The 24th October marked a year since Dylan passed away. I was only a year old when Dylan was born so I don’t remember life without him. He was so much more than a brother to me, he was my best friend, my soulmate.
The love I feel for Dylan is unconditional. There wasn’t a moment of his life that I felt anything but pure love for him.
For as long as I can remember I’ve known that if by some magical chance I was offered a gun and told if I killed myself there and then Dylan would live a healthy, happy life, free from the restrictions of his wheelchair and his gastrostomy, I’d do it. Without a shadow of a doubt. Without a moment of hesitation. I’d do it. Even if I knew there was no “other side”, all that was waiting for me was a long black emptiness. I’d do it. I’d embrace the darkness with open arms safe in the knowledge that Dylan had a chance to experience all of the things he couldn’t before. That’s what unconditional love is.
Some days I let the grief build inside of me until it’s unbearable. I think about how much it hurts and it makes me think about everyone else who ever has or still is going through what I’m going through. I carry their pain as well as my own. My limbs feel heavy, my heart like a led balloon, my head goes foggy. Day to day tasks become chores. Washing, dressing, even eating. There’s no way to shake it, it consumes me. I have days where getting out of bed feels like enough of an achievement.
I’m not who I was before. My passion is muted. I was crazy for art, photography, music, literature. All of these things sparked a fire within me. Now it’s only as much as a dull flicker. My smile isn’t as wide, my laugh isn’t as loud and happiness doesn’t touch my eyes like it used to. Even with a smile my eyes are sad and dark. I can’t remember the last time I felt excited. I feel empty. Night time is the worst. When no one else is awake, there’s no one to talk to, no distractions.
Distractions, I’m pretty sure that’s all coping with grief is. You “cope” by filling your time with anything and everything that can keep your brain busy.
I have days where I beat myself up for not doing enough. Not going to events, not writing enough blog posts, not taking good enough pictures, not working hard enough. I forget to remind myself that I never thought I would make it a week on from Dylan, never mind a year. Dylan made me strong and losing him was the biggest test of my strength. I am strong and I’m doing well for myself. I have my hobby as a career, a family I love, a handful of irreplaceable friends and my childhood sweetheart.
A piece of advice I’d like to share with anyone going through grief is don’t consider crying a weakness. Cry. Cry your eyes out. Get angry with the world. It’s not fair, bad things happen to good people, people who deserve the best. Get it out now so you don’t bottle it up and break down later. But do remember it’s these moments and these experiences we go through that shape us as people. I can guarantee the greatest people you know have been through terrible things. We can let these terrible things push us over the edge or we can let them build us, help us grow. These moments teach us strength, teach us empathy and teach us love.
I know everyone deals with grief in different ways, what helps me might not help you. I think this next piece of advice should hopefully be relevant in all cases. This advice is for the people who are close to you. Friends & family of those who are grieving. Don’t try to find the silver lining on someone else’s cloud. This was one of the worst things for me. I know everyone’s trying to help but it’s honestly better to say nothing sometimes. “Think of all the good times.”, “He wouldn’t want you to be sad.”, “At least he’s at peace now.” None of it helps. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be there.
When you’re suffering from loss it’s impossible to “Thing of all the good times.” It’s impossible to think of one good time because the good times bring the most pain. The good memories are plagued with loss and grief. As irrational as it may sound to anyone who hasn’t been through it, when you’ve lost someone, thinking of the good memories only reminds you there won’t be any more good times with that person. Memories are all you have. I can’t wait for the day I can have all of my beautiful memories with Dylan back without unbearable pain crippling my body and my brain.
There’s no time limit on grieving. The initial pain is difficult but you enter a foggy phase, for me it lasted months. It hurt but it didn’t feel real. I would convince myself Dylan was on holiday, he was coming back. His room didn’t change. The fairy lights above his bed remain on to this day. For weeks I’d instinctively tell Sam to turn the volume on the TV down at night because “Dylan’s sleeping”. For weeks I’d come through the front door and burst into Dylan’s room forgetting he wasn’t there. Responses that have become automated through habit are hard to shake. The hardest part of grieving is when this phase ends. You’re no longer in the fog. Everything’s clear and everything’s real. I will never hold Dylan again. Never kiss him. Never cuddle him. Never hold his hand again. I know Dylan isn’t coming back and it hurts more with every day that passes. Sometimes it gets too much for me. I do things that anyone who hasn’t suffered from loss would probably find psychotic. I take Dylan’s ashes with me into the garden on a sunny day and we play with the dogs. I sit Dylan’s ashes next to me in his room and watch his favourite films. I read Dylan’s favourite stories to his ashes. It’s all I have left. The worst thing about this phase is that everyone else has moved on. Friends, distant relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, their worlds are still moving as fast as before. Worst of all, a lot of them will wonder why your world still isn’t up to pace. If you are suffering from loss I can’t stress enough how long it takes. I can’t imagine my good memories being good again for years. It’s individual, take as much time as you need. There’s no such thing as too long and I don’t think it’s anything you will ever “get over”. It gets harder before it gets easier and although I’m not there yet I really do believe it will get easier. It will take time but I know I can get there.
Don’t think that you can’t talk to me about Dylan. Don’t think you’re going to make me upset, I miss talking about him. I love talking about him! He was my world, my whole life revolved around him. I love him as much as ever. Don’t be scared to bring him up because he’s constantly at the front of my mind anyway, it would be nice to be able to think about him out loud for a change.
All my love and support to anyone who is suffering. And a massive thanks to everyone who has offered their love and support to me and my family. It means so much.
Thinking of you always, my gorgeous boy, my best friend.