27th May 1982. That’s the day that little Pax died, age 3, from a genetic blood condition. His last hours were spent in a public hospital in Bhopal, India.
I was only 22 when Pax was born. That seems young, looking back. I have missed Pax my entire adult life. I have often written and spoken about the fact that I didn’t know what to do with my grief. I didn’t know how to grieve and I didn’t get any support.
That’s one reason I have chosen to mark these 40 years by doing a small fundraising challenge in aid of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), that wonderful charity that supports bereaved parents, as well as grandparents and siblings. No parent should have to wander alone in their darkness as I did. If only I had known just a fraction of what I now know about grieving processes! If only I had known I was not the only one going through such agony! The past can’t be changed, but my wish is that other parents, newly bereaved, will have better support than I did all those years ago. (Learn about The Compassionate Friends here – or donate here: https://www.tcf.org.uk/inmemory/Pax-and-Catherine/)
My challenge is to walk 40 miles, spread over the next few weeks. I’ve done almost 10 miles so far on a lovely walk through the Staffordshire countryside.
Then I hope, on 27th May, to have a picnic by the memorial bench we have put up for Pax and Catherine (my daughter) in the nearby RSPB nature reserve. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place – trees, small lakes and loads of birds. We spent some time there helping to sow wildflower seeds on the little patch of bare earth by the bench. Hopefully by the end of May they will be sprouting. (This was done in arrangement with the RSPB.)
Having a focus helps when you’re grieving
Of course, my grief is not raw now, like it was in those early days. Still, 40 years feels somehow significant, and I need to mark it with a special effort.
I felt somehow relieved once I’d decided a focus for marking this time. Walking and the fundraising are very appropriate for me. The process of walking with a goal is a sort of a ritual that I often use to mark something significant. It comes with a price – tiredness and aching feet – but it also comes with joy, as I love being out in nature. The fundraising is not something I’m good at, but I’ve got a small target, and I know that whatever TCF receives will be well used, however little.
Many people find that it helps to have a focus for their grief. This can be a special place that they visit or it can be an activity. I wrote about this last year – you can read it here
Grief hurts. Missing a loved one hurts. It’s not the kind of pain that you can fix in one fell swoop – it’s not the pain of an infected tooth that will be solved by extraction. But it is a pain that can be managed so that we are not overcome by it.
Having focal points – activities and places – is one of the ways we can help ourselves manage the pain of our grief. Doing something to honour their memory can be a good idea.
(Come back again soon for more about Pax)