Sixteen years is a considerable amount of time. A lot has happened to me, and for me, in that space of time. The one constant in all of this has been change.
It started when you died. I grieved so hard for you when you were taken so suddenly from me. I mourned for the fiancé who would never become my husband. I mourned a little too long and, if it’s possible, a little too much. It took almost five years later for me to accept that I needed to start again and rebuild my life now without you in it. That wasn’t easy.
You had been in my life for almost ten years so you were such a big part of it. You were the first person close to me to die. It turned out that you weren’t the last, as I lurched from one bereavement to another over the following years. Nothing would ever be the same again.
When you left, my future, as I had planned it, left with you. I knew then my chances of motherhood were most likely gone. I was right. The Spanish wedding that we had spent years meticulously planning simply dissolved. The ‘save the date’ invitations that had landed on people’s doorsteps, just as you got your diagnosis, were no longer relevant. The future we talked about, the things we were going to do, the places we were going to see. All gone.
I confess I was so incredibly angry that everything we had been working towards was so cruelly snatched from us. I continued to be furious when my small family unit of you, my Dad and my Mum was stolen and I was scared at what was left behind. It was just me now.
I experienced intense sadness when your name was mentioned and I was heartbroken when it wasn’t. Every occasion that you missed, I was angry on your behalf.
For years after you died, I was just a big ball of anger. You didn’t escape this. I was angry at you too. For dying. For leaving such a mess behind. For the loose ends that needed tying up. For the secrets you kept. For trying to protect me. I was furious with your doctor who had checked you out a month earlier and had missed that you had pancreatic cancer. How could he have missed that? Only he could. It happens, I know.
I was livid with the consultant who, stony-faced, sat in front of us that Wednesday evening in October and told us you had cancer. Why wasn’t he telling us we would all fight this together? Why did I feel he had given up before we had even started?
Few people talk in any detail about the deep anger that you experience as part of grief. It totally subsumed me and I wasn’t even aware of it. I mistook it for grief.
I was angry with my friends who returned to their daily lives after you died, I was irritated by strangers who appeared oblivious to the pain that was now all around us, I was annoyed by loved up couples. I was enraged with parents. I was indignant when people felt sorry for me. I was hurt if they didn’t. Months became years and the anger became more stuck.
Ironically, it was this anger that kept me going. It became my energy source. What I didn’t notice was that I was becoming so addicted to the drama that seemed to follow me, that I was losing sight of who I was without it. I forgot all too easily that before all of this, I was once happy, vibrant and very much alive. I had become angry, insular and needy.
It doesn’t matter if we know ‘why’ we are how we are. In this case it is somewhat irrelevant if we know what’s causing our anger. What matters when it’s not serving us, is that we know it’s time to move forward. I knew why I felt so sad, I had lost those closest to me. But five years on that wasn’t enough. I needed to accept that yes, bad stuff had happened, I had been dealt a cruel blow, but it was up to me now, just how I was going to live in the future. How much of my past was I prepared to determine my future?
I needed to detach from my own drama, I needed to change my story, I needed to release the anger. And this meant I needed to let go of you too.
Sixteen years on, I think of you often. Most of the time, it’s followed with a laugh and a smile. I thank you for the ten years we shared together which prepared me so well for who I am today. I think how proud of me you would be that I, eventually, pulled it all back and created a life that now makes me so enormously happy and fulfilled.
I even learned how to love again and planned another wedding, and another future and I’m living it now. I wonder though, just what part you played in sending me the most wonderful husband who tells jokes that are even worse than yours. Except he doesn’t laugh incessantly while telling them, like you did, saying ‘I’m laughing because I know the end’.
We didn’t know the end and were probably better off for it. You are missed. Sixteen years on.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Change and Transformation Coach, Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme and host of The TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. For more check out niamhennis.com or find her on Instagram @1niamhennis.