The seed for Next of Kin was sown in 2010 when I was sitting beside my son’s hospital bed wondering how to talk to him as he lay unconscious. I kept notes of my feelings and thoughts which I began to realise helped me function at an acceptable level to the outside world.
Until more recently, it was thought that personal struggles should remain behind closed doors. A lack of understanding and uncertainty of what to say, it was easier to cross the street, creating for the sufferer an even greater sense of isolation and lack of support.
The impact of an injury to a family member is hard to bear for everyone involved but easier if feelings are shared and understood. Reading, listening or talking about a difficult time in our lives helps its validity. As the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Mutual support encourages us to gradually reach a state of acceptance. It is a relief to know that at last attitudes are beginning to change towards mental health at all levels.
So do join me and allow my story to dispel any thoughts you may have about ‘stuffing it all down’ and perhaps allow yourself time to think and unravel your own journey.
Do forgive me as you may already have read the compressed version in my piece that appeared in Words for the Wounded (http://www.wordsforthewounded.co.uk/), but I think reading the full length version helps clarify the story.
Friday 21st May 2010, 10.00 a.m.
My heart missed a beat as the sound of the doorbell reverberated through me.
It was a modern doorbell the sound of which from that day on never left my head. It looked out of place beside the Edwardian front door which we painted British racing green a little while ago. The two parallel stained-glass panels in the door occupied half its length. Another smaller panel of stained glass sat widthways above the door. When the sun beamed through the glass in the afternoons, pastel shades of pink, yellow, green and blue danced in the gilded mirror hanging in the hall above the radiator.
Focusing on who might be at the door helped me take stock. I quickly went through a list of people in my mind that may pop in on the off-chance for a coffee. Dog walks complete, I certainly could do with a catch up. Then I recalled that it could be Emma’s delivery of wellington boots. She was due to leave for South Africa shortly to carry out some voluntary work with the Cheetah Outreach Programme. I had only ordered them a couple of days ago so that would be pretty quick, almost unbelievable. The parcel would be too big to post through the letter box and the postman rings the bell if he thinks one of us is in to take a delivery to avoid it being left outside on the black and terracotta quarry tiled steps.
I still had my muddy wellies on from walking the dogs so rather than remove them, I trudged back through the rear porch and along the patio to the black wrought iron side gate, opening it carefully as I slipped through. Closing it after me, I replaced its safety chain to make sure no inquisitive dogs escaped. With my hands in my pockets, I walked down the tarmac drive, past the purple wisteria climbing up the wall and to the corner of the red-bricked house. As I peered round the house wall, I caught sight of two men standing quietly together. It looked as though they had rung the bell and then retreated down the three steps to the driveway level. I quickly looked them over from a distance and saw they were smartly dressed in suits. Who on earth were they, I wondered? Perhaps it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As I approached, I ran out of guessing time. They said hello and quickly introduced themselves. Their names did not register with me – I imagined I would never need to remember them. I noticed one of them was wearing a clerical collar with his civilian suit. And just at that precise moment warning bells started to ring in my head. With a sense of dread, it began to dawn on me who they might be.