Compassion and TCF News Summer 2024

The Magazine of The Compassionate Friends Compassion Summer 2024  NOW INCLUDING TCF NEWS 

2 Compassion 3. Letter from the (New) Editor 4. Feature: Hi Son 6. Feature: Will’s Pebbles 8. News from the Catharine Pointer Memorial Library 10. Book Reviews 12. Memory Corner 14. Feature: Remembering Joanne Elizabeth McCann (nee Miles) 15. Feature: How We Survive 16. Your Stories & Poems 21. Siblings Feature: Losing my brother Paul 22. Siblings Feature: How are you Doing? 23. Siblings Feature: Remembering my Sister 24. Grandparents Feature: Grandparents - among the forgotten grievers 25. Grandparents Feature: Online Help & Support Contents TCF News 26. Supportive Events 31. News from around our charity 34. Fundraising Round-up Opinions expressed in Compassion by individuals are not necessarily those of TCF, the Editor or the Editorial Team. Editorial Team: Andrea Corrie, Carolyn Brice and Mary Hartley. Designed by Sam at Forbes Creative.

3 Hello everyone! I am pleased to introduce myself to you all in this issue of Compassion magazine. I have joined the TCF editorial team and am hopeful that I can maintain the excellent standards set by my predecessor Gina. I wish her well as she relaxes after her 13-year stint in the editorial chair! Anyone who meets me will quickly detect the love of words which has brought me to this place today; that and my membership of TCF since 2005. In July that year, my 19-year-old son James lost his life to accidental drowning in the river Thames at Kingston. This year on 11 September, the date that he was born, our lovely James will have been gone for as long as he was here, and that is a difficult concept to absorb. After losing James, I very quickly found and joined TCF. Some of you may recognise my name from writing for the magazine, the occasional guest blog and a Zoom lockdown presentation. The catharsis of writing out one’s grief for a lost child, sibling or grandchild can be a great comfort; it continues to help me to process the unimaginable pain of loss. Many years ago, I was given the treat of a Spa Day. During the day, we had access to various complementary therapists, and I chose to have my ‘numbers’ read by a numerologist. Although I was sceptical at the time, one thing that she said stuck with me. She told me, “One day you are going to use the written word in ways you cannot now imagine”. I could draw nothing further from her. But I have often remembered those words. I could never have anticipated that the loss of James would lead to my publishing two books, Into the Mourning Light in 2014 and Living in the Mourning Light in 2019. When the first book was published, I was approached by the RNLI as they read of our successful campaign with Kingston Council to institute safety measures at the riverside. I was invited to be involved in the Respect the Water promotion, and that year James’s story featured on the glasses that were used locally in the pubs and clubs, an effective warning for the nighttime economy. My association with this organisation continued with several talks and presentations at the RNLI College in Poole. Over time, I have become an ambassador for water safety and drowning prevention and I highlight the annual water safety campaigns around the UK, as well as the work of the National Water Safety Forum. I was a medical secretary throughout my working years, and I now offset grief writing by running a creative writing group in Mid Devon where we live, as well as spending time with my husband, family and our rescue greyhound Scotty. In this issue of Compassion, we hope that you will be able to draw comfort from the content. There are articles from bereaved siblings as well as those who have lost children. Sibling loss means experiencing the loss of someone with whom you thought you would grow old, and you lose the other player in your shared memories from childhood, both good and bad. Letter from the (New) Editor Andrea Corrie

4 If you are newly bereaved, you might not be able to enjoy the (hopefully!) long, summer days. But rest assured, that despite your loss, the world still turns on its axis, albeit differently for each of us. The late Maya Angelou wrote many truths: this is one of them. “And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us, ‘They existed. They existed’ We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.” Yours in compassion Andrea Hi Son by Sue Higgins (see fundraising page 34 for news about Harry and Todd) Hi Son Mum here, just wanted a chat. Since I started volunteering for TCF Helpline these last 7 years I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on life since I lost you. In the beginning it was unbearable and indescribable. I was totally unprepared to lose you so suddenly and unexpectedly and devastated that I had only had exactly 6 years to the day as your Mum. I had so many plans for our future and wanted to give you so much. Life as I knew it ended and nobody knew what to say or what to do as they themselves were heartbroken. In the end it was easier to say ‘I’m fine’ if asked. I felt a pressure to at least look like I was trying to ‘get through’ this pain and felt a collective willing for the return of the Old Sue. I knew intentions were kindly meant but I felt I was still causing everyone pain. I felt guilty. I tortured myself hearing me saying to you “in a minute”, “not now”, “come on, I don’t have time for this” and I couldn’t forgive myself. I was just 27 and had no idea that I didn’t have all the time in the world. I did not know I could grieve my way and in my own time. I did not feel that I could bring you with me through my life, and only felt that you were gone forever. I locked down my sadness and became unable to say your name. I dared not remember you because when I did my control unravelled. I pined for you and hid my sadness behind a painted-on smile. COMPASSION | FEATURE: HI SON The last date for items for the next issue is 27 September 2024 Please continue to send your valued contributions to Any suggestions you may have for new features are welcomed, too. For example: Do you have a favourite short quote, or some meaningful words that you find particularly relevant and comforting? If so, please send them in and we will create a new section of ‘Snippets to Save’.

