If… A very small word isn’t it? But to the parents and siblings and family and friends of someone who has died, the word If becomes a huge word with so many connotations.

‘If only I hadn’t…If I didn’t…If it wasn’t…If she…If he……’

We can all play the ‘If’ game and we can apply it to so many bereavements and sad events in our lives, but no matter how many ifs or buts we find, it seldom has a positive outcome

When the bereavement we suffer occurs due to a violent or catastrophic event, the ifs become even more poignant. For the parents of the children callously killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the ‘If’ game is particularly cruel and unforgiving. 

They say that there are Five Stages of Grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally, acceptance. Having lost a brother in violent circumstances some thirty-five years ago, I can agree that in my case, these stages do roughly equate to my own, personal experience of the grief process. But nobody ever tells you how long these stages are supposed to be. And there’s a very good reason for that… No One Knows! Grief is a very personal experience. And No One has the right to tell you how to grieve or that you have grieved for too long.

For good or for ill there are people out there who make the whole process all the more difficult. Denial as a grief stage is the tiny window of time when your brain is telling you that this can’t be happening. When we wake in the morning, there is often that short burst of mere seconds when our brains tell us it was all a bad dream.

But there is a growing group of people who call themselves ‘Truthers’ who like to deny that tragedies like Sandy Hook, the Paris Attacks of 2015 and the more recent Terrorist events in London and  Manchester ever happened. These unpleasant individuals usually pin the motivation of these so called ‘Staged Events’ onto political maneuvers. Most popularly, the Second Amendment Right to bear arms.  

All of the above are major incidents with an immense amount of proof that they did indeed occur; all of it out in the WWW for the whole world to see. However, I have to beg the question WHY? Why on earth would these people think of linking the deaths of Beautiful news anchor Alison Parker and her colleague Adam Ward to the preservation of the second amendment? Simply because the lunatic that killed them, while all the time filming it on his GoPro, used a gun! 

Unless it can also be linked to some sort of right of citizens to use camera equipment while they perpetrate these acts? It’s insane! And whilst we’re at it, how awful must it be to turn on your computer and find images and video clips of your own child’s death? Add to that the images and video clips of people making disparaging remarks and accusations; picking on any slight difference or camera angle in an attempt to disprove and disparage the authenticity of the first. Terrible! I’d like to know who dragged up these children that they grow into such despicable human beings.

The net effect on the families of the victims who know their loved one has died tragically is that their grief process is interrupted. Prolonged, and in some cases put on hold completely whilst their families fight to prove their loss. In some cases, the fight to prove their loved ones even existed in the first place. Unthinkable. I can understand the anger of these loved ones. Another part of the grieving process that is amplified and prolonged.

To bargain with God, Please, take me instead!’  If only I could take my loved one’s place. A sadly futile phase, yet apparently crucial to the process as a whole. Depression; a state which is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. The ‘Deep, dark hole’ we find ourselves teetering on the brink of. The pit of despair we find ourselves staring into, especially when we lose someone we love. Many of us have battled with it. And it is something that should never be tackled alone. If you are reading this and you feel you might need help then please talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be a medical professional. Please, don’t  suffer in silence.

Yes, eventually acceptance comes around. I lost my brother when I was young but because I was told to be brave for my parents, I was found to be suffering from ‘Delayed Grief’ in my mid-twenties. 

I couldn’t leave the house on or around the anniversary, I even lost a job for refusing to work it. I was in my early thirties by the time I reached acceptance.

On the anniversary now, I raise a solitary toast to my brother and tell him all about the life I am leading for the two of us. Acceptance can mean different things to different people and have some sort of ritual to remember your loved one can be very helpful indeed.

Because we will never forget… And passing on our memories and photographs to family members of future generations means that they will never forget either. That’s immortality right there. We’ll Never Forget You xx

– HONR Volunteer