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Life Chez Dee Episode #12: It's good to talk

To lose a child is unimaginable for many; but a painful reality to others. Losing a child destroys you, your family, your life …. forever. I’ve always talked very openly about my feelings; my experience, and people have been extremely understanding and supportive, and I’ve found my openness and honesty has been welcomed by many. I hope I have opened up conversation about child loss, death, grief; and I hope that this has helped others who have had a similar experience; and for those who are lucky enough to not have experienced this, maybe this has given an insight into a family coping with the loss of a child.

There’s a period of time it seems which is an “acceptable” time for grieving, People are genuinely concerned, are there for you, to help practically and emotionally. But then as the weeks, and months, pass, this acceptable time limit for grief seems more obvious to me. Its only my perception, I don’t think everyone thinks this, but some do – it’s not official, it’s not written down anywhere, there’s no books or guidelines, but it’s there. So you learn to smile through the bad days; you learn to hide behind a mask, and get on with things. I had to for the family, for the other boys, but also for the benefit of others. There have been days which I’ve found really difficult; unable to think; unable to concentrate or remember things. Pushing through those days for the benefit of so many others, on days when I found myself very anxious, sometimes reclusive, shying away from people. Not wanting to talk, but knowing that I needed to; or wanting to talk, but not always knowing what I wanted to talk about and to whom. I was often, confused, self conscious, self doubting, wondering if I was being a burden; over thinking what I should or shouldn’t say ….. because there comes a point when people don’t want to hear it anymore. Time has moved on, I should be dealing with it, coping, functioning, not struggling, and certainly not still crying.

I am a member of a couple of bereavement groups. I thought talking with others who had gone through the same kind of experience would be helpful. There are some lovely people, and it’s good for me to hear their stories; sometimes I see a quote which resonates with me or inspires me. But to be honest I find the groups difficult. I don’t find they’ve been the greatest help to me, and more often than not come away from them feeling worse than I did when I dipped into them. I often feel there’s a competitive edge as to who is more deserving of sympathy, who had the worst experience; or who’s grief is worst. It may be helpful for some, but for me, not so much.

Talking is what I find helpful. Talking about Edward I will do forever – never feel that I won’t want to talk about Edward. Talking of all he did; all he achieved; recounting funny stories; heartwarming stories; talking about my heartache, emptiness, grief and pain; talking about loss and love. Talking to close friends is good; talking through raising awareness for the charity is also good, both for me and for others; talking through my blogs is also good; but talking to someone who isn’t connected, who isn’t judgmental I find is really liberating.

I think therapy is misunderstood … massively. I think people think that you’ll go and talk to someone about whatever it is that has impacted your life, in my case losing Edward. They assume you’ll go for six sessions, talk it through, get some coping strategies and that’s it. Talk about stuff; do the homework; move on; job done; fixed.

I waited a long time after Edward died to see a counsellor. Initially it was too soon. I was numb; in a state of disbelief; I needed to go through the shock and initial grief; I needed to try and function; I needed to process and feel – I still do. There was a trigger for me, which escalated my need for help, but at that point, the point I needed help most, it was so hard to find help quickly. The NHS waiting list was so long; the doctor referred me to a local charity, who refused to help me, I was feeling desperate. I reached out to Meningitis Now, who helped and supported me, and offered further support straight away.

That was quite some time ago, and I have now seen two counsellors. Both very different. Both incredibly brilliant at helping me process and order my thoughts. Maybe the therapy is tailored to suit, but my therapy doesn’t consist of just dealing with bereavement, and is certainly not over in a few weeks.

We don’t just talk about Edward – All manner of things crop up. Whatever is on my mind. Nothing is planned, we see where the conversation goes. Often we come back to the same deep rooted issues – it all links to who I am, how I became who I am, and how I have dealt with, and deal with what life throws at me.

What has happened to me in my life; talking about all my life experiences, all my relationships; my childhood relationships, my relationships as an adult. All my experiences which made me the person I am now. All of those things have affected me, shaped me, changed me. We talk about what’s going on; how I dealt with it; how I felt; what I learned; what will help me.

Talking with a counsellor is so different to talking with anyone else. You delve deep inside yourself and give so much, and it can often leave you feeling quite exhausted and emotionally drained. But in the long run, it helps you to talk without recourse; to order thoughts; to lead you to self discovery and healing.

Talking openly, not only helps me, but I’m sure helps others. Through sharing my thoughts, my experiences, my story I am helping to raise awareness of meningitis and sepsis; I am breaking down the taboo of the relative non discussion of death and child loss; all of which is doing so much good, and giving me a positive focus to be helping others. Even talking about issues through my writing is helping me, and I hope, so many more.

Talking to the doctor wasn’t really for me. My experience was that I wasn’t really understood…or at least that is my perception. I haven’t heard anything I’ve found useful or indeed comforting, in fact quite the opposite. They seem to want a quick fix … pills and back to normality! But nothing can fix things for me in reality. And what is normality? Nothing is normal anymore. I need to feel what I feel, I need to feel the pain, I need the grief, I need the trauma, this is me and my experience which I need to process. I don’t want to be numb, I don’t want all I’m feeling to be deadened Fixing the symptoms but not really dealing with what’s caused them; patching up the exterior without sorting out the cause.

Of course, plenty of people go to their doctor as the first port of call. Yes some will find medication helps; for me no. I needed to process what had happened, to think about it, analyse it, feel it, make some sense of it. Time was what I needed. The doctor did arrange for some time away from work for me and yes they organised some counselling …. but I had to wait months for it!

I have sought out things which work for me, rather than what others thought ought to work for me. I have found comfort, help, understanding, time and space in a variety of ways … reflexology, counselling, massage, writing, being outdoors, wool, being with people who are good for my soul, and people who are uplifting, positive and inspirational – understanding – real.

My journey will be long, but my journey will be mine …unique, hard, winding, and enlightening. I will meet people along the way who are helpful and kind, and those who are not. My journey will not be easy, but one ever changing with how I cope with what life still has in store for me, and no doubt I’ll be telling you all about it.

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