5 Clearly this was exhausting and unsustainable and I truly believe that eventually, somehow, you literally grabbed me by the scruff of my neck. You were the adult (well, you are 43 now) and I needed you to help me to heal. I surrendered and dared to hope that that there was another way to live this life. Better late than never I found my tribe, my community. I discovered TCF and a whole new world was revealed filled with people very much like me. The huge, bolted door of my grief creaked open and I realised that it was OK to say your name Jonathan, and to be your Mum for the whole of my life. I became able to review my memories and consider them from another angle. Could shock and anger have masqueraded as guilt? I forgave myself for not protecting you from harm by understanding that no parent could have prepared for this. I came to realise that grief is the price that we pay for love. It felt safe to lean into my grief and let it flood over me, because I wanted to feel my love for you so much. You are with me in my future Jonathan, because I had you and because I lost you. I now listen and bear witness for those struggling to find their way through their grief because we, The Helpline Volunteers are proof that it’s possible to find a place for what we lose. When I’m asked how long it is before the sun might come out, I can offer the kindness of a stranger who ‘gets’ it when comfort is hard to find. Jonathan, you and I joined the shared experiences of TCF and contribute to their whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The lovely part of this letter to you is the gratitude I have for the strength in which your family find themselves today. You died 37 years ago, long before the arrival of your brothers James and Harry who bobbed in the turbulent wake of my grief. With pride I write to you to celebrate Harry’s success, along with his wonderful, best mate Toddy in raising nearly £3000 pounds for TCF whilst representing the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force respectively at NATO, Italy. You and TCF are now known and in the futures of the NATO community, and they know that if needed we are out there. Respectfully and regardless of rank, service or country of origin, the base families joined together to support Harry and Toddy as they did their gruelling and exhausting 26 hour nonstop marathon. They were present and offered their support for our TCF families who find themselves trying to adjust from what we consider to be the greatest loss of all. I’m grateful to know that sometimes hope can be restored, lives can be worth living and that love lasts and evolves eternally. Love you son. Thank you. COMPASSION | FEATURE: HI SON

6 COMPASSION | FEATURE: WILL’S PEBBLES Will’s Pebbles by Ann Thomas Our wonderful son, Will, died in November 2022 of sudden cardiac death. He was a healthy, thriving 23 year old living in London with his girlfriend … and then he was gone. We all have different ways of trying to survive the total and utter devastation and trauma the death of a child brings into our lives; ways to try to patch up our broken and raggedy hearts. Some people exercise, run, walk, garden, but I have found that reading, writing and art have helped me to navigate the long days of this shattered life. At first I read many books on child loss, many of them borrowed from Mary Hartley who runs the Compassionate Friends library. She was so kind to me in those early months as I desperately read, trying to discover how bereaved parents survive. Since Will died I have also written a journal in an attempt to process my feelings, searching for words to help me express the inexpressible, to help me process the impossible horror. As we all know, words aren’t enough to express our strong emotions, but it gave me an outlet and still does. Since January this year I have been painting ‘Will pebbles’. I find this creative outlet calming, soothing, and quite meditative, focusing on the words and patterns. I can think of Will and try to clear my mind of all the day to day stuff… I don’t plan the design, I write his name on one side and meaningful, significant words or quotes on the reverse. The pen just flows and I go with the patterns that start to emerge. I often use orangey colours as I always think of orange, rust, amber as Will’s colours, mirroring his wonderful ginger hair … and in recent times his little ginger moustache! This project has developed. I have probably painted over 50 pebbles by now, of varying sizes, and I have started to give them to friends and family. I am asking them to take their pebbles on adventures with them, take photos of the pebble in significant/beautiful places and then leave it somewhere special (or keep it if they don’t want to leave it). I am then asking people to send me photos of the pebbles. Many people are taking them on holiday or just out and about locally. Two of Will’s mates are living in Berlin for a few months and they have a pebble which they have photographed at many landmarks in the city. We went to Berlin as a family when Kat and Will

7 were teenagers and Will always wanted to go back there. These friends always have their Will pebble with them and they told me, “He comes everywhere with us”. This means so much to me. I have also painted some bigger stones which are at the cemetery by Will’s bench and tree. We laid them out at the base of the tree next to the candle during Will’s ashes ceremony this spring. I have put some of the bigger pebbles in our garden too. I work in a school and the children have suggested that I put one on the prayer table in the classroom and one in the school garden - how wonderful is that. The pebbles are getting around; one at the summit of Snowden, on Caerketton Hill outside Edinburgh, Ireland, Helsinki, Bali, Vienna, Majorca, France, Wales, Norfolk, Silverstone and quite a few in local woodlands tucked behind bluebells or nestled beneath trees. Some mini ones are just slipped into people’s pockets or bags. It breaks my heart over and over again that Will can no longer experience the beauty of the world. Painting these pebbles has given me moments of peace and calm in the sea of grief as I try to find some sense of meaning and purpose in a world without Will in it. Knowing that friends and family are carrying Will Pebbles brings me comfort and a little glimmer of hope. I know that they all love him and miss him and carry him with them in their hearts. They now carry him as a little pebble too. COMPASSION | FEATURE: WILL’S PEBBLES

