In the past three years I’ve just been treading water, but now I feel as if I’m learning to swim.
Writing “a week of blogs” has been very hard, not just in terms of the actual sitting and slogging away, writing them, but also making our story so public and bearing my soul in such a truthful way. That doesn’t come naturally to me. Sharing with strangers isn’t usually my thing. Yet I’ve discovered that the combination of the writing, sharing it and the resulting support I’ve received from so many people – the majority of them total strangers, has been very empowering.
I feel as if I have been underwater, but now I’ve come up and gasped in a great lungful of air and now I can go forward again – which is just as well, as we still have a very long way to go.
I go swimming a couple of times a week. The pool belongs to one of the schools in our village and it’s free. It’s not a public pool so it’s very quiet and often there are only a couple of others and sometimes I’m the only one there. People swim lengths up and down without talking so it’s very quiet, almost silent apart from the small splashy sounds of swimming. On sunny evenings the sunlight streams in through floor to ceiling windows on one side and the light and water dance across the walls and ceiling. I swim slowly. Slow length after slow length and as I dip along in the cool, clean water it gives me time to think. I write whole blogs in my head as I swim and they’re always so much better than they are when I get home afterwards and try to write them down.
As I swam, this is what I was thinking last night.
Three years. It sounds like such a long time. What have I learnt in that time? Actually I’ve learnt a huge amount and I’d like to share some of it with you. This is certainly not everything I’ve learnt and I’m quite certain I’ve a lot more to learn, so perhaps I should say “this is some of what I’ve learnt so far”.
30 things I’ve learnt in the last 3 years
- When a death is unexpected it will hit you very, very hard.
- It will knock you off your feet and turn your life upside down. It will take you a very long time to recover but you will never be the same person again. .
- You will be traumatised by the loss. You will have signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. This is normal (i.e. you are not weird you are normal).
- If your friends are real friends they’ll stick by you for the long haul. If they don’t stick by you as the years go on, they weren’t the friends you needed and you’re better off without them for this scenario.
- You’ll need help.
- You’ll need help and you won’t know where to turn for it.
- You’ll need help and you won’t know where to turn for it and not knowing where to turn will make you feel as if you’re letting down the person you’ve lost and letting yourself down.
- THIS IS NOT TRUE.
- If you are still breathing and caring then you’re still fighting. Even on the days when it doesn’t feel as if you have done anything, just the fact that you’re still caring means you’re still fighting.
- Don’t expect everyone to care as much as you do and try not to be angry with them because they don’t care.
- If you want to be angry with them because they don’t care – go right ahead, they deserve it!
- Don’t expect support from your family. You may be one of those people who has a slightly rubbish family. If they support you, fine. If they don’t…………
- Try to support your immediate family but remember they are all be in as much pain as you but they’ll all show it differently, in different ways and at different times. This doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering too.
- Buy tissues in multi-pack boxes. You will use them all.
- As time goes on you’ll realise that as well as the person you’ve lost, you are also mourning for the whole life you had with them, now that it has gone.
- You may feel angry and bitter when you realise how much you’ve changed. Try not to be, if you have changed, it’s because you needed to.
- Tell people you need help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.
- When you find someone who can help – LET THEM HELP. I would like to underline that one twice, but my computer doesn’t have that button, so instead I’ll say that when you find someone (or someone finds you) who can actually help you in your fight for justice and help you deal with your anguish and grief PLEASE let them do it.
- Remember, you are also grieving so why on earth would anyone expect you to be grief person, legal expert, self-advocate and general big-brain. You aren’t – they don’t.
- Don’t be afraid of being judged. Firstly, most people aren’t even thinking about you anymore, let alone judging you. They lost interest in what was happening to you about 15 months after the death. If anyone is judgemental, that’s all about them, their personal experience, the inside of their head and nothing to do with you.
- Do not throw any paperwork to do with the place where your loved one died away, even if it seems unimportant – you can’t always tell what’s going to be important in the future.
- Whenever possible – get it in writing. Keep copies. Everything you want to say to them, say it in writing (NOT on the phone). Keep copies in a safe place. Print off emails and keep copies. Then you don’t have to worry about your computer losing them.
- Make notes in meetings. Record meetings. Ask first (don’t record in secret or they can later say that anything on that recording can’t be used), they’ll say yes anyway and if they say no, make them give you clear answers as to why.
- Oh did I mention – KEEP COPIES
- Try to get as much good quality sleep as you can. Sleep, or the lack of it, will become a defining feature of your life.
- Try to eat well. Try to keep healthy; you’re going to need your health and your energy. Chocolate is NOT a health food.
- If you think you are going to be able to, start a social media account of your justice fight (Twitter, Facebook etc). You may find it hard work but it could lead you to people who can genuinely help and support you. For me, blogging has really helped a lot. It might help you too.
- Don’t let everything be about the justice fight. As time goes on make sure you also find a place and space to remember and celebrate the life of the person you’ve lost.
- Fighting for justice costs money. More money than you have. You’ll need to create a “fighting fund” even if all it does is pay a good solicitor at the inquest.
- “Winning” is largely a concept. What you want, the justice you are fighting for – all of this may change anyway on your justice journey. In the end, you cannot bring back the person you’ve lost and not all wrongs can be righted. Perhaps in the end the best you can fight for is for a lot of people knowing what was done and making sure that it won’t happen again to another family.
When I read this through again in another year, I wonder how much more I will add to it or what parts of it I’ll want to change.
Time to take a deep breathe, jump back in and start swimming.