The Voice in your Community
May 22nd 2020
Previous articles by Ginny Gibson can be found here
I hope you are all staying safe in this strange lockdown time.
I have to say that I am not watching the News about Coronavirus, the death toll is too much for me to bear. It means that lots of people are grieving at the moment and I was wondering what to write about for my next article and then realised that having experienced the sudden death of my oldest and dearest friend, Sarah Wellman in November 2019, I am very aware of how hard grieving is, and the process that is needed to go through it.
For me, I discovered I wasn’t able to grieve fully on my own, so, I approached Cruse Bereavement Service in December, www.cruse.org.uk/ for help. As you can imagine, the waiting list is long at the moment, but they called me about 6 weeks ago and said they were offering telephone counselling service. When they called, I wanted to say No thanks, that’s ok, but I knew that I had to say Yes. I wanted to say no, as I didn’t want to talk about my loss, because then it is real, but I know I have too, as untreated grief leads to all sorts of mental health issues that I don’t want to experience again in my life.
So far, I have had 5 telephone sessions and part of the grieving process that Cruse suggests is to write a letter to the person you have lost. It helps with the 5 stages of the grief process that Elizabeth Kubler Ross mentions in all her writing about grief, the stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kübler-Ross_model
I haven’t written a letter to Sarah recently, but I have read out to the Cruse volunteer, the letter I wrote to Sarah in November just after she died and before the funeral. It allowed me to move forward in the grief process. So I wondered that if I shared it with you, our lovely readers, that it might help anyone else out there who is grieving, and perhaps encourage you to write your own letter and start the process of healing.
I know I need to write this letter to say goodbye, but I don’t want too, I want someone to ring and say it’s all a terrible mistake and that you haven’t died, that you are away in France for a holiday, why France I have no idea, but that’s how its playing in my head.
When I got the call to say you had died I just kept saying I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it over and over again and then started crying with what felt like a howl from deep inside me, somewhere that hurt is kept and only comes out when someone really special dies.
Does that mean you were special, yes it does, it means that you were someone that you could be yourself with, laugh with, talk cooking with, chat about shabby chic projects with and pickling recipes with and it was all with an ease of familiarity that is rare and so precious.
Did you judge, no, did you hate people, no, were you frustrated by how people treated you/me, yes, but we understood why and understood they just didn’t get what we did, that life wasn’t about climbing some imaginative ladder for us, but it was about caring and sharing life together and sharing the simple things, being kind to each other, that was the secret to our lives together as friends.
Book shelves featured in the last time we saw each other, along with linen tops with pockets, (I’ve got to have a pocket for my fags) and your long purple coat. It was such a simple trip out together, with yummy food and browsing the shops, the book shelves needed more research, measurements were taken and a sort of negotiation with the old man who was selling them, he wasn’t sure why were clearly so happy and laughing about where and how to get it into your dining room, which already had so much in it, the linen top was bought and the purple coat looked a million dollars on you. We found all the benches on the high street so that I could rest between strolls and we watched the world go by, just happy to be together and sharing time.
We parted company for my afternoon MS nap and you went home to measure the dining room!
Later we had supper with my husband and it was an easy evening, chatting about nothing in particular and yet that was everything.
If I had known that would be the last time, I would see you, I would have rushed after you and hugged you again, of course I would, I loved our parting hugs, but we parted with the normal hug and a promise to telephone just like normal.
Now I am the other side of that parting and knowing it was the last time I saw you, I want to deny it was the last time, but it’s a fact that I am negating with not to make it not true, it’s a fact that I cry spontaneously about, at really odd times, it’s a fact that I am told I will come to accept, but now, just now, the pain of that fact is too much to bear and too stark to comprehend, it is not true, I say, please god it is not true, but it is!
I want to ring your number and hear you say, “hello”, in that hesitant way you always answered the phone and then when you knew it was a friendly voice, you’d say, “oh hi, how are you, what have you been up too” and we would always have to watch the hour and re-dial, sorry BT, that’s just the way it was, our calls were no cost to us, either financially or emotionally. We would chat away about things we had read and the latest project in the house or the garden, the latest course we were thinking of taking or the crochet project that you had just completed, then it would be bye and both of us would leave the call knowing that someone out there in the big world knew us a bit better and were happy to know us.
We were friends, really good friends, who discussed everything, sought each other’s counsel on decisions, shared each other’s dreams, encouraged each other when we were paralysed with fears and laughed about the silliest things. We explored the world and then came back together to compare our findings, good and bad.
Friends are so precious, they are the solid touching post you have in your life that allow you to go out and explore, knowing they will be there for the good and bad decisions and offer a hand up when you fall and stand by and smile with pride when success comes to you.
They are there and then they are not.
How do you go on when they are not, initially in a fog of confusion, then through a haze of fog, then some sun shine comes back into life, but then there is the funeral and as yet I haven’t experienced that, so I don’t know what it will be like, but for now, supper is in the oven, the house looks pretty chaotic, but I am sitting listening to Bob Dylan and writing to you.
Goodbye my friend, goodbye to you, from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank you for every single moment we shared, for every encouragement you gave me, for allowing me to know you and support you and for sharing that deep sense of knowing each other that is the essence of being a human being, that true silver thread that links two people together.
The thread is broken now because you aren’t here anymore, but you are, because I will still think about you at the times I would normally have called you for your view on life and I am just hoping I will be able to hear your voice again in my mind. I hope that will not fade.
Until we meet again, which I am sure we will, know that you were loved by me, as only true friends can love each other and I am so thankful that you were part of my life. I will go on with my life, as everyone else does, but with a sadness and a missing that is part of growing older, I will be wiser and more compassionate from losing you, but I don’t want to be, I want to get that call to say it’s all a mistake.