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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.

Seven

I need you. We saw Ana today and I need you because it has left me wanting to cut and tear out of my skin to escape the shame and longing it has left me with. I don’t know why I feel this way and if I could talk to you we would unpick it together and make sense of it and you would pass this tangle of emotions and body sensations back to me in a neat ball that I could carry around with me.

I want to tell you Ana’s colorectal cancer is stage IV and in her liver and there are 20 lesions and they can’t operate so she’s having 6 months of chemo. I want to tell you she’s planning to build a tiny house in her garden and sell the big house and she’s talking like she has the 20 years ahead of her she should have, but the 5 year survival rate is so low and it scares me because Jess’ sisters have been through too much loss and they can’t lose their mum as well.

I want to tell you how hard I try to connect with her and how it’s like she’s in a glass box and I can’t reach her and it hurts because I want a connection with Jess through her. And it hurts because she cannot hear or see me and I know how hard it was for Jess not having a mum who saw or heard her. So hard that it means she is no longer here in fact. It hurts because after I’ve seen Ana I’m hit again by the deep connection Jess and I had that we didn’t really understand but that drew us together and would have kept us close for the rest of our lives, if only she had stayed. Both parented by people who should not have had children, one of us by a man who chose to leave his children behind when his pain got too great and the other by a woman who carries suicide in her DNA and threatened to leave a hundred times. Ana doesn’t hear people, she couldn’t hear her daughter even when she was screaming out in pain. She speaks but she cannot listen and it hurts because she wants to be there for me but she can’t be. It all feels such a muddle and I need you to help me hold it and make sense of it because the confusion and shame are eating away at me and I don’t understand it. I can’t make it make sense and it leaves me shattered and ripped up inside.

And I am still trying to atone, K, for what I did and how I reacted in the weeks after Jess died. I want someone to forgive me but I don’t know who. I want to explain what I know now and didn’t then, but to who? I am scared I’ll spend my whole life trying to atone and it makes missing Jess so complex. I told you last year I wanted the grief of losing her to be pure and you tried to explain that my attachment to her means it can’t be, because for me attachment and loss and shame go hand-in-hand, but I still didn’t understand what you meant and now you are not here to explain. I’m scared of what will happen in December without you, because the anniversary of losing Jess is stained by my badness and I don’t know how to make myself clean. You used to tell me what was inside of me wasn’t black but golden, but I can’t see anything shiny in me when you’re not here.

I need to tell you how much I miss Jess. I want to talk about her but without you there is no one who knows me with her, no one who knows what we were together and what she took away. There is no one I can talk to about her. She was the most beautiful, sparkling, jewel of a person I’ve ever known – it will be 6 years in December and still I’ve not made a friend who I have anything close to what I had with her. I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t want to, I just want her to come back. Ana has painted a rainbow on the garden wall for Jess but when she builds the new house it will disappear and it feels as though a little more of Jess will be wiped away too. Jess’ garden will be sold – the place you told me last week you can picture because I spoke of it so vividly – and all the sacred memories of Jess in there will belong to someone else. I can feel young parts howling and screaming inside. It’s been 5 years since we’ve felt this agony and not had a meeting with you in a  few days to soothe us and help us understand. We’ve not had to face this pain alone for 5 years because we found you and now we have to hold it alone. The grief still rips through, K, as big and untamed as it ever was, but now it shrieks of your absence too and I wasn’t expecting that.

It has only been a week – 7 short days – and already it is as though we’ve survived a lifetime without you. There have been dozens of things that we’ve all wanted to share with you and ask you – funny things, healing things, scary things, hopeful things, shameful things, sad things, frustrating things. Tonight is the worst though. We are broken up and confused and filled with an anguish we cannot name. You know everything K, we’ve worked on Jess’ suicide together since we first walked into your house all those years ago and you would understand exactly what is going on for us all now. I need you to help us all and I can’t have you. It makes this confusing mess so much harder when I know I have to carry it alone until it recedes and lies dormant again, waiting for the next time to remind me that I cannot atone however much I wish I could, because some mistakes can never be fixed or mended or absolved – not by time or regret or tears.

 

I know places

****TW mention of suicide****

Last night I saw in the news that a 19 year old girl took her life last week due to fears over the isolation needed because of Coronavirus. She had told her family days before that we should expect the suicide rate to increase as a result of the outbreak and that more needed to be done to support those with existing mental health problems during this time. I found it heart-breaking – I’d already said to a few people that I suspected this would happen, and I highly doubt she will be the last as so many are plunged into uncertain times and losing the support they depend upon. I also read that new research indicates that if a country’s GDP falls below a certain level for a certain period of time there will be more deaths in the medium term as a result of it than there will be due to the virus itself. This poses a clear moral dilemma for any government as they will need to balance harm averted with harm inflicted by the measures and reach a decision that citizens find palatable (whilst also not wanting to risk being voted out at the next election!). People are much better at ignoring threats that are invisible and far enough ahead to not affect daily life (think climate crisis!) and so I suspect most would not agree with the decision to stop measures to prevent the virus, despite knowing this may cause more harm in the longer term… Anyway, let’s just hope testing improves so we can get back to normal sooner rather than later.

