Nicki Whitworth and Susie Hanson offer support for bereaved parents, taking things gently
When your child dies your world is changed forever. Your heart is broken in a way you could never imagine possible. You cannot return to the person that you were before your child died, and yet you have no idea of the person you are going to be in the future, without the physical presence of your child. The process of coming to terms with the death of your child involves irreversible life changes for you, for your family and for all those around you.
“How long will I feel like this?” is the cry of so many who first contact us. Grieving takes not just days, weeks and months, but years, as any bereaved parent will tell you. This can cause others to feel mystified and shut-out. They seem to grieve the person you were “before”. But the most important thing is that you are able to get as much support that you can find, along with the necessary time and space for you to grieve in your own way. There is no map, and no right way, and there is no short cut. There are no recognisable neat patterns, and there is nothing clean about it. There will never be a day that it will feel “acceptable” to you that your child’s life was cut short and that you outlived them. Life has been thrown into unrecognisable turmoil, and you find yourself in a bleak and lonely world that feels completely alien.
Before my daughter died, I had come across almost no parents whose children had died. Now, I realize that there are many bereaved parents, isolated in their pain, trying to get up in the morning and live in a life that has fallen apart. I know that there will be parents in our community right here, right now, whose child has died, and who will be reading this. There will also be relatives, friends, loved ones who will be trying so hard to do and say the right thing to someone close to them whose baby or child has died.
SLOW (Surviving the Loss of Your World) North London came about in 2007 when we, Susie and Nicki, two bereaved mothers, decided to provide a space where other bereaved parents could come to meet, take time out and simply be with others who felt isolated in their grief
What happens at SLOW?
The SLOW group lives, breathes and grows from a simple ethos – we meet, we listen, we talk, we can be silent, and we share our pain.
Our meetings take place every Thursday in term-time from 11.00 – 12.30, close to Tufnell Park Tube. We have a crèche worker (for which there is a small charge) and access to a kitchen. We also have a small lending library of books that parents have found helpful and we provide refreshments (sometimes home-baked!) There is a small subscription of £2 for the group.
SLOW provides a haven where there are no taboos and where we can share experiences that we often dare not talk about with our friends and families. Like – there is never a moment when our child’s name is not on our lips, weeks, months, and years later. Like – we sometimes feel guilty for not ‘getting over it’ as people expect, or not ‘moving on’ as perhaps people think we should be. We may worry we are going mad, or not ‘doing it right’ – perhaps we are ‘abnormal’ in the intensity of our feelings. Maybe, if we have surviving children, we worry whether we can love them enough, when grief is raging in us. Or maybe we are the parents of an only child who has died and feel that we are now invisible parents to the outside world.
At SLOW, we learn, from each other, that there is no right way to grieve; we are as different in this as we are in every other aspect of life. Our grief is so infinitely deep because our love for our child is so infinitely deep.
We know that the death of your child disturbs every aspect of life, including all of your relationships with family, friends and the world at large. By naming our group “SLOW – Surviving the loss of your world” we feel that we can honour our children as we take each step in this painful process of adjustment. At SLOW we walk alongside each other, going at our own pace. We know that life will never feel the same again, and that our children will be forever missing. But gradually we may find a way to work or live that honours our child and their gift to us, and can rebuild a life that feels meaningful. Life can begin to offer us a different perspective, different values, different strengths and different relationships. And, most importantly we can find a deep and continuing relationship with our child who has died.
There is no pressure to come regularly, just to come whenever it feels right to do so. We find that parents come because they want to connect with others who understand what they are going through, be it weeks, months or years after the death of their child. Though our circumstances vary widely, there is so much that is shared. All bereaved parents are warmly welcomed.
Are you a bereaved parent, or do you know somebody who is a bereaved parent who may like to talk to us? Please call or text Susie or Nicki on 07532 423674. We have an ansaphone service. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit our website at www.slowgroup.co.uk.