“Chemistry was crazy from the get-go
Neither one of us knew why
We didn’t build nothing overnight
Cuz a love like this takes some time
People swore it off as a phase
Said we can’t see that
Now from top to bottom
They see that we did that (yes)
It’s so true that (yes)
We’ve been through it (yes)
We got real sh** (yes)
See baby we been…
Too strong for too long (and I can’t be without you baby)
And I’ll be waiting up until you get home (cuz I can’t sleep without you baby)”
“Be without you” by Mary J Blige was one of the songs that most epitomized our relationship. Karl and I had a love that grew and grew until it became everything, to both of us. We faced so many trials together, family issues, career issues, so many challenges. But we knew that we would always survive them. That it was the two of us against the world.
So when Karl died, I had absolutely no idea how to be without him. I have always considered myself to be super independent but the reality was that I had been with Karl for all of my adult life. He was the first and only person that I had loved. He was a part of me and when he died it felt like I was walking around with a massive hole inside of me that I kept trying to fill in anyway that I could. I did not sleep for nearly 2.5 years after he died.
As at today’s date, the United Kingdom has been in lockdown in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic for 83 days. As ever in my life, the timing of the lockdown was brilliant, the lockdown provisions were announced in the evening of the 23 March 2020 – the night before the 3rd anniversary of Karl’s death.
I freaked out.
I was supposed fly to Colombia on the 27 March 2020, a trip deliberately organised as a wonderful escape, a distraction from everything in my life that I didn’t want to deal with.
Instead, lockdown meant that I was to be trapped in my flat, totally isolated and alone for the anniversary of the worst day of my life.
At the beginning of March, when a quarantine was looking likely, I started feeling really sad and lonely because I knew that the only person I could have enjoyed being in a quarantine with, was Karl. But as the weeks passed, I began to face reality. If Karl was still here, he would still be a doctor and he would have been in the hospital fighting Covid-19 (without PPE!!!!!!!). As an asthmatic and therefore in the higher risk category, the actual reality is that we would probably have had to live apart.
I spent 3 years of my life wishing that Karl come could back to me. But the Covid-19 pandemic forced me to truthfully ask myself that question again. I can only imagine that it must be hellish to be a doctor right now, with such limited resources, increased demand and all the hysteria. I know Karl would never have left medicine, as much as he sometimes hated it.
Therefore, I realised that it wasn’t right for me to wish Karl back here. That I didn’t want him back just so that he would suffer… just because it would make my life better.
That is how I eventually made peace with my Grandma’s death, 6 weeks before our wedding. That whilst I wanted her to be there because I loved her so much, that was what was best for me. I wanted to be able to say goodbye… because that would have been better for me. But that wasn’t what was best for her. If she had lived, she was going to die a really painful death. So, I made peace with it because it was what was best for her.
I realised that I feel the same way about Karl. I used to feel so sad about all of the amazing things that Karl was missing out on. Every incredible thing I saw on my travels, I would feel sad that Karl wasn’t seeing it too. But life is not just the amazing things.
Life has ups and downs (the Covid 19 pandemic proves that probably more clearly than anything in my lifetime) and we have to be able to deal with the downs. For whatever reason, I think the downs hurt Karl more than they hurt other people so life as a whole was more painful for him than it is for me.
We were so happy for a really long time and I will treasure the memories I have with Karl forever. But I have been forced to accept that I am not magic, I am not superhuman and I can’t make life a 100% positive thing. My journey has shown me that one person cannot make another person happy. You can contribute to someone’s happiness, you can be a positive in someone’s life but you cannot make that person happy. Happiness is a choice that each of us has to make for ourselves and is independent of any other human being.
Each of us is alone responsible for our own happiness. When I realised that, I realised I couldn’t say that it was definitively better for Karl to be alive and to be here. Who am I to make that judgment? How can I come to any conclusion when I don’t know what Karl felt and I was powerless to fix it or make it better. I don’t wish Karl out of the peace he has right now to be back here in the crazy chaos that we live in at the moment.
I think that is what unconditional love is, wanting the best for someone, even if it isn’t the best thing for you. Sometimes love means letting go.
I loved Karl more than words can ever express. But his suicide left me feeling unloved and abandoned, left all alone by myself in a huge, catastrophic mess. The day that Karl died it felt like a nuclear bomb hit my life and the person who threw the nuclear bomb at me was Karl.
I spent a long time telling myself I really hated Karl, that I didn’t forgive him and blaming him for every negative thing in my life. I ran into the arms of people who definitely didn’t love me, embraced behaviour that was the opposite of how he treated me, because I told myself that if it was different from the way that Karl treated me then it was great. So, I gave so much of myself to people who had not earned my love and did not ever deserve it.
I have finally accepted that, even if I didn’t realise it at the time, Karl was really unwell and his actions were of a sick person that wasn’t in their right mind. That it didn’t say anything about me or my value and worth. I made so many mistakes in the aftermath of Karl’s death and I blamed him for every single one of them. I realise now that only I am responsible if I make bad decisions. The chain of causation is broken.
The 11.5 years I spent with Karl were amazing, so much laughter, so much fun and just so much love. The biggest irony is that the way Karl loved me and gave me such stability in his love was one of the things that made me strong enough to deal with his death. I will never forget how proud he was of me and his illness and suicide don’t change that.
I finally forgave him. I hope that he rests in peace. I hope that he can see me still and he is proud.
I woke up early on the 24 March 2020 and used my once daily exercise allowance to run to the graveyard to see Karl’s grave. I hadn’t been for a long time. I was too angry to go and I didn’t want to remind myself that I had a husband who was in a grave. I just wanted to forget him. I realise now that whilst it is OK for me to not hold onto to Karl’s suicide, the impact he had on my life overall was so positive and I do myself a disservice in forgetting it.
I was surprisingly OK until I got to the graveyard. But when I got to Karl’s grave it looked so forlorn. It looked like Karl was a person that wasn’t loved, like nobody cared that he died. It has taken my three years but it is finally time for me to arrange for Karl to have a headstone – after the Covid-19 pandemic is over. I ran home and for the first time since Karl died, I didn’t have a massive meltdown after visiting his grave.
I realised that by forgiving Karl and making peace with his death, I finally let him go. The anger I felt towards him tied me to him indefinitely. It was still something, a tie, something that bound us together still. After I forgave him, I felt like there was nothing tying us together anymore.
That there was no longer any Kira and Karl, just Kira, figuring her own life out for herself. It may have taken me 3 years but I am finally at peace with Karl’s death. I finally understand that some of us are just only meant to only be here for 31 years, even if we are amazing. That that is enough. And that whilst that means you miss out on some great things, you miss out on some terrible things too.
The quarantine has unexpectedly benefitted me. It has forced me to be quiet. The aftermath of Karl’s death made me so desperate to have other people make my life OK, make my life bearable. But the quarantine finally made me realise that I can be OK on my own, that I can be quiet and still and that sometimes I need to be. Because there are some things in life that other people can’t make better for you.
But finally, I am able to BE without you.