The way that I have always visualised losing Anton is that he has left an enormous, gaping, deep black hole in all our lives. An Anton-shaped hole. Its a hole that I have toppled into many times, and stayed for weeks on end. Its a black hole of depression, grief and loss, despair and hopelessness. Its very easy to get sucked into, and extremely hard to climb out of. It sucks my energy, deprives me of all hope, removes the solid ground from beneath my feet, and tells me to give up; that there is no way forward, there is no point in living.
In the beginning, I was entirely devoid of hope. I didn't believe those people (even those who had suffered, like me, the loss of a child) who told me that time would heal. I repeated the well-worn phrases like "It will get easier in time" but I didn't believe them. I reasoned that perhaps for other people it worked, but that it simply would not be possible for me. I must be different from them in some way. I was so sure I was incapable of surviving the devastation of this particular loss (and if I am honest, there were times I did not want to survive it). I remained in shock for most of the first two years. During that time, the knowledge that Anton was gone would hit me, like a caber in my chest, regularly, as though it was news to me, as though I wasn't aware of it, as though I was hearing about it for the very first time. The sudden, shocking realisation of it would cause me to gasp in pain, clutching at my heart, feeling sick, hyper-ventilating, my breaths short and panicky, utterly terrified that I was losing my mind.
The black hole is a familiar phrase to anyone who has suffered severe depression. For those of us bereaved, particularly by suicide, and particularly if we've lost someone we were very close to, its a well known place. We slither down its greasy sides, gathering additional bruises on the way, until we arrive at the bottom, battered and broken, in the depths of dark despair, with no way out. At this point it can feel as though we are literally drowning in grief, floundering in muddy water, our lungs desperate for air, with nothing to cling to for our own survival.
Like all other bereaved mums and dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends and relatives I kept going day after day because I had no other choice, and the harsh truth is, if you are reading this, you probably don't either. The very lack of an alternative, the fact that Anton had deprived me of that choice, used to make me extremely angry. I still get angry at times, but I think anger can be more helpful than despair. If we can harness it, we can use the energy to do something. In my next post I explore some of the things that enabled me to begin, very slowly, to grow a garden around the edges of the black hole, so that at least when I wasn't down the bottom of it, I could eventually find moments of peace.