8 COMPASSION | NEWS FROM THE CATHARINE POINTER MEMORIAL LIBRARY Right from the beginning it was the library which attracted me most. As one of life’s bookworms I’d turned to books, at my local library and my local bookshop, for help and advice from other parents; Will I survive this? Do I want to survive? How do others cope? And, the biggest question, will it always hurt this much? Well, what a let down! I did find some general books about grief at the bookshop, and they were better than nothing, but my library was useless. The one book I did find there had a chapter about losing an adult child which started by telling me it was the same as losing any adult I cared about. I won’t express my feelings on that, because I don’t want to wear out the * button on my computer, but, even in my stunned and dazed state, I knew that was nonsense. Then I finally found my way to TCF and was put in touch with Catharine Pointer, the then librarian, and found what I was looking for. Firstly there was Catharine herself who was a beacon of hope in my darkness. She was so normal, buzzing around in her wheelchair, chatting to people on the phone, to all the people who came over her threshold, laughing at something the postman had said and just living a meaningful life; so survival was possible! Then there were the books, written by people who had walked in my shoes, telling me what had helped them, how they’d coped, telling me it wouldn’t always hurt that much and there was a chance to have a meaningful life again. I devoured the books, and they helped me so much. After a while I started to volunteer in the library, I visited it a few times a year in Suffolk when Gil Roberts was the librarian and eventually ended up running it myself. I recently talked to Debbie Enever about the library for a series of podcasts she’s made (more on that later) and she asked me to tell her something about the library that most people don’t know. I think it’s worth sharing here that our library is unique and is far reaching. I’ve been contacted for advice by other organisations supporting grieving people, by TCF groups all across the globe and also, interestingly, by the people who advise our public libraries on which books they need to stock. It had come out in their meetings that they weren’t addressing the needs of grieving people and were contacting support groups across the country for advice. So now if someone, who is in the state I was in twenty years ago, goes to their public library they will find books to help them and not a load of nonsense from someone who clearly doesn't have a clue. In the years since I first visited the library in Catharine’s home all those years ago more and more people are putting pen to paper and we have such a wide selection of excellent books to lend. Both of the books reviewed in Compassion this quarter are very welcome additions to our library and, as a tribute to Claire in this twentieth year, I’ve bought a copy of both to dedicate to her. Another reader has News from the Catharine Pointer Memorial Library by Mary Hartley I’m writing this in a state of disbelief that we’re nearly half way through another year. This is the twentieth year since my daughter Claire died and, by the time you read this, it will be twenty years since I first found TCF.

9 COMPASSION | NEWS FROM THE CATHARINE POINTER MEMORIAL LIBRARY donated a copy of ‘I Promise it Won’t Always Hurt Like This’ (a reader named Anna who has very generously used some of her son Billy’s memorial fund to buy us a number of books for the library) and Debbie Enever has very kindly sent us a copy of her book ‘Midowed’, so there are two copies of each in the library. The first book answers my big question from 2004, ‘Will it always hurt this much?’ And thankfully the answer to that is ‘No it won’t’. That question’s answer is based on Claire Mackintosh’s own experience and I can second it from my experience. You don’t ever ‘get over’ the death of your child but it does get so much easier and gentler with time and, as I’ve said before, my memories are more likely to make me smile than cry now. Reading ‘Midowed’ made me think about the lack of a word for a bereaved parent in the English language. Debbie coined this one when talking to a friend, saying “What do we call a woman whose only child has died? A midow? A mother that’s been widowed?”. Her friend replies that it’s a good word but Debbie says “It’s not, it’s a terrible word, the worst'' Other languages, like Hebrew and Arabic, do have words to describe a bereaved parent (Shaku and Thakla) but my favourite comes from Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages still in use which is spoken in parts of India. The word is ‘vilomah’ and its literal translation is ‘against the natural order of things’. In ‘Midowed’ Debbie talks about the way Dan’s organs helped so many other people so I had a look in the library for other books which talk about organ donation and I could only find two. There is ‘The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away’ by Cole Morton. This is the story of two boys, Marc and Martin, one the donor and the other the recipient of a heart. It’s also the story of their mothers, their fears for their sons, their grief and the way they bonded over the tragedy that had united them. It really is a very interesting and informative look at organ donation, told from both aspects, donor family and recipient family, and is an inspiring story highlighting the best in human nature. The other book we have is a very scholarly one. It’s called ‘Wrapped in Mourning’ by Sue Holtkamp and it addresses every aspect of organ donation from both the donor and the recipient’s point of view. This is not a book for newly bereaved parents but may well be of interest later on, when you might want to know more about the subject. I’ll just finish by going back to the podcast I took part in. As I said it’s one of a series of seven podcasts in which you can hear Debbie Enever chatting to a bereaved parent. I’ll put the link at the end. Firstly though I’d like to share one more piece of it here. Debbie asked me what is good in my life, what makes my life worth living, and, after a lot of thought, I came up with three things. In strictly reverse order they are 1) It’s been 20 years and I’m still here. I’m pretty healthy and there are a lot of things I enjoy, like a good book, a meet up with friends, going out for a nice meal. 2) Other people, friends, family, neighbours and strangers who smile and greet me with a ‘good morning’. I never have been a very materialistic person but now I know for sure how important people are and how unimportant things are. I should include animals here. I don’t have any pets myself but I meet a lot of cats and dogs (and a snake) in other people’s houses and there’s nothing so soothing as stroking a warm friendly animal. 3) The most important thing is that I would rather have been Claire’s mum for 18 years, with all the grief and pain her early death brought me, than not have had her in my life at all. My daughter was feisty, kind and generous, I talk to her often, talk to others about her, think about her a lot and I feel truly blessed to have been lucky enough to have shared her life Mary xxx Listen to the podcast at podcast-series1

