After September, I guess I didn’t have any big distractions any more. The fogginess of the early days was lifting and I was more able to take in what was happening.
Daytimes were mostly filled with the routines of caring for small children and trying to keep the house together. The evenings were harder and I had to work to fill them. I no longer had friends popping in every night (not that they should) and I sort of invited the grief in instead. I remember saying to one of my WhatsApp groups that I had no Saturday night plans for the first time since Andy died. They responded with suggestions that they came over but I pushed them back. I had to be alone in the house and know that I was OK and wasn’t going to implode or anything like that.
I had long baths, read books, binge watched Netflix, and I slowly got used to being alone. I picked up a book that a friend had given to me a few months earlier called A Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink, It’s about how the author learned to live with grief following her brother’s death. I read it in about 48 hours and sobbed through the whole thing. It was very cathartic.
Letting my emotions come to the fore also left me feeling less brazen (I remember in the summer saying I was able to feel strong when thinking about the future) and more emotionally fragile. I couldn’t handle certain situations anymore and put some barriers up.
Some days, I felt like the strands of my life were running away from me like the autumn leaves blowing across the pavement and I was desperately trying to catch them.
I also wasn’t living the October and November that I thought I would be living earlier in the summer. Back then I thought I would know the cause of Andy’s death. I also thought I would have received the life insurance payment by then (as a side note – I always feel awkward talking about money but the reality is that I had started to lie awake wondering how I would sort out Christmas and pay the mortgage etc. I also think it’s important for people to think about their own situation and whether they and their families are adequately protected if the worse happens, if they are able to). I had also applied to do a Master’s, a vocational one that would have set me on a new career path. I started my application before Andy died and continued with it afterwards thinking it would distract me. I did get a place on the course but turned it down in the end as realised that it would be too much for me to take on at the moment – logistically and emotionally.
I had a couple of pretty dark weeks feeling like I was living in limbo, feeling emotionally fragile and struggling to cope with day to day things. The nights were drawing in, the days were colder. I started to have all sorts of irrational thoughts like I had somehow killed him by bleaching the toilet in between him being sick (he had gastroenteritis when he died). Then I had a health niggles of my own and was frustrated with delays and cancelled appointments and felt like the world was against me (the health niggles turned out to be nothing to worry about). Then there’s all the other stuff that comes with single parenting and coping with the kids who were very much hurting too.
Some days, I would drop them at school, then come back to bed to hide from the world until 3pm.
One day after a bad week I dragged myself into London for a change of scenery. I walked around St John’s Wood and Hampstead, I climbed to the top of Primrose Hill and then walked to Camden for lunch. I remember paying for it suddenly thinking I had no idea how much was in my bank account and wondering if my card would be declined.
Funnily enough I got home to the letter that the life insurance had paid out. They had done so in the end without knowing the cause of death which was slightly confusing but very welcome.
It was another couple of weeks before I would hear from the Coroner though. One Friday morning I went to the cinema with a friend to see A Star Is Born (spoiler: I had no idea of the plot. Maybe not a film to watch if you are feeling a little emotionally fragile). We bought our tickets, ordered food and had a bit of a catch up chat, including talking about my frustrations over the Coroner’s delay. My friend went to the toilet and I picked up my phone to mindlessly scroll. Like you do. I checked my email and BAM there it was. The email I’d been waiting for for 3 months.
The pathologist had concluded that Andy had died from a Cardiac Arrest, the secondary cause was dehydration and the tertiary cause was gastroenteritis. Having read the full report later on, everything else was in good health. It just seems like he was “unlucky”. I still can’t quite process that.
I went to watch the film. My friend suggested we postpone it but I felt it was a waste as we had paid for the tickets and food. It turns out that dark, quiet cinemas aren’t a bad place to cry. I sobbed and sobbed though it and probably will never be able to watch it again.