Whispers in the Night • There is Nothing I Can Do

whispers in the night

There is a voice that whispers to me in the middle of the night, telling me my boyfriend is going to die. While he snores, while his breath is thick and heavy, I am reassured that he lives. It’s when he is quiet that I worry. I reach out to touch his back to make sure his chest is rising and falling, I watch the bedspread to make sure there is movement.

But I know that even if he continues to breathe there is danger ahead. Stroke, heart attack, cancer, all silently creeping up on us in the dark, eager to snatch the only thing I have ever truly loved away from me.

The worry sits like a hot hard fist inside my rib-cage, making my own breath shallow and strained. Death, once visited leaves an indelible stain on every single moment. Who is next? My mother, my father, my brother, my friend, someone I loved on television or in a movie.

Death comes to us all so why does it frighten me? Not my own death, I’m not worried about that, but the loss of those around me. I cling to them, willing them to stay for as long as possible and yet always knowing I can only hold on to a finite amount of days, hours, minutes until somewhere in the future their luck no longer holds.

I am selfish and self absorbed, only thinking of my own grief. I know how hard it is to lose someone, someone I didn’t love, so the thought of losing someone I do love seems unbearable.

So I worry, I lie awake at night listening to the sound of my boyfriend snoring, holding my breath in the pauses between his inhale and his exhale.

It is all in my head for now. But one day, a day that hasn’t yet been named, I will feel the soul of the dearest man I know ripped from my heart. There is nothing I can do.

whispers in the night T


28 thoughts on “Whispers in the Night • There is Nothing I Can Do

  1. Given the losses you have endured it’s understandable you would leap ahead to a catastrophic loss of this love. Oh wow is it hard to turn off those voices in the middle of the night. I try to visualize writing these fears down on paper and then crumpling it up and throwing it away. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the Universe wants us to be happy and in the moment. As writers, we tend to leap ahead because our lives are framed by narratives.

  2. Katie I have always found expressing all in words always helps..
    Fear usually strikes us in the dead of night when there is an absence of the minutiae of daytime activities that keep our brains free from roaming to such dark places..
    Acknowledge them and lessen their power. Just don’t feed them.
    I have written and then incinerated some of my worst demons.. releasing them to the breeze and watching the ashes drift is very therapeutic. Can recommend someone to guide you through this process if you like..

    A friend always tells me to bring out my demons and expose them to the light of day.. and he is right.. they do dissipate. Do as you’ve done here.. expose them. Somehow the harder we try to push them down and not acknowledge what is in the dark recesses of our mind the more fuel is added to the smoldering embers.. whatever they are..

    When it comes to death I have to say, respectfully, that ‘practice’ helps… The more people we lose the more we learn that somehow life does go on.. I have a reputation for not handling grief well.. whatever that means… I weep, I wail and I question every value or tenet of my life. At times I have wondered how on earth I would ever survive the terrible physical pain of raw grief. How can ones heart feel that it is actually broken and mangled beyond repair when with every breath the pain is searing and unendurable..

    Vocalising helps..
    I stood up in a Leonard Cohen concert and screamed as loud as I possibly could as I wept for my beloved brother who was far too young to die from MND. My best friend held my hand and she alone understood my passion and distress.. the masses at Rod Laver didn’t hear my pain…
    I held her hand a few weeks later when her ex was buried.. similar story to yours…

    That is how we do it Katie.. we share with our friends that love us as we love them. You will know who they are when the time comes. You and I are very lucky.. we can write and we can express what we feel. We can be our very own best friends…
    In the midst of our pain the thought will reverberate..

    “if we hadn’t loved so much we wouldn’t hurt so much…
    our suffering validates the depth of meaning of that lost relationship…”

    Eventually that whisper will be heard above the pain.
    Time will also allow the sun to shine again and one day we will truly know that they will always be with us.. it is just the physical presence that is gone. Nothing takes our love away and one day you will find that you smile and you laugh when you think of them.
    Healing has begun.
    They still touch you… are still with you…just in a different way…
    Thank you for the memories and the words that will keep them alive for ever..

  3. Beautifully written even if the message conveys a difficult moment (that recurs?). I haven’t experience a lot of grief because of death (yet), but I have problems with anxiety, so some of what you say resonates with me. I don’t have good advice, but I can offer you a cyber hug. I observe that you have a lot of personal strengths (intelligence, sensitivity, creativity, warmth) and some good friends. I hope that these positives can serve as anchors to help you weather through the storms. All my best.

