Loneliness, whether chronic or acute, can be wrapped up in the despair that leads to thoughts of suicide. Read this powerful post and keep your eyes and ears open for the tiny clues that might alert you to family or friends’s hidden feelings. If this is you… talk to someone, please. If you feel that no-one you know cares enough to listen, talk to someone whose job it is to listen. You won’t be a burden – exactly the opposite. They’ve trained for years to be able to help you and all of us who need help from time to time, so they are completely focused, ready and more than willing. Please… pick up the phone, send an email, or walk in. Don’t fester on your own. Another perspective really helps to pull you at least part of the way out of your rut. And when you get a better all-round view, you may start to see some solutions. There will be some, but you need to be in a position to spot them. You can’t see anything when you’re in the depths where it’s dark and cold. Let someone give you a hand to reach the light and the warmth…

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Happy deathday, happy birthday…

Today is my birthday, and aptly (as I live in Transylvania), the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death. A mere 46 years to the day after Dracula’s creator breathed his last breath, I took my first. No, I don’t think I’m Stoker reincarnated, so put the spookyscopes away. I’d love his book sales figures, though…

This kind of occasion is where the internet is such a boon. I am having a happy day in my mountain eyrie (or should that be eerie?…) with the cats for company, but it’s made even happier by the many lovely messages flooding in via gmail and Facebook. Knowing I’m in the thoughts of friends and family is very heartwarming.

Facebook is fantastic for keeping in touch, keeping connected and up to date with people’s doings when physically distant, for cheering and sympathising when needed, and for enhancing already jolly days. Nothing like it in the history of the world. But it’s not a substitute for face to face contact and first-hand experience. As a tool, utterly brilliant. As a lifestyle, utterly not.

For fellow birthday people, my hot wishes for a splendid, stellar day. And to Bram, here’s to you.

Speaking for many

David Lloyd has written movingly about grief and the search for contact. Anyone who has been through bereavement will recognise his desperation to find some way of keeping hold, reconnecting, trying to recover the part of one’s self that is ripped away by a death.

Have you tried something similar? What’s your experience?

Death teaches us a lesson in life

Mirror columnist Brian Reade has written a powerful piece today about the lesson to live well and make the most of life. This was prompted by the death last week of Paul Rice, well known among Liverpool’s business community.

When my sister Ginny got really ill from cancer, not only did she show great courage and strength in facing the pain that the experts couldn’t stop, but while she was in the ward at Exeter hospital she was a quiet exemplar of love and compassion to other patients. Whenever a new person arrived, Ginny would get out of bed and go over to her, introducing herself with a smile, which must have done so much to break down the loneliness and fear of being in that place. Never passive, she didn’t let her approaching death stop her from living as much as she could. She became deep friends with a woman on the ward called Ruth, sneaking outside with her for a crafty fag, and talking for hours. Ginny was shattered when Ruth died very suddenly, but when a teenager arrived in Ruth’s place, Ginny was there with the same warm smile and some remark which made the girl laugh and relax.

I took Ginny out in a borrowed wheelchair one Sunday, about three weeks before she died. She’d decided that sitting in bed waiting to snuff it was not an option, so she rather shakily got dressed, and we went into Exeter. She made me push her up a steep cobbled hill to the cathedral – laughing evilly at my puffing efforts. She took charge and left me to watch as she sped round the cathedral, doing racing turns at each corner and knocking bits of ancient stone off one pillar, to her shameless glee and my horror. We had a glass of wine and a few olives in a bar close by (Ginny’s first ever olives at the age of 56), and after watching people racing around and playing on the beach at Exmouth, she had espresso and chocolate brownie at a cafe. She’d hadn’t been able to eat much for ages, and she paid a price for the delicious treats later that evening, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her enjoying herself to the full.

The approach to our death might be the loneliest time, as no-one can share it with us. But as Ginny and Paul Rice showed so brilliantly, it doesn’t have to stop us having a giggle, loving life and sharing their joy of it with those around them. As Brian Reade says, it can take a touch with death to make us realise how to live. If only we could all learn the lesson early and remember it every day.