Saturday, 24 January 2015

A difficult conversation regarding bereavement support.

This week I am going to have to have a difficult conversation.

I attend two different bereavement support group but since late September 2014 they are both being run by the same person. Perhaps unsurprisingly she is running the two groups in very similar ways and the mistakes she is making in one group she is repeating in the other.

The warning signs have been there for all to see. The attendance at both groups has declined rapidly since she took over. At the last meeting of the university based group the numbers attending were only 45% of the number that came along in October. All but one of the lads have stopped coming along and as a result the whole feel of the group has changed. There is far less talking by the young people and far more lecturing, almost preaching, by the group leader.

The problem is that she has made the meeting far too religious. What with a opening prayer and a closing prayer and her quite frequent mentions of "God's Will" the whole affair feels more like a Bible Study class than a support group for young people who have suffered parental or sibling death.

It feels as if the group is being run for her benefit rather than for the benefit of the young people.

So the problem is what should I say to her?  I have been a member of the group for over 3 years now and for almost all of the time it has been a secular group. It hasn't always been perfect but most of the regulars were satisfied enough with what was on offer to keep on attending. But now some of the familiar faces have disappeared and when I see these former members around the campus they all say the same thing. "I don't want to be preached at by that woman". 

So can anybody suggest what needs to be done?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

How would Mum would have rated my performance?

5 years after she was killed I wonder what Mum would have thought of how I have turned out? 

Relationships - She would certainly have approved of Stewart - my long-term boyfriend - and if for some reason she didn't approve of us living together she would have kept her views firmly to herself. She would also have liked both my house-mates. They feel like the brother and sister that I was never lucky enough to have and Mum would have known exactly why that would have mattered so much to me. 

Family - She would be shocked that her Dad was in prison but not shocked at what he had been sentenced for. Sexual predators like leopards don't change their spots! Mum would be pleased that I now have a close relationship with her sister but probably would be surprised that I see so little of my cousins. 

The house - This was always Mum's domain and her responsibility. There have been a lot of cosmetic changes and a few structural ones since I inherited it but the basic arrangement of the rooms has stayed the same. It probably isn't quite as tidy as she would have kept it herself but by student standards it is amazingly good. Mum was never a particular fan of "cooking from the raw materials" so she wouldn't be stressed by how the four of eat most days. She would have approved that we always eat at the table and that we almost always eat together.  

The garden - Neither Mum nor Dad were interested in gardening. Both the back and front gardens were low maintenance affairs - and they still are. The only significant change is that in the back garden there are a numbers of plants and shrubs that were donated by people in memory of the two of them. I keep this section tidiest of all and if I do ever move away all these gifts will have to come with me. 

The neighbours - Mum always felt that it was important not to get into arguments with people living near by and especially not if they were next-door neighbours! When Mum and Dad were alive our family never regarded the neighbours as friends but they certainly were not enemies either. And I think that still is where I am. I don't think the neighbours were thrilled at the thought of having four students living in their mega respectable street but once they found out that we knew how to behave they seemed to accept us. There seems to have been a lot of coming and going in the houses closest to mine; with several of them being rented out by absentee owners. Most of the incomers are on 6-month rolling leases so they don't seem to bother much about integrating with the rest of us.  

Career - Mum would be pleased that I am training to be a teacher and so following in her footsteps. She would smile that I am doing my major teacher training block where she used to work. 

Mourning her death - Above everything Mum would be relieved that I am not still in deep mourning for her and for Dad. I have indeed found closure which is exactly what she would have wanted and what she would have expected to happen.  

Saturday, 3 January 2015

5 years on from the accident

This month will see the fifth anniversary of Mum and Dad's fatal accident. Five years is a landmark that I sometimes thought that I would never reach so I am feeling quite proud of myself. I was 17 when my "first life" ended and so much has happened since then that it is difficult to know where to start.

All the people I'm going to mention have a pretty good idea of what I think about them so I don't think that I am being naughty when I put it all in writing.

Dad's parents - They are still going backwards and forwards between the UK and the USA on a regular basis. They have never wanted to get involved in the train crash that was my life after my Dad, their son, was killed. They love me in a fairly casual hands-off manner and that pretty much describes the way I feel about them as well!

Dad's brother - He has helped me so much that nothing I could write here would do him justice. He is shocked and disappointed by the casual approach of his parents to all that has happened and there is something of a falling out between him and them.

Mum's parents - They abused me emotionally, financially and physically and both ended up in prison. Granddad will probably never be released since his current life expectancy is less than the number of years he still has to serve!

Mum's sister - She too has helped me an enormous amount but the "elephant in the corner" is that her decision to allow me to live with a man (her Dad)  with a proven track record of abusing teenaged girls without even warning me first was a bad, bad call.

My boyfriend and my housemates - The emotional and practical debt I own them can never be repaid. Between them they have helped me to repair almost all the damage that Mum and Dad's death caused.

Facebook "friends" - with a few honourable exceptions they have been a waste of time and energy. I always try to comment on their family news or latest crisis but they never reciprocate so I reckon that it is time that most of them were deleted from my life.

Pen friends - one or two have been stars, one of two have been a complete nightmare and large numbers have been totally unreliable with the result that our exchanges of letters have lapsed.