There Are No Words- On Sadness and Silence

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the emotional fortitude to write anything longer than a Whatsapp message.

Despite an asshole acquaintance telling me that I’d ‘let my audience down’ after my ’15 minutes of fame’ by not regularly updating my blog (insert wanking gesture here), I figured that most people would understand my need to insulate and isolate in the last couple of months, given that my life, as I knew it, has recently been razed to the ground.

For anyone who doesn’t know me that well, let me contextualise: The love of my life and my partner of seven years, Adam, passed away on the 23rd of October following an aggressive recurrence of the cancer he had been fighting since March. He was buried on the 24th of October, which would have been his thirtieth birthday. For nine months he endured hours of chemotherapy, followed by weeks of chemo-sickness, a six-hour long operation which cost one of his kidneys, and finally a 10-day long medically induced coma that he never woke from… And an infinite number of sad, scary, and sore moments in between.

I list all of these uncomfortably intimate details because I’m tired of sugar-coating his experience to strangers. He ‘passed away’ doesn’t seem enough to explain the visceral shock, or the sudden, brutal cruelty of having him wrenched from our lives.

Adam’s family and I have now joined the saddest, worst club in the world.

You see, there are there are the haves, and the have-nots. Those who have had their hearts torn from their chests, and those who cannot begin to imagine what it must feel like. Of course there are members of this club who have suffered far more than I have. Parents (like Adam’s parents) who’ve lost their children, victims of violent crime, people who’ve lost their entire families to war and disaster….

A peaceful hospital death, surrounded by loved ones, must seem like a merciful blessing in comparison. But I have to avoid making comparisons. Because if I compare my situation in one direction, I inevitably give in to the temptation to compare it in the other. And then all of the engagements, the weddings, the birth announcements, and the happy, sappy holiday snaps seem so overwhelmingly unfair that I feel physically ill.

As much as I have tried ‘to stay strong’ by picking up on work, planning for the future, and attempting (and often failing) to engage in social engagements, it’s become clear that nothing will ever be ‘back to normal’, because the thing that has changed most in my life without Adam, is me.

This loss has been like a massive wildfire, sweeping across every plane, and curling into every corner of my life. Nothing has been left untouched by the flames. Not one relationship, not one preconception, not one plan for the future. Every day, the reality of what has actually happened sinks in a little deeper, and becomes a little more concrete. Every day, I wake up to remember that he’s really gone, and every day I swallow the news like snake venom, hoping that one day I’ll be immune to it.

Enough time has passed now that the initial, awkward outpouring of condolences has long stopped. But this was, in itself, a learning experience for me. Sometimes people admit to not having the words, sometimes they try to placate with platitudes of ‘he’s in a better place’, or ‘at least he’s not suffering any more’. Sometimes they say truly insane things, like saying that ‘you’ll never, ever pick up the pieces’, ‘your life is over’ or asking whether or not we’d woken him from his coma to ‘tell him goodbye’… I mean, how many Hallmark movies do you have to watch to think that would be okay?

It’s not. It’s not okay to wake someone up just to tell them they’re going to die. Don’t ask that.

Still… as angry as I get- and I still get so fucking angry– I can, on some level, understand. Faced with the void of loss in someone else’s life, it’s natural to want to give them the right words to help fill it. After all, I used to be a have-not myself. In between missing Adam and missing the life we’ll now never have together, I have moments where the total inadequacy, or worse- flippancy- of my own comments to others in mourning come back to haunt me.

I don’t use the word ‘regret’ lightly. I don’t regret getting an almost-tribal tattoo, or spending 3 years on a mostly-useless degree. I don’t regret a single bar argument or even one bad haircut, and I have had many of both.

But I do regret that it’s cost so much to teach me how to speak to someone else who is wading waist-deep in strangling grief.

What I realised following another painful social encounter, is that as much as the insensitive comments, or uncomfortable questions about the loss of a loved one can hurt, the refusal to even acknowledge someone else’s loss cuts far deeper.