10 COMPASSION | BOOK REVIEWS Book Reviews I Promise It Won’t Always Hurt Like This by Clare Mackintosh reviewed by Val Holden I am normally very happy to review any book for TCF but a glance at this one when it arrived made me wonder whether I would be able to identify with the author’s situation and whether it would resonate at all with mine. My son took his own life 32 years ago at the age of 21. The author’s baby son Alex died 18 years ago at the age of 5 weeks. How could our experiences be similar in any way? When I reached the end of the book I had been reminded that to lose a child is to lose a child, whatever age and in whatever circumstances, and to all parents it seems an impossibility that there will be any kind of enjoyable life following the heartbreak. Personally I felt all normal life had ended and that I would drag myself through the rest of life, an empty shell. How I wish I had read this book then. Clare Mackintosh speaks directly to the reader in a very calm and forthright way. I felt her writing to be honest and true, and not sentimental in any way. The book is well presented and inviting, comprising short chapters with well spaced script and making it easy to read from front to back or to dip into a chapter which speaks to you personally. The author encourages you to discard without guilt what you do not find useful. Clare Mackintosh makes 18 promises (one for each year without her son) such as “I promise this won’t always be your first thought in the morning”, and of course numbers 1 and 18 – “I promise it won’t always hurt like this.” At first I thought this was a rash claim – after all, how can she speak for us all? But she certainly did for me. She was a serving police officer when Alex, died. She is now a published author of detective stories and has the ability to put into words so perfectly the complex emotions newly bereaved parents experience. She speaks of “surviving but not thriving – and then beginning to live again”, referring to “the effort of just staying alive, something not previously considered but now a daily challenge”. One piece of advice struck home with me. I remember being so terrified I would forget Dominic. Not his being, but little aspects of his personality or the way he spoke and the things he said. The obvious answer, of course, is to try talking to someone else who knew him well. I was also pleased to hear that “grief brain” is now an accepted condition, akin to “baby brain” which we all remember so well! Clare Mackintosh says that she is often sent books on grief for review but she is often unable to do so because they are too good and she feels her emotions “torn from her and placed on the page and it’s too much to take”. I was moved to tears often reading this book, but I am so glad I did. She says that it is a story of hope, not loss, to return to when you’re hurting, or to give to a friend when you don’t know what to say. She refers in the book to the death of her beloved father, and the grief she experienced then, and although the author draws on her personal experience it is a book to help anyone to believe that eventually “grief will be the passenger, not the driver” and that “we owe it to the dead to live the lives they didn’t get to finish”.

11 COMPASSION | BOOK REVIEWS This is a very moving account of a mother’s loss and devastation following the death of her 15 year old son in a road traffic incident in 2018. Dan is Debbie’s only child, she in turn is an only child and she is a single parent. In an instant she is home alone. Debbie tells her story in a journal format, day after day for the year following Dan’s death. All of us, as bereaved parents, share that journey from being a parent to being the parent of a child who has died. Our journeys are all different but we have the shock of loss in common. In this well written book we travel Debbie’s journey with her. I cried for her as she conveyed so powerfully the overwhelming impact of Dan’s death: I also cried for myself as I remembered my personal loss many years ago. The story highlights the richness of Dan’s life and the impact of his loss on so many people. He had made positive choices about his college course, his hobbies and his friendships. He was full of energy, enthusiasm and talent. This mother’s achievement in telling their story, sharing Dan with all of us, is a wonderful tribute to Dan. He will be remembered by us and in the various other tributes Debbie has set up with his college and his friends. In Compassionate Friends we are grateful to the parents who find the words to describe our loss and our need to hold onto the memories of our children. Thank you Debbie. Midowed: A Mother’s Grief’ by Debbie Enever reviewed by Anne McAreavey I’ve also read ‘Midowed’ and agree with everything Anne has written. On a personal level I’d just like to add two thoughts. Firstly I connected powerfully with Debbie’s experience of Dan’s time in an Intensive Care Unit. It’s one of those experiences that are so very difficult to describe adequately to someone who hasn’t been there themselves. The horror of seeing your beloved child hooked up to monitors and infusions and all the other paraphernalia of an ITU, while at the same time you can’t get physically close to them because there’s too much stuff in the way, is something nothing can prepare you for. I was a nurse who’d worked in ITU many times but I wasn’t prepared for that. I remember spending hours stroking my daughter’s foot because it was the only part of her I could get to and the whole time I was there I felt as though we were trapped in a nightmare. When I was spending umpteen interminable hours in the ITU waiting room I found myself chatting to other relatives, especially another mum whose daughter was desperately ill. They were waiting for a liver transplant and she told me how desperately she was hoping for a donor liver to become available and yet how sad and guilty she felt that another family would have to be heartbroken before that could happen. Another family talked about the relief they felt because their husband/father had been given a chance to live, because of the liver he had received, and the gratitude they felt towards the donor’s family for giving him that chance. Debbie and Dan had talked about organ donation and he’d said he’d like his organs to be donated because “How good would it be if it could save someone else’s life?” Well Dan did save other people’s lives; his major organs have been given to other people and Dan’s amazing gift of life to them is a huge tribute to him. We have copies of both the books reviewed in our library and I thoroughly recommend them both. Mary our librarian comments

