Moments of Inertia by Rachel Crawford

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Grief

I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time.

It has never really gone away and I don’t expect it ever will. I didn’t move past or through the pain of loss so much as accept it into myself and change around it. I didn’t heal; I became a different person.

We’re always changing, from year to year, month to month, day to day, down to the nanosecond. We’re never who we used to be. Sometimes the sadness, the resistance, is just that last remaining part of our old selves, clinging on, fighting for the world to stay the same. Fighting, without success and without hope, to go back.

As time has stretched away from the event (at the end of July it will have been four years) it has become easier. My mind has become less and less occupied with the how and the why, less aware of the missing pieces, less conscious of the parts of me that are different now. Most days are just normal days: I get up, I am grateful, I do what I can and I keep moving. Then there are the days like today.

I’m not sure why I am like I am today. Perhaps it’s just the weather. Thick fog, unrelenting rain and distant thunder, finally unleashed after gathering ominously for the past few days. Maybe being at Edinburgh Pride on Saturday, meeting old friends in the sunlight, stirred the pot of memories and emotions and let grief come bubbling to the surface. It could be a subtler mix of things, built up over the weeks and months since my last low point, carefully suppressed, dodged and hurdled until it became unavoidable.

When Danielle died my mother looked after me in the immediate aftermath, making sure I ate, slept, bathed. She watched me and held me. She’d just returned from a trip to China and had brought a gift for me with her: a small metal necklace-watch. It wasn’t well made but I wore it every day until the clasp broke and the lid wouldn’t close any more. I wore it until the lid fell off. I even wore it for a while after it stopped telling the time accurately. Around my neck, close to my heart, held tightly as I took deep breaths, it reminded me simply that time was passing. While the seconds crawled by, it ticked. While I couldn’t move, it turned. It showed me that the world was changing around me, that I was changing, even though I felt trapped in one long, eclipsing moment of stasis. I could look at it and feel hope that the day would come when this dark period would be behind me, that the tunnel had an end.

It wasn’t just the passage of time that let me change. It took work. It took counselling. It took the support of strong friends and caring family. I am so, so grateful for it all. When I look at my life I don’t hesitate to think of it as blessed, lucky, so goddamn fortunate I struggle to put it into words or know what to do with it.

I didn’t sleep much last night, and when finally it was time to get up and go to work, I couldn’t. I cried. Natalie held me and we cried together. A dam had burst. After the first rush of tears, the rest will trickle out over the coming hours. I will rebuild the dam. I will build it stronger. I will build a better spillway. I will tend to the refilling lake and the rivers that feed it. Again, and again. It will be a reservoir of life, of good things, both happy and sad. As it fills with droplets of sorrow, it will ripple with the echoes of her laugh.

Each wave will be her smile.