In her new book, Life, Loss, Love, Downes lays bare her journey of grief and Crowe's words that are helping her navigate life without him.
During one of the intimate talks Marty and I had in his last year, I said to him, 'I don't know how I am going to keep going without you. How will I cope?'
'You will,' he replied. 'Just keep moving, Raine, remember that. Just keep moving.'
I thought of his words as the days and then weeks passed after his death. We had been living in a cocoon for the past year. Yes, Marty was dying—and dealing with the horrible things cancer does to a person physically—but in another way it was a beautiful period of our life together. We were living for each day, truly valuing our precious moments with one another and our loved ones. Life was good even though it was awful, and I felt blessed to have had that time with Marty. We had done the things we wanted to do, only venturing out to places where we felt relaxed and safe, and we had spent time with people who were important to us. We had talked and talked and talked.
In that year, I knew what my role was: to love my soulmate and help him deal with his illness until he passed. I had a purpose.
Now Marty was gone and I was lost. Who was I now? What did I want to do with my life? And how was I going to get through it without Marty beside me?
Shortly before he died, Marty had told me that after he was gone it would be my turn to put myself first and discover who I was.
'You can reinvent yourself,' he said. 'You can be a little selfish for a change; bask in the sun a little. Watch over your children and Emma, and find joy in that. This will be your time.'
Okay, I decided. That's what I would do. I would take time out to work out who I was and what I wanted to do.
Just keep moving, Raine.
The trouble with moving on after losing someone you love is that grief comes along and tries to stop you in your tracks. It leaves you with a deep longing that invades every cell of your body; a longing for something you can't have. I missed Marty so much I felt sick.
Yes, I had started mourning before he even died, but this grief was ten times worse. I wished he could come back for just an hour so I could hold him in my arms, touch him, smell him, kiss him and tell him how much it hurt without him. I missed his twinkly eyes, his warm smile, and his brave spirit. He had desperately wanted to stay as long as possible for me and Emma, his beloved girls.
I missed talking to him the most. I missed our conversations about anything and everything, the laughter and the cheekiness. There was so much I wanted to tell him, and so much I wanted to ask, too. Was he in a lot of pain in those final hours? Could he hear my voice? Did he understand what I was saying? Could he see me now?
And of course I wanted to know where he was, and what it was like there.
I kept thinking about how much relief I would get from being able to talk to him and touch him, even just for an hour.
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But who was I kidding? An hour would not be enough. I would never want to let him go again.
Nearly four weeks after Marty died I sent a text to members of my family and close friends, trying to sum up what I was feeling.
'I am filled with such a deep longing to see him again, to hold him, to smell him, to kiss him and hear his voice. These feelings arrive in between the actual moments of everyday existence. I can feel normal and then my grief hits me and I have no choice but to sit with that grief. I filter back into my reality again when the grief has passed, or when I don't want to sit with it any longer.
'I can only be very gentle with myself, expecting nothing more than honouring what I am feeling in any given moment. I am surrounded by loving family and dear friends so I don't feel alone, but no one can do anything to help me process my grief. Only I (and time) can do that.'
It was a case of taking each day at a time and, as hard as that was, I had no choice but to do it. There's a saying attributed to Bob Marley that particularly resonates with me. It's about inner strength, and how you only discover the depth of yours when you've got no other option.
It is impossible for other people to understand what you go through when you lose your soulmate, unless they have been there themselves. Even then, it's not the same: grief is a unique experience for everyone. Nobody should ever attempt to tell you how to navigate that path. You have to do it your own way.
I found it hard when people asked me lots of questions. What was I going to do now? Would I sell the house? When would I go back to work?
I needed to be able to make decisions in my own time. Being questioned often felt like an interrogation, and I had no answers.
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Another problem is that people start telling you what they think you should do, and that can be even tougher to deal with. One of the reasons it was so good having Patricia around was that she never told me what to do. The only question she ever asked was,
'How are you today?' She allowed me to just 'be' with whatever emotions I was experiencing, and she never pressured me.
If there was one thing worse than people questioning me and telling me what to do, it was when I ran into someone who had known Marty and they didn't say a word about him. They obviously didn't know what to say to me, but to say nothing at all just felt plain weird and uncomfortable; I think it's better to acknowledge his passing. I wished they would just say something about my beautiful man.
Extracted from Life, Loss, Love by Lorraine Downes. RRP$36.99. Published by Allen & Unwin. Out now.
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Sunday 29 April, 2.00-4.00pm
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