12 COMPASSION | MEMORY CORNER Memory Corner Remembering and celebrating our children. Did you know you can set up an In-Memory page on our website to remember your child and raise funds. Visit or contact for more information. Remembering Lily Jayne Summers Shared by Mrs D Ashby Her birthday is on 06 September. Remembering Darragh on 26th August Shared by Carmel Owens He’s so deeply missed by his mum, dad, brothers Alex and Gavin and sister Claudia, his nephew Johnny and niece Cara, plus so many friends, fellow colleagues, students. Remembering Jimmy Shared by Ellie, George and Arthur Alderman In loving memory of Jimmy Alderman - 21/08/2023-11/10/2023. Known affectionately by his big brother Arthur as "Baby Jim Jim", Jimmy was born on 21st August 2023. After seven weeks of newborn chaos and bliss, he stopped breathing suddenly and unexpectedly on 8th October 2023. He was cared for by a fantastic team of first responders and then at St. George's Hospital, London but he sadly lost his fight on 11th October 2023. We’re devastated to have lost Jimmy so soon, and we miss his cuddles every day, but we're so grateful to have known our beautiful little boy for seven wonderful weeks.

13 COMPASSION | MEMORY CORNER Remembering Richard 31.08.95 to 28.07.2021 Shared by June Harriman Richard, you were on the go from when I was pregnant with you and all through your life. You are loved so so very much and missed by many. I still keep in touch with your best friends. Life will never be the same without you. Till we meet again. Love you always and forever son. All my love Mum xxxx Remembering Anna Shared by Debbie White On Your 37th Birthday on 21st July. Twenty years without your cheeky smile, beautiful face, funny giggles, kind words and huge heart. It still seems impossible and you are so very loved and missed. I was so blessed to be your Mum for 16 wonderful years. With all my love, forever and always xx Remembering Ollie Shared by Diana Slack Remembering our much loved & sorely missed Son Ollie who would have been 32 on the 17th October. Taken suddenly February 2023. “Oh how I miss your laugh I miss you popping in on the way home from work, shouting out "What have you got to eat Mum, I'm starving" I miss our chats about education & your rants I miss your bear hugs I miss your pride in your children & the children you taught I miss I miss I miss you”.

14 Our beautiful firstborn child Joanne would have celebrated her 42nd birthday on 14th September this year. Joanne Elizabeth McCann was just 35 years old when she lost her battle with cancer. She was a remarkable young woman who managed to achieve so much in her life cut short by this terrible illness. Joanne had worked as a primary school teacher for 14 years being Head of Early Years and had also travelled around the world, visiting Italy, The Balearic Islands, Greece, The Seychelles, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, and the United States of America, doing white water rafting, glacier hikes, sky diving and horse riding while she was away. She was so caring and generous, full of life, fun to be in the company of and adored by her younger brothers Christopher and Andrew. She loved to drive around in her silver MG soft top sports car and enjoy her independence and she loved the children she taught, and they loved her. Joanne loved most types of music but especially Motown and jazz and went to many gigs, festivals and wherever there was dancing whenever she could. She also loved sport and watched tennis and rugby and when she was relaxing, she loved to read, arts and craft and was very good at cross-stitch sewing. Joanne married in 2014, a wonderful day. In July 2015 her beautiful daughter Annabel Rose was born following a healthy and uneventful pregnancy. Our family joy was cruelly cut short when Joanne was diagnosed with a very rare type of pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer just two days after the birth and was transferred as an emergency admission to Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge for life-saving procedures and treatment which continued for the next two and a half years. Despite being so unwell and making frequent visits to Addenbrookes, then University College London and finally the Royal Free Hospital for treatment after being diagnosed, Joanne continued to be the best Mummy she could to Annabel and spent time making many memories with her daughter and all her family, including visiting Disneyland Paris, going on a short cruise, Centre Parcs twice and two annual summer holidays to Menorca. We also took Joanne with Annabel to the holy Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes in France where they both braved the cold mountain water baths with us and other pilgrims. She was incredibly determined, set goals, and achieved them for both her and Annabel, an inspiration to us all. Joanne was a beautiful woman, inside and out, and endured her illness and many different radiotherapy, targeted nuclear and drug treatments with great strength and dignity. Her strong Catholic faith helped Joanne throughout her life but particularly when she became ill with the cancer. Remembering Joanne Elizabeth McCann (nee Miles) Shared by Linda and Colin Miles COMPASSION | FEATURE: REMEMBERING JOANNE ELIZABETH MCCANN (NEE MILES)

