I don't know if anyone reading my rambling thoughts about life after Juliette wondered why I'd started this blog now. After all, it's been eight and a half years. Surely there can't be anything new to say this many years on?
I've always used writing to exorcise thoughts that battle incoherently in my head. I'm pretty thankful that I destroyed early poetry attempts, and the tortured teenage diaries I wrote. Reading about the oversexed, pimply boys that broke my heart is not something I wanted to do more than once! The diary I wrote for about eighteen months after Juliette died however, I will keep, though it frightens me to read the screaming pain I felt back then. I dipped in and out of madness, if the words I scribbled across pages of unlined A4 are anything to go by. I see myself trying to understand what had happened, trying to see sense in the fact I could still breathe, eat and move while my baby lay cold in the ground.
I started writing Watching Petals Fall about three years after Juliette died, and it took me another three to write. I was very lucky to get an agent quite soon after I'd finished it, and by then I had already started on the novel. Another year of writing that, I realise now, was a delaying tactic. While my head was busy with plots and characters and points of view, I didn't have to face up to what had happened. I could keep painting a glossy sheen on my family and on how well we were all doing. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Meanwhile the rejection letters from the major publishing started to stack up. The overall flavour of these was that they loved it but lacked confidence it would sell in sufficient numbers to take a risk. I'm not naive. I know a bit about how business works, but this was my little girl, and her life as I saw it had become a product.
Still, I ploughed on and finished the novel. It was when I started editing the first draft however that things started to go wrong. Where before I could access that seam from where the words flowed, landing like beings of perfection on the page - sorry, bear with me - now I felt flattenend creatively. There was nowhere left to run.
Since the big D hit me in the last months of 2010, I've been getting some more help. While I still have to shake off entirely the feeling that I "shouldn't need it after all this time," I'm going with it. All therapied-up though I am, I still struggle when it comes to making stuff up. The novel's pretty much on hold, but writing a blog about life after Juliette, seems ok to do. It helps to write it all down. It helps me to think people are reading it too because it feels important, to me at least, to tell the whole story about what it's like to lose a child. It's wonderful to be thought of as strong. That's what I wanted to be - it was the body suit I slipped into every morning for most of the past eight years - but perhaps being strong is being able to say, "actually, I can't be strong all the time."
This grief is not linear. You don't always feel a bit better as each day passes. Sometimes it hits you like a sledgehammer, years after other people think you're coping without your precious child there to hold. If I can make someone else feel a bit better about their own "relapse" years on by airing my dirty emotional laundry in public now, then I think that's alright.