I do find it really surprising that more isn’t being done to support those who are already really struggling with mental illness. There is, rightly, a huge amount of support that will be provided by volunteers for the 1.4 million UK citizens who are ‘extremely vulnerable’ to getting hospitalised because of the virus, but it makes me fearful for all those who won’t be on this list but are extremely vulnerable to the impact of having their ordinary support and coping routines disrupted. My GP said on the phone yesterday that whilst almost everyone is struggling at the moment, they are aware that those who are already dealing with things like I am are really having a difficult time. She said they will continue to support me but I just don’t think people without mental illness understand that a 5 minute phone call every two weeks or more really isn’t much support. I am lucky to have such a good GP, who understands the complexity of what I am dealing with, but the idea that this is ‘supporting me through this crisis’ is so far-fetched. K said I needed tell her about the self-harm, suicidal thoughts and research into Cyanide availability, and that I’m not eating, so I did and I told her that my therapist has said she’ll need to speak to her if things don’t improve, but she didn’t seem hugely concerned and I ended up just reassuring her that I would be okay and would get through. I do this so often, such a well-engrained habit of protecting other people from feeling any discomfort because of me.

I also thought last night how hard this is for people with eating disorders, how easy it will be for those with anorexia who have not yet come to the attention of their GP or other services to drop to dangerous levels of food intake and weight because no one will see them for weeks on end. I have lost 9lbs in 16 days and I am aware of the risks of not eating at this time and have been trying to eat protein shakes and porridge and dahl. I was in need of losing a little weight and I also want to be strong enough to cycle, so whilst I can see that things can’t keep going and that even two a half weeks is a long time of barely eating and not good for me, I am not too worried (maybe I also want to act like I’m in control of this and it is not ‘too dangerous’, I see that. I am at least trying not to keep it hidden). There will be so many more who are triggered into old eating disordered behaviours because of this outbreak, or who were already deep in it when it started but no one knew, and it worries me how invisible it could become.

It also makes me feel lucky – some of the support I have been getting isn’t helping and it definitely isn’t enough, but I do know people are there. They may not understand attachment pain and panic and the depth of the work K and I are doing, but there are at least people who know I am struggling. After I wrote on Monday I had my phone session with K and then felt completely bereft and afraid and called the crisis line and spoke to the same person as before but this time she completely triggered me because she wasn’t listening or engaging and was leaving huge silences and was clearly texting or emailing with others whilst we were talking – surely this is something that just shouldn’t be done. It would be better if they are busy just not to answer, or to check if the person is actively suicidal or self-harming at that moment and if they are physically safe to arrange to call back later. It made me feel so pathetic and like I wasn’t in enough need, in enough of a crisis, to have called. She told us to ‘have a bath’ (FFS, this is like the worst mental health crisis advice ever!) and call later if needed but we all felt so triggered and rejected and ashamed that we won’t be calling again. We self-harmed really badly afterwards, loads of cuts that are still sore today, but it did really settle and soothe things. That is the sad reality – it does help when other ways of calming things are unattainable.

It does seem as though K is really the only person who can provide the support we all need at the moment. I do have lots of friends who are definitely helping, but because this is about my fear of K and I being separated she is the only one who can really soothe it. So maybe it is better that it is only her I go to for regular support and then just use other things to distract during this time. When I’m desperate I kind of expect that I might call a helpline who make things worse, but I don’t want to have someone who says they are there to support us all through this then being weird and triggering us all. The between (phone) session contact, especially the morning texts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with K is really helping. Most mornings I wake early in a total panic, dread clutching at my chest and my tummy tight and tense, feeling totally unable to get through this time away from K whilst everything else is so uncertain too. Being able to text her and know a response will come straightaway is really helping to settle things. Last night I was doing better, definitely feeling calmer and more contained and adult, and then got triggered in the evening (see below) and knowing I could text first thing this morning really helped. We text at 8.30 and she replied straightway with the perfect response. It is amazing how one text from her settles everything now, how she always knows the right thing to say, and how everyone inside can take it in now. In response to our worries she said she hears and sees us all as much as ever and that she hopes things can go back to normal as soon as possible (we are worried she’ll decide to work without face-to-face forever, or will give the second half of my double session to someone else so it is not there when we can go back to meeting). She reminded me I can do this and to keep cycling and eating dahl!

Yesterday ended up being a mildly better day. On Monday evening Nina thought she had started her periods but it turned out to be blood from a kidney infection – we ended up at A&E to see the out of hours doctor on Tuesday night as she was feeling very unwell with bad pain above her right kidney. She is doing much better now with antibiotics and having to switch into my adult and be very present on Tuesday evening really helped to ground me, so that was an unexpected benefit of her getting ill. The reason I then got triggered again last night was because I saw on K’s website she is offering reduced online sessions of half an hour for people who are overwhelmed by the Covid crisis and it makes me worried she will take on too much and make herself ill, but I tried to remind myself she has worked in maximum security psychiatric wards and state hospitals before she went into private practice and that she is good at dealing with other people’s crises. She also doesn’t have anyone else at home (her partner returned from Portugal last week with their other 3 dogs but she has sent them to live in the stables building down the lane with a camping stove which makes us all laugh a lot – she’s definitely settled into living alone since he moved abroad and doesn’t want him full time in the house again!) and looks after herself well. I think everyone is worried at the moment about their Ts burning out or getting ill, but I have to trust that she will be careful and would prioritise existing clients if things got too much.

