I am 8 years in, and I wonder if I will ever stop counting?
From the day my husband died, everything had significance. The hours after he died were counted. I remember sitting there with him after he had died. I had his hand in mine. I glanced up at the clock.
Exactly 4 hours ago, they had come into the family room in the intensive care unit to tell me he had died. From that point on, counting started and never really stopped.
Every Friday brought tears as week by week, I left him further behind. He died on a Friday.
Every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, put another moment in time between the beautiful "us" that I loved, and the heartbreaking "me" that I found so hard to accept. It felt soul destroying.
Time was always our enemy. It was never on our side, it stole my beautiful man from my life far sooner than my nightmares foretold. Even after death, it continued to taunt me. Not only did I have to deal with his absence from my heart, I had to deal with the sensation that time was stealing those memories away. The gulf felt so wide, and it was terrifying.
Grief did weird things to my brain. It convinced me that time would make me forget. I started to write everything down. I was terrified that time would take the memories too, and I couldn't cope with that. I took a roll of lining paper, and started to write the time line of our lives. Every date I could remember, every holiday, gigs, nights out, it all went on there. I wrote down all our text messages to and from each other, printed every email.....everything that had happened in our lives was documented.
The ticking of time drove me to it.
It wasn't intentional, my brain just couldn't help but remember.
The thing is, his death stole him from me physically, but it could never steal the memories. Every single one is engraved in my mind, on my heart as deep inside my soul. There is nothing that could ever take them away from me, and that is such a huge comfort. I wish I'd have known that from the start.
Eight years on, and I don't count. The only dates I am all too painfully aware of are the obvious ones. Birthday, deathday and anniversaries.
Time can never steal something that's too precious to let go of. You love them too much to let that happen. Never forget.
Helping Others Understand
I can understand why to an outsider, the concept of counting time seems so alien. When I look back now, it makes sense, but I can also see that I didn't need to count every painful milestone - it just felt like an additional layer of self torture.
If someone in your life can tell you exactly how many days it's been since the death of someone they loved, please don't judge them. It is a coping mechanism, and it's a normal grief reaction. They aren't alone in their actions, and it's important for both you, and them to realise this. It's like so many things we go through in grief, it might feel like we're going crazy because we think we're the only person in the whole universe experiencing this, but the reality is, we're not. It's perfectly normal. That's the important bit for you to understand as an outsider - this is normal.
Some magical words to help you be the best human you can be when supporting someone who needs you - be there, be present, be kind, and listen.