The last month has been really hard. I suffered the bereavement of two people close to me. The first was David Zikhali, a close family friend who had been involved in a tragic drowning accident on the River Tees. The second was my Grandma, the lady who brought me up. She was 89 and had been suffering with dementia for maybe five years. Her body and mind finally gave up on the 19th August.
Both deaths were very painful; my Grandmas, particularly so, as we were so close, but Davids was also hard as he was so young, having only just turned 20, a month or so earlier. As I have walked this journey of loss, I have been reflecting on a few things. I never imagined how I would cope when Grandma died. She was my rock, my best friend and I loved her so ridiculously much. I always wondered when it would happen, often feeling that we were on borrowed time and when she did go, it was horrendous. The pain is indescribable, like someone is taking away something from inside your heart. I cried and I cried and I cried, but then I stopped crying and I realised, I was not on my own. In amongst my grief, something very powerful happened, I discovered yet again the power of love and community.
As soon as I heard about grandma dying, I went home to our family house, the house where i had been brought up, where Grandma lived for the last 35 years and where she finally ended her days. My Mum, Aunty and four of my siblings were already there. As soon as i got to the house, I wept. My little youngest brother Jazz held me in his arms. We don’t hug very often usually but for a few minutes I just cried on his shoulder. This was the pattern of the day and the next few days. Family would arrive and we’d cry and then we would talk and make tea. I have drank a lot of tea over the last few weeks. Friends began to send kind words of encouragement; messages on Facebook; cards, flowers and phone calls were received. Many conversations were had about how wonderful Grandma was and what we would miss about her. It has been a long time since I felt so united with my family and cared for by my friends. In amongst our grief, this power of love and community shone through. I can’t convey how much this helped at such a tragic time.
When David died it was very similar. From the moment David died, this love and togetherness was so evident. Day after day many people visited the site where he had drowned, over 100 people, young and old gathered for a night vigil, his mother opened up her home for visitors to share their grief and many, many people used social media to share their hearts. Within all of these activities we told stories of David, about who he was, how kind he was, why he might have died and what we would miss about him. We grieved collectively and it helped, a lot.
But all of this has now got me thinking. What would society look like if we were all more connected or more together, not just at times of tragedy but all the time? It’s rare for people to have open homes for anyone to pop round. We don’t often gather regularly and share stories, sorrows, news or thoughts. We rarely message someone on Facebook just to say we are thinking of them or that we care. On the whole, people tend to keep “themselves to themselves” but maybe this needs to change? Aren’t community and relationships vital to not only our own personal development but also the survival and developments of our towns and streets and villages? Don’t we need each other? There are too many influences dividing our society at the moment, but maybe we can make a stand. Maybe we can do things differently. Lets make more space in our lives for each other, for our neighbors and for our friends. I know my Grandma always loved a visitor who would just pop round unplanned for a cup of tea, maybe have a think about who you could visit this week. Who could you spend a little more time with? I was so glad to have made space in my life for Grandma and I am now so thankful for all the people who have made space for me over these last few weeks as I have had to say goodbye.
If you have any thoughts about this, I would love to hear them and if you are going through pain and tragedy I hope you are not alone, if you are please message me.