It seems impossible, but it's been 3 months now since Elspeth died. When everyone tells you it'll never be the same again, you don't quite realise just how much.
When everyone tells you that you'll find ways of coping, you have no idea until you start walking just what those ways of coping will be.
When people say 'plod on', they have no idea just how true that is.
When my partner got Meningitis last year I felt I was running in a treadmill that was going so fast I could barely stay upright. I ran and ran and kept everyone fed and clothed and homework sometimes got done and the fish got fed and I kept on going beyond what I ever thought I could, just running and running. It was only when it all slowed down and I wasn't racing from hospital to home to school to hospital to home to bed, that I was able to pause and look around, and see what had been passed by and what needed attention, and I could start to pick up all the things I'd dropped as I ran.
Since Elspeth died I've not been racing on a treadmill, I'm not even walking. I'm trudging through the stickiest mud you've ever stood in. Every single step is ridiculous effort and occasionally you fall to your knees and it's so very hard to get back up. Sometimes you have to just lay there a while and gather the energy, knowing that when you open your eyes the mud will still be there, and it'll still need to be crossed, and you have no idea how wide it is, or if it ever ends. Sometimes you have no choice but to carry someone else, and you have to keep going even with them on your back. Sometimes a hand reaches out and holds yours, and sometimes a wall of people are behind you, all helping to edge you forward.
I have become a master of hats.
I have my professional hat, my blog-posting, thoroughly reviewing, photograph-taking hat. I can be The Brick Castle and talk to you about my genuine feelings for LEGO Minecraft, the educational benefits of Slow Toys. I can research and alt.tag and have pride in what I've posted. I don't need to think of anything sad or hard, I just need to keep writing and editing and it'll all be okay. I can do this, I rock at this.
I have my family hat. The face I show my children, and my partner when he's struggling. I am competent and fill in forms and get to school on time every day and have the uniforms washed and the drains unblocked and food ready for tea. Sometimes I don't quite cope for as long as I'd like, but I need to do it, for my children. Life for them needs to be better, it needs to be good. I need to keep putting on that hat so that they can laugh and have fun and learn and be proud of themselves and their achievements. They need to be able to look back and see fun, not endless gloom. They need me to read to them in bed at night, and be there with compassion and love when they graze their knees. They need to see it can be done, so that they can see reason for trying.
I have my personal hat. My personal hat is the one I try to hide, the one I don't like. The one that tries to make me fall asleep and play inane games on my phone instead of doing something useful. The one that keeps me awake at night and makes every single thing I do take twice as long because it creeps in and fills my thoughts and won't let me concentrate. My personal hat is why we've run out of toilet roll, it's why I have 1600 unread emails, and it's why my children have had pizza for tea twice this week. It's the reason why I don't remember anything and have to write everything down. It's the reason that sometimes I can't trust my own advice or decisions and it's why I don't want to cook anything complicated. It's stolen my confidence and self-respect and I can't really imagine it'll ever give them back, certainly not unharmed or intact.
Last Friday was my birthday, it was also the day that the Police Coroner chose to return to us in photocopied format Elspeth's diary. Great timing, and it didn't go too well. The mud was unbearably thick and nothing could be done, so I had my birthday on Saturday, which was exactly 3 months since Elspeth died. I think that worked better for everyone. We watched family movies and built LEGO and ate cake and there were some smiles, and mainly there was a lot of sitting together in the living room just being. Everyone had time to wear their personal hat and let their mind wander until the fog cleared a little, and nothing was expected of anyone.
I know that overall the mud is getting easier, I know this because I remember telling my counsellor with some degree of confidence last week, so it must be true despite any blip. I know we can have happy times, I know we can smile and have fun, our long weekend in London showed us that, it was fabulous. I know that we can get through it. I know that Christmas is really daunting, but I have just bought my first present, so I know we can do it.
I also know that this is a positive post, and I'm in a much better place than 4 days ago, or 4 weeks ago, and hopefully you will see that....