Fight Song

“The ones who notice the storms in your eyes, the silence in your voice and the heaviness in your heart, are the ones you need to let in.”

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It’s been three months since my last post here on Prince’s Palace. I’ve got no real reason in particular for my silence, other than it just being silence itself. I needed to switch my writing head off for a bit and focus on me for a while.

But, you see, the thing with passing time is those events transpire and you find yourself staring at the calendar trying to see where time flew off to. As Ellis Grey famously in Grey’s Anatomy: The carousel never stops turning.

Nonetheless, I’m back. Dusting off the furniture in my palace. Opening the windows, letting a weep of fresh air fill the dusty rooms.

To update you guys on what I’ve been up to and where I’ve been hiding out:

As you all might or might not know, 2015 was a huge journey for me. I had a lot to tackle and find myself standing at the doorstep of navigating what it meant to be a “widower”. 

After R’s suicide, I was stuck dealing with the grief and pain that came along with his decision. I was dealing with a new issue every week, standing host to a lot of his ghosts and kept him in the back of my mind constantly to try and make sure I don’t lose sight of the war I was waging. Little known to me: I was poising myself with his toxic life and decisions. Holding onto him was making me sick – I was dealing with a stomach ulcer and the onslaught of anxiety, post-traumatic stress and some other mental health issues. Instead of battling this I opted for extreme denial.

In some major award-winning performance, I made everyone around me understand that I was fine. That I was over everything that happened – the loss of someone close to me, his betrayal in the form of his cheating and me being left to clean up a few messes. And between that, I was boarding myself up behind walls higher than the tallest mountain on Earth. It was really not doing me any good – it was just making me sicker.

Also: by robbing myself of the love and light of those who were trying to help me, I pushed away, hurt and upset some great, fantastic and amazing people. Some damages I’ll never be able to repair, while other’s I’ll be able to repair with time and love.

So, these past few months, I have been seeing a fantastic therapist. This happened shortly after I lost someone dearly to these selfish and weak actions and I finally awoke to the fact that I needed help.

I have come to face a lot of negative people after I’ve started seeing a shrink:

“Wow – you’re an actual crazy then?”

“You seeing a shrink? It must be amazing to just lie on a couch for an hour and talk shit?

“Oh, a shrink… That sounds like fun.”

People seemingly don’t have the balls to admit mental illnesses exist and that seeing someone to help you is an extremely stupid thing and silly thing to do. And it takes a lot of effort to make them understand that it’s a brave thing to do and seeking out professional help makes you a stronger person… Trust me. Try arguing with an ignorant idiot. You’ll soon realise it’s the worst mental illness around.

But, I digress.

Having chosen to start seeing my therapist, was simply put the best decision I could’ve made in a difficult time in my life. My journey with her has so far been one of immense self-discovery, learning to rewire my neurosis, channel my anxiety and stress, unload my baggage and break down the walls and let the right people in.

As I’m typing this post, I think back to my first session and my last session I had. In the way I’ve begun feeling a burn in bones again, has shown me that I’m starting to become a little more me again.

In a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy (spoilers ahead), Meredith meets with the hospital shrink to discuss her latest trauma. At the end of the episode, she stares at the shrink with a huge smile, saying: “I came in here, and I felt great. And now I don’t know who I am or what I want.” It basically sums up my whole experience before I chose to seek help as well. Just like Meredith, I’m now asking: Who am I? What do I want?

In a way, I’ve also been standing at the crossroad. Who am I? What do I want?

I’m not the grieving partner anymore, nor am I sad, alone, broken or confused. I’m finally able to be me, with me and explore myself.

That’s just the thing: many people who lose a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or partner these days never reach this point of clarity. We’re left to our own good or bad – we need to puzzle this road out and we need to pave the way for our healing. And seldom, we as the “Widow and Widowers Club” are left in just that role, to never become something great or something more.

Somehow, I want to raise my voice a little louder today to let everyone who’s lost someone they love know, life moves on. As sad as it is, don’t ever stand back and let life walk past you. You’re robbing yourself from the greatest opportunity to become something amazing and something more than just a widow/er.