  4. I can relate to this, Katie. I do try very hard to fight the paranoia, the negative thoughts and fears. Some days (and nights) are better than others. Mostly, I worry about my son. And then my husband. Illnesses, accidents, anything that will cause me grief from which I know I may not recover. I once shared these thoughts with friends and one of them shared something very profound with me. He said that there’s a story, I think of a Buddhist mother. Not sure if it’s tradition or not. But he said, when the mother gives birth, she holds the newborn and says to the baby something like, “Some day you will die too”. Though morbid, it releases the mother from the illusion that she can protect the baby from death and the idea of permanence. It’s true, isn’t it? We can really only do so much to protect ourselves and those we love. I suppose this is why we just need to focus our energies on savoring every moment we have. Easier said than done, yes. But we have to try. Sending you positive vibes! :-)

  5. This a beautiful post about a real fear. I often have these same feelings. In the last 10 years I have watched my husband bury 9 family members to cancer. One of my oldest and dearest friends committed suicide a few months back. I understand this feeling well. I too wake up some nights and watch my husband breath or just touch him. He’s my world and I can’t imagine a day without him. So yes I understand completely!

    1. Thank you, Rena. I’m sorry for what seems an unfair amount of loss in your life. But then life never promised to be fair, did it? Thank you for expressing your solidarity. Maybe the trick is we need to face down fear together? xx

  6. I’ve never experienced the kind of loss you have, but I’ve done some stupid shit that could have easily driven my husband away from me for good. I lie awake at night hoping that he doesn’t wake up in the morning and changes his mind. Your refrain echoes in my head…

    1. This strikes me as so lovely…
      My boyfriend tells me my *stupid shit* is what makes me interesting and fascinating. I’m sure men are much less harsh on us than we are. Bless them ♥

  7. With all the lose you’ve had to contend with, these emotions are completely understandable and I don’t feel you are selfish at all for not wanting to process that level of pain again. Great post, thank you for sharing.

  8. Hi Katie, you are not alone – I do the exact same thing in the night. Trying to stare at the duvet in the dark to see if it is rising and falling as it should be. Reaching out to touch him when I can’t see it. One of his co-workers got killed in a freak accident at work a couple of weeks ago. He was a few years younger and very fit. It could have been any one of the guys – he just happened to be standing in the wrong place. His poor wife said goodbye that morning and that was that – forever. I try to appreciate every single moment we have together and when I get these thoughts now, I think of that guys wife and I snap out of it because I still have my Garry (her husband had the same name.) Like you, I lost my former husband in a terrible, unforgettable way so I know how much death and loss plays on the mind. Maybe they will lose us before we lose them – who knows… Either way, I can’t bear the thought of us not having each other – even in death but that is the price we pay for loving our partners, friends, family and even the old guy across the road that we hardly know but is just there, every day, coming back with his groceries at exactly the same time. Except one day he isn’t there any more and we miss him too. Thanks for getting us all talking and thinking about something that just lurks in the background most of the time. x

  9. Yes, yes. Death, especially death in those who are not elderly, leaves an impression on us. I have been struggling with this so much this week in particular. Watching my 16 year old brother go from healthy and strong to Stage 4 Cancer like *that* really messed with my mind. And my son has been sick this week (just a virus) but my mind goes to dark places when my kids are sick. All of that fear and helplessness comes surging back. That’s when I hide in my bathroom and cry. Logic doesn’t always override our fears, unfortunately. It breaks my heart, yet it’s comforting in a way, that so many of us feel this way. It makes me feel a little less crazy.

  10. I get this. Once in my late 30’s I cried silently having a moment of realization that this relationship (with my husband) is finite. We will both die and I don’t know what is next. I had a moment with the God of my understanding and just thought I want forever with this man….

  11. Your words so beautifully and poetically describe that vulnerable fear of life’s fragility. I haven’t experienced loss as deeply as you, but I understand the enormous tragedy of losing loved ones through dear friends who weep for husbands and parents and children that they have lost too soon- and it breaks my heart open…

    That kind of terror sometimes attacks me too- and I cannot handle the idea for long. I just can’t. Losing one of my kids, especially. I think that is where my faith is most used… I can only have hope in Eternity. That saves me…

  12. So close do your fears match my own that I could have written this myself… except in my case I’d add the overwhelming fear of my own death too (a fear that has plagued since childhood).

    You are an exquisite writer, this must have been a cathartic post to write. I hope you find relief from these fears.

    All the best, Kimmie x

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