Tuesday 9 April 2013

Friends: don't leave home without one...

I'm not really very attractive as a friend at the moment; bereaved parents aren't really a laugh a minute.  In my experience (I've learnt never to assume how others are feeling) we seem to have a permanent rain cloud above our heads.  Sometimes it pours and thunder and lightning strike; and sometimes it slows to a gentle yet persistent drizzle.  Whenever I peek up there it is - kind of part of me now. Maybe always part of me.

So much respect to a dear friend who subjected herself to a spa weekend with me.  And how lovely it was too.  She sat and listened when I wanted to talk about Chloe or ranted about the injustice of teenage cancer and the inadequacies of the current system (more on that in a minute) ; laughed when I laughed; indulged my new found passion for an early drink or two and just kept me company.

Believe me I wouldn't recommend keeping me company at the moment; I don't even want to keep myself company.

Yet when I take a moment to look around  there are so many people who want to keep me company; and this definitely isn't because there is anything special or fun about me or that I am a fantastic friend (I've been a crap friend for the last three years whilst Chloe had cancer - I had absolutely no resources left).  

But what I think I've realised is that I'm really good at choosing friends and have learnt to reach out and try to connect. What a gift!  My friends have simply, almost without exception,  been wonderful and if there's anything that can slightly thaw my frozen heart it's the love and warmth of friendship.  (Oh and the smile of my little 10 month old grandson.  He is super!)

Another thing is that people I've barely spoken to before are coming up to me and sharing their own heartache - loss of a husband, a niece, a mother.  Lots and lots of painful losses.  It of course makes me feel sad, although I don't think I'm that capable of feeling any more sad, but I feel especially honoured that people feel they can do this - as sharing with another human being makes us all feel that bit less lonely.  Personally I think loneliness is the worst human emotion there is.  That and deliberate unkindness.

I don't believe that a human being can survive the intensity of grief involved with losing a child, without love and support.  The trouble is when we are so hurt it is easy to kick out at those you love or to huddle in a little ball and isolate yourself under the duvet (believe me I've been there).  IN my humble opinion anybody in my dreadful situation should really try not to do this.  I know it's easier said than done; but I'm not sure any of us really know how to deal with the death of a child and I'm beginning to feel us Brits don't do grief so well either.  So we're all learning - and hopefully we can learn together; not apart.

Every morning I wake up somebody has sent me a lovely text message.  This morning: "Thinking of you Debbie.  Hope you are eating and drinking properly and taking care of yourself".  No worries on the drinking front:)   Thank you, thank you, thank you for these messages.

Please if you ever know of anybody who is bereaved send them messages.  They may not reply (I always try to but just sometimes I'm under that duvet) but they mean so much.  It sounds so trite but love and friendship really can make the impossible life a little more possible.  And they give me that tiny bit of hope that, in my sadness, I need so badly.

Another lesson that Chloe, my tough, feisty, inspirational daughter, could have taught me so easily.  She was surrounded by friends nearly all of the time.  They made the last few years of her life fun, happy and fulfilling - despite the horrid illness.

Quite simply friends (and her family) made her life worth living and I think they are making my life a little more bearable too.

On a much grimmer note please check out this link.  Chloe didn't get the treatment she needed because of the numerous obstacles in the way.  The Teenage Cancer Trust has launched a campaign to try and change the current system.  They are using cases like Chloe's to show the human cost of failing to develop better systems that allow better treatments that affect young people.

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