Life may have felt the need to kick you square in the stomach and rob you from something, but life’s also created a platform for you to stand up and be the warrior you were meant to be. This is just a chapter in your book – not the entire book.

Just a few thoughts I want you to ponder on:

  • If you’re reading this and feeling like a little light has gone up in your head, you should put your boxing gloves on and start fighting for yourself again. It’s your time and that time is now.
  • Open up those walls you’ve been hiding behind and start letting the right people in – let the light seep through the cracks and allow yourself to be someone who can look at life now, a little bit wiser.
  • Dealing with grief and all his friends is a mental illness on its own – and we as the victims of a loved one or someone close’s death is the one thing that can break you or build you. Allow it to rather build you than break you.

Create your own manifesto, your own fight song, and don’t allow yourself to give up on that important person: you.

And keep those people who are trying to nudge past the walls close – let them in and allow them to love you. Love is the one cure that makes a warrior’s spirit tougher for the battles ahead.

 

 

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*365 days later*

Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Depression.

The four friends I have come to known in the span of year’s time. Sucking the life out of me at times, infuriating me beyond compare, driving me beyond the edge of sanity and letting me dwell in the darkness…

It was the four friends I have now come to say goodbye to. I no longer need their company. They have become strangers – isolated from my life.

These “friends” are also four of the five stages of Grief.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross created a model for grief years ago. We all know the story – she was surrounded by patients in a hospice who were terminally ill and she noticed how everyone had these four “friends” by their side. These stages were also noted in people touched by death.

Now, a few hours shy of the anniversary or my former boyfriend’s suicide, I have come to terms with four of the five stages of grief. After a troublesome, tumultuous and sorrow ridden year, I am now at a space in time where calamity seems to be surrounding me more and more.

If you ask me if I knew this day would arrive… I will blankly stare at you and say: Nope. I gave up on that hope the day I stood beside his casket.

Life has since passed and time has not stood still for me. Time seems to be the only constant that has moved on with me for now – other things are still to come. Change is on the horizon. Peace is knocking at my door. A new me is dawning and acceptance seems to be introducing himself to me.

Confession: I have been afraid of this day for some time now.

Would I be ready? Would I be equipped to face acceptance and feel strong enough to pursue it? Was it worth all the tears, pain and broken pieces of my heart to come to this point and not leave this chapter of my life satisfied?

Well. Guess what. Not ready. Far from ready.

I still hate him with a fiery passion. People seldom try to understand it all, but they rarely understand why I am so quick to hate him while all his other loved ones still scrape together love for him.

I hate him for calling quits on his life, friends, future, loved ones, family, soul mate and…me. No one ever expected anything from him, but only to live and share his sorrow with other’s. He never did. He kept it hidden, like many other secret lives he led. The secrets upon secrets that tore him apart has tore me apart. And not just me… Everyone else who gave a damn about him.

I’ve fallen out of love with him and this hatred has grown to become an overpowering emotion to help me through each day.

Where I thought it wouldn’t be possible to even remotely survive, hatred has powered me through a day with the constant reminded that I can’t give up hope or call it quits, even if I wanted to. I wanted to prove to him that it’s possible to go above and beyond pain, without giving up.

You might stop me in my tracks and reprimand me that I’m far from acceptance. Right so. I won’t fight you on that.

I am however going to challenge you on the points that I am ready to step into the dawn of a new light.

As this sullen day passes, I’m no more the boy who’s boyfriend killed himself. I’m no more the widow. I’m no more the grieving son, the friend with a bag of sorrow on his shoulders. I am a new person to take on the world by storm. A new dawn is waiting for me and as far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to embrace that.

I might not have come to terms with most of R’s death, but I have come to terms that we are not longer an “us”. It’s only me now.

Me.

Only I can move on now and make my world a fantastic place to live in. In this lies the acceptance I speak of. I have accepted the pieces of my broken heart, the lies that tore me apart, the hole and huge gap left in my life with R’s passing and the sadness that has taught me how to live closer to my own fractured pieces of my heart.

