** Trigger warning – contains writing about death and dying and discussions about suicide **
It struck me the other day that I have never written a blog about the day when Ian left.
The reason that this surprised me is because ever since he died, the period from late August until late September has been incredibly hard and completely consuming; before, during and after each of the anniversarys that we have lived through. The autumn starts creeping in, the shadows elongate and the sun disappears earlier each day, and then suddenly the season clicks… you wake up one morning, feel the chill in the air, and realise that autumn has arrived. In each of the previous 5 autumns, I have awaited this point with apprehension bordering on dread, and nothing ever really prepares me for that tangible cue that the anniversary is imminent.
Anniversarys are odd things. They epitomise both the most joyous and the most desperate times of our lives. They are birthdays and weddings; they are funerals and they are the days that loved ones died. We remember them because they are important and they shape our lives. They mark points in our calender and they define who we are. But while birthdays and wedding anniversaries are positive and happy and vital to wellbeing, difficult anniversaries are just as important in order to process those traumatic events over time and move through them.
It has taken me a long time to get here – six years to the day, in fact – but now I rarely think about Ian’s death in terms of the specific events of the day itself and the events of the days and months surrounding it. When he first died it was all-consuming, as we searched for clues, pieced together information and waited for reports from paramedics and police officers. Over the months we managed to build a picture of what had happened, and this helped us to come to terms in retrospect with all of the events we had to live through in those first blurred, confusing days and months. These included reading the note Ian left, clearing his flat, visiting him in the chapel of rest and his funeral. They continued on over the months until we interred his ashes (for me possibly the hardest day of all), and attended the inquest into his death four months later. Now, six years on, I am finding that it is only nearing the anniversary of Ian’s death that I begin to think in depth about these darkest times again. Don’t get me wrong – I think of Ian every single day, I miss him every single day and I think about the implications of his death; Every. Single. Day. I just don’t focus on the details of it any more. This can really only be a good thing, as it shows that the process of grief is being moved through slowly, but conversely it does make anniversary times particularly and noticeably more difficult than other times; relatively speaking.
I often wonder whether autumn is a particularly wistful time of year anyway. I can’t remember in much detail how I thought about it before it became tainted with the memories of losing Ian, but I think that I always liked it. I have never been a huge fan of summer or winter, but the cosy feeling in early autumn always felt a bit comforting and indulgent. I always liked the first time it felt justified to put the heating on or get under a blanket, or going shopping for new winter boots and chunky-knit sweaters. The end of summer has a melancholy about it which is quite cathartic.
The same can be said of the day of the week. Ian left the world on a Sunday night. Sundays are notoriously melancholy days for many people, hence the term ‘the Sunday night blues’. Ian often struggled on Sundays, and I did too for the initial months after his death. There is a very specific feeling around Sunday night which is difficult to escape. I often wonder if I would have felt quite the same if Ian died on a Tuesday, or a Thursday. It’s impossible to know. My whole family and I found the 2016 anniversary particularly hard because the days matched the dates for the first time since Ian died. Just like autumn, Sundays seem to carry an intrinsic melancholic atmosphere which is hard to avoid, and living through a Sunday 11th September last year was particularly poignant.
That sense of melancholy and wistfulness one feels in autumn is, of course, entirely different now for me and my family, and anyone remembering Ian. In early autumn it is impossible for me not to be drawn back to the events of the days around Ian’s death – speaking to him for the last time, the last text he sent me, waking up on the morning when he had already died and going through the whole day oblivious – which I still feel a sense of guilt about – trying to call him in the evening and getting no reply… and then the phone call which came to tell me that Ian had died, and which marked the beginning of a different life.
It is very hard not to focus on Ian’s anguish in his last day and I’m not sure that any anniversary will pass without me doing so, after six years, or ten, or twenty. There is no dodging the anniversary and there is no escaping the fact that it will always be a difficult and painful time of year that my family and I need to get through. But I do take comfort that thinking on the details of Ian’s death is less frequent than it once was, and this gives me hope – and tangible evidence in difficult times – that I am moving through the experience of losing him, in this new life which began six years ago today.
I know you are at peace now, my dear brother. I miss you so much, and I wish you were still here. Thinking of you today and every day.
Rest In Peace Ian xxxx
6.1.76 – 12.9.11