In lieu of care (revisited)

On this day in 2016, I shared a post that described how and why I held The Southern Co-operative Funeralcare (my then employer) responsible for the severity and persistence of my grief through their lack of support and care upon the deaths of my gran and cousin.

In the post, I outline as concisely and briefly as able my experience as I struggled to arrange funerals and live with my grief under a manager who undermined my efforts. I touch upon my reasoning for raising a grievance and how this turned into a shambles, mostly because I had to prove that I was bereaved. I end the piece by saying how I’m happier out of their employ because I’m finally free to heal.

For me, in my mental space, all the events that comprise that post — those covered and those not — have been the most vocal, the most central, the most accessible because they translate into actual, physical, describable feelings.

When I was at my lowest, lost in amongst the shadows and demons, being able to hold something up and say “this is the cause” was a lot better than the abyss of silence that faced me.

This ‘abyss’ has been as dramatic to me as I make it sound — I don’t want to diminish in any way the sheer hole that lay before me. Ginormous. I’m talking well beyond the horizon. This hole, I learnt, was me. I was lost in it, it quickly became confusing. I realised that this hole had always been me. I was still the same teen who enjoyed making himself cry in the mirror. I hadn’t learnt anything. All I’d done was prove how I’d chosen to deal with my issues hadn’t dealt with any of them at all.

The ‘silence’ in the abyss — ringing tinnitus — has been my inability to write and keep what I write on the page. For someone who has always written, always since a teen — writing is my place of safety — my particular brand of writer’s block has been the true hell that I have faced. Sure, there’s been darkness and infernos — the apocalypse came! I was so scared — but it’s all the broken sentences and abandoned words that’s been the biggest issue and the hardest to face.

Today, I can look back and see the parts I played in my own breaking.

I can see these parts because I’m mending — I’ve already mended many facets. 

Who I was at the time laid the foundation for how I was treated.

I was a doormat, no finer way to put it — and what do you do with a doormat? You walk over it, scrubbing your soles as you go. It doesn’t condone their actions, of course. They each had ample opportunity to be much better people, but that sort of thing is hard when doing what you know is easy. Had I been less doormat and more bear-trap — been a nice happy medium between the two — then they might’ve had less opportunity to affect me.

My grief and it’s anger needed a focus and found that focus through them.

Feeling as I felt, facing what I faced, and drowning, all needed an outlet — I couldn’t write so where else was it to go? Fortunately, they came along and did as they did, and I had an outlet. I had a perfectly good, serviceable focus, that didn’t really make me feel better at all.

I can see, as negative as the experience has been, it’s positive.

As the abyss shrinks to a crack, as the silence fills with din, I’ve followed my journey as intended. I’m regaining my balance. I don’t shy from the parts I’ve played and I don’t hold things that aren’t mine. I work to allow myself and others to exist as is and feel as is because it’s important to have that open narrative. I’m not ashamed for what I’ve been through and I can’t apologise for it — if I do, I’m doing myself disservice. And as much as things have hurt, things have been beautiful — I know the difference now. I can appreciate.

Tomos James