Nina is doing better emotionally since Sunday. It’s possible she was getting ill then which is why everything felt so hard (she had a huge strop when we were out cycling, amongst other times), but also I’m sure she needed space to experience and process her big feelings around her life changing so dramatically. She was in a much better place on Monday and is her usual self again now – at the moment she is in the study (thank goodness we moved house before this outbreak!) doing her school work. Her teachers are emailing work according to the students’ normal timetable and then are available to answer questions about it during the normal lesson time. She took yesterday off due to the kidney infection so she will have lots to do today and that is keeping her busy. Yesterday we read in the garden and watched the bunnies and guinea pigs most of the day. Things felt more spacious and I could tell that Nina will be OK during this time, even if she has understandable dips in mood and frustrations. I am really lucky she doesn’t really have struggles in life as this is making parenting through this crisis easier. The biggest challenge will be not having any space for myself at home, but when she is feeling okay the house feels more spacious and she is respectful of my needs. And luckily her and I really do like each other and laugh a lot, I know this is not the case for all families at this time! My friend who also has CPTSD has a 12 year old daughter who experiences depression and anxiety and is really struggling without her routine and with all the fear and anxiety around generally at the moment. This is making it really hard for my friend who has to support her daughter through multiple meltdowns and provide lots of emotional support and mental stimulation each day despite finding things hard herself, and I really feel for her. Nina is very good at entertaining herself and seems to automatically know to do things that are good for her in a way that has taken me years to develop – eating well, staying active, varying her activities, doing creative projects. Nina’s ability to express her worries and feel her feelings – even if they are a little out of control at times – and then return to baseline during this uncertain and strange time is providing me with more reassurance that she is securely attached and a generally happy and content person.

On Monday I return to work (from home, obviously) after my sick leave. K is not sure I should, she is worried the stress will be too much for me, especially as Nina is on Easter holidays next week so won’t have school work to keep her busy, but I am going to try. I only have a week and then I have a week and a half annual leave, and then when I go back Nina will be ‘back to school’ and being emailed work so we will be able to settle into a routine. I am hoping having work to focus on next week will help me, plus also I don’t want an extended time off because if the institution I work for cannot sustain at its current level without international travel next year and less attending due to a global recession then I don’t want to be one of those who is made redundant. Plus it is about to be the ‘quieter’ six months at work and there will be many days when no one will really notice what I am doing – or not doing – because we have to set our own work and goals around research. I’ll see how it goes anyway, but sometimes my work does help to steady me and provides a clear sense of purpose and fulfilment.

So today I am feeling OK. Not my usual self by any means, but OK. I am going to spend some time outside reading and go on a bike ride again. The house is it’s normal tidy and organised state again which always makes me feel better, and I am going to do a thorough clean of each room when I’m on annual leave after next week. I said to K in our check-in email yesterday (even that moving from Friday to Wednesday feels incredibly unsettling!) that I know I have all the resources and spiritual practices needed to get through this period, I know there is a peaceful place that lives inside of me and enables me to do the right things to care for myself, but it is very hard to do these things and access this place when my attachment system is haywire. It gets to the point where nothing else matters but her but yesterday gave me a small glimpse of that stable and calm space I was so often in before this crisis, where there are other things in my life aside from K. I also feel incredibly lucky that so far I feel connected to her still and able to tell her exactly what I’m experiencing attachment-wise, without shame or fear, and receive what I need in response. Every so often I worry that what I need will be too much for her (which is partly why I asked for daily contact of some sort each week day, because I know this is easier for her than regular crisis support and extra sessions) but I think it is important to remember that now she knows how to support me and what I need and so we are not both activating each other. I don’t feel suspicious or mistrustful of her and I know she misses seeing us all, and that we will see each other as soon as we are able. She said on Monday that we are both in agreement that how we are working is not as good as face-to-face work and this is reassuring. I think it is really important for every single person who is living under lockdown that we don’t get used to not seeing each other and being outside because this is what makes us human and part of this incredible universe. People getting used to this feels like a death sentence and I hold hope that we all survive it and come out the other side remembering how important it is to hug and share food and be together, even when we are not saying anything at all.

Making sense of what was lost

Five years ago today was the day I identified Jess’ body in the morgue. It was the worst day of my life without a doubt, though there are many others around that time that compete for the same award, but I’m not going there now. Instead I am going to balance today with some light and write a little more about our friendship, but also about the things I am beginning to piece together in therapy about why our friendship was so special to me and why it caused me to lose my mind quite so spectacularly when she died. I’ve questioned for so long whether my attachment disorder meant I over-reacted to a loss that shouldn’t even have impacted me, especially as quite often after it happened and in the years since I’ve been so dissociated at times that it hasn’t meant a thing to me, and then the self-criticism has really set in. Jess’ Mum has said to me she knows the two of us had a very special connection, and I’ve felt it sometimes I really have, but at the same time it’s so hard to hold onto something after a lifetime of doubting my feelings and intuition.

I think K saying ‘we will ritual around this every year’ a week or so ago really helped, gave me permission to *still* be finding her suicide so hard. And a very helpful and wise comment on my blog last week helped a huge amount too, about how with a suicide the shock prevents the grieving process from being completed, so in many ways it may never feel real for me and young parts. Another thing that helped in a weird way was a text from a friend, Cath, who knew Jess but wasn’t close to her like me, about something random on the day of the anniversary last week – when I replied with a lovely photo of her and Jess on a night out and said ‘thinking of all those who loved Jess today’ she replied saying she had forgotten it was the anniversary. She ran a half marathon in Jess’ memory the year after she died, and I’ve often felt triggered by her talking of Jess as if she knew her really well when they only met a few times, so I have to be honest I found this exchange quite validating; that date is etched on my memory forever now, there is no way it could ever pass without me noticing it, and even when I don’t consciously think about it my body always tells a different story, reminding me it is there.

