Friday 26 July 2013
I'm doing a lot of reflecting just now. I like reaching out and communicating; I hope it helps someone somewhere also struggling with grief - or just other crap that life tends to chuck at us. When people reach out to me it makes my pain a little softer. When I see tears in a friend's eyes when they speak about Chloe, I feel a little less isolated. Reaching out is good IMHO.
I guess it's a given that this kind of loss is agonising. I love these words by Emily Dickinson - it seems to sum up my loss quite well.
"I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
Or if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.
The brutal fact is after this kind of loss death holds no fear. But, on balance, I think that this is rather a good thing. It allows freedom and enables me to connect with other bereaved people. I hear time and again of how isolated people feel in grief, of the hurt caused when somebody crosses the road to avoid a grieving person (let alone somebody who's lost a child) - it's like grieving people are a race apart. As if their pain and misery is somehow contagious. Reminds me of certain attitudes to older people - again as if they were a race apart rather than just us - only a few years down the line. We need to remember we are all human and if we don't get old we die. Simple really.
Just a warning, if anybody I know tries to avoid me I'm going to chase you down the street! (joking, of course:) )
Anyway this is a long winded way of saying there is a kind of positive feeling that emerges after facing the "ultimate tragedy" In the words of Ronald J. Knapp from "Beyond Endurance"
Those parents who have managed to recover some meaning tend to develop a sense of omnipotence and invulnerability relative to life's other hardships. They come to feel that there are simply no obstacles that they cannot overcome. They believe that they have met the ultimate challenge to their own survival and they have conquered it. In the process of rebuilding, it tends to become obvious that the survivor has indeed encountered the ultimate tragedy and survived.
I certainly feel toughened, more resilient and in some ways totally fearless (I hope not reckless). I've had my heart ripped out that's for sure; but I'm still here and life seems entirely different. I wish with every fibre of my body that it wasn't so; but it is and while I'm still here I have to make my life count. After all when I do join Chloe, wherever she is, how am I going to answer "what did you do afterwards Mum?". I want her to be proud of me, for her to know that her death was so very significant that it changed me in the most fundamental way. And the truth is it has.
Last week I spoke at the House of Commons, mainly about the numerous injustices of the treatment of young people with cancer, and somebody asked me "are you scared?" Scared of speaking? Scared of telling people that is is an utter outrage that young people's lives aren't being prioritised in the healthcare lottery? Scared of telling the truth to people who should know better? Are you joking? Scared is sitting in a hospital consultant's room and the doctor telling you that you are about to loose one of your main reasons for being. That's scared. In comparison everything else pales into insignificance.
So my life without fear beckons. And I have a flicker of excitement when I think of how things can be when you don't sweat the small stuff. If only it hadn't have taken the death of my child to allow this freedom. What a huge waste of time those silly worries were.
Hence the quote I'm looking forward to going to places I've never been before - and hopefully doing some good along the way.