Living with Bereavement

This isn't going to be a long, torturous post. Just something little that happened to me this morning and smacked me right between the eyes.

The point of it is to try and put into words the way in which we (people suffering a bereavement) cope. I mean when you loose a child, it just doesn't ever go away. Every day feels as fresh and as raw, as every other. Your loss feels just as immediate, just as visceral, just as poignant as it did yesterday, last week, last year. You might think you get over it, but I don't think that's true (or even possible). Rather you integrate the reality with your every day life. It becomes part of you, somewhat like the way a chronic illness, a scar, or a lost limb becomes part of you.

Faced with the enormity of this you might wonder how it is possible to cope at all. To be honest, if one stops to think too long about it, one starts to wonder that as well. To address this, I want to speak honestly about the reality, but also to offer some hope. I will illustrate by means of an anecdote; something that happened this morning.

I took John (9) down for breakfast. As is our usual morning routine, we had Sky News on and John is watching the commercial break. There's an advert on about paint, the new Dulux one:


The ad is about a mum and dad painting their children's room like a jungle. The children, a young boy and a young girl, are running around having a rare old time, laughing and shouting. John looks at me and says "That's what Ruthie and I were like when we were still together."

WHAM! SMASH! It hits you right between the eyes like an electric shock. You feel cold fingers grip your heart and squeeze. That feeling is bereavement. That's what it is like. That's every second of every day, if you let it be. The reality of the situation smashes through the wall of normality you have carefully crafted to put distance between you and the horrible cruelty of a reality in which your precious, precious child is no longer touchable, holdable, caressable. Even though you have built an unreality of protection; locked the reality in a box and buried it down deep somewhere in your subconscious—it never really goes—you know every second that it is there, and often, when you're not paying attention, your subconscious wanders there unbidden and paws at the box; picking at the scab. And then your attention snaps back to the reality of the loss and you quickly try and bury the box again, deep down inside, along with all the pain, the loss. Because you know you can not cope with the pain if you are confronted by it.

Of course, you never fully recover. But you do get better at coping with it. It becomes familiar, a familiar pain. And familiarity means you can say "Oh it's you again" and just put up with it.

And it is also beautiful that John has such powerful memories of Ruth. As do we all. Such wonderful, powerful memories pulsing with love and life and joy. I have often noted how alive this love is, surely that means something?

There's 18 months between Will & Mike, then three years, then 18 months between Ruth and John. We were always deeply worried that John had lost his sibling in a way that would affect him more profoundly than the other two. That's not to say the effect on them was not profound, it was, but perhaps it just affected John differently.

Look at the way he expressed himself "...when we were still together." Something about that phraseology really grasped at my heart. Ruth and John together.

We each of us feel her loss as a family, and we each of us feel her loss as individuals, for what she meant, very personally, to each one of us.

Ruth with all the gang at Corfe Castle in May 2008

Ruth with John October 2008

It's usually Ruth pulling the faces. John & Ruth "when they were still together."




Miss those cuddles so much!



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