As I sit here, in the early hours of the morning, reflecting on my life over the last five years I am drawn to the last moment I spent with Alice. The last time I saw Alice, we hugged each other, told each other how much love we had for each other and agreed to meet up towards the end of the week as I had to go away for work. Alice passed away in tragic circumstances just a few hours after this; I never in a million years would have thought that that would have been the last time I saw her.
We never truly know what is going to happen in this world, one minute everything can be fine and the next our lives are turned upside down. We can think that we have everything perfectly planned out but all it takes is a moment to change our lives forever for good or for ill.
Nothing could have ever prepared me for the devastation of losing Alice, and I don’t think it ever will. It will forever be a part of my life that I will carry with me. I sometimes feel that when Alice died, part of me died too, but this was challenged when I watched an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (of all things).
To put this briefly, Benjamin Sisko (the commander in charge of the space station) lost his wife in tragic circumstances prior to him taking command of the space station, he understandably was deeply impacted by this incident. In the episode in question, Sisko makes contact with an alien species who have no concept of a ‘linear existence’; to put it another way they do not understand what it is like to exist on a ‘timeline’, to live and die.
The aliens trap Sisko as they see him as a threat and in short Sisko has to explain to the aliens the concept of a ‘linear existence’ to build trust with the aliens, to do this Sisko invites the aliens to share in his memories. The aliens share in his memories however they get confused with Sisko, because his memories; his being, keeps returning to one spot in time, the moment his wife passed away. The aliens’ challenge Sisko on this until Sisko eventually capitulates and acknowledges that our existence is not linear at all, that he still exists in that one spot in time where he lost his wife.
When I saw this episode, I spontaneously burst into floods of (manly) tears, because I related to it so much. Sisko like me did not die, but was existing in that one spot in time.
I have written about and chastised at length people who tell individuals in grief to move on, it is the worst thing possible to say to someone who has lost someone and for some (including myself) there is no moving on. There is however life, and life continues regardless of where we exist. Accepting this does not mean I leave Alice behind; it doesn’t mean I have moved on or that the feelings I have to manage are any easier. It means that I can no longer run from the world around me.
One of the most difficult things I have done, is to start to pick up the pieces of my broken life and dared to order them in a manner which allows me to live again. It’s not perfect, does not have planning permission and occasionally collapses into a big old mess on the floor but its mine and I have worked damn hard to get there.
During COVID-19, many of us will have lost someone we have loved. There is nothing anyone can say that will make that experience of loss any easier, there is no pill or therapy that will take away the raw pain. You may exist in in that one spot in time for an eternity, and that’s okay, nobody has the right to tell you how you should and shouldn’t grieve.
We all are on a unique, individual, and deeply personal journey. As JRR Tolkien states:
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”