One year on
7 July 13
It’s now been one year since I walked away from an open grave that contained the body of my six-month-old son — dead at the hand of his father, my husband. One year.
In May, I was astounded to meet with a woman whose husband had killed her daughter ten years before. How was it possible that this mother was alive and functioning — even smiling — after ten years of such pain? In another nine years, I will be able to answer this question.
One year on, our girls are thriving. This is what is more important than anything else.
In October, we resumed the nomadic, natural-learning lifestyle that we’d been pursuing for the two years prior to Elijah’s death, and it’s been a good decision. We’re happy together, always travelling to the next destination and absorbing life’s lessons along the way.
We like our new life. We like our new normal.
Our bus is smaller, our adventures are perhaps less grand than with two parents, and the girls are astonishingly self-sufficient. We all sleep together, cuddle together, share the same stories and differ enormously in personalities and preferences. It’s a joy to belong to this tribe, and I’m thankful that I get this opportunity to bond early-on with these strong women.
We’re a close family unit, and the girls have grown in compassion, experience and wisdom. They’ve made terrific friends, explored many different environments and have demonstrated an understanding of people’s differences that means we can connect with all types.
My biggest achievement in the past year is in empowering the girls to view Elijah’s death and David’s incarceration as neutral. We do not need to judge it as bad. Yes, it is sad. We miss them both and speak about them every day. But at the same time, we can embrace the changes that this separation has brought and respond with gratitude to the life we are now inhabiting.
I’m continuing to emotionally support David through almost daily contact. His case has not progressed through the system, so his future is still undetermined. The system is not a nice one, although there are a few bright lights that work within it and show compassion and care as they attend to their duties.
I still receive personal queries about how David is doing. Truly, it would be better to ask him yourself, if you care enough to reach out. I am happy to pass on his contact details to friends.
This year has been simultaneously the most painful and the best year of my life. I have been supported by many, many friends and lifted up — virtually and in person — by those who have shared their lives with me.
I have learned so much about grief and loss and compassion. I have heard others’ stories of mental-health heartaches and children buried by their parents. I am thankful for Elijah’s death in that it has given me insight into what many people feel, and now I know how to love more people more fully. Although I have lost two of my great loves, I have learned to love more generously as a result.
Until I experienced such a great, startling loss in my life, I could really only relate partially to other people. Now that I understand the depths that are inhabited in deep, deep grief, I share this part of life’s journey with many. It has truly made me into a better person, and I am still processing my thoughts and my heart so that I remain open to the opportunities I have to minister to others.
I’ve also realised that my faith and understanding of the Divine is absolutely and perfectly true. Right from the first night when I accepted Elijah was gone, I’ve experienced peace in my spirit, a knowing that death is not a negative state, but simply a transition. I trust the Divine absolutely to continue to bring good things into my life, and with perspective I can see that the events of June 2012 were exactly what I needed. So I’m glad I did not judge them as negative, or else I may have cut myself off from the blessings and opportunities that have followed.
Even though I’ve processed my grief so consciously, I’ve suffered a few side-effects. I look like I’ve aged at least five years. I’ve developed wrinkles and am growing white hairs. I still have trouble sleeping, and my appetite has not returned.
In March, I realised that in not enjoying food, I was subconsciously punishing myself for Elijah’s passing. A friend gently asked me, “Is that what Elijah would have wanted?” and I know it’s not. It’s still something I’m still working on, and in the meantime, I’m taking supplements to ensure that I stay healthy.
Another expected consequence of grief is that I have been unable to read for pleasure. I simply cannot focus on the written word long enough to enter into a fantasy. I really miss this, because I used to read voraciously and now can only manage to read for researching purposes or to the girls. Until this ability returns, I indulge in the occasional audiobook while I’m driving.
On a more positive note, separating from David has meant that I am able to forge an independent identity for the first time in sixteen years. I have been free to express who I am and pursue activities that interest me and the girls without having to negotiate with another adult.
It’s been a liberating year for me, and I’m so thankful for the wonderful people who have been beside me in this journey. If I have sat at your table and laughed in your presence, I thank you. You have kept me in the present moment where life is bright and hopeful and out of my head in which shadows still linger.
I should know better by now than to try to predict the future, so let me just say that I know it will continue to be good. I’m making wonderful friends overseas, some of whom I’ll visit. Our Indonesian experience was so richly rewarding that I’m also keen to take the girls out of Australia again.
In the meantime, The Gifted Gypsy is serving us well. Bought with funds given by friends after Elijah’s death, it has been our stable home in an ever-changing neighbourhood. We’ll continue to live in it and travel as long as this lifestyle suits us all. Perhaps we’ll come to your part of Australia this year!