It's been nearly two years since my husband Rob passed away by suicide, proving that time can be both elastic and uncompromising.
Elastic in that if I close my eyes, I can almost hear his voice in the next room.
Uncompromising in that time moves on, relentlessly, even when I haven't been ready to let go or accept that he is really gone.
Although there are circumstances that make each and every type of bereavement unique - mine was that Rob was my spouse, had depression and struggled with addiction - there is a universality in how we, as human beings, deal with grief.
A big part of how I dealt with it, was that I wrote a book about mine and Rob's life together called Chase The Rainbow.
It was really important that I looked into and wrote about the things that are still taboo in most of everyday society - mental illness, addiction and suicide - as well as the rigid template of masculinity that pinned Rob in place and left him unable to ask for help.
But it was also important to talk about grief in general because by and large, people are too easily held by their own awkwardness, worried about saying something wrong, and wrongly choosing silence.
So here's the first ever extract from my book, which goes some way to explaining what it's like when a loved one dies. And above all, it's a message of hope for those of us still here.
Chase The Rainbow
When someone you love dies, they are a supernova.
For so long, they shone brightly in your world. When they self-destruct, the shockwaves shatter everything you know.
This person is now made of a million memories and atoms that float in the cosmos; everything they ever were is transforming into something altogether different.
You cannot see what is happening. The blast has rendered you dumb. You can only see the pieces of your life, the brightness that person used to be, and the blackness that now surrounds the space where they once existed.
The smoke clinging to their jacket. The sound of their voice alive only in data on your phone.
Their favourite book that will never again be touched by their hands. These things will break your heart over and over again, until it feels like you will never get up.
But get up: because this is what is happening.
You aren't just saying goodbye to them, you are saying goodbye to yourself. The star was so powerful and beautiful, your love for them burned up the person you were.
This is how it is meant to be. And as they explode into stardust, when all we can see is their death, they are already once again becoming a part of life, from the first breath in a baby's mouth to the rain watering the ground.
You are already changing, dear one. It is painful, and you don't want it. You want the fading light of your ghost and you can't bear their absence. But if you are lucky, the world won't let you go. It isn't your time yet.
So you slowly turn into something stronger. You realise what you have a choice over, and what you don't. You turn what you know into strength, you help others find theirs, and you are gifted a compassion that is so deep and limitless, at times it is the only thing that gives you peace.
You watch people scurry about in their lives. You see them worry about futures they arrogantly assume they have. They furrow their brows about getting older when you know each year is a gift.
They forget your loss, often, even though for you, it is always the first thing you wake up with, and the last thing you hold close when you go to bed. You cannot go where they are going. But that's alright.
They aren't supposed to know what this feels like. Yet.
And although for a while, it feels like this is all there will ever be, you look down and see you are different. Your beloved is a part of you and always will be, and you finally see that leaving this earth will not reunite you or bring you peace.
The hope, that each day will bring new strength, however tiny, and that a day or a week may come where you can carry your loss and your new life in your heart at the same time, is what keeps you going.
Chase The Rainbow, published by Simon & Schuster, £12.99, is out on 4 May
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Rethink Mental Illness advice and information service is open 9:30 - 4pm Monday - Friday - 0300 5000 927. They have over 100 factsheets with easy to understand information on a variety of issues related to mental health
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a registered charity, which exists to prevent male suicide in the UK. Call 0800 58 58 58 or visit thecalmzone.net
- The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41