Wherever there is loss there is grief – and grief is exhausting. It may be hidden grief – subconscious sadness, buried pain with little outward show – or a more obvious storm of weeping. Either way the emotional bruising has a huge and probably largely unexpected physical cost. How can I get out of bed and drag myself through another day? There is nothing I want to do, nothing for which I have any energy… I have lost my bearings and purpose and all is grey and pointless. It sounds just like depression – because it is: it is sadness with a reason. In fact in my case there are 3 reasons – a triple whammy.
The first ‘death’ was the ending of a season of work, blogging and ministry – a good ending, a clear finishing point, but still the loss of role and direction. A line was drawn at the end of 2012 and more lines in 2013: looking back now I can see they were times of gradually letting go and stepping back, handing on a baton… This was the beginning of my ‘going upstairs’ and leaving others to take over. By 2014 finding a way to physically move on was clearly the right thing to do – to forge a future for Martin’s work and more space for our marriage by making a home in Leicester . But still, however good and necessary and right change may be, it is still loss. I had given myself to that series of projects and people and church over 14 years and it defined who I was. Goodbye, Redhead in so many ways – and there is no going back. That is why I have never coloured my hair again since it re-grew.
We started renting the small upstairs flat in Leicester in May 2014 – it’s ages now! – and were living between our 2 homes over the summer, weekdays in the city and enjoying weekends with our cross-generational community in Loughborough. Hmmm – how our choices and decisions lead us on beyond what we ever imagined as those months unfolded. We had very effectively driven ourselves out of our long-standing family home into a new beginning… not knowing what else was just round the corner.
You can see the ‘About’ page for more details, but basically it’s now coming up to a year since our son died. Perhaps it’s the anniversary or just the autumn season reverberating with the sights and sounds of the dying year, but November is proving a difficult month to negotiate: I’m having to take it a day at a time. Anyone would understand this indelible grief, the continual search for the grace to carry the loss of a child, part of my own flesh and blood. Also we’d journeyed with Sam for 5 years as he’d fought for his life and he was so sure he’d won the battle right up to the end, bless him. Perhaps he had… but we are left behind with the legacy of those years and a hole nothing can fill.
But that is not all. Now there is the final cut: the sale of our old home. I really thought I had let go – the house is virtually unrecognisable from when we lived there. All the lodgers moved on to their own new places this summer and there is now another young family care-taking for us until it all goes through. We have a buyer who is willing to wait for our mortgage redemption penalties to expire in February – all should be well as long as the structural engineer can help us fix some nasty cracks… Our 2 year transition should be completed in the New Year.
So why is it this is the hardest loss to bear? Why am I suffering as much as I did with losing Sam? Perhaps because I have to keep returning to continue the giant clear-out of stuff we have collected over the years that there is no longer room for, so I’m continually reminded of what is lost… Yet it’s really good that I haven’t had to move everything out all at once, with so much less space in Leicester and so little energy for it. I am tackling it gradually and doing lots of tip and charity shop runs. It’s good – and good to have friends there to look after the place too – but also not good. There are too many ghosts, too many memories Plus I haven’t yet made our nest in Leicester. We now have the downstairs of the house as well as our erstwhile flat and trying to work out how to make it one home is proving challenging. I am having to work at making a place to rest!
Amidst so much loss it feels as if everything has died. I am left empty and everything is ash. Of course there are shoots coming through, things to be grateful for, signs of hope and I know that one day Spring will come again, but for now – it is a time for mourning.