Generally, it’s never a great conversation for anyone when we talk about death and grief, it terrifies us, especially when it’s someone else’s grief. It was only last week I was having a conversation with a friend over a few cold beers in a local bar. The good thing about alcohol is that it tends to make the personal topics more meaningful and detailed, by slowly lowering our social barriers as we sip away. My friend wanted to talk about me and how I’m moving forward.
Forward, in the sense of how I was moving on. Moving on with love and grief after losing Katherine. People tend not to ask me these type of questions, so I indulged. I started off by comparing how I felt at the beginning and how I feel now, in regard to loss.
As the moments of this super dull topic went on I could sense my friend starting to lose value in the entire theme. I didn’t blame him as the dialogue started to diminish as I went into the detail of my grief. Its so hard for someone to comprehend what I say. Especially when they haven’t been through it. I gave him some added confidence by stating “Look, mate, just remember everyone you love has a 100% chance of dying before or after us, so really, everything I’m describing applies to both of us. Not just me”. The bottom line was he just hadn’t experienced it yet. However, I did my best at that moment to explain in detail my outlook on losing a loved one further. I understood he literally had no idea how messy and impossible the entire experience of bereavement is to master – it still is for me after 2 years.
I explained that we have to be fully aware that all day, every day, all around the world, terrible things are happening all the time. I said “A lot of people in this bar will probably know how I feel. This conversation isn’t just about me. You haven’t experienced it yet, but you will. It’s going to happen”. He began to realise my point and became instantly comfortable with the uncomfortable. I had to point out that every person in the world from any walk of life is going to experience a formative and traumatic loss at some point in their life. Because that’s just how life is. How we deal with it is down to that individual. I could only share my experience.
We then began to talk about my future. I described how my future had become this totally new chapter in my life. A really good chapter, in fact, one which I have opened my heart to. One thing about this present moment is that it actually makes me smile. This is because I know that I have a massive opportunity in front of me. The opportunity to live a life of happiness with my daughter and my beautiful fiancée, Nicola.
Falling in love and connecting emotionally with Nicola has really helped me understand the enormity of what I lost when Katherine died. And equally, it has helped me realise that my love for Katherine and my love for Nicola are not opposing forces. They are different energies that are simply connected to the same thread in my life.
However, one really interesting point did come out of the conversation and it’s the point I want to make here. It was when I heard the term “how do you feel about the whole moving on thing”. I knew it wasn’t meant to be received in a disrespectful way, so I immediately started to mutter my description about this term ‘moving on’- for me, in grief, all of it’s characteristics are wrong.
I found myself instinctively pointing out that “I haven’t’ moved on at all”. I’m just simply “Moving forward with my life”. I meant this in the way that whatever I do for Katherine or say about Katherine, it will always be said in the present tense. This is because I’ve not moved on because that doesn’t’ represent all the moments and feelings we shared. They can’t simply be forgotten in my life. I am only where I am now because I loved Katherine and because I lost Katherine.
Every moment I have been through with her has marked me permanently. She is and always will be present in everything me and my daughter do. When people speak to me, they will hear me say things like “Katherine is” because, for me, Katherine still is. I never refer to her as ‘Katherine was’ when I talk.
The term ‘moved on’ really doesn’t do justice to my experience. Grief is incurable and becomes part of you as much as any other of life’s insane wonder’s. Grief is as powerful as any big moment we will experience in our lives. It could be milestone experiences such as the first time you find real love or the moment you meet your first child. It is so powerful and you’ll never forget it. I mean this in the sense that you won’t understand it until it actually happens to you. Then you’ll get it.
Ultimately, Katherine’s love, life and death are the elements that have made me the person who Nicola wants to marry and spend the rest of her life with. I always think it is important for people to remember that a grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again. I am a very lucky man to have found love again and I am embracing the ability to move forward. My life is a journey in which I have to keep moving. Holding onto every life lesson Katherine has given me. There is no turning back and definitely no “Moving on”.