to live, but she didn’t know at that point and was still making plans for after her recovery. She told me in November she’d been given less than a year and Jess’ sisters were in touch 9 weeks ago to say their mum had deteriorated rapidly and had days or weeks to live. I was able to send a message that they read to her while she was still lucid and she told them how special I was to her, and to Jess.

It is hard to believe that this link to Jess is gone. I struggled in the relationship due to resonances with my own mum (of course, this is what drew Jess and I together even though we didn’t know back then) but being able to visit and share that connection with Jess was so helpful and healing. I can’t believe I’ve lost that and that Jess’ sisters have lost their dad and sister to suicide and their mum to cancer and neither of them are yet 30. It’s such a heartbreaking situation.

I thought it hadn’t affected me today, hearing the news, since it was not sudden and I have had chance to prepare. I’ve also spent the day mostly in bed, so lethargic I could barely move. And then the waves of grief over Jess hit again and I realised why I’ve felt so heavy and flat and lifeless today, my body struggling under the weight of this unexpressed grief. It is like losing a little more of Jess. And there is no one to tell about this sudden grief I’ve experienced this evening. Suicide is strange like that.

I miss Jess so much. It has been a little over 6 years since she took her life and when the grief hits it still feels so raw like it has only just happened. I remember writing on my blog at the end of 2019 about her, about how there is still so much shock and how, because of the way she died, my psyche remains unable to complete the process of grieving , especially because of how dissociated I am. I don’t think the grief process will ever be complete – it just gets re-activated and then fades away, split off in my psyche like so much trauma is. It just makes no sense that we will never see her again because she was so alive. And having young parts makes it so complicated too, because they really can’t understand where she went or what forever means.

And as I’ve written before, losing Jess is all tied up with shame and disorganised attachment and other losses for me. So hard to hold and untangle and understand. So I am left wishing more than anything I was driving to K’s to see her at 4pm tomorrow, like we did for all those years. We have done so much work around Jess and suicide and Ana and the shame I experience over how I reacted and behaved in the days and weeks and months after she died, in the time before I knew I had dissociation and complex trauma and alters. K would help me hold all this, help me untangle the complicated knot of thoughts and feelings inside me, let me talk and cry and write and whatever was needed. I would leave feeling understood and held and supported. A little more contained. A little more sane.

Instead she is not here either. She is another loss to add to the collection. And I am left with no one who really understands all this complexity or who knows my story with it. And yes – I have myself now, but without a mirror it is hard to make sense of this. The waves will recede again, I know, but now grief over Jess will forever trigger grief over K and that feels desperately sad tonight.

Another year

My darling Jess,

Another year has passed almost. Another year when you are not here to make plans with, laugh with, dream with, dance with, share everything with. I want to tell you I miss you, but those words don’t even come close to the desperate longing I feel to see you one last time, to say goodbye to a person who is alive, instead of the cold, blue, lifeless body I identified as ‘you’ in the morgue. Waves of grief and shock still take me with such force that I struggle to breathe, struggle to see how the pain will subside. It does, of course – I’ve learnt that about grief now – but it has been five years since I saw you and it still feels the same when it hits. And it hurts to know that you were saying goodbye to me, that you had made your decision and knew what you were going to do, but I didn’t know and I didn’t get to say goodbye or tell you how important you were to me. When I hugged you goodbye I thought we would meet in a week or two – you were feeling better and would soon be coming home, finding a different job, getting back to normal.

Except you didn’t ever get back to normal.

Ten days later you travelled to W_____ Bay and checked into a hotel and in the morning, as the sun rose over the sea turning the sky pink and gold, you rolled forward over the cliff edge and fell. You died instantly, of course. There was no doubt in your mind over what you needed to do. No coming back. I remember looking at the pink sky that morning and thinking of you, not knowing that you had already gone. I lived a day in oblivion and then the call came and my whole world fell apart. That night I screamed and howled for hours with a pain I’ve never known before. For weeks and weeks everything was black.

grief

You remain the most beautiful, inspiring, magical person I’ve ever met. Time with you made me sparkle. I thought we had our whole lives to be friends, to grow together, to learn each other’s pasts and share our hopes and dreams. It still takes me by surprise sometimes, that you will never be here again. Today I wanted to talk to you about something I am researching for work and it felt like a blow to the chest when I realised I couldn’t. I never can. I can never talk to you or see you again. We will never dance or go camping or eat chips and drink beer in the summer rain. We will never talk about moon energy or politics or the patriarchy. We will never eat vegan food or talk about our families. We will never go to the beach or the woods again. I will never hear your laugh, your voice, your advice, your fears. I will never see your beautiful face or watch you skudding towards me with your arms over your head ready to give me a hug.

You’ve been gone so much longer than you were in my life and yet the space you have left will never be filled. I used to think this pain would lessen, but the waves still engulf me. There is still so much I want to tell you and ask you, so much I want to know and share and learn. I want to know why, Jess. I want to know what would have happened if you’d been able to tell us how bad things were, what you were planning, how you were feeling. I want to know if things would have got better and if ‘better’ would have been enough. Our connection was forged from a pain I don’t think either of us knew we carried back then, a pain I am even now struggling to understand and assimilate into my life. I felt such a deep connection to you, beyond the love so many people felt for you because of who you were. You were drawn towards the same dark, chaotic world of raves and dysfunction and illicit substances as me, and yet like me had so much more in your life so that we both teetered on the edge together, never allowing ourselves to be fully immersed in that life. I look back and I can see our souls reaching out to each other across so much common ground.

Sometimes you talked to me about the worries weighing you down – your mum’s drinking since your dad’s suicide ten years earlier, your middle sister’s fragility, everyone’s dependency on you. You asked me if I thought people who had lost a parent could ever have children of their own. You shared worries about work and relational struggles and your constant need to keep moving. You shared the darkness that engulfed you near the end. You told me when a switch came on and you could feel yourself coming back, but you didn’t tell me when you lost yourself again. It is heart breaking that no one knew how much pain you were in. You shared so much with me that no one else knew, but you didn’t share enough and I couldn’t help you. 

So many times I’ve wanted to tell you about my therapist, K, and all she has given and found in me. This evening when I was crying over you, over how there will never be anyone like you again, she told me she thinks I was visited by an angel. Spending time with you left me feeling heard and understood, inspired, calm and contained, and truly alive. You saw so much good in me. You wanted the best for me. You let me talk about my difficulties but you knew they weren’t all I was. You taught me how it is possible to feel and be in friendships and left me with a deep knowing about what I want and deserve. What you did got me in touch with the past I tried to bury, it brought me to where I am now, it brought me to a place where I could begin to heal, but I wish it hadn’t taken something so violent and tragic to get me here. You lit up my life in ways you will never know and it is forever darker now you are no longer here.

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