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Saturday, 19 April 2014

The New Life of Easter unites Sadness and Joy

I've been trying to write another blog entry for days but I've been unable to find the words to write. Family and friends are being so supportive, yet life without Suzie is unbearably bleak, and I feel totally lost and bereft. I find it so difficult to know what to say when people ask how I am because I'm unable to respond truthfully without getting upset, and I feel so embarrassed for them as they struggle to find the right words to say. Yet I know the day will come when people will no longer ask, and I wonder if that will hurt even more. The simple fact is that this is an incredibly painful and distressing journey that has to be endured by anyone who has lost someone they love as much as I love Suzie. There are no short cuts, no easy answers, and nothing can take away the pain.
Tears are frequent and anxiety is a constant battle. Each morning I awake to the crushing pain and tightness in my chest, followed by a surge in my heart rate, sweating, shaking and the realisation that another day without Suzie has begun. I make a point of thanking God for each new day, I consciously take some slow deep breaths, and I have a diazepam or two. (This is an anti-anxiety medication that I've been on for years). I sit in bed with my coffee, watching out of the window for the occasional bird to hop onto the feeder outside, and I have a flick through Facebook, emails and the news on my iPad, until I feel able to get up and face the day. I wander round, looking at the various things that need to be done, but rarely have the energy or the motivation to accomplish anything. Interestingly, the only thing I have felt any motivation to do is to go out in the garden and pull up a few weeds and generally keep things looking nice.... Gardening had always been Suzie's passion and joy but was something I disliked intensely, and I'd only started doing it out of my devotion to Suzie when she was no longer able to do it herself.
Yesterday I made the decision to take down all of the condolence cards that I'd received and put them away somewhere safe. It was a hugely emotional experience for me, but, with Easter upon us, it seemed a good time to start focussing on new life.... the new life that Suzie has now begun, and the new chapter of my own life, whatever that might be. My hope is that this will help to turn my focus away from the sorrow of loss, and enable me to embrace the beauty of Suzie's living presence and love within me, and focus on all the happy memories that we shared during our lifetime together. 
I haven't yet been able to cope with going back to our church for a service. I've been into the church building once but the panic attack and depth of emotion that it caused was too much for me and I had to leave. That church was the focal point of our life together and meant everything to us, so I shouldn't be surprised that it will take time to be able to face being there without her. Suzie especially loved this season of Easter.
Throughout this 'Holy Week' I've found that the truth and meaning of Christ's suffering and death has taken on a profound significance as I recognise that Suzie has now received that gift of new life and eternal salvation joy for which Jesus paid so dearly. As I anticipate Easter Sunday tomorrow, and all that it offers as we are drawn to celebrate Christ's victory over sin and death, I can't help but thank God that Suzie is already experiencing the joy and peace of that victory. She has been made new, pure and whole, and she's been set free from the bondage of this world. Despite my ongoing and intense sadness as I so desperately miss her physical presence in my life, and even now as tears begin to fall yet again as I type, there is a faint glow of warmth and peace in my heart as I embrace the truth and reality of what the death of Suzie's physical body means for her. Her pain and tears are gone for ever. She has been made new. She is experiencing a level of joy, peace and happiness that is beyond anything we could ever imagine. That is what Jesus bought for us by His immense suffering, His agonising death and His victorious resurrection. That is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday. That is the free gift He offers to all who will accept it. 
hold on to the comfort that, one day, I will share that experience with my Suzie.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Weight of Grief

Two weeks ago today family and friends were meeting together with us for Suzie's funeral. I can't believe how very quickly the time seems to have gone by, and yet it feels like a lifetime ago that Suzie and I were together. I would love to write an encouraging blog about how time is healing, but, right now, it isn't. Life without Suzie is just about as bleak and unbearable as it can be. When I wake up each morning the increasingly familiar surge of pain rips through my very being, and sometimes the tears are falling before I've even opened my eyes. Each day that passes feels like it's taking her further and further away from me, and it tears me apart. I try to recapture memories of our final days together, but they're hazy and I sometimes fear that even the memories will fade away. 
I've heard people talk about the 'weight' of grief, and that's exactly what it is. It's an extreme heaviness that bears down on me, crushing me to the ground and paralysing me. I can't function properly and sometimes I can't even move. Everything is such a huge effort and so exhausting. I stand for ages, staring blankly at things that need to be done, but I don't have the physical or mental capacity to do them. 
Everything around me seems trivial and pointless. Without Suzie there just doesn't seem to be any reason or purpose in anything. I can't engage in conversations about normal everyday things without feeling like it is all just meaningless words. Most of the time I can't converse at all because any attempt at talking becomes incoherent as the emotions overcome me. I have yet to be able to answer the question 'How are you?' without totally breaking down and becoming a sobbing wreck.
Before Suzie was ill I already suffered anxiety and mental health problems, particularly when having to go out. I was better if Suzie was with me, but going out without her was a real challenge. This has become exacerbated in recent weeks, and most days I find it almost impossible to leave the house. It seems crazy that one of the greatest joys that Suzie and I shared was going for trips out and walking for miles with her in her wheelchair. Holding on to Suzie I could walk for hours and enjoy every minute of it. Without her I struggle to even get through the front door to put the rubbish out into the bin.
I miss her so much it feels like a physical pain in my chest as though someone has ripped out my heart. She was my life for over 20 years, and particularly during the last couple of years I barely left her side. I have lost everything that made each day what it was, and I have lost the very essence of who I was. I just don't know how to move on from here.
I can only come back to my knowledge that, just as God put me here to care for Suzie, so, too, does He have plans for the rest of my life. Sometimes I can't feel the reality of that, but that is where faith comes into its own. The Bible reminds us that 'Faith is believing in things that we can't see'. I will never stop believing. I will never stop thanking God for the blessings He has given me. I will always thank Him for the many wonderful years Suzie and I shared together, and I will certainly always thank Him for my amazing family. Today I thank God especially for the precious weekend I've just spent with my daughter who is a real treasure, and for the quality time we spent as a family celebrating my Dad's birthday. 
Right now I can't actually feel the joy of such things in a tangible way, but I hold on to the knowledge that they are there. In the Bible's Old Testament the prophet Habakkuk lists  a whole string of disasters where everything fails or is taken away from him, but he concludes with the words, 'Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord'...... I'm not sure how to 'rejoice' right now, but as an act of will and of obedience to God I'm certainly going to try.
I leave you with some images that help to remind me of God's blessings....


This year's blossom brings back memories of Suzie gazing at the tree she loved so much.
These Greenfinches that Suzie loved to watch have started coming back again.
Memories of happier times....