After my wife died, I fell into a very deep, very dark hole of grief and depression. I was so consumed with loss, guilt, pain… I couldn’t function at anything more than a very basic level. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t work. All I wanted was not to be here, to put an end to the unendurable pain of being without her. I planned my suicide down to the last detail.
But I had always been the responsible one. The money earner, the bill payer, the organiser, the logical thinker, the left side of our mutual brain. She was the carer, the intuitive one, the fun one, the people person, the dreamer. In so many ways we were one person. Together, we were capable of anything. Without her, I was lost.
But the responsibilities of taking care of our cats, our house, all the admin of settling her estate, meant that I couldn’t carry out my wish to disappear from the world. At least not until everything was done, until all the loose ends were neatly tied up. I felt I had no choice but to go on.
I saw my GP, who referred me to a psychiatrist, who put me on antidepressants, anxiolytics, and mood stabilisers. She was determined to keep me alive. So determined that I would not become a black mark on her record, that she just kept throwing more and more drugs at me. Drugs that I knew would not only turn me into a zombie incapable of taking my own life but also entirely incapable of thought or action.
So, I confided in a good friend who happened to be a psychotherapist, who recommended another psychiatrist as well as a psychotherapist she thought I could work with. My new psychiatrist changed my medication. The therapist and I connected. Both of them are amazing people who obviously care and take the time to listen. Who understand and do not judge.
I’m still on antidepressants and may be for life. I’ve been in therapy for about two years now. I think my therapist knows more about me than my wife did even after 22 years together – not through any fault of her own, but because there were things I could not tell her because of my own insecurities. Perhaps she knew them anyway because she was so intuitive and because she loved me unconditionally, as I love her.
Of course, I still have plenty of bad moments, when a thought, a song, a memory or the scent of her perfume hits me out of the blue, and I find myself leaking tears or sobbing uncontrollably. I am okay with that. Sometimes I even welcome those moments because they evoke precious memories.
But, with the help of my therapist, I am gradually discovering who I am. I am learning how to be me. It isn’t easy, and I still have a long way to go. I am alone, and that’s fine. Because whatever I do, wherever I go, whatever I become, my wife will always be part of me. Perhaps we were somehow prescient when we chose an e.e. cummings poem for our wedding program: “I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart.”
I will carry her in my heart forever.