Someone again asked me about this blog the other night, and when I explained that I had stopped writing when Adam’s illness got really bad, the room quickly descended into silence. A quick topic change, and I was left feeling like I had just pulled down my shorts, shat into my hand, and lobbed my steaming faeces across the picnic table.

My grief, it seemed, had manifested like a kind of contagious disease. There are a few saints who dare to touch me, but there are others who seem afraid that they might catch my sadness if they get too close.

To any other friends of mine, or to any other have-nots struggling to find the right words, or the right reactions, let me just say this:

Mourning is not contagious, however it will also not simply ‘pass’ given enough time and wine. I will never ‘get over it’, although I am trying, every day, to live with it.

Most importantly, I want you to know that it’s okay to say Adam’s name. It’s okay to talk about him. I want to talk about him. I want you to talk about him. Every time we remember something good, or happy, or funny about him, it brings him back to life for just a minute.

And then, dearest friend, you give me the gift of your friendship, sweetened with the gift of his memory.

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10 thoughts on “There Are No Words- On Sadness and Silence

  1. Thank you. I enjoyed reading your article. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    How is it that traveling willburies: end of the line is so great for these moments of “state”. I love you, I love Adam. I miss him and I miss you. However everything that is, is. I guess it’s the survivors hanging on to the fragments while the world wizzes by and the people stuck to the spinning earth trying to touch us as we whizz away.

  2. Hi Joan, your story has really touched me deep. I don’t know you or Adam so I cannot say that Ï am sorry” although I feel deep empathy for you. I have also lost both my parents in a car accident. I understand exactly where you come from and the things you are working through although I cannot say how you feel since I have not lost my life partner. What I can tell you, what other “have’s” have told me is that although the loss NEVER goes away the pain gets softer over time. Each birthday, family gathering, holiday and anniversary comes with a little less pain. Give yourself time to grief, I didn’t and have paid the price. All I can say is good luck.

  3. Hi Jade
    I have experienced a similar event. You learn to live with it. I cannot write about it but you managed. Thanks for that.

  4. Hi Jade. Wow. I don’t know you nor Adam. All you have ever done is make me laugh. So I thank you for sharing this very raw and immense pain with us. My thoughts are with you xo

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  5. I’m so sorry, Jade, that you and Adam’s family are bearing this terrible sadness. I didn’t know Adam, and you and I haven’t been in touch since the above mentioned mostly-useless degree. I can only believe that if you chose him, he must have been some kind of spectacular. So far, I am one of the lucky have-nots, so I can’t claim to understand your grief, but, inadequately, my heart aches for you and I wish you so much love and kindness.

  6. I had the honour of knowing Adam through my oldest and best friend Ryan. Ryan and Adam worked together and I hung out and “shot the shit” with Adam a few times. He is and was one of the most intelligent, interesting and smart people I’ve ever met. Ryan and I often talked about how we should have hung out with Adam more, and we should have made a plan.

    Adam, thank you for the great conversation, thought provocation and mind expanding thoughts. Rest well, and hopefully see you again someday. Jade, I think we’ve briefly met before but even if you don’t remember me I just want you to know that I think about Adam often and loved his writing and geekery. He will be missed, my deepest condolences go out to you and his family.

  7. A heartfelt expression of the inexpressible – a beautiful tribute to someone with whom you clearly shared a deep bond. I hope that by sharing your pain, so openly and honestly, it will help you to bear it. I know that you will never ‘put it behind you’ or ‘let it go’ as so many people may think (or hope) you will, but hopefully through your writing you will be able to bear his loss. I wish you and your family long life. Light and love to you during this dark time.

  8. Thank you for sharing your amazing post about such a fucked up thing that happened to you. May Adam’s memory live forever in your heart. Your writing really touches a nerve with me every time I read one of your posts and I hope you will find the place in your heart to write and share.

  9. This is a beautiful, raw and honest tribute to Adam – the most complex, gentle, intelligent man I’ve ever had the pleasure to call a friend. Thank you Jade, for sharing your own personal hell with the world. All the ‘haves’ out there will find a certain kind of comfort in this; I know that I did.

    Sending you love & light xx

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