Following the loss of my 17-year-old son and both parents within the space of 7 months my life was literally turned on its head. All I knew was thrown into complete chaos. My current and expected future life roles evaporated in an instant.
I was no longer a daughter, merely an adult orphan. I wasn’t the mum of a vulnerable adolescent. I was now a ‘bereaved to suicide’ mum. So much change in such a short time frame, I could barely keep up. I sensed that the old me had disappeared and was to be replaced with a new post grief version; the before and after that is often referred to following bereavements.
Over the course of a year I decided to leave my career, my relationship, sell my home and move 300 miles to start a new life. All of my adult life I had led a life of routine, safety and stability. I was now prepared to make huge life changes. These decisions held no fear, the worst in life had happened .
Leaving my local area and all that was known to me after 50-plus years wasn't difficult. It was too painful to be amongst the familiar, I craved anonymity. I didn’t want to drive past schools, playgrounds and previous homes that held so many memories, good and bad. They gave me no comfort, they belonged to a different life and to a previous me. I dreaded encountering people I knew and having to endure awkward conversations.
Moving away was an opportunity to start afresh, have space away from the past, and reinvent myself even. I envisaged the tranquillity of being able to immerse myself in new experiences and share what felt comfortable, without the burden of people knowing my story.
In reality, people in my adopted city are intrigued by my story. “What brings someone to the North East at your time of life?” they ask, my Croydon accent obviously giving me away! Mostly, I’ve chosen to share my experience and, on the whole, have been met with kindness and understanding.
Navigating the next chapter of my life is definitely a work in progress. I’ve learned to have patience with myself and to reduce the pressures. Initially, I was attending numerous social events, sea dipping, networking, and my diary was fuller than when in my regular job. It was exhausting though and I was starting to burn out.
After one social group meeting where the conversation casually turned to young suicides on the Tyne (I had not shared my experience), I returned home and was hugely triggered. I felt vulnerable, I questioned where I fitted in and whether I would ever find my tribe.
I reviewed my approach, adjusted my outlook and took the pressure off myself, less self-judgment, and lowered my expectations. I also realised that I was starting to properly grieve, having been previously caught in a domestic situation that suppressed my emotions.
Am I running away? Probably, but why not? What’s to hold me to a place when the worst has happened?
Making a new home where your child hasn’t lived, a city they only visited, is possible. Samuel’s presence is as strong, if not more so, in my new surroundings.
Finding my new meaning and purpose has been a huge drive and I am having patience that this will evolve. I still have Samuel’s independent safeguarding review and complex inquest in the coming year. Getting the balance is key. Newcastle is now my home and I will definitely be the author of this next chapter.
Of course, most people don’t make such drastic changes after loss. It’s probably not to be recommended. The key learning, I have found, is taking back control, exploring what works for you, and being gentle as you navigate a new life and a new you.
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