01st Oct 2019

No, you don't get over it and you suffer greatly from people supposing you will, I think. You suffer from people not understanding the pace of grief. Most days I think about him and most days I still undergo the shock of realizing I hadn't remembered not to think about being told that he had been killed, because if you remember, by accident, without preparing yourself, you start panicking again, and you start feeling that you would rather be dead and what I do think, is that if a child is killed when they're that sort of age, the actual symbiotic bond is still not broken. I thought that child was almost about to become separate from me, but he still wasn't quite. I remember thinking if he had been ten years older, I could've borne this. Writing does have a large element of being done for pleasure in it, and I lost that completely for a very long time, I think. I wrote a ghost story once and I wrote last week the first poem I've ever written under my own name. It was published in The Times Literary Supplement and that was about him. I wrote the story really in order partly to stop living only in that, and in a sense although it's a story which moves people—I think because it's an account of a woman grieving for her son who is lost, and her lodger can see the ghost and she can't—the writing of it was actually rather brutal, because of course it distanced it, and one did feel one might be exploiting something. She's too realistic, she knows that he isn't there and she's taught herself that he's not there. I know a lot of women whose children have died who do really believe that their children speak to them in some ways, but I myself feel that the dead are gone and that this is a lesson one has to learn—this is the way my moral temperament takes me—but it was an extremely painful lesson. There was a sentence the woman in this book speaks, she says "There is no boy", and the man in the story sees the boy all over, and he's a very beautiful boy, the most brightly coloured thing in the story, but it was something I used to say myself when waking up in the morning—there is no boy—but you learn it very, very slowly, in fact. I worked it out with my intellect very quickly that you had to learn that somebody was gone, that actually it takes you years and years not to wait for them to come round corners, and look down the street and see a child, you know, a small blond boy dancing, and it's not a good thing really. ● A. S. Byatt — Desert Island Discs, 1991


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