I have just watched this film about Philip Gould, (mate of Tony Blair’s and architect of New Labour) who chronicled the last few weeks of his life before succumbing to oesophageal cancer in November last year at the age of 61. For the moment I’m stunned but will write more later ….
Many people find it hard to know what to say or to do when meeting with a friend who has been bereaved. Â Â Â It has been difficult for us and for our friends to find a way to share painful and confusing feelings about Joshua’s death. Â Â Â Â In one sense these past months have been a steep learning curve as we’ve struggled to comfort one another. Â Â Â Â What are the right words? Â How can I make things better? Â Â Even subtle avoidance of talking about Josh. Â Â So I have gathered Â some of my own thoughts as well as words from others that I feel sum up what can be helpful.
- Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. Â Â It is more comforting than pretending he never existed.
- Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world.
- Don’t abandon me with the excuse that you don’t want to upset me. You can’t catch my grief. Â My world is painful and when you are too afraid to call or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be included. If you don’t know what to say, you can just say that “I don’t know what to say, but I care and want you to know that.”
- I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I’m not sick. I am grieving and that’s different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one’s death. Don’t think that I will be over it in a year. My whole world has changed and I will never be the same.
- I will not always be grieving so intensely but I will never forget and rather than recover, I want to include his life and love into the rest of my life.
- I don’t understand what you mean when you say ” you’ve got to get on with your life”……..my life is going on.
- Don’t tell me that everything happens for a reason. Some things in life are unacceptable.
- Please don’t say “call if you need anything”……I will never call as I have no idea what I need but here are some ideas that may help. Â Â Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can’t make me cry. The tears are here already and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough to reach out on this difficult day.
- Ask me more than once to join you for lunch, a film or a walk and please don’t give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready and if you have given up then I really will be alone.
- Understand how different every social situation feels and how out of place I can feel where I used to feel so comfortable.
- Don’t worry if I seem to be getting stronger and then suddenly I seem to slip backwards. Grief is like that. Â And please don’t tell me you know how I feel or that it’s time to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve.
- Most of all thank you for being my friend and for your patience. Thank you for caring.
- And in the days or years ahead, after your loss- when you need me as I have needed you- I will understand. And I will come and be with you.
In the 15 months that my brother has since passed I have experienced a wave of different emotions and a sense of huge loss. A loss of my brother as a person, a soul and a presence in my life. I have also sensed so much loss within my own perspectives and feelings in life as it has continued. What is deemed important or worth concentration has skewered from the path it once was on and feelings of real joy, happiness and love, suffocated and laid aside to a point where at times forgotton. Forgotten to the point where it has been hard to believe that they can ever exist again?
I was travelling to work this afternoon listening to my Ipod as I walked across the concourse at Stratford listening to the playlist I have of 10 tracks that I now associate most deeply with my brother Joshua. I was in deep thought thinking of Josh and my loss. This playlist supports me in my way to be with my brother and often brings emotion with it…..sadness, pride and most importantly of all, a feeling of closeness that I can only now hold onto as best I can that re-connects me with Josh.
As I approached the stairs I had to stop in my tracks as for what certainly felt like the first time, I felt an acute sense of love for the world and with it, a realisation that I have an ability to love the world. To love the world whilst still being able to grieve for my brother.
For a moment…..I felt a clarity that I had not felt before between my sadness of my loss and my ability to love and see opportunity ahead for what life has.
I wanted to share this experience as it seemed at the time a very new sensation and one that I feel was and hopefully will be important for me in days, weeks, months ahead. To be able to re-visit and also move forward with where possible.
..every brother is a star x..
We all get quite a few messages from far and wide telling us how much Josh is missed – Â today Joe received this note on his Facebook page from a friend of Josh’s
“I miss your brother so much, Joe…. Some people talk and some people can express who they are through their eyes and Josh was someone who when you looked into his eyes you could read so much”
He then continued .. “I hope you are not offended by me sending you this message ….Â Not sure I should be burdening you with my emotions but wanted you to know () how much I miss him.”
When Jane read the message she wondered why he feels he’d be a burden by sharing his sadness.
“Being bereaved can be lonely but this is largely because of peoples discomfort about being around bereaved people. Â Mainly because THEY feel uncomfortable and don’t know how to BE. Â But this is a Â two way thing. I know sometimes I can’t be bothered with people. But its also important for us to let people know what WE need and help them to talk about it if they want to.”
From all over our neighbourhood Josh,s tree can be seen on the hill on the other side of the valley.
It Â catches my breath and is a huge comfort as I walk the paths and hills of Chalford Hill.
Lyndsey captured its importance beautifully in her short poem which she read at our first public screening of Remembering Josh.
Thanks Lyndsey (Jane)
I see him clear against the morning sky
Thereâ€™s a young man on the hill
Say hello as you pass by
I see his tree standing straight and tall
I see his bench with its beautiful view
See him often, speak his name
As I wander these fields and walk the lane
Thereâ€™s a young man on the hill
I see him bright against the evening sky
Thereâ€™s a young man on the hill
Give him a nod as you pass by
Some words here from Lyndsey Gill. Â Â Lyndsey is the mum of Jess, one of Josh’s best friends from school and she writes with a wonderful clarity and economy producing images so sharp you can almost smell the air they breathe.
Thanks Lyndsey for some beautiful memories
Sweeter than lemon squash you areâ€¦â€¦
This is the song my Mum used to sing to Josh.
The beautiful boy who came to Corsica with us. Gentle, funny, intelligent, braveâ€¦.
Josh and Jess, in the mountains, diving from a high rock into a deep pool, momentarily transformed in the air, beautiful young boys swift and clean as kingfishers. Then back to gangly lads, limbs spread on a rock to dry in the sunshine.
Josh and Jess, delivering leaflets for the Indian takeaway.
They shuffle off in their huge trainers, laces undone, their baggy jeans falling down.
I run out into the road after them and call out, laughing, â€œDo up your laces! Pull up your trousers! Move!â€
They turn and smile at me, gently, â€œyeah, yeahâ€ with all the folly and wisdom of youth.
Then they shuffle off up the road, round the corner, out of sightâ€¦â€¦
Our dear friend Hilary lives a mile from Josh’s tree and can see it from her bedroom window. Every morning when she opens her curtains she tells me she thinks of Josh as she sees his tree on the hill across the valley.
Her poem was written on the first anniversary of his death. Â (Jane)
Each morning, drawing open the curtains on a new day –
looking over the valley to the hilltop above Westley Farm:
Three trees stand guardian in the hedgerow
bearing witness to a fourth
that is growing to join them.
planted for a life cut short
but cherished in our hearts â€“
a son, a brother,friend, son of friend.
A year has passed â€“
But his tree is slowly growing
A testament to his life and those who loved him
Each day the light changes on the hilltop:
now the dawn: a tongue of fire
illuminates the tree from the east;
Now a sea of light mist fills the valley,
the trees sailing wonderously above;
Now driving rain envelopes the valley
Under grey clouds;
Now the evening sun warms the hillside
And Joshâ€™s tree grows copper;
And then at night, drawing the curtains to,
the moon casts lengthy arboreal shadows
and the stars watch over
16 Jan 2012