Acceptance. It comes in different forms and as grief has different stages, I’m ready to close this chapter in my life.

Stepping into the light of this new dawn, I’m ready to say goodbye to him and hopefully, soon enough, drop the hatred and keep him in a special place within my heart.

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Put yourself in his shoes…

It was a week since I was back in South Africa, from my rather life changing trip to Namibia. My head was still reeling and I was in desperate need of finding some

familiar ground to just feel like I was back home. But my mind was in another place and it was not the best situation for me and hectic work situation.

Tracing the culprit as to my mind being on his own wondrous path, I realised it all started with me opening Pandora’s Box in Namibia. In this case, it was all the feelings on R I had closed the lid on to cope with his passing. A good idea at the time I did it, but whilst spending vast amounts of time on the wide stretches of the African Savannah, re-opening these feelings, I knew it was a bad idea. Rushing in, causing havoc and making a ruckus, my mind almost exploded and I knew that this would have to be dealt with. ‘Cause you never get to put a lid back on Pandora’s Box… Or so the myth goes.

For the first day or two, I just sat and let every small and possible feeling rush over me. Have it be a flicker of hope that he might still be alive, a inch of courage that I might finally be okay, sadness for the fact that he is not here anymore or depression for the timely death he chose to do unto himself… These feelings became my new best friends as I continued along the stretches of road ahead of me. As I discovered Namibia, I discovered new facets to my grief.

After the dust settled, I started dissecting everything. Okay… Maybe over-analyzing it. But I faced the cold hard fact that these emotions needed to be dealt with.

Some emotions lead to realisations of his death. Things, that at the time of his death, I was not able to see clearly. It hit me square in the gut, to be honest.
While thinking I could not be shocked even more by the situation surrounding his suicide, it hit hard to realise that he for instance dropped more than just once that he was thinking of suicide and that he was getting to a point where he was making sure we were looked after and equipped to remotely deal with him not being around anymore. I would say this worsened my guilt about him dying and I had to stop at the side of the road and get out at some point to breathe.

As I stood by the side of the road, I stared over the mountains and the sky. Trying to calm myself. It was a stretch of gravel roads between farms, in the middle of nowhere and I just stood soaking up the silence. Whilst standing like that, a wild fox came out the bushes on the side of the road and sniffed around. When he saw me panting at the car, he stood still. I stood still. We stood still. I caught his eyes and he caught mine. For a good minute we stared at each other. One stressing over the sight of a predator and survival, the other craving survival over a wave of grief.

What happened next might sound crazy. At the risk of sounding crazy, please don’t judge me.

It was as if the dark, storm clouds in my head disappeared and made space for one single thought. Stop wasting energy on trivial matters and put yourself in his shoes…

The thought reverberated through my head. Hard. I saw the fox still staring at me. Maybe it was some act of God or gods? Maybe it was just a force of nature. But I had a silent guide to show me what to do with these feelings and emotions. The fox, after a while, just swept his head to the side again and went on with his merry way.

As I got back into the car, I felt a lot more collected and calm. I started to think on all the energy I had wasted the past months fretting over the people and factors leading to his death, all the negatives that came out after he passed and the bad that was around while he was still alive. How I was clinging onto that and making sure I never forget that, was astounding to me…

It wasn’t till I got back to South Africa, that I was reminded about putting myself in his shoes. Driving home one afternoon, listening to one of R’s all time favourite artists, Tracy Chapman, a song of her came onto my Ipod. Fast Car. In that moment, I felt a lot of R through her lyrics and suddenly found me putting myself in his shoes.

Thinking how the depression must have crept onto him and how it must have remotely felt to start thinking suicide would hurt less than living on this earth.

What it might mean to lose sight of who you are, what you are doing on Earth and the ridiculous standards people hold you to at certain times.

When making a small mistake snowballs into one huge escalated spiral of mishaps and wrongdoings, and when you have a moment of sanity and clarity you realise what you were doing and the guilt wracks you.