15 COMPASSION | FEATURE: HOW WE SURVIVE How We Survive by Mary Rickerby, TCF/Okanagan (from TCF Kamloops Chapter, Canada) If we are fortunate, we are given a warning. If not, there is only the sudden horror, the wrench of being torn apart; of being reminded that nothing is permanent, not even the ones we love, the ones our lives revolve around. Life is a fragile affair. We are all dancing on the edge of a precipice, a dizzying cliff so high we can’t see the bottom. One by one, we lose those we love most into the dark ravine. So we must cherish them without reservation. Now. Today. This minute. We will lose them or they will lose us someday. This is certain. There is no time for bickering. And their loss will leave a great pit in our hearts; a pit we struggle to avoid during the day and fall into at night. Some, unable to accept this loss, unable to determine the worth of life without them, jump into that black pit spiritually or physically, hoping to find them there. And some survive the shock, the denial, the horror, the bargaining, the barren, empty aching, the unanswered prayers, the sleep- less nights when their breath is crushed under the weight of silence and all that it means. Somehow, some survive all that and, like a flower opening after a storm, they slowly begin to re- member the one they lost in a different way...The laughter, the irrepressible spirit, the generous heart, the way their smile made them feel, the encouragement they gave even as their own dreams were dying. And in time, they fill the pit with other memories, the only memories that really matter. We will still cry. We will always cry. But with loving reflection, more than hopeless longing. And that is how we survive. That is how the story should end. That is how they would want it to be. Joanne was determined to be a bridesmaid and for Annabel to be a flower girl for her brother Christopher’s wedding to his fiancée Sally and it was all booked for April 2018. At Christmas 2017 it became clear to Chris and Sally that Joanne may be too ill to do this by then, so they selflessly changed all their plans and reorganised all the arrangements for their wedding instead and brought it forward to 4th January 2018. The wedding was a very special day, a truly wonderful occasion which was so memorable for us all. By January 27, 2018, her pain from the illness became unmanageable, and she was admitted to the inpatient unit at St Francis Hospice where she remained until she sadly passed away on March 2, 2018, with her family by her side. She was incredibly brave, would never give in and fought the illness until her last breath. May she rest in peace. Loving and missing you always, Mum and Dad, Christopher, and Andrew xxxxx

16 Your Stories & Poems Thank you to all those have shared with us your stories and poems honouring and remembering your precious children. COMPASSION | YOUR STORIES & POEMS I dreamt I was drowning in a sea of grief I was cold, alone, something had happened that I refused to believe I was drifting along, being pulled by the tide Feeling the heaviness dragging me down inside I looked and looked but could see no island or sky Just the murky fog recalling the last goodbye My heart was struggling, the pain too strong when a memory stirred of a fine young man A boy I loved and always will Who I held in my arms as long as I could His face, his smile. His wit so dry Brought much needed tears and I cried I cried, I screamed, asked why and the fog cleared slightly so I could glimpse the sky It was still blue, I don’t know how But I could hear voices and knew I had to get back now I started to swim, slowly to start When I heard other voices They became my sea chart They called my name, and I shouted back “I am here, help me mend my broken heart.” The fog was clearing, I saw a lifeboat ahead On board were others I knew would be Friends They greeted me warmly, even knew my Child’s name Let me tell my story absorbing my pain They placed a lifejacket on me, I call it a hug and held my hand….no need for more words xxx Janice Scott for Neil x Sharing A Lifeboat Shared by Janice Scott

17 Our Child Will Always be at the Centre of Our Lives Love is For Life Grief is For Life We Do Not Cut Our Ties & Move On Our Relationship is with You Until the End of Our Lives Our Parent/Childhood Bond is Unbreakable Our Bond is Forever We will Forever Nurture this Bond (celebrating your Birthday, remembering you at Christmas, Buying Presents from holidays, flowers, displaying photos, fundraising ….) Remembering You Every day We will Always Say Your Name We will Always Tell Stories about You Talk About Our Shared & Treasured Memories Light A Candle For You Continuing Our Bond, Giving Us Warmth, Love & a Symbol of Hope Our Love For You Will Sustain Us Until We Learn to Live Our Lives Again Different Lives, Not the Ones We Would Have Chosen, But Lives Worth Living Continuing Bonds With Our Child In remembrance of our beautiful daughter, Annabelle Mary Brookes Shared by Helen Shaw, Bereaved Mum COMPASSION | YOUR STORIES & POEMS Annabelle Forever 9 years Young, DOB 28.10.2008 (Inspired by the Research & Notes Undertaken by Mary, The Compassionate Friends Librarian) My Word A lovely poem shared by Gina-Louise Judd I never promised I would thrive I said I would be okay Choking back tears, reassuring I have kept my word I am surviving Hour by hour, day by day If joy ever returns it will land lightly, softly If it doesn’t, I am at peace, Knowing I kept my word

18 COMPASSION | YOUR STORIES & POEMS I held a party the other week and grief came. She wasn’t invited but she came anyway - barged her way in through the door and settled down like she was here to stay. And then she introduced me to the friends she’d brought with her - Anger. Fear. Frustration. Guilt. Hopelessness. And they sang in the loudest voices, took up space in every corner of the room and spoke over anyone else that tried to talk. They made it messy and loud and uncomfortable. But finally, they left. And long afterwards, when I was all alone, I realised there was still someone here. Quietly clearing up after the rest. I asked who she was and she told me, “Love.” And I assumed that’s why she looked familiar - because I had met her before. “Or perhaps,” she said, “it’s because I’ve been here the whole time.” And I was confused then because I hadn’t seen her all evening. But when I looked more closely, when I looked into her eyes, I realised quietly that she had been here. All the time. She’d just been dressed as grief. Afterparty Shared by Becky Hemsley Tread slowly As you walk with grief; Speed does not help the journey. Walk quietly Pausing often; Do not hurry As you walk with grief. Don’t be disturbed By memories that come to mind Swiftly hold them And let the unspoken words Be resolved with love. Be kind to the one Who walks with grief. If it is you, Be gentle on yourself Swiftly forgive; Walk quietly Pausing often. Take time, be gentle As you walk with grief Walk with Grief Shared by Andrea Corrie (adapted from the Northumbria Community)

