Life after sudden death
Tim died suddenly. We'd been out the night before and there were no signs of anything wrong. And then in the early hours of the next morning, his world and my world stopped in a breath, a heartbeat.
The day is a blur. A 999 call, paramedics. Friends coming over to be with me. Calling Tim's parents – the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. Calling my family, our friends. Breaking the news over and over again. It never sounding real, no matter how many times I said it. Tea. So much tea. My brain in a fog. Wandering around the village in a daze. Wonderful friends wrapping me around with love. I was in shock.
Crawling into bed alone, the bed remade with fresh sheets by a friend. Needing to sleep there even though I didn't think I would sleep, because I knew that if I didn't spend the night there I might never sleep in our room, our bed, again. Messaging friends during the night just to know that someone was there.
The next few days
The beginning of the sadmin. Talking to the hospital to get the results of the post-mortem (heart failure as a result of type 2 diabetes). Things being delayed because of the Beast from the East. Talking to the funeral director, the registrar, the vicar to arrange the funeral. Not having much of an idea of what he wanted in way of a funeral because it had been so sudden.
And the days after
Struggling with all the sadmin because we had no plans, no lists. He was only 50. We thought we had time. The shock and the numbness wearing off and it becoming all so very real.
Living after a sudden death
The suddenness and trauma of Tim's death, and having to do CPR, left me with dissociation, flashbacks, intrusive memories and nightmares, all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I spent time with an amazing integrative psychotherapist who helped me to move forward from these.
One of the hardest things with a sudden death is not being able to say goodbye. That haunted me for a long time. I had a session with my psychotherapist who was able to talk me through it. I now have a 'memory' of hugging him goodbye and him walking down the hall to the front door, jingling his keys in his pocket.
Try not to go down the rabbit hole of the what ifs. I wondered whether there were symptoms I should have seen, ways I could have looked after him better. Remember that hindsight is 20-20 and what ifs are generally completely unrealistic.
Talk to your doctor. My GP was amazing, and supported me on a week-by-week and then month-by-month basis after Tim died.
Talk to people. There are resources and associations out there for people coping with a sudden death. WAY Widowed and Young helped me so much, as I was able to talk with people in similar situations. There are also organisations that support people bereaved by murder, manslaughter, road traffic accidents or suicide. While social media has a bad name, there is an incredible #grief and #widow community on Twitter.
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.