I told K it felt validating in some ways that Cath had forgotten because it confirmed my connection to Jess was real and that my irritation in the weeks after Jess died when she tried to compare our grief was kind of justified. K said how my experience of friendship with Jess was hugely different from Cath’s because it was such an important attachment and profound friendship for me that really stood out compared to other friendships that I’ve had. “It has really different qualities, the meeting of two beings, where you truly met each other and you saw the best sides of each other, but at the same time you weren’t afraid to share the edges, and although she subsequently didn’t share the final shadow and difficult part of her mind, she did share some of it with you, didn’t she?”

As my posts from last week revealed, I was in such a shame-filled place around the anniversary of Jess’ suicide. In my Thursday session I said to K how I wished this time could just be about being sad for Jess, instead of it all getting tangled with shame and leaving me in this horrible place where I feel like I am the worst person in the world. K says for her it makes sense that my big attachment feelings and shame over who I am are triggered by this grief and I end up in a place where I cannot see anything good about myself; they are linked and we can’t separate them, not yet at least. And she explained the ways this loss is linked to my attachment difficulties in a way that enabled her words to land in a different place in me than they have before. She spoke about how important attachment is for me because of my traumatic attachment, and how my relationship with Jess has proved to be one of the most important relationships in my life because I truly felt met and seen and heard and able to give back in a way that is very rare for me. It’s true – we shared so much of what we loved and it was a light and fun friendship where I felt able to be truly myself. And then this very profound attachment ended because, as Miffy says, ‘she died on purpose’ and on a very young, unconscious level it triggers me into feeling bad and feeling shame because she chose to go away.

So you have this amazing meeting place. Jess comes into your life and she is like a shining star. She brings out the best in you and you bring out the best in her. And you finally realise what it’s like to really, truly love someone and want to spend time with them. And then you lose her. And so of course your grief is compounded by attachment issues because for you it can’t not be, because for you attachment in many ways is a bigger deal than a death. So she dies, you’re triggered into attachment loss, you feel like you’re dying and that it is all your fault.

I am working on the post about my process and disintegration in the days and weeks after Jess died which I hope will help me heal some of the shame I feel about what it did to me. I will post it when it is done and I’ve shared it with K. I read what I had written so far to her on Thursday, after she had told me about women in my home city in the day facility for EUPD who repeatedly break their own bones and throw themselves down stairs and bang their heads against walls and drink far too much and get hospitalised to express in some way that they are full up with very, very toxic and complex emotions. She talked about me having the same process as those women and it really, truly helped to hear that, not because I am better than them because I am more functional, but because she sees how huge my feelings are, and because she reminded me that those women and me all feel like this and are totally emotionally dysregulated because of childhood abuse and neglect. And we spoke about how in some ways it would be easier to be like that because it is such hard work holding it all together. I know I am grateful for my work and daughter and ability to contain myself, but it is exhausting. Knowing K sees that huge level of pain in me even when I don’t externalise it through self-harm or crazy ranting emails or desperate texts, and knowing she must truly know what hard work it is to contain all those feelings and all that process, was so healing.

She said how we would never think those women are bad, so it is funny that I think I am bad, especially because something really, truly bad happened when Jess killed herself and so it is no wonder that it spilled out a little and made some mess. I told her about the annihilation hole that opened up whenever I was alone after Jess died, every time I tried to sleep even when someone was next to me, and how I must have been repeatedly re-experiencing being left alone to die as a baby and young child. And I remember saying over and over again how I was losing my mind and “this isn’t me” because I was so dissociated and had no idea what was happening or what my feelings were. I didn’t have any idea I had complex trauma and alters back then, I had very few memories of my childhood at all and no real sense of the abuse I had experienced. So now I would know why I was feeling what I was feeling and might be able to explain to people I had complex trauma and what I needed (no alcohol or weed would have been a good start) and things would be different. I know they would be different now but the shame I feel is still so intense even though I know I cannot help that I didn’t understand back then.

I’m not sure I’ll ever truly forgive myself or be able to let go of the fears over what people must think of me for how my emotions spilled all over the place in the first two months after Jess died. I was an absolute wreck. My biggest memory from the time is being utterly baffled by how everyone else was able to carry on as normal at least some of the time – even Jess’ Mum and sisters were eating and sleeping and going for walks – rather than being totally immersed and consumed by the pain. I can see how it must have looked like I thought my pain was bigger than other people’s but I didn’t – I thought everyone must be feeling how I was and I couldn’t understand how they were able to contain it and function and not just totally lose their minds too. On the day of the funeral everyone was leaving the wake to go and get ready for Christmas in two days’ time and I was so confused that they could carry on with normal life when this had happened. I understand so much of this now, but it still fills me with shame that I will never get to explain to other people why I was how I was. K said it doesn’t matter because we know. And I can see this is the end goal – self-forgiveness and letting go of the shame because I did not react how I did because I am bad, only because I was in so much pain. And I also know that after 5 years this loss is finally starting to fit with all I know about myself around attachment trauma now, and maybe in understanding I can start to forgive myself a little too, but it is a long and hard road facing all of it instead of burying it for another year.

