“I’m so sorry for your loss”
“It won’t always feel this bad”
“You need to let them rest”
“They wouldn’t want you to be sad”
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that I experienced heartbreak in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I was late to school that day so I hadn’t been able to see you in the morning in our usual spot, if I had made it there on time then maybe I would have had some forewarning that it was you that Mr Drugan was standing at the front of assembly crying about.
It was only a few days before that you had given me a cuddle and told me how sorry you were about the loss of my Cousin.
The next bit is sort of a blur. Fastforward through the headteacher needing to take over and tell us about a death that would affect us all… it was a tragic accident. None of us could have predicted it.
I remember looking around the room as I knew it was someone I loved dearly, but faces became an unrecognisable blur in my panic.
People cried and to be honest with you I don’t know how long we were sat there for before the people around me were trying to help me up out of my seat as my legs had stopped working. It was only once I was up that the tears came.
You were gone Toney.
You were actually gone.
I’ll never forget the day that I woke up for the first time not already crying after your passing. I wasn’t crying because I was ridiculously happy. I’d had a dream that you were back, and my god it was the realest dream I’ve ever had in my life.
You told me that I didn’t need to know how you were back, but you just were and that I couldn’t tell anyone that you had passed away because I was the only one who remembered.
I accepted that.
I suppose if you want something bad enough then you will believe anything that means that you might be able to get it, and I would have done absolutely anything I could to have bought you back.
So I woke up and got nervous looks from my family when I ran down the stairs the happiest girl in the world who couldn’t wait to get to school. I got in super early and sat in our place waiting for you to come through the door… but you never did.
“He’s just late today”, I thought to myself as I happily skipped to tutor time.
It was only when I didn’t see you in assembley that I went up to your form tutor and asked where you were.
“Is he sick today?” – I almost begged.
I’ll never forget the most concerned look that I’ve ever been given as I got led to a private room and got made to sit down as three teachers had to explain to me all over again that you were dead.
You’d died three weeks ago they explained, but I wouldn’t believe them.
Not until my mum ran through the door crying and explained it to me herself.
That’s when I experienced the worst day and news of my life all over again.
The Colours Of Grief…
Year 1: Colourless
Everyone that had been through grief and had spoken to me about it had always described it as ‘black’, so that’s what I expected to see when I started going through it myself, but the black took a long while to come.
The initial colour of grief that I experienced was that there was no colour. I was in another worldly trance that I kept expecting to wake up from. Colours just didn’t exist… not even black. The grief was so big and so strong that it took on a colourless form that couldn’t be seen and couldn’t be touched.
I would go to sleep every night crying, and wake up from my dreams doing the same. You see, if something has a colour then it can be touched, worked with, broken even. If something can’t be seen then it is a lot harder to work with and that was my first stage of grief.
Year 2: Tube seat blue that’s so beaten down that it looks like the aftermath of a bonfire
Year 2 was more than colourless. I could almost reach out and touch it but you know when you hit old tube seats and suddenly it blows up in dust all around you? That’s kinda like what year 2 felt like.
You don’t have a hoover or any cleaning materials with you when you’re on the Tube, so you can reach out and grab it if you want, but you have nothing to clean it up with.
Year 2 without you felt like I was just existing. I could go about my day to day life and do things, but it never felt like it was me that was doing them. I was able to laugh when something made me laugh, but it always felt like an empty, hollow laugh. I probably looked just like everyone else on the outside, it was only if you hit me like a tube seat that you would see dust explode around me and realise that I probably needed replacing.
Year 3: Black
The third year without you was when it got really, really dark.
I could finally see the black that I had been told about, and it was the worst feeling in the whole world. A lot of the time I had to be forced out of bed. My grades were low and I turned to alcohol. I couldn’t think of you without ending up screaming and crying; and yet I couldn’t do anything without thinking about you.
You were gone. Holy shit, you were so far gone and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t bring you back, I couldn’t meet up with you in the mornings, I couldn’t laugh and shout at you when you annoyed me, and I couldn’t tell you about anything going on in my life. Toney, I needed you and you weren’t there.
