With Sympathy

Last week I signed a sympathy card for somebody. It was a card sent from a little group of us. I wrote in the card first, and as I sat there wondering what I should write, I thought about when Martin died. I thought about how the children and I had only received one sympathy card. Just one, single card, I thought about the effect that had on me.

When Martin committed suicide I was overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. It was my fault. My fault that he could see no way of continuing with his life. The pain I felt from this guilt was so great that I struggled to feel or even think about much else. I would spend lonely evenings, whilst my two children slept peacefully upstairs, sat at the kitchen table drawing and doodling, I would write 'I'm sorry' over and over again, because I was, I was so very sorry. I would sit outside smoking and often I would whisper 'I'm sorry Mart' in the hope that somehow he could hear me. I wanted to tell him that I was sorry, so desperately. I hated myself.

I never felt guilty for walking away from our relationship, I always knew that it wasn't a case of 'lack of effort', or just 'giving up', the damage of the affair was irreparable. We couldn't have carried on after that. There was no guilt felt for the separation at all. I also knew that I had not treated Martin badly after the separation and should take comfort in that. I had, not always easily, tried to be kind, to accept our situation and make the best of it. I wanted only the best for the children and I honestly believed that this would be achieved if Martin and I could maintain a civil relationship. So we did. Like I say, it wasn't always very easy and there were a few times I snapped. I remember after a particularly hard day looking after the children and trying to sort and pack our belongings ready for the move, when Martin had visited. He looked incredibly sorry for himself and told me that he didn't know how he was supposed to manage or what he was going to do once I left. I snapped then, I couldn't help it - how could he paint himself as a victim, when I was sitting there trying desperately to sort my life out, sort things out for our children? Shouldn't it have been me saying that I didn't know how I was supposed to manage, didn't know what I was going to do? Surely it was me who should have been walking around feeling sorry for myself? So yes, there were times when I snapped and the pretense of happy friendship slipped a little. But I always apologised afterwards. I messaged him later that evening saying that I was sorry, I hadn't meant to get angry I was just struggling to cope myself.

I made sure that he knew that he could see the children whenever he wanted to, I cooked his tea so that he could be with his children in a familiar and 'normal' kind of way and I remained more than civil with him. I had no reason to feel guilty about how I had acted after the separation.

What I felt guilty about, what I couldn't get out of my mind, was imagining the feelings that he must have had when he walked back into our family home and we had gone. Memories, laughter, fun, chaos, noise, mess - all of it gone. And although I kgnew that it had been the right thing to do, the only thing to do, it was me that took all of that away. It was me who emptied and cleared the house of 'us' and so it was me that had given Martin the feelings that he must have felt upon entering a childless quiet and tidy house. And even writing that now hurts. Even now, four yours on, imagining Martin in that moment of time is incredibly painful for me to think about. Maybe you learn to live with the guilt rather than not feel it at all.

I thought other people blamed me for Martin's death. Not my close friends and family, because they knew the full story, but those who didn't - I thought that they would blame me. I thought everybody else would think it was my fault for walking away from him, leaving him alone and for taking his children away. I believed that they thought that it was my actions that had pushed Martin to his limit. I thought other people hated me nearly as much as I hated myself.

We received one sympathy card and in my broken, hurt troubled mind, it was just confirmation of blame.

It would be incredibly unfair of me to write this post without the input from myself now and my feelings today. Yes the sympathy cards were lacking, but the messages on social media, they were immense. There were so many messages of support, some from people I had never even met. We certainly didn't lack sympathy from Martin's death. Just the cards. Unfortunately that's the world we live in now, Facebook is huge and most people can be reached that way. The reality of the situation is that we had moved house, a new address, it was easier for people to send a message than to send a card. I just wish that there had been a few cards, maybe some flowers, for the children if not for me. They would be in the children's big memory box now if we had some, next to his running top, his hoodie, the dried flowers from his coffin, the order of service sheet, his wallet and reading glasses. There would be memories of kind words written for my children to re-read and cherish forever, if only we had been sent a few cards. And maybe, the ridiculous blame I laid upon myself would have faded much sooner, had I not believed that the absence of cards meant that others blamed me too.

My advice to you all, and a reminder to myself, is to write those sympathy cards when somebody you feel close enough to is affected by bereavement - even if you don't really know what to write and can't find the words, just sign your name, but do send a card. Not only is it a comfort in the present, it will also be a comfort in the future. A memory to keep and to cherish forever.







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