It is often said the first two years of grief are the worst. This is very much my experience.
I’ve just turned 31 and at this point, don’t know whether many of the things society associates with being in your 30s will ever happen to me. I effectively lost a huge chunk of 2011 and ’12 to grief and related problems, and have never quite yet recovered from that. The amount of rejection I’ve had in my work often seems to have become inversely proportional to my ability to deal with it.
But, four years on from the death of my first friend to suicide, I take some comfort that this anniversary has got a bit easier each year. When a second friend died by suicide late last year the sheer unfathomable awfulness of that (and being under-employed, and variously messed about with professionally) forced me into being more proactive than the last time. Hence this blog; hence all the running, and a really great counsellor; much better than any of the previous.
This year is the first that I’ve started to develop a sense of the first friend belonging “to another time.” People and things that were a huge part of my life before 2011 are less relevant now. Things that seemed as remote as old age a year ago are now a daily reality. I’ve wondered lately with a wobbly smile what the daft bugger would have made of me becoming a runner, and tweeting/blogging about it. Though he was always the greatest cheerleader for my writing, and a wonderfully kind, compassionate man in many respects, he loathed exercise and could be pretty cantankerous about people posting things on social media that didn’t interest him, or that he couldn’t relate to. I like to think that on balance he would have been pleased, especially with me doing it for mental health causes. (And I like to think I’m a pretty considerate runner-tweeter – I turn off all those settings on apps which auto-spew tonnes of data no-one gives a hoot about).
I am currently – tensely – waiting on some very important (writing) news which I don’t want to share in case I jinx it. But such good news would barely even have been a possibility three years ago. The writer Julian Barnes, who has written about grief, describes year five as a turning point. And I can, just about, see how he might be right…