Regular readers of this blog will know that in November 2015 my best friend died and I was lost. I wrote about grief, cried myself to sleep, gave up reading books, withdrew from the outside, wrote some more about grief then some more, made my excuses, said yes when I meant no, songs would set me off, the mention of anything related to Clare would make my bottom lip wibble.
One day I was chatting to my school friends on a Facebook group chat and amongst them they said "maybe you need to talk to a bereavement counsellor", "I know a good psychiatrist if you feel suicidal" (which I can assure you I wasn't), "you're being very brave", "be strong" and then one of them said "maybe she would like one of them to call for her?". As I read my friends' words of encouragement I thought I can do this, I found the number for Cruse and rang them.
"Hello how can I help you?" and I replied calmly "hello" and then the floodgates opened and I gasped whilst choking back the tears at which point I was sniffing and snorting onto my sleeve "my best friend has died and I feel so lost". I can't actually remember the full conversation but this very nice lady let me blurble on and on and on, by which time the tears were drying on my face and I was able to talk quite normally. It was agreed I had indeed come to the right place, that they could help, that what I was feeling was quite normal and that help was available. I was put on the waiting list and carried on being sad.
A few weeks later the phone rang and this voice said "hello I'm Karen from Cruse, we've got a space next week would you like it?". With trepidation I said "yes". I was tempted to say "no". The time passed and on the day I was thinking that I couldn't do this, it will be hard but I didn't cancel it and at the appointed time Karen from Cruse arrived and after the introductions I cried.
There were tears, lots of tears and after the first session I was exhausted, actually after every session I felt exhausted. I can talk very easily about a lot of things but talking about the inner me is hard one. However with each session I felt braver and stronger and when Mungo died I felt incredibly sad but my thoughts weren't of bleak despair which prompted me to write this post.
Last week I felt it was time to take a break from Bereavement Counselling. It's been bloody hard. Not only have I waded through the loss of a best friend with a stranger but I went way way back to 19 February 1979 when my daddy died, then chuntered through the loss of special people in my formative years, friends and other relationships.
I can appreciate that counselling is different for everyone but for me it has helped me immensely. I suppose a comparison would be that I felt like a small child who was told things had changed without consultation and for years I harboured this, not discussing it with people and when faced with a death message the old feelings came out and I was sad, having not found peace with each death and those sad feelings kept growing. In truth I felt like I was sinking in grief and mourning. I'm not sure these are the words you might use but I can't think of another way to describe it.
The sadness I felt about not going to my father's cremation was discussed - the year was 1979, my brother and I were at the funeral but we weren't allowed to go to the cremation, for years I resented this but through counselling I began to appreciate that things were different back in the day and our family were doing what they thought for the best. It's all making sense now and I feel calmer. As we approach 19 February 2017 I remember everything about the week leading up to the time I said goodbye to him, but this year I am feeling more accepting.
Recently Cécile (Clare's belle-sœur) sent me some photos of Mme Cholet and I in Brittany in 2006 and my heart skipped a beat. Just looking at those photos of happy times without sobbing is an indication of how much braver and stronger I am. The grief and pain will never leave but the raw anger is subsiding.
I have also managed to watch a hospital drama without blubbing and more importantly I have been reading, this month I have read 2 books and I am going to start one this evening. Another great thing is I have picked up my book where I left off and have started writing again. I feel the fog is at last lifting and I can sense brighter days are on their ways.
Thank you to my friends who hugged me when my bottom lip wobbled, thank you to my schoolfriends of some 36 years who gave me the strength to pick up the phone, thank you to Karen and Cruse, and thank you to you for reading this I hope you draw some strength from it.
(Cruse Bereavement Care is the leading national charity for bereaved people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They offer support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies and work to enhance society’s care of bereaved people. I made the call and I am glad I did.)