One of the first questions asked by survivors of bereavement by suicide is – why? We are born programmed with an inner sense of self-preservation; fight or flight. If faced with danger we can access huge surges of adrenaline that may help us run from danger. We are taught our whole lives to stay safe and avoid anything that may harm us, so it can be a completely alien concept that someone would end their own life.
I have learned not to look for answers. Suicide is a complex subject and even academics and scholars cannot definitively tell us why people die from suicide. I know some survivors who find it helps them to cope with their loss by blaming a relationship break up, a job loss, financial problems etc., however there are millions of people in the world who go through devastating times but do not take their own life. I am always amazed when anyone asks me why Toby took his own life but they do not understand as I do that there is never a single reason. A relationship break up or a job loss or financial problems may be the final straw for someone who is suffering and it may be a catalyst, but not a reason. Continue reading
I’m 61 now and when mixing with people my own age there seems to be only one subject that comes up constantly and that is grandchildren. “Oh what a joy it is at our time of life spending time with our grandchildren” I hear, I see memes on Facebook about how grandchildren light up your life, I hear of new ones being born, of their achievements, I get showed photos on your phone, they are all around. It seems everyone has at least one apart from me.
Of course, people talk about other things, but I just seem to tune in when I hear the word and it still makes my heart sink as I am torn between being happy and interested and feeling a deep hole inside knowing I will never have any. Continue reading
Toby Christmas 2010, our last Christmas together
I’m not really fussed about Christmas, to me it’s just another day.
I have an older brother but since our teens we’ve never been close. No big drama, we just don’t have a sibling bond, I’m not sure why. I love him, I’d give him a kidney; but we hardly speak.
He married his childhood sweetheart and they have three perfect sons and five perfect grandchildren. No invite was forthcoming to spend Christmas with them, so I will be spending Christmas day with friends I have met through my walking group who also don’t spend Christmas with their families for different reasons.
I haven’t felt quite so bah humbug this year. I organised a Christmas lunch for elderly people who are alone at Christmas. I gave quite a bit of money and time and made it happen, and it was worth it when I saw people enjoying a lovely meal and making new friends. I am like a pebble dropped in the sea, I send ripples out to the Universe and those ripples keep on going, like a chain reaction.
I just said goodbye to an amazing, spirited, talented young man. I didn’t really know him so how do I know he was amazing? Because I’ve just come back from attending his funeral. Kim John Sequoia Long was 18 years old, blonde and beautiful, the only child of Viv and Tai Long, my neighbours. He took his own life while still in the first term of his law degree at Bristol University.
You can’t avoid it, the world is full of proud parents and grandparents. Everywhere you go, every dinner party, at work, on the train, in the park. There they all are. The lucky ones, the ones that have living breathing children who are passing milestones. First day at school, GCSEs, University, girlfriends and boyfriends, jobs, marriage, foreign holidays. And every one reminds us of a milestone we have had and many more we will miss.
Out of all my friends and Facebook friends I can think of only 3 who don’t have children. I realise some choose to be child free and for some it just didn’t happen, but the majority of people in my age group do have families and now grandchildren too.
I love hearing about people’s families and seeing their happy pictures, but each one is a harsh reminder to a bereaved parent of what they are missing, what they have lost. It can open up the hole inside and turn the dull daily ache of loss into a raging knife-twisting wound that makes you howl like an injured animal for your child. How many times do you hear of a child’s achievements, ‘Oh you must be so proud’ they say to the parent. But what if you can’t be proud? Continue reading
Sometimes I feel really pissed off with you. Pissed off that you left me, you didn’t tell me how bad it was, you didn’t give me a chance to help you and you left me with a life sentence of pain.
But the anger is fleeting, you died from an illness, I wouldn’t be pissed off with you if you died from cancer would I?
It is five years ago today since a policeman knocked on my door, it was 10pm and I was watching the highlights of the British Grand Prix. That’s why I can’t watch it now. Continue reading
Every day I face a battle. The battle is between what’s going on in my head and my inner critic sitting on my shoulder heckling me and kicking me in the guts, telling me I’m useless and difficult. Most days I win; I go to bed feeling victorious. Some days I lose and go to bed feeling defeated.
I know I have the control button, I can choose the outcome, but some days I don’t have the strength to fight. I don’t have anyone at home to put their arms round me and say ‘there, there it will be OK’.
It is at these times I miss Toby the most. Even though most of the time he didn’t answer my phone calls, if I really needed him he was always there and spoke such wisdom to me.
So when I feel defeated like I did yesterday, I come home and talk to his picture and think ‘What would Toby say?’ Continue reading
I am a great believer in the power of The Universe to bring us what we need when we need it. Most of the epic things in my life began with a chance encounter, a coincidence or a whisper of an idea that planted a seed in my mind, which germinated, started sprouting shoots and flourished into the most beautiful bloom.
I met a friend for coffee and she dropped into the conversation that she was a bit bored and fancied a challenge. She told me that she had done a charity trek with Husky Dogs in Lapland and casually suggested that maybe we could do a challenge together. Now I have to add here that I am not sporty, I am not super fit and I am not known for my adventurous spirit. However, I am open minded so I checked out the website for the company she mentioned ‘Global Adventure challenges’ and a few days later a brochure dropped into my mailbox.
I love walking and leafing through the brochure of challenges that looked totally out of my league, I spotted a Sahara Desert trek of 5 days and the date shouted out at me, the 18th – 23rd Feb 2016, as the 20th Feb 2016 happened to be my 60th birthday. So the seed was planted. I then realised that this company helps people raise money for charity, so now there were two hooks, I could do something epic to celebrate my 60 years on the planet and raise funds for PAPYRUS a charity very close to my heart since I lost my son Toby to suicide. Now my seed was germinating.
I ummed and aahed, I procrastinated, I talked myself out of it, then I just decided to do it. It was made more important when my friend who suggested the idea had to pull out as she was diagnosed with cancer. All the more reason to grab life with both hands. Continue reading
Soon I’ll be 60 years old
4 marriages, one at 17, one for a green card, one for a baby and one mistake.
2 children conceived, one lived to 23, the other one didn’t make it out of the womb.
20 plus jobs, a few boyfriends, lots of shopping, lots of mistakes, no regrets.
Bossy, bolshy, feisty, got most of that from my Mum. Continue reading
There’s a Facebook thing doing the rounds at the moment asking Mums to post pictures that show they are happy/proud to be a mother and then that person has to nominate three of her friends to do the same.
This kind of thing stabs me in the gut, same as when I am with people who all get their phones out and start sharing pictures of their children and grandchildren. I don’t mind them doing this but as a Mum who has lost her child it is just another reminder of my pain and what I have lost. I would imagine that some women who cannot have children may feel similar emotions. I don’t know I’m just guessing. Continue reading