By Jon Lawrence, author of The Jack Newton Radio
Having lost my friend in the 9/11 attacks on New York, an unborn child and watched my mother die following years of suffering after a stroke, one might think that I have got the hang of this ‘grief’ thing.
Alas no, each loss comes with its own unique nuances of grief - no one person’s is the same as another’s.
Sometimes anger is the primary emotion. In my case, my ire was directed at a god that I didn’t even believe in for inflicting such pain on my Christian mother, whose only purpose seemed to be to bring happiness to the lives of others. It doesn’t make sense, but then life rarely does, let alone grief.
It may be that guilt is the over-riding feeling. After my friend was killed in New York, I had an acute sense of guilt which led to a depression that’s still with me. My friend Karlie, was only seven months older than me, yet at the age of 26 her life, her potential, her hopes, dreams and ambitions were ripped away from her.
Yet my life consisted of sitting watching banal television, shopping in the same shops every Saturday and, in short, falling into a life of mediocrity and routine. I felt that I owed it to her memory to live my life as completely and as remarkably as possible. I made it my mission to do as much as I could with my life. I wrote music, I wrote plays, tried new food, tried to experience nature and tried to cram as much life into each day as I possibly could. I went too far. I took on too much, and fed my depression with weariness.
As an author I have been writing about grief ever since, trying to understand it so that I might control its effects. I cannot claim to have a cure for grief; in fact, I wouldn’t want to lose my grief, because it is part of the love I have for those I have lost. To live without grief is to dismiss the love we felt. The acuteness of my loss is a reflection of the love that was given to me by those who died, and a mirror of the love I had, and still have, for them. This is, of course, easier said than done and requires time to realise.
In my latest novel, The Jack Newton Radio, I explore the theme of grief through the prism of the central character, Anwyn Jones. She is an eccentric 70-something whose world is turned upside down when her husband dies. Ultimately, she finds solace through the poetry of mysterious writer Jack Newton, and through making new connections, including befriending a family whom she helps deal with their own issues. Be it art or friends, a support network is invaluable in working through grief.
For me, as voiced in the poetry I attribute to the fictional Jack Newton, the key to dealing with grief is perspective – which can be lost in the midst of such loss. There are people who have suffered far greater sadness than I (one only has to observe the ongoing tragedies in Syria, for example), but the scale of grief we feel after losing a loved one can render us momentarily dispassionate to them.
Rather than looking at what you have lost, consider what you had and what you have inherited from those who have died. In doing so you will find memories, love and, eventually, a true happiness, which you will hold until someone grieves you.
I’m pleased to say that this simple advice has helped readers deal with their own losses. One widower even wrote to me saying that after reading The Jack Newton Radio she had been motivated to donate her beloved husband’s belongings to charity after 10 years and move on with her life.
As she came to understand, it is our memories that are our most precious gifts from those that have left us, and their lasting testament.
The Jack Newton Radio, by Jon Lawrence, is available now priced £6.99 in paperback and £2.50 in Kindle Edition. Visit www.jonlawrence.org