Then deciding that rather cutting out your heart metaphorically would be better, rather to be tortured every waking moment with feelings you can’t deal with.

I suddenly understood him a bit better. The questions I still had, seemed to be irrelevant now. The anger and hatred for him, slipping through cracks of light. More understanding and compassion making its way into the dusky room.

So, 11 months down the path of grief, I have somehow come to a point where I can sit down at a poker table with death, depression, loss, understanding as well as the almighty zen and face the three of them all at once, knowing I have enough strength to do this. If you asked me 11 months ago if I EVER saw myself at this point, a teary eyed shell of a man would have said the chance of dying of a broken heart would’ve been more of a reality than this. Yet, here I am.

At some point, unloading baggage from your shoulders to clear space is not such a bad thing. It should be a time in a moment where you can reflect on life for a tiny bit, and grow from what it is trying to teach you.

3J6A1993

Dream a little dream of me…

[26 weeks]

There was an intense stare. The words reverberated through me. My heart was racing and my fists were clenching tighter. It was a fight that had started for some absurd reason, but it seemed like it had a purpose. Like it was happening for the right reason and that whatever was being said, needed to be said. His eyes hit mine again, trying to stare me down. I remember them, the same way as they stared me down the last time we had an intense fight.

I shook violently awake. It was a dream. A nightmare? It was a dream. I tried calming myself, but it was 03:00 in the morning and the darkness, tears rolling down my cheeks and the emotions flooding over me that was far more overpowering than me seeking refuge from calamity.

This was not the first dream I had of R. But it was the first dream in which we violently fought over everything that had happened. It seemed so real to me that even as I sat in the dark room, breath racing, crying, I felt like he was there beside me. Waiting for me to retort and him to dish out the next argument.

I laid my head back down. It didn’t help to lull myself to sleep. The damage had been done. I stared at the ceiling. I suddenly longed back to the glow in the dark stars I had stuck to it when I was younger. They always calmed me down…

The next morning I hopped onto the train. I could feel the dream still rattling on my cage. I couldn’t remember what we were fighting about. It was like I knew we fought, but my brain was somehow cocooning me against the already painful experience of a ‘fight’. As I sat down in the seat, and I looked out of the window, my tired brain lost it’s grip and I got a flashback from the dream.

I wasn’t fighting at full strength. The hatred was there. Anger was plenty and the resent was flowing over the cup. But, somehow I knew it still wasn’t the full capacity at which I wanted to fight with against R’s decision to end his life. Something was keeping me back. I also saw how I let him march over me and try and pilot my feelings and arguments. I shook my head as to physically try and force the flashback to dream out of my head.

An entire day was spent on the dream. Analyzing it. Analyzing it some more. Trying to put it out of my mind. Trying to remember some more.

That night, I got home and felt like I had just ran a marathon. Plopping myself down on my bed, I started once again at the ceiling.

Before I closed my eyes I took in a deep breath, jumbled the words I wanted to say around in my head and summoned the courage to talk to R.

Surely enough, I was choking the words out.

It was like a steam engine. At some point, I was gasping for air and I felt a bit stupid that I was talking to the walls and expecting my dead boyfriend to listen and hear me. But, I powered on.

When I was done, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

This time, I dreamt I was walking along the V&A Waterfront and browsing the stores. Soon enough I spotted R in the dream. He was sitting on the docks looking over the water. I was hesitant to go talk to him. I didn’t go talk to him. I left him on the docks…

I still feel guilty to a great extent for not being there enough for R before everything went down. That he might have been throwing so much signs my way and been crying for help and I just chose to turn a blind eye. In a way, this guilt wracks me and I don’t know how to cope with it.

I just wish I could turn back time and make more of an effort.

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I miss him…

[23 weeks]

I’ll never be able to feel his arms around me. Hugging me so hard that it almost felt like he was trying to put all of the broken pieces together again.

I’ll never hear him laugh again. Never hear him jokingly calling my name or sucker punching me if I made a lame remark.

I’ll never see him again.

