A had a call during the week – a friend asking advice on how she could support her sister who had lost her small son in a tragic accident. I have also recently been involved in helping another friend prepare a contribution for a book on dealing with death. This contribution was about how to treat people who are dying or who are grieving.
I don’t actually have any advice. For me, there is nothing positive or life affirming about losing my daughter. I told my friend to simply be there for her sister. Take your cues from her sister. Let her make it known what she needs. Listen to her, let her tell her story. It is a long hard life without your child and once all the others have done their bit of kindness and moved on, you may be the only one left to comfort your sister.
When I was helping with the book contribution, my only thought was that everyone grieves differently and providing any advice is a minefield. I remember people offering (and some still do) me advice on how I should grieve for my daughter. I did not respond well. I would not be game to offer anyone advice on how to grieve.
For us, it was all about closing down and hiding ourselves away from the world – it still is like that. That’s the way we cope. For others, it is all about having lots of people around and trying to make the best of their situation. Each to their own, you do whatever you have to do in order to get through each day.
When I started a new job last May, my manager asked me how she could help me. I said, once you understand that you can’t help me, you will be able to deal with me. She thanked me for taking away what she felt was a responsibility or maybe an obligation to help me in some way. But she can’t, and no one can.
For a bit more than 218 weeks, I have tried to deal with the death of my daughter. I admit that my grief is not the same as it was 200 weeks ago but it is part of my life. There is an enormous hole in my life and there is always someone missing.
I watch people preparing for Christmas knowing how excited Clea would be about Christmas. I am unable to engage in such excitement anymore. I probably look like a complete Scrooge at work but to expose myself to the possibility of releasing such emotions is more than I could cope with, particularly at work.
We had our yearly Christmas breakfast with The Compassionate Friends last Sunday – 40 people sharing breakfast because their children have died. Most talk about the inability to decorate their houses or trees, and their lack of interest in the so-called festive season. I guess we draw some comfort from all being in the same boat. When I went to my first meeting of The Compassionate Friends, I remember thinking that I did not want to be like these people. Now, I know I am like them.
One of my sons has been having a hard time at school. He came home in tears, fought with his brother, and went to his sister’s room. He played her music box, took out her coloured bangles and has been wearing them ever since. He was five years old when she died. He is now nine. I’m not sure what memories he has of her but I’m sure he feels the loss of her presence and her protection. She would look after him. She would make sure no one was mean to him. He knows that. The bangles are colourful and girly but they make him strong. He draws comfort from wearing her bangles.
Just as I draw comfort from wearing her pink butterfly headband wrapped around my wrist. As does her father (she had two pink headbands).
It is cold comfort but is there any other sort?