All of the good in you that you had bought to my life was finally replaced by the absolute opposite of you, and it was so very dark.
Year 4: Green
Once I was able to get a hold on the black and realise that now that it was a proper colour, I would be able to shape it and deal with it, I was able to paint over it with Green.
Green was nice and green was hope. Year 4 felt good.
No, good is a bad way to describe it, because no year without you has ever felt ‘good’ – but it was better. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak and realised that even if you weren’t able to come back, life might be able to resemble almost what it did with you in it again, only different.
Year 5: Seaweed Green
Year 5 was more difficult than year 4 was without you. It was still a green colour, as I was holding onto hope with everything I had that it would get better but it wasn’t the nicest of greens.
Year 6: Murky brown
This year without you was like the colour of the water in the washing up bowl once you’re done washing up.
I realise that sounds pretty bleak, but it wasn’t all that bad. It was liquid and light so I could have picked it up and poured it away at any point; I just don’t think I wanted to. I felt like if I poured away that murky liquid then I would be pouring you away, and I was nowhere near ready to let you go yet.
Year 7: Blue
It was on this year that I could see all sorts of blues.
I could see the sky.
I could see the sea… I could even see Marge Simpsons hair.
The seventh year without you was dealable. I wasn’t letting you go but I was starting to realise that it was okay to live my life to the best of my ability and even be happy without completely letting you go.
Dont’ get me wrong, I still cried if I thought about you – but it didn’t feel like the all consuming, neverending tears from previous years.
Year 8: Violet
Violet was a good year.
Everything was pretty again, and the world felt like a place that I wanted to live in just as much as when you were in it.
I was travelling, I was doing new things and meeting new people and even talking about you without breaking down into a teary mess.
I’m not a religious person as you well know and I don’t know what happens to people when they pass away, but it felt like you were all around me and would be happy with how year 8 without you was going.
Year 9: Colourless
Last year was bad Toney.
You should have turned 25 and I found myself right back to square one all over again.
The realisation that such a big milestone in your life should be happening and that you weren’t there to live it felt unbearable.
The grief that I finally thought I’d managed to get a hold of and tame decided to teach me a lessen. It became colourless and untangible all over again. I had the worst kind of anxiety that found me cancelling plans with friends to stay in bed. The only thing that I managed to leave the house for was work.
There was two weeks around your birthday when I had to sleep on my brothers bedroom floor as I couldn’t face being in the dark in my room on my own. I was back to crying myself to sleep and waking from my dreams still crying.
Year 9 was one big regression.
Year 10: Yellow
Something has changed all over again this year. Your birthday has come and gone, and although I was sad as I think I always will be – it felt different.
I can reach out and touch the grief and it’s yellow, and yellow feels like a really good colour to touch… yellow feels right Toney.
I was speaking about that shaky thing that you used to do with your eyes the other day – that and how much you used to annoy me, and I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t feel bad about speaking about you in the past and I didn’t need to break down and cry.
I think the reason I’ve found it so hard to let you go is because there was a stage in my life when you were the best thing in it. You were all the good in the world that made me believe in the world being good. I’d leave all of my problems and come and speak to you and it all felt better again.
So in a way; when you left… good left.
On staying yellow…
Now that I’ve found yellow, I want to stay.
Will I always see yellow? Probably not, but that’s okay because the one thing that I know about grief is that you don’t actually know anything about it at all. It’s ever changing and no two years are the same. Some years will always be more difficult without you than others have been, and some years will just be yellow.
I’ve learnt that I no longer feel embarrased or ashamed when I cry about you to someone new just because I should be over it by now, but the truth is, is that I lost my best friend in the entire world way before you should have stopped living.
It was cruel and it was unfair and I will never stop missing you or wishing that I could tell you about my day, but I’m going to make a damn good effort to keep the majority of my next 10 years without you yellow.