I have recently returned from a ‘F**k it retreat’ in Italy which is a cross between a holiday and a personal development experience. For six days I attended morning sessions on the roof terrace of a small hotel on a volcanic island near Sicily called Stromboli (pronounced strom-bolly). In the evening I practiced Chi Kung (sort of like Tai Chi) on a small black beach, and dove into the sea afterwards for a swim before dinner. It was upper-lip dripping hot. In between morning and evening sessions I swam in crystal clear water on volcanic beaches, avoiding the dreaded ‘medusa’ jellyfish that plagued the waters, ate lunch at the local wine bar, drank Aperol spritz, had a siesta, or strolled down to the port to visit the small array of shops and bars along the waterfront. I met 20 wonderful new friends from all corners of the globe and came back relaxed and rejuvenated.
The F**k it philosophy is an approach to life developed by John Parkin. Parkin had experienced a burn out after working in advertising in the 90s in London and had an epiphany and came up with a controversial approach to life where you just said ‘F**k it’ to help change your normal mode of negative thinking and put things in perspective. The idea is that the word is so emotive it stirs us into action, it is not intended to make you go around shouting out profanities, in fact it has been proved that if you overuse the phrase it loses its impact. Continue reading
Every morning I walk my little dog Elfie along the seafront at Newlyn Green. I used to do it at the same time every day when I was working, now I’m a student my times are more sporadic but it is always the same walk. Drive down the hill, (yes I know you think I’m lazy but if you saw the hill I lived on you’d empathise), park by The Tolcarne pub, walk up to the bowling green, then round the bowling green and back down the seafront path.
When you have a dog you tend to talk to other people who have dogs. There is a kind of unwritten code that doggy people talk to other doggy people. I usually say a cheery ‘good morning’ to most people, with or without dog and whether they like it or not. I have got to know a few regulars but most conversations are limited to two subjects, the weather and the dogs. Continue reading
I found this today and thought it was worth publishing to my followers. Especially useful for newly bereaved parents.
Beyond Surviving: Suggestions for Survivors Iris M. Bolton
1. Know you can survive; you may not think so, but you can.
2. Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until YOU are satisfied with partial answers.
3. Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but that all your feelings are normal.
4. Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy, you are in mourning.
5. Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It’s okay to express it.
6. You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret, through forgiveness.
7. Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.
8. Remember to take one moment or one day at a time. Continue reading
Grief….I’ve read more about grief than I ever wanted to, and yet I still seen to be drawn towards it. I recently flicked through a supplement in The Times of the 50 best new books that you should read over the summer. I picked two to read. The first one was about a true story about the trial of a man who had driven his car into a lake killing his three young sons. Was it murder? Had he done it to revenge his ex wife for leaving him and meeting a new man? Could a father ever really kill his own children?
The second one I chose was called ‘The Last Act of Love’ and it was a memoir written by a woman whose brother got knocked down in a hit and run accident when he was 16 and was in a coma for 8 years before they finally applied to the court and got permission to withdraw all support and let him die. Both books were very sad and the second was really just an account of the impact that intense grief had on her life.
Out of all the light hearted novels I could have chosen about love and hope, I chose two dark tales of grief and despair. It didn’t hit me until this morning and I started to wonder why I had chosen them and how I had been affected, especially reading the second one about how this woman was just weighed down with grief for years and how it affected her life and her relationships. I even looked up at Toby’s picture on the wall thinking if he hadn’t been successful in his suicide, he might have ended up brain damaged. The sister who wrote the book prayed the night of the accident to let her brother live, but actually 8 years later she realised that it would have been better if he had died that night. Continue reading
One of the first thing I get asked by parents who have just lost their child to suicide is ‘How will I survive?
There is no easy answer to this question. No formula, no prescription, no set of rules. Each person has to find out for themselves. But the first thing I tell them is that they will survive, and more than that they can go on to have a good life. Of course they won’t believe this at first, how can they? But then I urge them to join the support group and talk to other parents who have faced the same nightmare and found ways to cope, survive and even thrive.
I realised today that the most powerful thing to do is to search for what heals the soul. Even after four years I still find that it can be the simplest things that gives healing to the part of my soul where I feel the loss of Toby most deeply. Continue reading
Regular readers of my blog will know that the theme is ‘healing and recovery’, I started writing about how I was coping with my intense grief following the tragic death of my son, less than a year after he died. It became my journal, charting my progress. I write about how I’m feeling, how I’m coping, things that remind me of Toby, events that moved me and sometimes write letters to Toby. I share things I have found helpful in the hope it might help others.
I know from comments and emails I receive that this has helped others who are walking in my shoes and following my footsteps. When a tragic event happens, one of the most beneficial things you can do is to find someone else who has experienced the same tragedy, who can hold your hand and just tell you they understand how you feel, and you know that they really do. Parents who have lost a child to suicide can feel so isolated and it doesn’t help when a well-meaning person tells you they know how you feel because their Mum or Dad died. You really just want to scream at them that they have no idea how you feel. Continue reading
It seems to have become an annual tradition now, writing you a letter on your birthday every year. This year you would be 27 in earth years. It is hard to believe that 27 years ago I was in Good Samaritan hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, cuddling my beautiful little baby boy. Twenty seven years, half a lifetime. As always I wonder what you might be doing if you were still here, and as always I know you would not want a fuss or a party. You were always a low key kind of person. I’m sure you’d being going out for a beer or two with your mates though. Continue reading