Tag Archives: bereavement


I had a good day, it wasn’t today. I am a weather refugee, I am possibly the only person who migrated to the UK chiefly because of the weather (with sense of humour as a close runner-up).  I am not much of a summer person. I come from a hot country and, unlike the Brits, I recoil in horror when the temperature soars above 22 degree Celsius and duly scram in the shadow.

So, while every Londoner is heading to the nearest park, to bare their flesh after work, I, the Mediterranean, am struggling and I have turned turn into a cast iron curmudgeon. I am also waking up, after a surge of pain that made me laugh.

Here’s the background. I have had a tough two years.  I don’t mind too much, because I have also learnt quite a lot about myself. Nothing, however, could have prepared me to what happened in February; the death of someone I loved dearly.

Some say that if it does not kill you, pain makes one stronger. It made me weaker, more tired, it banished me to a land of muffled sounds and toned down colours, until something happened yesterday, that makes me hope.

I found a note that my friend wrote to me once, in response to one of my silly letters I used to write to entertain him. It was part of my modest contribution to a man who knew how to live and gave his illness the finger in style.

This note, in flowery note paper, said: “You are funny, God has blessed you.”

He signed it ‘Hony’, the phonetic version of my nickname for him: Honey. (My friend did not speak English.) It was that ‘Hony’ that did it for me. When I read it I started laughing, I laughed so much I ended up sobbing. Not a pretty show; since a walrus has more grace than my sobbing self, believe you me.

I am sharing this with you because I have decided to grow up and not feel guilty and ashamed simply because I am not ship shape 24/7. If life has knocked you about a little and your self-esteem is not sky-high, you know where I am coming from.

I have had enough of impossible, self-imposed standards. I have lost a dear friend, I am mourning. This pain is necessary. So, here it is, for all of you to see, I trust you to take this message and understand it. It’s in your hands now. This is my note to my darling friend, in a style he would have appreciated:

Hi Honey,

I saw your old note. Thank you.

It’s 30 degrees out there. Imagine a cross between a human and a sour lemon and you will know what I look like these days. Thundering Zeus would look more conciliatory than me as I write this, except that Zeus did not have to walk back a mile in the sweltering heat to retrieve a forgotten key. It’s a dangerous thing to have no brain and two handbags.

I can see you raise your eyebrows and patiently fold your arms. I can see you nod, inviting me to unroll the long papyrus of complaints.

YES; we are in the middle of a heat wave. What’s the use of living in the United Kingdom if you cannot count on rainy summers?

I felt seriously short changed all day yesterday, until I saw your note. Now I feel human again, up to a point though: my hair is still frizzy, my limbs swollen, my face  could give a Hieronymus Bosch character a run for its money, but I feel like a mist is slowly lifting.

I feel as though I had stepped into a world re-acquiring its colours and sounds. I am waking up. I would not feel on the cusp of awakening if I had not had your support.

Thank you for offering everything you were and had, even when you had very little to spare. I feel rather than know it is time to wake up and be funny again. Let’s face it; I make people laugh without even trying, so I might as well do it properly. I will continue make a 1st class clown of myself  especially as I rebuild my life.

Here’s to a new beginning.

Herman Hesse used to say that there is magic in every beginning. He was German, which means he could speak it without thinking about it. I am a rotten German speaker, so I will say there is potential for fun in every beginning (and I am saying it in English too. There!)

Do you know , Honey, today I stopped to look at a tree and I actually saw it. It was a cherry tree; its trunk slim, its leaves dark green.

I saw it. I saw the gold light that, as I walked past it,  made that tree look like a large column surrounded by hundreds of verdant splinters. The tree somehow touched me. (NO, I did not bang my head against that tree. )

I am going to see a friend late tonight, I am going to enjoy  the experience very much. When I  see her, I will listen to  her every word. I will play with her kids, shrieking with delight as they push me around. I will grab her younger brat and hold him upside down, and will drink in his cherub-like face creasing with delight.

This is to let you know I love you and I will not disappoint you. I am back, I will laugh again. I can do this, I am ready. Plus, the weatherman tells us rain is on its way. I will live, I promise. But don’t leave me. Keep watching over me.

All my love!


Three things about grief and one about hope

About six weeks ago, I lost someone I loved and respected. This person was a member of my long-lost family, but he and I had formed a special bond.  What started as a casual Skype conversation developed into a friendship.

My friend was such a gentle, kind and wise man, that I gradually opened up to him. I had forgotten the relief, the joy to be able to trust someone. My friend stood out from the crowd because unlike my other friends, he had seen quite a lot of the world. What I mean is that he had formed a shrewd idea of what really mattered, without losing curiosity and joie de vivre either.

He could see further than me, but he never made me feel inadequate. Not only he listened to me, but he, too, opened up and in time he let me read his poems. We had a nick name for each other and usually shared thoughts, ideas and, sometimes, fears – usually mine.

I was lucky to have known the complicity of a real friendship, even more so because I knew that my friend was seriously ill. The truth is that I sometimes forgot about that, because my friend never complained, was always ready to listen and had a delicious sense of humour. He gave his illness the finger and smiled at life.

A few weeks later he left us, quietly. And then silence descended over me. I have since lived in a muffled world.

The other day, just as I was in the quiet place next to the river, where I give myself permission to cry over my friend’s loss, I realised that his loss has reminded me of three things that grief does to people.

Grief robs you of your energy: I am grieving, because I feel the injustice of a life lost so soon, so prematurely. I am mourning the waste. He was such a curious and alert person and I cannot help thinking of the loss of what has not yet been: the conversations about the places I will visit, the people I will meet, the demons I have not yet beaten, the hopes I have not yet lost and the facts I have not yet quite grasped and those I have and he refused to see. I miss making mental notes about funny, strange, unusual things to share them with him and then I realise he is not with us and feel so tired I could dissolve into thin air.

Grief is a thief: since my friend has gone, I have been unable to write, which is my passion. Grief has taken away my imagination and I have let it.  I tell myself I must get on with it, snap out of this ennui, so I keep busy and get on with it. But ‘it’ is hollower since my friend has gone. Then I feel guilty, because my friend loved life and the least I could do is living, because that’s what he wanted. I know this for a fact, because he wrote a poem for his children and entrusted it to me, until the time came. His poem was very wise and full of wisdom and deliciously sweet. It was about life.

Grief can be shared: I grew up nursing the pain of having lost someone I had loved and who had abandoned me. I did so keeping as much of the pain to me, because I believe that our grief is our burden. I do not like to display sacrifices, disappointments, pain as medals, for everyone to see. But my friend and some other friends, argue and argued that sometimes grief can be shared. I  doubt it, but I might as well try. This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for me. Perhaps now I understand what my late friend meant when he told me to live truly and utterly.

So, I have taken the plunge and here I am: writing again. Not only that: I am writing about my own loss in a public platform, because my pain is not a shame, it’s a fact I have to deal with.

Sharing the burden for the first time in my life is a great risk, but not the first I have ever taken. What’s more I am going to start writing again, because I have to go on, get on with it and that ‘it’ is an adventure and it could turn out to be a good adventure too. Who knows, I may even learn something new.

Which brings me neatly to the part about hope: it’s stronger than pain. My friend has taught me that there is always hope, that everything can be fixed. I have lost him, but he has given me a few very happy moments, lots of laughter and an adorable nickname.

So, dear friend, thank you! Good journey! May you rest in peace. I will miss you for the rest of my life, but I will live. Every time I learn something, meet someone new, remember something I had forgotten, make up for my mistakes, I will think of you. I will live, not only that: I will live truly and utterly, as you wisely advised.

Here’s to you: thanks for being my friend.