Once upon a time, someone asked me how I was. In return, I asked, “How do you think I am?” She answered, “You live in my worst nightmare”. And she is right. My life is her worst nightmare.
This nightmare is my constant companion from morning to night. It is the horror that drapes over my shoulders like a cape; weighing heavily across the back of my neck. It is always there and often more so at night when I wake and am unable to sleep. I feel the pressure and the closeness of this horror ever day. It is the horror of my daughter’s death.
It is a waking nightmare which appears as soon as I wake. The horror does not allow me to daydream or dream at night; the horror is painful but so are the dreams.
I am unable to daydream as to pretend she exists is a horror in itself; eventually I will have to return to a reality without her. When Clea first died, I thought that she would come to me in my dreams and that she would, at least, be somewhere. I have only dreamed of Clea a few times, maybe five or six times in the past 120 weeks. If she was there in my dreams then all I would is sleep. I would never want to wake because I would be somewhere with her. The few dreams I have had have been very real.
I watch her skip along the beach in her father’s footsteps smiling and giggling. I see her run towards me as her father yells ‘run’. I feel her slip from my hand as the water pounds us. I see her drowning, struggling for breath. Did she call out? Could she see me? I stare at her photographs which are throughout our house and wonder how she could be dead. How could this little girl in the photographs; the smiling, loving, kind and intelligent little girl; how could she be dead?
I have been ‘advised’ to try to think only of the happy times I had with my daughter and not dwell on the horror of her death. Believe me, if I could avoid that horror, I would. I do not enter the horror of her death by choice. It is a dark and painful place but it is my invisible friend who never leaves me. My heart closes up and my throat constricts as the weight of the horror hovers just above my head. I think of the happy times but those times are tinged with the sadness that those times are gone and she will not return.
Even when I am at work or pottering about the house, I feel the presence of this nightmare. I am not always conscious of its presence but I know it is there. I do not know how to ‘switch off’ the horror. One day I may discover a way to control it but I am not sure that I will ever be able to turn it off. My death is the only switch.
Whenever I attempt to live in denial and pretend that she may be somewhere, the horror overwhelms me and I know she is not here. I am unable to concentrate at work. I am meant to be preparing projects but my mind wanders. I work with people who are passionate about their work but I am unable to sum up any passion.
I can chat and laugh with people but I am never there ‘in the moment’. I am always aware of the horror that surrounds my life. I do not feel normal. I do not know the person I was before Clea died. I never feel comfortable or confident with other people and prefer not to engage with them. I do not ask about their children for fear of them asking me about mine. How do I explain the horror that is my life? I talk about ‘the boys’; I never say ‘the children’.
People say that they do not know what to say to me because the extent of my tragedy is so great. They would know what to say if one of my parents had died but the death of a child is different. These people should consider that my husband and I live together in such a state. We are two people who wake each morning and don’t know what to say to each other because our daughter is dead. Words have taken on singular meanings. How can you say ‘good morning’ when there is nothing good about the morning? How can you say ‘good night’ when there is nothing good about the night either? How can you say ‘did you have a nice day’, when there is nothing nice about the day? We are two destroyed people who have to navigate a way to speak to each other and live with each other knowing that we cannot comfort each other or remove the nightmare from our lives.
Every Sunday at the cemetery, I stare at the patch of grass and am unable to believe that my daughter lies beneath. There is a plaque which states her name but I do not see how her body could be there. We change the flowers and I blow bubbles for her. It is a nightmare that engulfs my life. It is a persistent presence and I see no end.
So, I think you can speak to me, if you try.