Of the people I follow and of those who follow me (on Twitter and via this blog) and of the people I support away from social media, some are much nearer to the start of their journey, some are still loving and fighting for their children and some are further on in their journey than me.
At the beginning I found this almost endless variety of personal circumstances bewildering, but as I am getting further down the road I am starting to recognise some of the signposts. Things that people told me a year ago which made no sense then now make so much sense as I too reach that place. I remember what they said and it comforts me. I have the feeling of some sort of progression.
Often that progression is personal, rather than in terms of “justice fighting” but I now realise how important personal growth is as well as legal progression. It shows me that there is a way forward; a way to move towards the light.
But far harder to deal with is supporting people who are at an earlier stage of their journey, just as a year ago some people must have listened to me, their hearts gone out to me and thought “she’ll understand this in a year or two”. Now I write to and I write about, families who are living through the truly awful times I have already lived through and perhaps the worst thing for me is that I know, I really know, what they are going through and I am very limited in the way in which I can help.
It isn’t sympathy. It isn’t even empathy. I don’t just “feel it”. I have lived it.
So when I read their words of white pain and anger I want so much to help. Help in practical ways with advice around inquests and dealing with the un-carers, advice around raising money, finding the right legal help, finding the right support and knowing where and when to push hard and when to hold back. I also want to say “this way that you are feeling now is normal. It is the way that we have all felt and although the pain is excruciating now, one day you will feel that it was worth it”. But when you are living in the excruciating pain, being told that is meaningless and trite, so often I don’t even say that.
In the weeks following Nico’s inquest I fell into the blackest hole. It was perhaps the deepest abyss I had been in following his death. Days before Christmas and I couldn’t even get out of bed. I was saved from this horror by a simple phone call. Beverley Dawkins called me up basically to tell me that if I was feeling really low, really very bad, this was normal. After the inquest you sort of “crash”. As she talked to me and explained this, I felt as if I was being given permission to be this way and by the end of the phone call some of my blackest despair had started to lift.
I look back now and completely understand this. In fact now I think “how on earth could it have been otherwise?” but at the time I was too far into the black abyss to see things clearly.
I had waited almost two and a half years for the inquest. Although I had been told time and again that the inquest was just a staging post along the way and NOT the be all and end all of our fight. I realise now that in my heart I was waiting for the inquest, waiting to face my enemy and girding up for that terrible, dreadful legal battle which would see the accused condemned and my faith in the long and costly fight vindicated. Naively maybe, desperately (maybe) and I’d probably seen too many courtroom dramas, but it really wasn’t like that. See my blog https://justicefornico.org/?s=down+like+waters for what it was like. We actually had a “good” result, much better than we had been lead to believe we should hope for.
And then nothing. We went home. My son wasn’t waiting for us. The “victory” felt as hollow, meaningless and anguish filled as the waiting had been.
So now I know that the aftermath of the inquest is awful. If you have recently had the inquest you’ve been waiting years for and now you’re in that terrible place please know this. It’s normal. It’s horrible but just for a little while it has to be like this. You are exhausted and it’s hard to keep going. Nothing makes sense and you find your feelings of tearing anger, frustration, guilt, blind rage, sorrow and bewilderment that this could even have happened to you and your family, very hard indeed. While you live it I can only suggest you talk about it to people you trust who love you and write about it. Above all, know it’s normal. It will get better.
In the days following the inquest I wrote this poem which I haven’t posted before because I felt it was too bleak. I didn’t want parents at an earlier stage than me to read it. Sharing it didn’t feel responsible at the time. Now I feel I am ready to share it. But that is because I no longer feel like this (most days). If you are “in the bleak” and if you are feeling that you just want to hide under the duvet, you are so very not alone. If you tweet about it, email me about it, comment on my blog about it, know that it’s a signpost I know well, but it’s not a place you’re going to have to stay in longer than you can bear.
I let you down
I let you die
And now the longing clings to me
The filthy grief
That takes my time
And haunts me like a sooty grime
A closed up room
A boxed up life
Where once was fun and love for me
In chilly piles
Bought with such joy
Un-played with, sad and dusty toys
And life proceeds
Taking your farther away from me
I dead the day
I can’t recall
Your smell, your touch, your eyes, your call