Playing a waiting game

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Often over the past year I’ve felt a sense of astonishment and bewilderment that I’m having to get through alone, that I’m expected to live life with any semblance of bravery without Mark. Attempting this has changed me – every step, every push, every stubborn setting of the chin seems to have made me stronger, more resilient. And I find myself feeling something that is unfamiliar, but welcome, a feeling of respect for the person I am now.

Since my return to London I’ve been increasingly aware of something that was beginning to emerge while I was away – that a new phase is up ahead, one that will require something different of me, something other than getting through. I read early on that the phase we go into immediately after the trauma of loss shouldn’t be mistaken for life – it’s more like being in a waiting room. My sense is that it’s partly a shelter – somewhere to retreat to in order to escape the storm that rages around or above us.

The realisation is dawning on me that I may have survived the initial onslaught, that I’ve endured the howling winds and ferocious gales of grief. But although I am mourning less intensely, I don’t want to come out of that place of hiding. The build-up to this has been a feeling of frustration, a sense that I need to think about the future and the kind of life I want. Frustration isn’t new to me, but mixed in with it there has been a determination that I won’t do what I’ve been tempted to do in the past, which is to give up, skulk off, believing that there’s no way through. The past couple of days, however, I’ve felt almost rigid with fear and the thought of what’s up ahead fills me with such dread that has almost frozen me to the spot.

All this reinforces the idea that the while suffering and endurance demand a lot of us, the move towards a more creative stance of reimagining the future is also a tough one to navigate. What do we do about the fears, anxieties, the sense of doom about what lies ahead that threaten to immobilise us? How do we engage with the future in a positive, constructive way after spending so much of our time and energy in getting through and surviving?

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