Shame and survival

I survived yesterday. Hopefully things will start to even out now, although of course Christmas is approaching fast so maybe that is wishful thinking. It’s been very hard with young parts because I could feel them getting excited for ‘Jess Day’ when she might come back, when of course that’s not what the anniversary is at all. It was also my mum’s birthday yesterday. I didn’t think of her much, but it is all there somewhere. Yesterday was a rubbish day. I was so triggered I barely slept on Monday night so yesterday I was incredibly tired and carrying huge levels of dread and anxiety due to all the big feelings squashed up inside me that I don’t have space to feel and probably couldn’t access even if I wanted to. I had to come in for meetings in the morning but worked at home in the afternoon, though I didn’t achieve much. I struggled through parents’ evening at Nina’s school and spent some time trying to understand the new GCSE grading system as her target GCSE grades do not sound to me like they are anywhere near her capabilities, and then headed to bed as soon as Nina did at 9.30.

I am often aware of an internal pressure around difficult times to do things in a particular way – to write, ritual, find the lessons from the loss, do something special and sacred to mark the process and progress, and I know I feel like I failed somehow yesterday for not doing this. I am catching those thoughts though, and reminding myself that surviving is all that matters. I did cope better than last year – there were some tears, but it didn’t totally take me over this year. And K and I are meeting for an extra session after work tomorrow and doing some kind of ritual for Jess then so there will be some way of marking it and maybe closing down this difficult time for now. I identified her body on 17th and then the funeral was the 23rd, so there are a lot of reminders still to come, but after Friday life will be a little more spacious and I hope that will help me take better care of myself and begin to uncover and let go some of the shame that gets tangled up with the grief at this time of year. I text K yesterday morning and said something along the lines of how I wished I could just feel pure grief over Jess instead of it being so enmeshed with my childhood and trauma and this deadening shame which seems to eat me from the inside whenever I experience big feelings. And I find shame so hard in itself, but it also triggers complete and utter panic and dread in me because young parts are terrified of how bad they are. It’s a vicious cycle that it’s hard to step outside of.

K said on Monday that it seems that whenever I feel very bad, i.e. lots of negative emotions, it sends me into a very dark place where I am convinced I am bad. And I split and lose sight of everything good about me, so that all that exists about me is bad and evil and abusive. I’ve really descended into a place of horrific shame and complete panic over how bad I am the last few days. This has manifested as being convinced I am just like my Mum and have utterly destroyed Nina’s self-esteem. On Sunday evening I was in such a bad place that I had thoughts of killing both of us again, which I’ve not had for years. I can see that I do embody my mum in some ways some of the time, that I will have impacted Nina of course through my own unresolved trauma, but I can’t hold onto all the good I’ve done at the same time, all the ways I am different from my parents, all the ways I’ve healed myself and in turn healed her. My need for space is so powerful and it is so hard as she descends into teenage years and doesn’t go to bed until 9.30/10. K says it is so important that I express it as ‘needing quiet time upstairs to do X’ rather than needing time away from her. I try to do this, but there are inevitably times when I explode, when I am over-stimulated and completely at capacity with my own feelings, when I have no space for her inside my head, when I yell and say things I wish I hadn’t.

Monday’s session was consumed by my shame and fear over how bad I am, as a mother and person. I wanted to know when we would know if Nina was okay and K said we already do know. She tried to remind me of all the good I do, all the ways I’m not mum, but I’m too scared to voice most of the ways in which I feel I am the same so how could she really know? She said I’m not a narcissist, that I’m real and genuine and have an open heart, that I’ve done something my mum would never have done in going to therapy and looking at myself and changing what I could, bringing awareness and understanding myself. I said that 95% of the time I think I’m the mum I want to be,  but that 5% feels as though it totally eclipses all the good work I do, that it would be less confusing for Nina if I was just awful all the time. She disagreed. One of the struggles of course is that Nina and I have so much time together at home (this is also the lovely part of being just the two of us – we are very close) and there is so much time for her to observe me and how I am and what I do. I try incredibly hard, and always have, not to overshare my feelings and concerns. I think I’ve done a good job of that. I’ve definitely not parentified her and I’ve respected her growing autonomy and need for privacy. I’ve told her how much I value her as a person and not lived through her and her achievements. I’ve started a list of all the ways I am not my mum, but when I go to that dark place it’s like none of that stuff exists.

I spoke on Monday about how much Nina triggers me because she is just like my mum, not because Nina is abusive but because my mum is a child still – what Nina does is normal teenager stuff, but it triggers me because it is all so familiar from when I was growing up and it hits those old and unhealed wounds. K said the past few days I’ve been re-experiencing my childhood, that’s why it all feels so bad. And she said to assume that for a teenager their parent doesn’t exist beyond just being their mum, that Nina will have no empathy or ability to see me as a person or awareness that how she is being may hurt me. She said really I, as a person, am invisible, just there to fulfill Nina’s own needs, and that we just need to assume I will get nothing back from her for a while now on an emotional level (so it’s an added bonus if I do). And I sobbed ‘just like my mum’. And that is so true, it’s why it hurts, because I was ‘mothered’ by a person who couldn’t see me, who I didn’t exist for, who had no awareness of me as a person with my own needs and feelings. It is no wonder Nina’s behaviour hurts me. I am very apprehensive about the years ahead and what they will do to me. I don’t want to have child parts having to live with someone who hurts them without meaning to. I think it is very important to understand what is happening though, and to keep taking care of myself and making myself visible to myself, so that Nina has less of an impact on me.

