Dear Donagh,

…. My mam died 2 years ago and it’s been rough since then…. Yes I know I have a few problems, but the main problem I reckon is that I'm after becoming a drifter.  I usent be like that.  Sometimes I think I'd like to sleep rough, just to be independent.  I'm staying with my brother and he lets me use his stuff, his computer and stuff.  I hang out with a couple of guys that my brother doesn’t like they’ll get me into trouble he said.  He told me to write to you in case you had some advice for me.  That's it.  Jason

Thanks for your letter, Jason.  I'm glad you wrote to me.  I didn’t reproduce (above) the detail of your activities - all the things you've been up to.  The public don’t need to know that, but I can tell them in general that it was very dangerous, very colourful, and quite funny at times.   

You are clearly a gifted young man.  I found your letter very sad, though.  Everything you said conveyed a sense that you feel homeless.  It is sad that your dad is not in the picture.  But you are blessed with a big brother who seems like a father and mother to you.  Of course no one on earth could fill the shoes of a real father and mother.  Or, I should say, no one could completely fill your father’s shoes, and no one could even begin to fill your mother’s shoes.  I wonder if you have grieved fully for her.   

To lose your mother just two years after your father left: that must have been a terrible wound.  When we get a physical wound we treat it with such care: washing it, applying antiseptic stuff, bandaging it carefully, checking it and taking care of it day by day.  But when we receive a deep emotional wound our first instinct is to try to distance ourselves from it, as if to say it never happened.  This is nature being merciful to us.  She gives us a little time to absorb the initial shock.  The normal stages of bereavement have been studied by a Swiss-American doctor Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in a book called On Death and Dying.  From years of observation she named five stages that people normally go through when they are facing death.  They are: 1. Denial.  2. Anger. 3.  Bargaining.  4. Depression.  5. Acceptance.  Not that everyone goes through all five, she said, or in that order, or at the same pace.  Some can stay stuck at one stage for a long time, while going quickly through another.  Over the years other people’s observations seem to bear this out.  A cousin of mine who worked for many years in the Intensive Care Units of hospitals surprised me years ago by saying that she had never seen anyone die unwillingly or unhappily.  I found it hard to believe then, but she was very sure of it.  Later, when I read Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s book it came back to me.  At the end, it seems, there is always acceptance.  Then Kübler-Ross extended her study to the people left behind, the bereaved.  She saw that the bereaved go through the same stages as the dying person, but more slowly, since there is no time-limit in their case.  Could it be, Jason, that you are still on that journey of bereavement?  

I'm sending you by email the name and telephone number of a woman who has organised a bereavement group in the parish where you live.  You may know some of those people.  Or it may be that you would feel more at ease among strangers.  So the second name and number in the email message is for a group within a couple of miles of you.  Everyone in either group will know what you are going through.  They will know what it feels like on the inside; they will know everything except the details.  You can tell them as much or as little as you want to.  One way or another you will know that they are totally on your side.  They will surround you with such tactful understanding that after a while you won't feel any need to take it out on yourself anymore. 

Feel free to write to me again, Jason – in case I might have some more advice!


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