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 these almost endless variations of these journeys hard to process, but now I’m further down the road I am starting to recognise 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 things that people said and now, it comforts me. I have the feeling of some sort of progression. Some sort of moving forward. 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 still at an earlier stage of their journey. I realise now that a few years ago some people must have read my word and their hearts would have gone out to me as they thought “she’ll understand this in a year or two”. Now I write to and for and about, families who are living through the truly awful times I have already lived through. Perhaps the worst thing for me is that I know what they are going through and I feel so very limited in the way in which I can help.
This isn’t sympathy. It isn’t even empathy. I don’t just “feel it”. I have lived it.
When I read their words of agony and anger I want so much to help. Help in practical ways with advice around inquests and dealing with un-caring health givers, 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. But often I only know what I haven’t learned in my own journey and I don’t feel empowered sufficiently to be giving that crucial advice. But I do want to say “this way that you are feeling now is normal and although the pain feels excruciating now, one day you will feel that it was worth it and that there was no other way”. 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 often “crash”. As she talked to me and explained this, I felt as if I was being given permission to feel 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. 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 television courtroom dramas, but it really wasn’t like that. We actually had a “good” result ironically, much better than we had been led to believe we should hope for.
But 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 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 this 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 started to write a poem which I haven’t posted because I felt it was too bleak. I didn’t want my words to cause a trigger reaction particularly for any parents at an earlier stage than I was to read it. Having read it through again I’m still not going to share it for the same reasons. Sharing it didn’t feel responsible at the time and it doesn’t now. I feel a need to act at all times with care, with compassion, knowing that some of the people reading this blog are in that same dreadful, dark place I was then. Maybe I can’t offer all the help I want to, but I can be compassionate and they not to criticise if possible.
If you are “in the bleak” today, while you’re reading this and if you are feeling you just want to hide under the duvet, you are so very not alone. It’s a place I know well and a signpost along the journey I know. I wish with all my heart that not one other parent will ever have to go through it again, but I also know that won’t happen. It’s quite amazing what we can bear in the name of love, and no matter how awful it is right not, it’s not a place you’re going to have to stay in forever. There will be other stops in the journey and yet more signposts further down the road.