I am really so glad that, all being well (or as okay as possible at least), K and I will be working in the years to come, as Nina enters teenage days. I do not want to be engulfed by shame. I don’t want to be triggered by her. And I certainly don’t want to behave how my mum did when I was a teenager and I would hate for Nina to ever experience feelings like I did then and continue to now. I am so frustrated that the anniversary of Jess’ suicide has left me dealing with such big stuff and feeling so much shame, but I can kind of understand it. I want to be able to believe K that Nina is okay, that K would know if she wasn’t, that I’m not like my mum (all the time at least), that I might behave like her at times under pressure, but I don’t see Nina as an extension of myself, but I feel so bad inside that I struggle to take in her words. K said she would have contacted social services about my mum had she known what was happening and I know she’s never had concerns about my parenting so I should be able to believe her, but it is so hard because everyone thought my mum was wonderful and I struggle to work out what even it was she did that was so bad some days.

I am working on writing out what happened after Jess died and trying to understand why I experienced such a huge storm of emotions that made me do things I’m not proud of, and I’m hoping if I’m brave enough to share it with K once it’s finished it will start the process of separating my big feelings of grief over Jess from this pervasive sense that I am a bad person for feeling that way, because I can see that it must be this that has triggered all this shame and terror over my parenting. I can sense huge feelings inside over Jess, but over the top of them are layer-upon-layer of shame and panic and despair and dread and so I can’t reach them or let them just be there, pure grief for someone who brought so much light and magic to my life.

Jess-shaped hole

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.

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.

“The mother wound” round 6731

What a fucking horrendous day. It was punctuated by some beautiful moments in the forest with K this evening which I will write about when things have settled, but overall it has been fucking awful. And the pain I was hit with after leaving K was something else. Another level of #themotherwound. At least this time I know it is about my mother, or lack of, rather than about K. Progress?

I have sobbed and wailed since I got home 3 1/2 hours ago and so I am writing this in a last attempt to calm myself without resorting to self-harm. I’m not sure it will work, and I really don’t want to cut, but I have work tomorrow and I just need to be okay.

I still don’t understand why K is so nice to me. Like I know I pay her, but there are so many ‘easier’ clients she could work with and who she wouldn’t need to give a reduced fee to. What she does for me is beyond incredible. And it is not enough. Of course it isn’t. She cannot take this pain away. I know she would if she could, she has told me, but all she can do is hold me in it.

Last year I seem to have handled this date ‘better’ – it was a Sunday and I took myself for a walk on the beach and thought of Jess and my Mum and I found I was able to think of my Mum with love and compassion. I felt sad but also like I was growing. I hadn’t needed to reach out to K that day, and when I saw her the next day I was able to tell her how the day felt spacious and healing (and in many ways it was, compared with the first and second anniversaries where it felt like there was a tightly coiled spring inside me and I was suffocated and overcrowded and finding it very difficult to function). And yet this weekend and today have been a completely different story, and I can see how whilst some of that compassion is healthy, it is also a defence against feeling my own pain at not having had what I needed and having to spend basically all of my life so far dealing with and trying to heal from my attachment wounding. Holding compassion for my Mum is another way of keeping myself safe from her, by making her feelings more important than my own. So last night the anger came, an anger I wrote down and shared with K in the forest this evening as we sat in the dark with two lit candles near us. She thought it was good there was anger there, and that I was going with what was there at the time, rather than some preconceived idea of how I should be feeling.

And this evening I just feel annihilated. The pain has felt unsurvivable. It has no real words, other than ‘it isn’t fair’. It is agony. The wounds left by a narcissistic mother who couldn’t see or love me are agony. It feels as though the pain will kill me. I wish it had killed me when I was a baby and I had been saved all of this, I really do. I sent K a brief and not very coherent text, telling her I couldn’t survive the pain and asking if we could do an email check-in on Wednesday because we are meeting on Friday again this week. She hasn’t replied, but I know she will. As we were parting at the forest she said to text her if things felt unmanageable and we would make a plan. Somehow she seems to know this year is bigger and is letting me really lean on her. She is very receptive and open to me needing more of her right now, perhaps because she can really see the progress I’ve made the past few months and that this isn’t about her but is about me processing really difficult stuff. I don’t feel tangled up in transference, although obviously leaving her earlier and being left alone with this gaping wound was pretty awful. I’m scared she’ll leave me because I’m still not “better” and recovered from this fucking attachment trauma, but I can see that would be mental and I can see objectively that if she hasn’t left so far she is not going to, not when we are doing such good work and I am so much better able to hold my process and actually live between sessions.

I spoke to R, my acupuncturist who I’ve known for 14 years, for an hour this evening and basically wailed and sobbed and was a snotty, crying mess for most of it. Together we remembered that when Jess died it triggered everything in me that had lain dormant for forever, and so I guess the anniversary triggers all that in me again, as well as the very real grief over what I lost when she died. And he said lots of helpful things about the pain of having a narcissist for a mother, and I said how I feel sick when I think of the fact that she is my Mum and then I hate myself for that thought. I said how complex it all is, because I can’t just hate her – I am just a great big boiling pot of tangled up emotions – grief, fear, pity, hatred, shame, sadness, resentment, regret, rage, disgust – and all the emotions are intertwined and it is just utterly confusing inside me. I have no idea what anything is. He was validating and just witnessed my pain and didn’t try to change it or offer crap platitudes. He sees this as process, and I am trying to hold on to that. I cannot stay stuck in this place and I need to feel it to move through it. And I can see that this is coming up now because I feel so safe in my work with K lately – I know she is not going away and I know she enjoys working with me and I know I would survive without her (okay today I don’t, but overall I do feel that now and back in June and July I really didn’t). I am trying to tell myself it is okay to feel this pain on another level now, that these feelings are coming up because it is safe to feel them. It doesn’t change how completely overwhelming it is to be so obliterated by this pain though.

