Ours Is Just A Little Sorrow

Grief. Bereavement. Pain so profound, so searing, deeper than the ocean, wider than the sky.

As we get older, we’re more exposed to these extremes of adversity and although in many ways we’re more experienced, it somehow becomes harder to know just how to react. To the news reports, to the sudden accidents, to the senseless killings, to the intractable, pointless wars. When I was very young, the chatter on TV was about Vietnam, today it is about Syria: in fifty years, seemingly nothing has changed. Respected reporters like the BBC’s John Simpson, Kate Adie and Martin Bell have grown world-weary. Not silent yet, but disenchanted. The accumulated tragedies and injustices of our world haunt their eyes in every piece to camera.

And it goes on. I was a news hound in the past, I studied politics at A level, followed every twist and turn of events. Now, after half a century of progress, I see a clown in the White House, oceans filled with plastic, 99% of global wealth in the hands of a hundred men with guns, drugs and money.

We retrench, we turn away, at some point, it becomes too difficult to comprehend. Then, an individual story of such magnitude destroys that uneasy equilibrium, stopping you in your tracks. This week, for me, it was hearing about 17 year old Michael Jonas, stabbed to death by a gang in a park in Penge, South London. His Dad was so strong in his interview, addressing his son directly: “Son, you died in the same place you were born, the same park where I took you to ride your bike, where I watched you play.”

It made me think about our own story of Sepsis, amputation and rehabilitation. For years, it has dominated our lives, making us work every day to try and make baby steps back towards normality. And yes, we made a movie about it and we wrote a book and now we tell the story of how we got back on our feet and put the broken pieces back together again.

The truth is, however hard it’s been for Nic, Grace, Freddy and I, we’ve still always had each other. Each of us has been strong and weak in turns, but we’ve never been alone in grief, not in the way of a bereaved family, and I am always utterly staggered by the resilience shown by individuals in grief.

What I think helps is to compartmentalise. At several stages of my rehabilitation, when things became very tough, I’ve mentally drawn a map of my world, so I can see it all laid out like it was on a page of A4, with bad and good continents, the sea in between. Because, knowing that there were still sunny places and happy territories in my world, made it easier to draw and isolate the difficult areas. To sail away from them.

Yes. I drew an ocean between me and my pain. It does return sometimes, blowing back on idiot winds, but mostly it’s far away now.

Oh, the good things that remain. The way a stranger is kind to me, the breeze when I’m out walking, my wife’s smile, clouds rolling over, wild animals, Paris in my memory, coffee, football, music, art. The radio on, under the covers. Knowing that  I have loved and been loved. Good writing.

So I’m respectful of others.

I remind myself often. Ours is just a little sorrow.