It may be five months late, but the pain still hasn’t lessened and it hasn’t lessened as much as when I come to realisations like these.

And to make matters worse: As much as I hated R for leaving me behind, I still love him so much. I’ve watched countless Disney movies, but none of them have ever had a curse as powerful as this: one where you could hate someone with everything in you, but at the same time be able to love them with every last shred of light in you.

Of course, the second I heard he had passed, I started missing him. It was like all the cells in my body were inching to be with his and started aching when it couldn’t find his. And about 23 weeks later, it’s still not much less of a challenge to control the surmountable pain I experience when I accidentally think of him.

What isn’t much of a challenge though, is making the words: “I miss him”, become background noise in my head. Even when I think of him and the longing to be with him flares up, it’s not as bad as when I realise that he’s not here and won’t be returning anytime soon.

23 weeks later it’s becoming more of an occurrence where I started feeling him drift into the nothingness inside of my mind. In clinging onto him and his memory for dear life, my own mind had begun fooling me by shrouding some of the memories of him into becoming vague pieces and fragments my mind couldn’t conjure up anymore.

This in it’s own was a longing I couldn’t explain. A longing to just have one good memory that wasn’t cloudy or vague.

Even though I keep building sandcastles in my mind, imagining him to be alive and living his life, there are times Life has a funny way of reminding me that he had passed away and then I was stuck with this new, all too familiar feeling, of missing him.

After 5 months, I don’t know what else to do but miss him.

Crying won’t bring him back. Being angry wouldn’t bring him back. Hating him wouldn’t help. Would missing him help me?

All I know is, I’ve never longed to touch his hand or hug him one last time more than in these last few days. And I hope he knows how much I miss him.

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Guardians of my Galaxy

When I was a young boy, my mom use to comfort me with the tall tale of guardian angels when someone in the family had passed away. In this tale, she would tell me how these people were needed by God to build a workforce that was to protect us back here on earth from anything bad or evil…

As a 6 year old, I was more fascinated at how this concept worked. It seemed nothing more than amazing to me that these  people were called upon a higher power to protect us here on earth.

Every time something bad almost happened to me and it seemed like a miraculous stroke of fate had intervened, I thought back to how my grandparents I’ve lost were behind me, saving my ass around every nook and bend.

As I grew older, I questioned the theory more and more. There were flaws in my mom’s story and I soon started ripping at the seams of this fabricated lie she had spun my way. In true style, she still stuck with her story, but told me that I’d understand later in life and not ask these insulting questions.

So ladies and gentlemen. Here we are, later in life, and I’m back to square one. Having to believe a loved one was taken away from me to be apart of a calling to protect those here on earth.

When R passed away in May, I had loads of sleepless nights. On one of these sleepless nights, I was laying awake and staring at the ceiling. A thousand thoughts were crawling around in my mind like a nest of ants. It was almost like I could feel these thoughts burrowing their way through my skull or downwards into my spinal cord. Having the power to cultivate my thoughts is something I’ve not mastered yet, but I don’t really want to move off point now…

One of these ants, found his way into the centre of my brain. It seemingly got stuck there, because in a freak moment of clarity, that childhood story was with me again.

I won’t say it became the lifeline I clung to in the days that passed, but it really helped me a lot to deal with this immense and tragic loss I’d suffered. In that moment, you really don’t debate any thoughts or choices you make.

See it as a burning building. As you’re running out, you’re grabbing that which you want to hold close and dear to you, before it burns out and perishes forever. Just as I knew my brain would soon be defunct, I knew I was to grab hold of any lifeline I could to help me along.

My mom’s story of guardians also became the thing I thought about obsessively. I wanted so badly to believe that R had become one the newest guardians in my galaxy, it became a bit of a crazed delusion. Soon I forgot he died, and saw him more alive and by my side than dead.

But, this didn’t last.

Reality knew it had to caught up with me. When the bad came nipping me in the butt, this delusion soon came into question and I was back to asking why R had to die and once again I was poking holes in my mother’s story.

