I was looking at some social media posts last week of Lauren's school friends. It was their last day of formal teaching at High School before the GCSE's started. Reminders are everywhere at the minute of Lauren's absence. People have advised me to not look, to avoid them. But I can't seem to help myself. Like the people craning their neck to see the road accident, or when you have a bruise you can't help but press, just to see if it still hurts. So I scrawl through photo's and posts and look at the smiling faces and listen to the concerns about exams, and I think I do it not because it hurts, but because it makes me feel close to Lauren in some way. Knowing what her friends are doing helps me imagine what she would be doing, and although that sounds tragically sad, and it is, I also find in strangely calming.
This time I could identify another emotion, mixed in with the swirl of all the others, it was almost surprise. I've been completing a Counselling Skills course this past year, and part of the skills we have learnt is to be more aware of our emotions and what we are actually feeling at any given time. I think it is due to this course that I was able to identify such an unexpected response, and have the chance to consider it.
It's hard to really describe the emotion. It wasn't really surprise. After all I am still aware of her school friends, keep in contact with some of them, Lauren's siblings go to the same high school so I know when exams are coming up and what is going on within the school community, I'm already braced for the upcoming prom. But looking at the photo's of a life that we no longer inhabit, this current cohort of year 11's. Knowing that if it wasn't for some little crappy virus that Lauren would be there too, but feeling I guess bewilderment, almost like my brain couldn't match up the dots. I know Lauren is dead and I compartmentalise that part of my mind so that I can function. That isn't as extreme as it sounds. We all compartmentalise in some way. We don't, for instance, show the same part of ourselves to our teachers or our boss that we would show to our best friends. But when I see the place she should have been it doesn't quite match up, not in a disassociated way, but in a de-realism way. The reality of living with Lauren's death feels like it has been going on forever, so seeing her friends about to finish high school just doesn't seem possible.
Throughout the lockdown we had the relative sanctuary of the non-normal. No-one could live a normal life and do normal things so we did not need to see it and be made aware of Lauren's absence from it. But now, with lockdowns a thing of the past, and it seems just Party-gate in our future, people are living again, I don't begrudge them that, quite the opposite, I'd encourage everyone to live their best life every single day, but it means the tunnel vision I have had for my life and my families life no longer protects as it once did.
I think a blinkered approach is quite normal. We all think that we are the first one's to experience anything. Our parents don't understand us as obviously they were never young, we find it hard to imagine our grandparents as rebellious youths, when/if we have children we feel we are the first to enter this brave new world, dismissing the evidence to the contrary that many people had been there before us. But then as we pass through these stages we forget all about them. As a parents of a teen and nearly teen I find it hard to imagine that right now a parent is struggling with no sleep and an over exited 2 years old. just praying that the rain would stop so they can go to the park for 30 minutes out of the house, or a teenager sat in school hating every minute and deciding, yet again, that these definitely are not the best years of their life.. Which is why as a grieving mum I now can't remember a time when I wasn't and seeing the photos of the school friends reminds me that there was a time, and if it wasn't for a cruel twist of fate I may never be living the life I now do.
I think possibly that is one of the reasons that we find it so hard to deal with others death or despair. We are blinkered to our own existence at that moment in time. It is hard to remember what anything else can feel like, or even that there is anything else to feel. It is not a deliberate act of avoidance, more a lack of space for other memories. Maybe its indicative of a busy modern world, maybe it's always been there, part of human development.
We see life not as it is, but through the lens of our own perception.