Last Wednesday, for the first time, I spoke publicly about losing my mother when I was a child. I wanted to write a brief note today, primarily to express thanks for the huge volume of support, shared grief, emotional outpourings and condolence messages I’ve had. I’ve been overwhelmed in every way.
Doing the Radio 5 Live interview was far more costly emotionally than I had expected. While it was the first time I’d spoken about it publicly in detail, I can’t actually ever remember it in that depth privately either. Even my wonderful wife learnt things about it from listening. So I found I was still reeling from doing it even a few days later.
Rather than reliving it again while writing, here is the interview, done by Tony Livesey, who also lost his mother young. Thanks to him and 5 Live for treating the subject with such time and respect.
The ‘Radio 5 Live In Short’ Edited Version (3 minutes)
The full Radio 5 Live Interview (14 minutes)
The response has been overwhelming
I had never really contemplated how wide the impact would be, and was somewhat taken aback by the fact it topped the ‘most popular’ section on the BBC’s website, and was picked up by many papers.
More so though was the reaction. I have received literally thousands of wonderful, kind, supportive messages via social media. If I’m honest though, this outpouring became too much, I’d been reading every one, even if I couldn’t respond. So much so that it almost left me no escape from the subject, so by Thursday evening, I had to sign off social media, just to give myself a bit of a pause from the relentlessness of it.
Yet I’m encouraged and honoured that what I did had an effect on so many people, and caused litres of shared tears.
Many messages were from others of the 1 in 29 who lost a parent before 18, who’d also bottled it in, never grieved and told me they felt this gave permission to change. Or the parents whose young children are in the same boat.
I was even stunned to hear of one parent who had been planning to take their own life that day, but after hearing the interview, decided not to after realising ‘how much it’d hurt their children’ – my thoughts and wishes are with them all.
But many were simply from parents who drew their own children closer after listening, and some grown-ups who contacted or wrote to their own parents to make sure they knew how loved they were.
Why I did the interview
I did the interview to raise awareness of the child bereavement counselling charity Grief Encounter of which I’m a patron. I’m pleased to hear over 200 people have asked it for help since hearing the interview; and thanks all who have donated or volunteered after hearing it.
When I first agreed to become a patron of the charity, which at the time was counselling a friend’s children, I wrote here of how difficult a decision that had been to do as…
I wrestled with becoming a patron of Grief Encounter as it meant I would need to explain my connection. I lost my mother, suddenly, tragically, devastatingly, two days before I was 12. Things were done differently then, so my sister and I didn’t have counselling.
The scars from it are still so deep that even now, over thirty years later, it is still painful for me to talk about. With Grief Encounter I desperately hope our current generation going through their own pain will get the help they need.
I hope that in talking about my and my family’s pain, I may have helped some do that in future.
What’s funny is that in the interview, amid reliving the grief I heard these words coming out of my mouth…
It is far better to remember the wonderful person that you lost, than to remember you lost a wonderful person…
Many people have quoted this back to me, calling it profound, saying that those words would always stay with them. I feel somewhat fraudulent, as while the sentiment is right, sadly the truth is I’ve not lived my life that way, but the other way round. My hope and challenge now is to turn that around.
For now though, publicly, you’ll forgive me that I want to go back to being the man who helps save people money.