It’s about 3 months later now, and this past weekend was suppose to have been R’s 30th birthday.

I do not want to dwell on what a horrible day it was.

However, I do want to dwell on the realisation I came to over the weekend.

His friends and loved ones, who’d all lost someone as well, had become the guardians to my galaxy. It was something I’d not been fully aware of and took me some time to realise.

From his best friend Marisa and her girlfriend Cheryl, who’ve been there to help the healing begin to his dearest friend Anette who always amazingly knows what kind words to spread over my wretched heart.

To Wendi (who might of well have been R’s sibling) who still constantly checks up on me, bathes me in light and love, makes sure I laugh at least once a day and acts as my biggest motivator and fan, to Mike, who I’ve built quite a connection with…

Mike spent 9 years as R’s partner and let me into his heart and life without hesitation after R’s passing. Mike’s been a superman in his own way, by showing me the most kindness and humanity anyone’s ever shown me. He also continues to inspire me with his strength and I admire him for his outlook on life, even in the worst of times.

Each, with their own lessons and caring actions, have formed an allegiance in my life as the guardians of my galaxy.

This made a lot more sense to me and I couldn’t even poke holes in this story.

Of course, as much as they act as guardians in my life, I have also vowed to myself to be the most willing participant to their lives and also play my part to be a guardian in their universes.

The most important thing is to remember that life may be as bad as it comes, but somewhere, someone has planned for protectors to look over you and add to your life story.

I’m glad I’ve got a lot of Guardians to my Galaxy. It gives me hope and a little more compassion towards life, sharpening its claws for the next round.

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Everybody get down! We’re doing the Emotional Limbo!

Psychologists who have studied people in grief and mourning have found that they all have this one period in common, where they seemingly get caught in a purgatory between emotions: have it be an Emotional Limbo.

It can’t be traced as to when this happens or why it actually happens, but one theory suggests that this happens when the person is faced with a sudden existential crisis of pending emotions that are smashing into each other like cars on the freeway – and they don’t know how to go forward, or move backwards.

Well. As it seems, I was caught in my own emotional limbo of sorts.

92 days later and a huge pile-up was forming on my highway and as I was turning around to maybe just take a few steps back, I rammed myself into some other emotions I was running away from. I was truly caught in an emotional limbo and this not a blessing in disguise.

In front of me was a deep, dark brewing storm of anger, whilst the path behind me had so much denial and sadness on it, that it looked like a battlefield of landmines. This sight scares the hell out of me every time I think of it, and makes me want to rather choose the emotional limbo above all than to move forward or two steps backwards.

This weekend would’ve been R’s 30’th birthday celebration.

For this too, I’ve been stuck in limbo.

Would I dare to attempt to celebrate it or would I just hide under the covers, staying angry at him for abandoning me in this cruel and ugly world?

Even staring at my desk, memories of him that I’ve kept up on my cubicle wall, I’ve been debating whether or not to tear it down or keep it up. Staring at a note he left me or a little poem he scribbled down, either made me so sad or had be spewing with anger.

This limbo was not what I envisioned, but again, I didn’t envision him dying. Whilst I’ve been trying to deal with that, I should maybe be trying to deal with the limbo as well.

As I just typed this sentence, I wanted to burst out in tears again. Sadness. My friend, person and confidant wasn’t here anymore.

I knew anger would be around in a few hours when I realised he’s gone and won’t be here tot celebrate his birthday with us.

As if stuck in a mean storm brewing on the Atlantic ocean, I was being tossed between the waves of anger and sadness and I was getting fed up with this monotonous happening that seemed to play itself out every single second of every single day.

Although I can’t force my feelings or emotions, I really wish I could force myself out of this limbo…

But, in a few weeks time I might be blogging about the next feeling and it’s pro’s and con’s. And this idea sort of makes the storm around me seem a lot more like a daunting rainfall.

As long as I was caught in this terrible game of emotional limbo, I might as well try to rack up the world record or a spot in the Olympic team for 2016.

.* Side note: I should stop being a sarcastic ass…

Limbo