A Book of Bereavement
By: Graeme Pagan and Alison Pringle
DON’T MENTION THE COAL SCUTTLE, is a collection from many people of how they have coped —-or tried to cope—with the loss of a husband, wife, partner, soul-mate.
As a practicing solicitor I frequently found myself having to advise and help many clients facing bereavement. I liked to think that my help was useful but it was only after I lost my beloved Heather that I began to understand what it was really like and that I had not truly understood what my clients were having to go through. Those of you who saw the magnificent film “The Calendar Girls” may remember that part when a member of the guild said after one of its members had lost her husband “I know how you feel”. “No you don’t ” came the reply “You have no idea what it is like. They are the most awful moments of your life”. Many of us will need help from someone with understanding of what bereavement is really like..
I am not at all sure how correct it is but someone once said to me that good can come out of bad experiences. Certainly we can all learn from bad experiences and perhaps be better able to give help and encouragement to others from our own experiences. Of course some –or even many —do not want to talk about bereavement (particularly men!) but most people I have met wanted to talk about their experiences and especially their lost loved ones. They will rarely be out of mind so why not mention them. Whatever experiences one has had it is more often useful to others to share experiences and not to bottle them up. It can also remind you of how lucky you were in having your loved one brought into your own and often private life. But each to their own.
A very learned colleague solicitor always said when things went wrong “There is no point in worrying about it now. Put it down to experience” It must therefore be true that if the experience in question is useful to for the person affected it will almost certainly be useful to others as well so why keep it to yourself . But we are all different and if you are a private person and do not want to share things with others that is entirely right and entirely up to you.
Having shared these personal experiences, I suppose I should admit that I was married three times and divorced twice not something I am not at all proud of. But life is all a matter of timing and when Heather and I first met it was the right time for us both. A quarter of a century later, bereavement separated us three years after Heather got her cancer. I am absolutely certain that situation did not make any difference as to how I felt when she died.
I can only hope that these few words and those in the book are of help to those facing the awfulness of bereavement. With what experience I have had both for myself and from bereaved clients and friends I think I can say with due modesty that I am in a position (not in any way unique) to pass on some of my own experiences which could and maybe should be of much help to others. A small but important experience from a voluntary meeting of those affected by bereavement when one those attending asked the question “Am I going mad? I still talk to my wife’s ashes”. Six or seven voices answered immediately “So do I”.
In all walks of life we should learn from others. That is particularly so in bereavement where some or many do not want or do not feel able to talk about and discuss their grief. So I like to think that the book that Alison Pringle and I wrote together with a lot of contributions from others will prove to be invaluable to many who will find themselves in the same situation.