The power of speech. A phrase used to proclaim how important talking is. The undoubtable value of vocalising our experiences, emotions and our contemplations. However though, sometimes speech can fail us. Sometimes its inadequate or it`s consistently unreliable to express the deepest and most delicate contents of our hearts and minds.
My reasoning is informed by my loss.
For 4 years Dave and I were lovers and the closest of companions. Mostly we were soul mates. We connected on many levels. We tuned into the same music. Memories replay of nights staying in and dancing around the house together. We both agreed though sometimes our connection became weakened. Sometimes the signals slightly out of frequency, causing interference. We both knew deep down that we were unable to give each other what we really needed, him security, me adventure. However, we could never quite part from each other and switch the relationship completely off. The connection always remained.
Dave was a quiet kind of bloke. I learnt to accept that. Not one to talk for hours about this, that or the other. Earthy, honest and unpretentious, I loved that about him. The strong silent type. His words weren’t necessarily needed. Dave expressed his love effortlessly, articulated with the most fluent affection. His feelings also demonstrated in the daft gifts he left around my house. Random rubber ducks and chocolates left in the cupboard.
At times I sensed a shadow. A blurred presence, unnamed and undefined. I made attempts to shed light on it, asking him to talk and pressing him to illuminate more about his past. He struggled and pushed me away. I learnt to accept that. There were occasions however when he spontaneously shared snapshots from his childhood with me. These were told in places like supermarkets and cafes where he knew it was uncomfortable for me to press further. He recounted experiences of extreme neglect and abuse of all kinds. The events he recalled left me speechless. No words to describe the relentless cruelty and carnage caused by the social care system of 1960s Britain.
I reflect that Dave probably experienced the effects of childhood trauma throughout his adult life. The shadow that secretly crept alongside him obscured in the background, secure from being exposed.
I understand that trauma can have profound and long-term effects on its victims. Research in neurology explains that parts of the brain`s survival circuits can close down or rewire themselves erratically. Like a faulty alarm system that is highly sensitive and activates in random ways. Research also explains that the Broca, the centre responsible for speech can be severely compromised by trauma. I assume that, for Dave, survival and safety were influenced by two things, being strong and silent.
For reasons unknown Dave took his own life in June this year. No note, no last phone call, no hints, no nothing. No obvious clues detected, only the ones I now theorise on about his childhood. My suspicions, that the shadow finally crept up and caught him, that the alarm system`s bell finally broke.
There are no words to describe the pain of losing someone compounded by the not knowing why. The question flows through every day caught in the waves of sadness, guilt and anger. An emotional tsunami.
Whatever the reason of Dave`s final decision, he concluded he was better off leaving this world, maybe in the hope his spirit would find a less troubled one.
Ghosted. A word that’s used when someone so loved suddenly and unexplainably breaks contact with no trace. Experiencing loss through suicide feels like being ghosted in the most tragic sense of the word.
My grief`s been hard to process, mostly because I needed to talk. I yearned to speak with people that knew Dave. For various reasons, COVID-19 included, this hasn’t been possible. I fantasised about speaking at the funeral, rehearsing my words with care, a sincere eulogy spoken with compassion. I became preoccupied with finding channels of communication to restore some of the connection. To fill the gaps. To find comfort. I chased people. I called people. However, still no answers and still no comfort.
As speaking wasn’t an option, I was compelled to express myself in other ways. I made little rituals. I floated sunflowers down the river, I burnt incense in our favourite park, I sat on the sofa wearing his slippers. And I wrote. Exploring my loss within poems has been my therapy, a way of transforming the pain, externalising expressions of the love we shared, shared with anyone willing to listen.
New connections have been cathartic, through The Loss Project I have joined others in conversation about loss and its impact. This has been insightful, empowering and restoring. The Loss Project acknowledge my journey and have supported me on the first road to express myself and my loss in a public place.
I am now inspired to travel further, to write creative non-fiction and to facilitate a public Arts Council project on loss. I am especially impassioned to challenge our cultural attitudes through art, to explore bereavement and the celebration of life.
The power of speech wasn’t dependable for Dave throughout his life. The power of speech wasn’t attainable for me in my grief.
We need to revalue the use of other vocabularies,to become less reliant on everyday language. Our most personal expressions are more clearly pronounced through art making, through gestures, through rituals, music, metaphors and poems.
The power of speech isn’t as powerful as we`d like to believe.
(If you interested to know more about my Arts Council England project proposal, please get in touch. I am currently seeking partners and funding support.)
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