It took a long time for Amelia’s funeral to take place. Due to the nature of her death, there was an inquest which delayed her cremation. I want to talk a bit about the actual car accident, the inquest and what followed for me. It was natural for me to harbour a lot of anger towards what happened to Amelia and it’s something I’ve held onto for a long time. I’m not sure what would have helped me more, but the inquest into the accident returned with no blame to be placed at any feet. It was simply an accident. It may have helped me over the years to be able to place blame on either driver, but that anger and blame has had nowhere to go.
Only two cars were involved in the accident. The other car was driven by a young woman with her friend as a passenger. I’ve never met either of them, though I’m sure if I’d attended the inquest I would have. That’s another thing I regret. I should have been at the inquest, but it all seemed too much for me at the time. Plus, if blame had been placed on either driver, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. I’m not sure what the other people have done with their lives. I like to imagine that they think about that day a lot and that two people lost their lives. I like to think that maybe they live with mental health problems as I do.
Quite often I’ll have conversations with the other driver in my head. I tell her that it wasn’t her fault and that the deaths couldn’t be prevented. No matter how much anger I feel, I can’t aim it at her. She was just another unfortunate piece of the accident that day. I want to be able to tell her that she shouldn’t feel guilty, if she even does. Of course, I hope she does, because otherwise that would make her a callous person and it would give me somewhere to aim my rage.
And rage is the best word for it. But it’s not something I want to let out. Any parent is going to be angry that their child died. It’s not the natural order of things; nobody should have to pick out their child’s coffin. However, the anger I feel is blind rage. It’s a seething pressure cooker that could explode at any moment. It’s the red mist that descends, it’s the punches and kicks I’ll never throw. And it’s another facet of bereavement that nobody tells you how to handle. Nobody sits there and guides you in dealing with that anger because it’s unique. Sure, bereavement counselling will go some way to help, but each person will feel a different kind of anger just as they would each cope with grief in different ways.
So I’ve buried a lot of anger for a long time. On top of that, I’ve buried a lot of guilt. The guilt manifests itself in many ways. At first I blamed myself for not being with my family when the accident happened… but then who would have stood by the beds? Who would have taken the advice on board? Then my guilt moved to the fact that I signed away my daughter’s life. Of course, I had all the information I needed and my own principles would never have seen her kept alive, but that doesn’t make the decision I made any easier. I was 24 when I made that decision; the same age that my friends were still out drinking and meeting new people.
My guilt now lingers around the idea that my grief has been with me for so long. It’s also placed upon me by external factors; especially when people say things like “but Amelia wouldn’t want to see this happening”. The guilt is a big part of living with bereavement and it’s something I’ve still not learned to handle.
My counsellor asked me recently how I think I would feel if that guilt and anger stopped existing. Of course, it’s a tough question to answer, but my initial reaction was surprising. I found that I believed that if those feelings disappeared it would mean that I was forgetting Amelia herself. I’ve spent ten years with these feelings and it’s become how I naturally think about her and her legacy. I know it’s not the way I want to feel, but it’s become natural. Take those emotions away and what do I have left? As I wrote in the last part I don’t have any happy memories, so I feel like I’d be left with a void. I know I need to learn how to remember her in happier times and that’s going to take a lot of work.