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Reform Magazine | November 15, 2019

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On the pilgrim way: ‘The suicide’s anniversary has come and gone’

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The first anniversary of our granddaughter Ciara’s suicide has come and gone. There was a flurry of family phone calls and texts checking our son Peter’s address and the precise date of Ciara’s death. On the actual day, we happened to be having supper in London with our daughter, who lives in Scotland. We toasted Ciara’s memory.

A week later, we travelled up to Norwich to spend time with Peter, Emma (who is not Ciara’s mother), Loren (Ciara’s sister, aged 22) and Poppy (Ciara’s half sister, nearly ten). Peter and family had intended to go away for the week including that day – but after one night away, they decided to come home. They discovered that was where they wanted to be, and they honoured that discovery.

We spent time alone with Peter while he talked through, in detail, how they had marked the day. Early in the morning, he and Emma went to the place in the nearby woods where they had scattered Ciara’s ashes. They lit a candle and sat for a while. During the day, Peter, Emma, Poppy and Emma’s mother went to the sea, enjoying the beach, the waves, the sunshine. Peter wondered how, or if, one could ever use the word ‘celebration’. He has spent the year working through his grief and his relationship with Ciara – finding solace at his pagan centre and some help from a support group for those bereaved by suicide. Peter had come to a place where he felt that, for Ciara, the day was a celebration: after such a dark time of being helpless with depression, she took control of her life – in death.

Peter and Loren, supervised by my husband Kees and me, then spent a very happy day erecting a huge, two-person swing for Poppy’s tenth birthday. When Poppy returned from school she was led, with her eyes shut, down the garden to discover the swing. She was thrilled, and she and Loren swung high together.

Nelson’s Journey is a support group for children bereaved through suicide, and Poppy continues to be helped by its activities. As Loren talked about family affairs, she commented on matters being ‘before the event’ or ‘after the event’. I really did not know Ciara very well as an adult; my grief was mostly for our dear son. Now, I felt very privileged to sit and listen to those who were very close to Ciara and loved her so much, to share a little in their courageous journey with their grief.

Over supper, we sat talking over our plans for holidays, for our gardens, even for Christmas. We persuaded Poppy to play her violin for us so that we could hear her progress. Quite strangely – especially since Peter is a devout pagan – the line of an old and very unfashionable hymn kept sounding in my head: ‘Onward Christian soldiers! marching as to war’.

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the November 2019 edition of Reform

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