I think I won’t cut now. I will take diazepam and a sleeping tablet and try and sleep. Yuk. How long does this process go on for? How much pain and grief and shock and loss can there be inside one person? I bet my Mum is feeling so sorry for herself, and yet again I am completely invisible. Just as I always have been. I don’t exist for her, I really truly don’t – what a fucking horrifying legacy to leave your daughter.

Too much pain

Today is awful. I can’t keep going anymore. What the fuck happened to my life? When Jess died four years ago I was surrounded by a group of friends and now I have no one. I cannot connect with people, cannot let people in because I just end up triggered and dissociated. I just tortured myself by re-activating my Facebook account and looking through old photos. I wanted to find some of me and Jess, instead I was bombarded with photos of all the fun I used to have, before she died and I split open and discovered what was wrong with me. I used to go partying and have friends round for dinner and go to festivals and go wild swimming. Now I don’t do anything. In my rational mind I can see that a lot of that stuff was dysfunctional and that the groups of people I am no longer part of are too old to be getting off their heads on Class As every weekend, that their lives aren’t really how they look on Facebook, but still – I long to be part of something. Anything. However dysfunctional. I see now why I was so drawn to that underworld of illegal drugs and raves and after-parties. I always had one toe in normality though, with my PhD and my daughter, but I so badly wanted to let that world consume me some days.

It is kicking me that I don’t have a family today. I wanted to hold compassion for my Mum last night but I couldn’t. I feel too broken. Instead I wrote 4 pages of bitterness. It is not even that she broke me, I can forgive that, it is that she cannot acknowledge what she did to me. It is the fact she tells people such awful, twisted distortions about me and why I’ve cut her off that hurts and enrages me. If she would just admit that she made some massive mistakes and damaged me beyond repair it might help a little. Instead she paints me as a selfish, callous, cold and unreasonable person. I am judged and hated by people who have no idea how fucking awful my childhood was and how much it still affects me today despite years of therapy and working on myself. It is this I cannot move past today. My Mum will be feeling sorry for herself today, her 70th birthday, because her daughter doesn’t want to know her and has taken her granddaughter away from her. I know that her inability to acknowledge what she did and how she is is now is all part of the same thing – the denial she has built up around her is more real than anything else to her – but it would make up for it a little bit if I knew she would tell people she understood why I had to do this.

And I miss Jess. I miss her so much it is unbearable. She was so real. Our friendship was beautiful. It was just the right level of intimacy – not smothering, not distant, not-too-serious, not too shallow. It hurts because I didn’t really know the real her, the her who was struggling and suicidal. I knew things were really, really bad, but not that bad. It never crossed my mind that things wouldn’t get better for her. How can she be gone? I have never known anyone like her and I’m scared I never will. I cannot let people in now the way I always used to be able to. Before I knew I was broken and traumatised I could let people in because I didn’t know they were what was triggering me. A very old friend wrote to me recently, when I told her I no longer see my Mum, that she was sorry but that I had always drawn much love to me in the form of friendships and she was sure I would be okay because of this. Where are my friends though? I’ve now deactivated Facebook again (I left nearly 4 years ago and it’s the first time I’ve reactivated in nearly a year – it’s always done at a desperate time and I torture myself for an hour before deactivating again, cursing myself for making a bad time even worse. It’s like self-harm but the effects are even more long-lasting), but all the people who’ve let me go are still hanging in the air around me.

How can 4 years have passed and now I have no family, no friends (and I know this isn’t true, I do have friends, but not a group, not a taken for granted clan like I used to have) and nothing fun in my life. I have worked so hard for 4 years to heal but when does the healing end and the living begin? I don’t want to live like this anymore. I am so alone. I am alone even when I’m with people. I don’t want to live with the fallout of my childhood anymore. It is not fair. It makes it impossible for me to connect with people the way I need to, impossible for me to be fully human. I am half a world away, always.

I want her to come back

I got hit by a torrent of grief over Jess at the end of my therapy session this evening. I’m still battling it now as it comes in waves and leaves me aching and haunted and gasping for breath. I am hanging on though, remembering K’s words from this evening and the safety and holding she gives me, knowing she is there and I am seeing her again soon, that I can message if I need to. She has never felt as safe and warm and loving as she did this evening. And I have never felt as grateful to have her – the years we have worked together were all there in the room between us. She holds me tighter when I wobble now because she knows what I need to keep me upright, and I know how to lean into her without losing my own feet.

We were finishing off a craft project we started last week at the kitchen table. I’d already read out the blog post from last night, and we’d already arranged an extra session for Friday by text this morning because a lot came up over the weekend around Jess and my Mum. And we had made arrangements to meet on Friday next week as well if needed. K also told me she is here over Christmas – we could have worked as normal on Christmas Eve but I said I didn’t think Nina would be too impressed if I had therapy that day so we arranged to meet on the 21st and then we are working as normal on the 31st and beyond. I am so aware of how lucky I am that K has never really taken a break at Christmas. The year Nina and I went away to a cottage by the sea for Christmas we all had a complete meltdown because of the 8 day break even though it was our break. The other years we’ve hardly had a break at all and usually done extra sessions around the anniversary of Jess dying. It has helped me not lose my mind completely, having extra support at that time and I do feel very lucky that she doesn’t take time off at this time of year like so many other Ts do.