19 COMPASSION | YOUR STORIES & POEMS The coffee’s on, a phone goes off The message hits the room With your name, but not from you A neon light hurts my eyes I stare out the window Let the tears roll down my cheek As I just knew My mother asks if I’m okay I cried, I lost my friend today Is there an Alternate reality where you’re still here with me We could talk about your problems And get the help you need Is there a way to wake up from this life as it were a dream This world isn’t real to me Another day, another hour another passing stranger makes me think of you The way you walked I see you stood there smiling like a young oak tree, With roots so deep and leaves that caught more sunlight than the rest Why are the best always the first ones to fall? Sometimes the storm is far too strong Is there an Alternate reality where you’re still here with me and We could talk about your problems and get the help you need Is there a way to wake up from this life as if it were a dream This world isn’t real to me an Alternate reality where you’re still here with me And we could talk about your problems and get the help you need And find a way to wake up from this life as If it were a dream This world isn’t real to me Josh Smith 2023 Alternate Reality- Darragh’s Song x This song was written in memory of Darragh, son of Carmel Owens. His friend Josh wrote it after his loss to suicide in August 2022.

20 Hello dear friends Thank you to all those of you who have contributed to our very special Compassion magazine particularly over the 13 years I have edited it. Receiving your thoughts, feelings and memories over this time has been a privilege. Thanks to Sam Forbes for designing Compassion in such an attractive way; to Mary Hartley who in addition to writing the Book Reviews and News from the Library read through it and made sure everything was as it should be, and to Carolyn, our wonderful CEO, who holds everything together. We are very lucky to have Andrea Corrie, an accomplished author, to take over as editor. And now, what have I been doing? Well apart from moving house, which is an adventure in itself, I’ve had one or two health problems to sort out. Now I want to get on and get down to things I’ve promised myself I’ll do, one of them being to research my Welsh family history. But getting down to things is not my strong point, as you can see… Love and warmest wishes to you all, Gina x Carpe Diem - Seize the Day Shared by Gina Claye, from ‘Don’t Let Them Tell You How to Grieve’ A new day is an opportunity not to be missed I must make a list, There are so many things to be done; first, I’ll put the kettle back on, I need another cup of tea just of course for energy. Next, there’s that last piece of blackberry tart then I really will make a start. It’s not that I’m lazy or slacking, deep down I want to get cracking, I’ll get round to things soon and seize the afternoon. A letter from Gina Claye our lovely former Editor COMPASSION | YOUR STORIES & POEMS

21 COMPASSION | SIBLING GRIEF - FEATURE: LOSING MY BROTHER PAUL It happened after a short aggressive illness. No time to get used to the idea. Not that having more time would have helped. Grieving. It’s such a personal journey. It seems like you are the only person on the planet feeling like this. Alone. In shock. Unable to grasp the situation. Knowing, yet not believing. Realising yet not understanding. It is my honour to miss you but the cost is a pain that is instant and deep. A pain so deep you can’t see the edges, no end to it. Gone too early. It’s not fair. I can’t believe he is no longer in this world, everything is out of kilter, all balance is gone. When you lose someone so special you try to hold onto whatever you can and keep it with you for as long as you can, the remembering is both a deep sorrow yet a comfort too. At the beginning I got what I call “Stand up, sit down syndrome”. It didn’t matter what I was doing, I needed to be doing something else. When I did something else it didn’t help and back again to wanting to do something else. Round in circles. I just had to remember to breathe. Going through the thoughts of “last time I did this” or “last time I saw this” … he was here. The first few seconds of the morning waking up were ok, then you remember, the chest tightens, the throat screams a silent scream and the tears come. Sometimes it’s good to talk about it if you can. Share stories with others as it brings them back for a short while. Sometimes silence is the way to handle things. A quiet contemplation. Sometimes courage brings a little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow – but moving forward is not always done in the same way. The journey winds and changes tack. Short days, long days. Let feelings find a way out if you can and pause and just be. Shed the tears you need to. There is no shortcut to fixing it. It will never be fixed. Someone once told me “There is a hole in your life just learn to walk around it”. There is comfort in those words. He has not gone completely. Living on in our hearts. Another saying I found comfort in was “I loved you for the whole of your life and will miss you for the rest of mine”. How true. And, “Grief is the price we pay for love”. There is comfort in that saying also, if you didn’t love them so much you would have just moved on with your life. The more you think about it, wouldn’t it be a nice thing to be in the position where you look back on it, but in a kindly way, rather than live through it, but live through it we must. But one day you will look back on it with different eyes. I think that the passage of time doesn’t heal but it does soften. I suppose I’d rather have this than not have had Paul. Paul, you are always with me, now more than ever. We were lucky to have had you in our lives. Paul, you live on in how you changed us. You are part of us. Thank you Paul. If you believe in your God or if you believe that we become part of the ever renewing universe and we are stardust, embrace it and take comfort in it. I appreciate each day more now than before. Regrets? Sorry I didn’t see more of him but he knew I loved him and he in his own way loved me. Advice? Forgive yourself if you feel forgiveness is needed. Take all the time you need to heal and find peace, allowing yourself to discover a new normal. But above all, be kind to yourself. Losing my brother Paul by Claire Savill

