Life has suddenly become very difficult. Too difficult. I am suddenly trying to manage too many kinds of pain.

We have five days of holiday beginning tomorrow, but I still have my own work to do. There are still obligations involved and so are not “real” holidays. But there will be some unstructured time, and that will help.

But I feel like I am drowning.

It is Hannah and the terror she holds, which is really an unfamiliar terror to me—what am I supposed to do to help her feel safe? What is she so terrified of? How does she understand things and how do I explain things in a way she understands? I am still learning and it does not always go smoothly.

There is another strand too and that is a new layer of grief. Some things moved around in my head in the last week or so, and this has made the grief accessible. Which is good. But it is drowning me.

It is a grief for the relationship I had to Natalya: I have come to understand there are two griefs involved in her death. There is the grief for Natalya as a person and there is a grief for the relationship we had to one another, and they involve different griefs. I have grieved mostly for Natalya. I have grieved for her lost potential, her cancelled future, and I have felt my profound attachment to her, my need and my craving to be with her. And that is the grief for her as an individual. Mostly, I can live with that loss now.

But the grief for our relationship I have only chipped away at.

I have only chipped away at it partly because I simply could not. Both kinds of grief are immense and overwhelming, but together they would have been devastating. And I could not see what that relationship was. I had to see it before I could understand what was lost.

I could not see that, in a real sense, our relationship was a marriage. When Charlie writes about a collective, that is what he is talking about, and the grief now is for that state of approaching life as a partnership with someone else. And perhaps because this began to evolve when I was very young, this sense of being inside a partnership is extremely comfortable and natural. Leaving it feels like exile, and I don’t have to leave it entirely, but I do have to leave it some.

I am putting myself back together—that is my task now. But if Natalya were alive, I would have been helping her put her life and herself back together too. I would have helped her finish her education. I would have helped her work out a job and a career path. We would have had children or not had children together. The question would have been, “What is best for us?” It never would have been, “What is best for me?” Or even, “What is best for her?” She is dead though, and she no longer needs anything from life. When I weigh decisions, the only factors that need to be in my head are those relating to my desire and my future. And it is not comfortable. It is terrible.

It is like having to be someone else, perhaps because this is what I knew. It is all I knew. I was never single.

And it is oddly, strangely lonely to have only my concerns and my problems in my head.

That is only one piece of the loss. There are other things—and this is why I feel like I’m drowning, because it is hard to figure out what they are. They emerge as vague, amorphous pains I cannot name or understand or console.

One of them is just the emotion of it. There is a certain emotion involved in wanting to care for someone so much and in being cared for so much: it is an intense emotion. And I think it’s something of the same thing. I began to feel that way when I was eight years old. It was something else that was always there—to one extent or another. It grew. It evolved. But it has been there as a part of what I felt since I was old enough to notice my feelings. Again, it’s like a loss of myself to lose this.

I am conscious now that grief is not so much about letting things go or giving them up: it is about rearrangement. So I don’t know what happens now exactly, but I do know that my intense desire to nurture her and to protect her no longer makes sense. There is at least some piece of that which needs to be rearranged.

But the others, the other pieces. I don’t know. I am just drowning.

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