I have been looking back quite a lot recently. Well, I say recently, I do it constantly. It is the mark of the grieving, I guess. Life is all about moving forward and moving on to the next thing but that is so impossible when such a huge chunk of you is left in the past. I have no choice but to look back. I mostly look back and smile and feel close to Eilys. There are lots of stages of looking back over her life that I have experienced and I am sure there will be lots more. I have had the obsessive-must-look-at-as-many-photos-or-videos-as-possible stage, the surrounding ourselves with reminders and trinkets stage, the only needing to look at photos every night before bed stage, the finding it really hard to look at photos or videos stage but the current stage is a little different…
At the moment the “on this day” photo and video collections are getting harder and harder to bear, they were this time last year too. Unlike in 2016, I can see the deterioration in Eilys and how her smiles are getting less frequent and it breaks me. I want to climb in the image and tell her how loved she is and that she doesn’t have to hold on if the struggle is too much, just like we did during a couple of nights when we thought we were going to lose her. But as hard as this is, it is not what is making me hurt… it’s me. I look at my face and my smiles and I cannot fathom how I look as happy as I do. I have looked at photos all the way through to after her funeral and I still look all happy and smiley and I am just baffled.
Obviously I am not likely to photograph and weepy mess that I was most of the time and I am even less likely to post those on Social Media but I cannot marry up the photographs with the utterly gut-wrechingly painful sadness, numbness and heartbreak that we were going through. I am almost being haunted by the grinning goon in these photos.
But then as I sit here on a train, tears in my eyes at the memories I think back to those dark and sad times and I remember laughter as well and moments of joy. Grief isn’t linear even in those first moments, days and weeks. I have always said Eilys died so quickly there was no time to think about what was happening until it had happened. Her death was beautiful and peaceful and initially I think we were awed by it until the reality hit us like a train. For me, the first train hit as I went downstairs for the first time after she died and I turned off her Oxygen compressors (the ones that I had ran downstairs to turn up to the maximum setting just before she died in our arms). The silence was so painful, it felt like a scream reverberating around my head. The next train hit as I had to call my Mum, Joe’s Mum and my brother but my wonderful brain has blocked these memories off, it is the hardest thing I have ever done and I am glad I cannot remember it.
But we smiled. Dylan kept us afloat. He was in a very odd mood that day, he sat in the bath cleaning for a while and then cleaned our bedside tables. I presume he was processing what had just happened. As the new of Eilys’ death traveled around we had thoughtful messages and flowers which made us smile too. Then doing the colour run a few days later and doing it for Eilys’ and being cheered on by all our immediate family kept us smiling.
Ok, I am waffling now. I guess my point is that looking back is something that has to happen regularly for me but I forget the whole context of situations. Life has taught me to plaster a smile on my smush when there is a camera. No matter how awkward or gormless I look, it is what I do. I have been conditioned to only post photos online where I look smiley and happy, because sometimes reality is too hard to share. I see so many bereaved parents sharing beautiful photographs of their babies after they’d passed away which I think is incredible and so brave but for me the photos I have of Eilys after she died are just for me, I don’t even think I have shown Joe them (he knows I took some and he hasn’t ever asked to see them). I wish I could share them because she looks so peaceful and so so beautiful but something always stops me. I don’t want to trigger someone else to feel sad but overwhelmingly I want to show that death isn’t awful, it isn’t painful and that it can be beautiful and so peaceful.
I try to share the truth of my life on instagram but no one is ever 100% truthful… every post is edited in some degree. We can’t post every second of each day mainly because that would be unbelievable boring!
Well that was a bit waffley but high five for getting to the end!!
Thanks for reading