I’ve been feeling in need of buoying myself up, so I went looking for a passage (that I’ve printed out) from a book called “The Bereaved Parent” by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff. The first time I read it I remember feeling resentful. Who was this woman to tell me how I would feel? How could she know the pain I was in? But she lost a child too, and this book she wrote as a gift for other bereaved parents. I came back to this passage because I wanted to remember how far I have come over the last eight years. The trouble with this current mood is how easily it erodes my persepctive of what I’ve managed so far. After all, Steph and I are still married, and that’s no small miracle. Our children are growing up with losing their sister as part of their childhood experience and of course it affects them, and yet they’re great, rounded, wonderful children. I have Elodie’s recent words to remind me that losing Juliette has made us all the people we are. We must have done something right for her to be so beautifully philosophical.
But then, sometimes I want to be that shallower, untouched person who thought bad things happened to other people. A nasty little voice berates me for how badly I feel right now. It says, ‘You’re failing. You’re weak. Surely you’re over this by now?’ When I’m feeling stronger I can argue – if Juliette’s death was as easy as that to get over, then what kind of mother am I? Did I expect never to be depressed about it sometimes?
Anyway, just because I feel pretty damn low at the moment, doesn’t mean I won’t do more with the rest of my life, in her name. Did I mention that I’ve run two marathons?! Steph’s run six, and together we’ve raised about £20,000 for various children’s cancer charities. That’s quite a lot of running and money when neither of us is remotely athletic. I’ve written the story of Juliette within our family and turned it into a book, and written a novel as well. Just because I feel like a hopeless blob of a person right now, not capable of anything, doesn’t mean I won’t ever do anything again. Anyway, this is a timely passage for me to revisit.
You probably never thought you could live through your child’s funeral. What could be more dreadful? But you did.
Certainly, surviving all the grief you felt seemed impossible. Those days and nights of crying, exhaustion, and pain were almost beyond endurance. You were certain, at times, you would never get past that time in your life. But you did.
There were times you felt great guilt because somehow you had not filled the role of ‘parent’ as society interprets the role. You were unable to save your child and keep them alive. As that cold, clammy feeling would come over you and your back would prickle thinking about what you could have done differently, you were sunk into such a pit of grieving that you never dreamed it would be possible to go on. But you did.
Often, you were beset with anger and a feeling of powerlessness because events that should have been in your control simply were not. You did not think you could overcome these feelings – especially not the hopelessness that accompanied them. But you can.
Just when you needed your mate most, you would find he or she could help you least. You expected comfort from someone incapable of comforting. You argued. Sometimes you even hated. You never thought you would rise from the bottom of the well of sorrow. But you can.
You thought never again could you take an interest in the world and retain friendships and attend weddings and happy occasions for other people’s children. You were certain you could never live through the trauma. But you will.
There was no doubt in your mind that you never again could enjoy yourself. Never want to travel. Never give parties – or attend them. Never have fun. You would only be sorrowful and certainly you would never laugh. Above all, not laugh. But you will.
And most of all, you were sure it would be impossible for you to function as a whole human being not buffeted by the waves of sorrow that swept over you in the earlyt days of your tragedy. But you will.
You will do all that, and you will do more.