I thought K was going to expect me to manage this December without extra sessions or support because we were supposed to be ending and now we’re not, but she didn’t. Not at all. I should have known better really. This will be our 4th December working together and she knows how hard the month is for me more than anyone else – the usual Christmas triggers because it was such a traumatic and horrific time of year growing up, not having much family to spend time with, my Mum’s birthday and the anniversary of Jess dying and the anniversary of the date – a week after she died – when I identified her body at the morgue so her body could be released in time for her funeral to take place on the 23rd. It is anniversary after anniversary.

“My sense is that December and Christmas-time is a tough one for you and with your news about the rheumatologist (I found out today I’m being referred because of the rash and raised ANA levels) you need a bit of support. So let’s allow in the possibility of flexible time if you need it, because there’s always a sense of this time of year being hard for you.”

I judge myself for not being over it yet, for the huge, raw, untamed grief that spills out of me still over Jess’s death, but I should have known that K has even more compassion for me because she has seen the pain this month brings so many times now. She is the same as she always has been at this time of year, because she knows me. It still blows me away that she knows me so well now and she still cares. How can she know me this well and still care so much? How can she have seen all the horrors inside me and still be here, still care? How have I not driven her away? How can she not be tired and bored and overwhelmed by me?

We only had maybe 7 minutes of the session left and I was hit with a sudden wave of terror that I would soon be on my own with the horrifying feelings that were bubbling inside me. I could feel them rising up, a silent scream in my throat, and huge amounts of shock and disbelief that Jess really isn’t here anymore. I somehow managed to voice the fear that I was going to go to a bad place, an un-copeable-with place, in the car when I left because I felt so sad about Jess. And the tears fell as K spoke gently to us all about how we needed to let the pain out and shine a light on it together so the feelings aren’t so frightening. She said she knows how horrible it is but that I need to let the grief be here, and to feel at the same time the joy of what we were making and how well I’ve done today – not harming myself, not binge drinking, not doing mad things to squash the pain down anymore. Accepting her offer of extra time on Friday. Saying what I needed from the session. Honouring myself. Doing healing things while we think about her. Really different from how I was when she first knew me. Each year I honour her and my own pain in a more healthy way.

“Let it be here” said K. So I am letting it be here. Everything in me is screaming to go and buy wine and razors and take diazepam and cut until it doesn’t hurt anymore but I am sitting in this pain instead. Sobs are still wracking my body and my head aches from crying. I know I need to eat and have a bath and get ready for work tomorrow. I will, because I am not where I was 3 years ago, or two years ago, or last year, but it still hurts so much. Even though it doesn’t send me into crisis when it hits now the pain is still so intense it takes my breath away. I still wonder each time I get pulled under by grief’s arms whether I will make it to the surface again. I cannot believe it is still so raw, so intense, so all-consuming. It still shocks me that she is really gone. It is physical agony, a pain so deep and limitless. Waves of grief over someone I loved so deeply and lost too soon, someone I thought would be part of my life forever, not someone I thought would shape my life through her death. Time stood still on that December day 4 years ago and when it began again I was never-again in the land of before. “After Jess killed herself” will forever be the line that divides up my life. And it still hurts so much that I will never see her again. A physical ache, a longing to see her and hug her and dance with her, a yearning to tell her things and hear her thoughts and share my past and present and future with her. It hurts so much that I didn’t know how bad she was feeling, that I couldn’t help, that she told me things were feeling better and I believed her – I didn’t know as I hugged her goodbye on that November afternoon that she was saying her forever good bye to me. I didn’t know she seemed better because she had already made up her mind. I thought she was feeling better but she was saying her goodbyes. And I’ve felt the pain she must have been feeling, I know its murky depths and it has more than once led me to try and go to the place she is now in. After she died I wanted to go with her, to be with her and away from the pain she triggered in me by leaving. Sometimes even now I wish I could do that. I know how proud she would be of me for keeping going, because we both know each other’s pain. And I understand why she did what she did, as much as I ever will I think. There are still so many unanswered questions, about her last days and weeks and how long she had been planning it, but mostly now I can let them be.

K said it is very, very hard to ever constellate properly around suicide, because there is shock and loss in the same place and there was no time to prepare or say good bye. And the person chose to take themselves away in such a violent way. And for those left behind it is really, really tough to try and make sense of it, and it doesn’t really ever go away. She said it will lessen and the feelings will soften and be less raw, but it is hard enough for ‘normal’ people, but for people with little people inside it is such a terrible, horrible, confusing thing to get used to. I’m not sure I will ever get used to this. I hear little voices in my head wanting her to come back and it still makes no sense that she is gone. And K said it is really okay to feel very sad this week. I needed her permission for that. I needed her validation tonight to allow me to feel some of this. She said to be gentle with myself and to lean into her. And I will, I am. I am leaning on her even though she is not next to me. Before we left she asked what I would take from today’s session and I sobbed out that “I am just really glad that you are here” and she said “the universe has twisted things around so that we are still working which is a great thing.

And it is a great thing. I cannot even imagine how I would be coping with these losses if I was losing K in two weeks’ time as well. We had a hug at the end of the session and K said how well I was doing to not be in crisis but to also be letting the pain out. I feel horrendous and not like I am doing well at all, but I can see things are better than they were. I can see I can hold this now in a way I couldn’t before. “We are getting there” said K. And I believe her.