22 COMPASSION | SIBLING GRIEF - FEATURE: HOW ARE YOU DOING? I don’t know you, not really, you’re a colleague of my cousin who works as a hairdresser, so I see you when I get my hair done. You know about my loss, you know my younger brother Toby has died, so when you see me, it’s only polite to ask me, ‘how are you doing?’ It’s the social convention, but you don’t really want an answer. I give you a tight smile and some cliché response, ‘as okay as I can be,’ or maybe, ‘some days are harder than others,’ or something like that. Again, it’s the social convention, it’s what I’m supposed to say, because we don’t really know each other. Then you give me a sympathetic smile and a nod, like you understand and that’s it. If I was to be honest when you ask me ‘how are you doing?’ I would freak you out. I am not doing okay. Yes, technically some days are harder than others, but when the harder days are like climbing K2, climbing Everest on the easier days is still climbing Everest. I am going through hell and sure they say when you’re going through hell to keep on going, but honestly, I can’t see this ever getting better. I am not okay. Every single day since he died it’s been an effort just to wake up each day, to pull myself out of bed. Most of the time I can’t face showering and getting dressed and I only do so when I physically cannot avoid seeing other people. Right now you’re seeing me with my public mask, the face I show the world, so I don’t get strange looks from complete strangers for breaking down in the middle of Tesco. I lock the pain away so that I can face the outside world. I have lost my younger brother, but my mother has lost one of her children. How can I tell her that it still doesn’t feel real, that it doesn’t seem possible that my brother is dead? Surely if he was dead, if my little brother was truly gone then the world wouldn’t just keep on turning. This is a catastrophic event! My little brother cannot die, and life just keep on going… right? but, he has died, and the world is still turning, so it just doesn’t feel real. Telling my mother that I wish it was me that had died instead would only add to her pain, and there’s no point telling her that I just want him back, because she wants the same thing. I may not give such a non-answer response when my mother asks me ‘how are you doing?’ but I’m still going to make sure my answer doesn’t add to the pain she’s already in. I will say, ‘it’s hard, but I’m coping, keeping myself distracted,’ because she’s grieving too and doesn’t need to worry about me. I’m not going to say that keeping myself distracted so I don’t think about it is my only way of coping. I can’t tell her that I haven’t had more than just a couple hours sleep each night since he died. That I hate going to bed because that’s when my mind likes to remind me that I’ll never be able to talk to him and have him talk back to me again, that I’ll never laugh with him, hug him, joke with him, or even argue with him again. How can I tell anyone that the brief moments of happiness I do feel and the small sections of times that I feel okay for, my brain tortures me over when I lay down to try to sleep. My guilt almost strangles me for not being paralyzed with grief, how can I share this? How can I admit that sometimes, for brief moments, I am okay, and I do forget, until it hits me again, then I’m tortured by my own conscience for not being in constant misery. How am I doing? I’m broken and there’s a piece of me missing that will never be whole again. The pain will never get better. I will never not feel this loss. I’m told that eventually, one day, it won’t feel so bad, but not because the pain is less, but because you learn to live with it. Right now this loss is a throbbing, gaping, aching How are you doing? By Robyn Brann

23 It’s 7 years today since my little sister died of lung cancer at the age of 34. She was a great sister and a wonderful person. I wish we could have had more time together. My feelings have changed over time, it’s not an intense feeling of loss but a sadness I think I will carry with me for the rest of my life. If I can think of that as my love for her then it makes me feel better. My emotions surrounding my loss used to be much more of a rollercoaster than they are now, anger was a big one - at life, at other people but I guess that is just part of the process of grief. I really do relate to that image of the loss being bigger than life itself but as time has gone on my life around the loss has grown. It’s still there of course but not consuming my every day. As we know there isn’t really a manual on grief but being part of the TCF Bereaved Siblings Facebook Group has really helped me and, as awful as losing a sibling is, I do enjoy spending time with other siblings who have also experienced this loss. Therapy has been a big help for me, connecting with my sister’s friends, dipping in and out of books on grief and podcasts. Remembering my Sister Shared by bereaved sibling R COMPASSION | SIBLING GRIEF - FEATURE: REMBERING MY SISTER hole that has been torn through my chest and shredded my heart in a way that can never be fixed. I will never be whole again; I just need to learn to live broken. I’m not okay. I will never be the person I was before. I’m told that one day there will be a new normal, a new broken, but functional, me who just has a few bad days. When people will ask ‘how are you doing?’ it won’t cause a white-hot knife of pain to stab into the open, raw, gaping, ragged, wound in my chest and I will just give the expected response of ‘I’m good thanks, how about you?’ and we’ll move on. It’s the social convention, the expected thing, the polite question to ask. For now, when my grandma’s neighbour asks me, ‘how are you doing?’ I will just say, ‘I’m as okay as I can be,’ because she doesn’t know me, she’s only asking to be polite, and she doesn’t really want an answer. Written in loving memory of Tobias Avery Brann (Toby).