The glorious Clare Bowditch has been occupying my mind all week. Earworming me in that eloquent, sultry-toned way of hers with The thing about grief.
Five weeks ago, if you’d asked me how I was coping with this separation business, I’d have told you that I was ok. That I’d done much of my mourning already. That it was all a long time coming. I’d probably have given you a hug if it seemed you were feeling sad about it. And then maybe I’d have told you again that I was ok, really.
But, I’ve discovered that – despite my presumptions when this whole thing began – I am indeed grieving. Sounds obvious, I know. My relationship is over; what I’d pictured of my future is gone. And so on. Of course I’m grieving.
It’s not really about my ex. Or about the relationship being over. We’re temporarily living under the same roof, so there are regular reminders about why that is.
It’s the letting go of who I thought I was when I was with him. Or, more to the point, when we were ‘us’. The role I thought I had played, was playing and would continue to play. At least until I couldn’t un-know that I couldn’t continue to play it.
I went away with friends last weekend, just me and the kids with two other families. I was prepared for the having-to-do-everything and I was ok with that – packing, loading and unloading the car, shopping, kid-wrangling, etc. I knew it’d be me waking overnight with them, getting up early, feeding them, bathing them, disciplining. My friends were sensitive to this, so were a great help.
But, the bit I didn’t see coming was how it would feel to be The Single Person.
How out of place I’d feel when everyone else quite naturally convened with their families to discuss lunch options at the country fair we visited. How it’d sting, just a little, to see the couples holding hands. How there’d be a dull, uncomfortable thud in my stomach, sitting among their easy flow of familiarity, banter and laughs during games night. How my eyes would prickle when I remembered that, a long time ago, that was ‘us’. And how I’d realise how accustomed I’d become to who I was in it.
What happens to my hazier memories of our couple-dom? Blanks that it was his role to fill in. Like, the sketchier details of that time in Russia when he lost our passports on the train and we spent 36 nerve-wracking hours waiting to get them back. That’s a great story.
And there are memories of our children that my sleep-addled brain sometimes loses. What happened in the hours after B was born, when I didn’t get to hold or see him and all I had was T’s reassurances, and a photo of a tiny boy in a humidicrib with tubes up his nose?
Where do my stories go when they’ve been so inextricably tied to T’s for so long? I find it hard to reconcile that they will now have to hang sometimes, with no resolution or soft landing.
Intellectually, I know my new normal will find its place in time, along with a new sense of myself. But I’m preoccupied with what is to come between here and there. I’ve always liked a plan and my life experience has no precedent that I can draw upon. And I’ve always been a touch impatient.
There’s a line in Clare’s song about how the ‘i’ comes before the ‘e’ in grief. It’s on a loop in my head. I know it to be true, unshakeably and undeniably, and, somehow, that gives me solace.
For now, in this faith-leap at a better way – for me and my kids and, maybe someday, within another relationship – it’s the only certainty I can grasp.