I checked into my blog today, after a very long time, as a young friend reminded me that she still read it to keep in "contact" with our precious Chloe. I noticed that there have been 94,632 hits on the blog from all around the world. All these people giving me their time to hear about my grief. I'm beyond touched. I hope so much that all of you reading the outpourings of my heart, get some comfort too. One of the worst possible things about grief, in my experience, has been the isolation and the loneliness. That image of watching the world carrying on its business, whilst your heart and very reason for being has been so cruelly wrenched away.
Most especially I hope that I reach and connect with families who have suffered the tsunami of all losses - their hopes, their dreams, their child. I so often turn to literature or the arts to soothe my broken soul. The musician Nick Cave, a fellow bereaved parent, captures this loss so beautifully in his agonising song Distant Sky
They told us our gods would outlive us
They told us our dreams would outlive us
They told us our gods would outlive us
But they lied
I think often of young people. Siblings and friends too who have lost such a key part of their own narratives out of the natural order of things. An anachronism in the truest sense of the word.
I am writing a book, to be published this spring by the amazing Splendid Publications. My publisher, and very dear friend Shoba Ware, is keeping me on track. The book is about surviving, and exploring the possibility of trying to grow as a human being, after so much loss. I lost my child, which was without question, the most painful of all. Two years later I lost my much loved husband. The backdrop of my life includes my Mother's death when I was 20 and I lost a sister to suicide.
So much loss. Thankfully so unusual.
I write primarily for myself and for my family. I want to make order of the sequence of events. I want to place it into our life story. I want the next chapter to be about how one navigates life after loss, how one interweaves it into the future without it darkening and destroying everything that comes after. I want my surviving child and grand children to look back and understand that despite anything/everything one can still choose to live and to live well. I owe it to them to "walk the talk".
I respect and love my little family too much to not want to make the most of every single breath that I have left. Giving up is/was never an option when you have other children. In fact I don't think it should ever be an option, as each of us can if we want to live a worthwhile, although very different life to the one we had imagined. Granted, it can be so painful and may sometimes take a titanic effort just to get out of bed on the morning.
I feel so closely aligned to a tribe of women (excuse my focus on women but I feel so connected to other Mothers most of all) all over the world who have carried on, despite losing a child. I feel so proud to know these people. Some, I have only met online. But we seem to know each other. By speaking and connecting we break down some of the barriers of isolation and find comfort. We share our vulnerability - so important for survival. I think we grow and learn from each other too. They are an incredibly important group of people and I love, admire and respect each and every one of them.
Anybody who goes on living after losing a child is a hero in my book.
As a journalist, I am reading and researching extensively about life after death - that is after the death of loved ones. I am having conversations with the most amazing people. Trying to capture the wisdom and tenderness from those who are often up close and personal to grief and bereavement.
One of the people I admire most in the world is Julia Samuel, MBE, a psychotherapist and paediatric counsellor. She was also a friend of Princess Diana's and has written the best book ever about grief and survival Grief Works. I am so humbled that she has taken time to contribute to my book. I just wanted to share a snippet of some of what she has said. I asked her the question can anybody really find meaning and contentment after the death of a child. Here is what she said:
"there is no exact answer to this, obviously, because following the death of your child your whole relationship to yourself, your life and everyone in your life is turned upside down - but what people do talk about, following a long process of grieving, is that they find a new normal, a new way of viewing life, it is different to their past, but sometimes with the level of the pain comes an expansion of the self and an increased capacity to feel enriched by life - and their perspective of what matters in life changes too, much more about love and connection than success or material things. This can give them new experiences of happiness. "
My conversations will continue and I will continue to share snippets. If you are reading this as you are hurting, I send you all my love and hope that in some tiny way my words help you to feel less alone.