Yesterday I attended a Day for Bereaved Parents. It was such a relief to be able to be me for a short time. Just to not have to pretend that all is well, and be able to say that, was enormously helpful.
To sit in a room full of people who ‘get it’ was great. I was sat with others who had lost their children in similar circumstances and so we were able to grasp some of the issues more quickly than others might. Understanding just how enormous it is when a trial is fast approaching, or what it is like to be told that you may now view your dead child but that you should be prepared that they might not look as you remembered them. Just a simple facial expression conveys that someone has grasped the enormity and complexities of having to attend a court hearing or deal with the Coroner's Office. That expression is so freeing because it removes the burden of having to explain those complexities.
I felt such enormous relief to hear others say that they didn’t want revenge – in the months following Al’s death, so many told me that if they were me, they’d want the man who ran him over to be locked up or killed. They couldn’t understand my perspective and clearly thought I was unhinged and I gradually gave up trying to explain that revenge wouldn’t bring Al back to life. For a time, I was so angry at feeling unheard that I would abruptly interrupt their rant over how they thought the taxi driver should be punished to say, “Really? I prefer to take the slightly more mature view.” I knew that comment was insulting but I was so angry at being told how I should feel, by those who hadn't a clue, that I didn’t care if they felt insulted.
Yesterday, I was able to admit that although I envy those whose children were taken by a terminal illness, because they had the chance to say goodbye and to say all of the things that were so important, I am still able to take some comfort that my lad died quickly. Of course, given the choice, I wouldn’t wish a long, painful illness on him. I could never say that I’m glad that he died in the way he did – but I am glad that he died quickly and that he had only a split second to realise what was happening. I prefer to think that the suffering has been mine and not his. Mind you, it hurts to see his sisters struggling with losing him.
There were aspects of the day that were not to my taste. I disliked that way that the plight of those bereaved by suicide was compared to those bereaved by Road Traffic Collisions. Yes I know that suicide is treated as taboo but to say that it is more common than death on the road was to reduce my son’s death to a mere statistic – as if that’s all he was worth.. Yes, death by Road Traffic Collisions are common but so often they are mentioned ONLY in that context - as if that is their only worth. My boy’s death should not have been used to demonstrate a point about something else. We were all bereaved parents united in our grief and in that short second, I felt that lines were drawn, we were placed in separate camps - and my son's death was relegated to the 'only worth mentioning when we need a comparison' division. It was unnecessary, and (for me) damaging, to use such a comparison.
Being invited to produce a Salt Jar in just 15 minutes struck me as pure madness – it felt like an insult to the memories that were supposed to be poured into it. Yet some did it and seemed content with the results.
The different coping strategies in couples were given much emphasis. Single parent issues seemed to be tagged on almost as an afterthought. But then, the day was run by an organisation that seems to place great emphasis on 'the family' and I can only assume that means 'the nuclear family'. It was a slight irritation to feel a little like a 2nd class citizens but not a major one.
However, despite the aspects that grated me, I felt as if the strait jacket/corset I have been wearing just to comply with social convention had been removed. I could be me. And I could breathe completely and freely
Overall, the day was useful albeit short. It ran for seven hours but felt as if we were saying goodbye almost as soon as we arrived. It was impossible not to warm to those around me. After all, we shared a common bond of which others have little/no comprehension.
There’s a residential weekend planned for later in the year. If I still have a job then, (the spectre of redundancy is looming) and I can find some childcare, I’ll try to find the funds to attend.
I think I'll leave this blog for a couple of days and then maybe email it to the organisers. I guess it could be taken as feedback - both positives and negative. Maybe I'll add things, or reword before sending it but as it stands, it's raw yet very honest.
Today, I am worn out. But in a good way. And now it’s time to get ready to take my mother shopping. Always something to do – thank goodness!