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Health + WellbeingLifeThe Balanced Brief

Monday Mourning : We don’t talk about death

On 25th August, bank holiday 2014 my mother passed away. In the raw aftermath of grief I wrote the piece ‘Bereavement and the Bar part 1 (see link on side bar).

Since then I can say the two years have flown by. I can also say that the time has dragged. Yet again, I can also say time has stood still. To see someone you love draw their last breath is such a profound thing time does stop. So immense is the moment it’s hard to move past it because it doesn’t seem real. Even now.

I can talk about her passing, sometimes, matter of factly. At other times I can’t speak of it without crying. Thinking about it is harder. The idea of death is so huge, the loss so immeasurable, to think about and get through your day seems impossible. So I largely avoid it.

It seems many people avoid both thinking and talking about the subject. It’s one of those things that is too hard.

Yet, a curious legacy of my mother’s passing is that I am often forced to talk about it with either strangers or friendly, near strangers ie colleagues I’ve known for years. Solicitors, counsel, even judges I know but have never really known. Over the years we’ve spoken about our cases, we’ve made small talk, we’ve laughed, joked, shared our funny/ horror stories of courtroom escapades. But we’ve never really talked. Not as people with lives beyond FAS forms and clients who give their offspring names which should instantly put them on a significant harm alert.

Since the first article so many of these colleagues have nervously approached me either in writing or in person.
‘I hope you don’t mind’, they start. And then they tell me in an outpouring of emotion about their own loss and how much my article (and the subsequent one about the death of my father) has helped them.

Within minutes, in the corner of some court waiting room or over a coffee we’re sharing thoughts, feelings, memories, sadness, loss and our lives. Each encounter has brought the most extraordinary closeness that no amount of legal talk and sharing of court successes could ever bring.

I’ve gained so many wisdoms from each of these people. Perhaps so ‘much wisdom’ is a better use of language but I prefer so many wisdoms, in this instance. Each person who has lost a parent brings their unique perspective to the sharing of that loss. And I am the wiser for speaking to each and every one of them.

They, in turn, tell me I have helped them. That my articles first helped them. That their discussions with me have helped them.

They don’t know this but their words are a huge tribute to my mother.
She devoted her adult life to caring for her children and in her last years she used that nurturing which came so naturally to her to help those most in need. She had no formal training or qualifications but she had endless patience to listen to those who, mostly, had no one else willing to hear them out.

A lawyer I was recently in a case with told me that when her mother died, people simply didn’t know what to say or do. So, they largely avoided her.

Death IS difficult to talk about. But I am always touched when people approach me about the subject. I’m not even a fraction of the woman my mother was but if I can offer anyone the smallest comfort in their time of loss through my articles, emails or face to face discussions, it will be a huge tribute to my mother.

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