A trajectory of pain and grief

I’m going to start with a disclaimer! This was a blog post constructed on a train, the image was sketched on a train, my thoughts are sketchy – I’m not sure if this stands up but am putting it out there, a half way constructed post, for discussion, debate and musing over. Please do share your thoughts, experiences and opinions in the comments.

2012 was a major year of loss for me. My Grandfather had a fall at the start of the year, breaking his hip, recovering, then falling again later in the year and being admitted to hospital. He switched hospitals but never returned home, dying in July. In his 90s, having lived a full and productive life, his death was a big loss for our family but it was also a release in a way. I still miss him frequently, but for me it’s not painful any more.

My Dad died in November 2012. He had found out he had cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) five years previously, days after his 60th birthday in Nov 2007. He lived with a terminal diagnosis for his last two years and in many ways cancer was a positive experience, Dad worked hard to find the positives. In some way I think I started grieving for Dad as soon as we knew his condition was terminal, there were periods where he was very poorly and they acted like preparation for loss. I found it painful to watch Dad’s health deteriorate and watching him stoically soldier on was almost more painful than his death in a way. We received amazing support from our local hospice and after a period as an inpatient, Dad returned home and died at home a number of weeks later.

When it came to grieving for Dad, my pain was almost as strong for him when Grandad died, as it was for Grandad. There was something about the injustice of it all. It was also painful (for me) in the weeks immediately before Dad’s death, which when it came, almost provided relief. I’ve tried to plot this on the following graph, where Grandad’s death is the orange and Dad’s the blue:


This week Sara Ryan yet again shared the trajectory of loss that she has faced. Since her son, LB, died unexpectedly in an NHS treatment facility. LB was a young man in rude health, just 18 years old, having has epilepsy for a number of years, he drowned in the bath. Horrendous enough as that is for any family to deal with, the trust ‘responsible’ for his care have made mistake after mistake after mistake, in how they are treating the family. Sara’s tweets explain it all here.

Now I’ve not asked Sara about this, but from where I sit the behaviour of Southern Health is tantamount to emotional torture, the constant promises and let downs, agreeing things then changing their minds, always moving the goalposts. I don’t know what possesses them, and I don’t want to discuss that here, I just want to consider what damage their behaviour is likely to do. Thinking of the trajectories of grief I shared, I’ve overlaid how I think it must feel to suddenly, out the blue to hear that your fit and healthy son has died…if that’s not enough to break you, there is no let up to allow grief, pain and loss to subside because the people responaible are toying with you, constantly screwing your emotions. I guess it might look something like:


The stars indicate when the people died, the trajectory for Sara and her family and friends must be beyond painful. Someone has to step in and make this stop, surely. They need to be able to grieve and let go of the pain, not be constantly poked and prodded and let down. Someone please make it stop.


0 comments on “A trajectory of pain and grief”

Valerie McKinlay says:

George – I so relate to your article. Grief is a strange beast as it comes in all shapes and forms. The death of one’s parents while being sad is to be expected if they are old and in ill health as mine were. That is the natural order. But when your child dies quite unexpectedly it is a profound shock and your whole world tilts on its axis. Family, friends and colleagues are essential and amazing when they have your well being in mind. They are the ones who help you to mend and so, in time, face the future with the sun on your face. But there are some who are so completely immune to your grief and pain and have absolutely no understanding and no desire to empathise with the your loss. Unlike Sara, I was able to find out the circumstances of my son’s death and it went a very long way to help us all. It helped the family to move on. Funny isn’t it, how one government department was determined to be transparent (the MOD) but another (the NHS) doesn’t have quite the same ethos?

Thanks so much for this Valerie, will make sure Sara sees it… Funnily enough I’ve thought of you often in the past few months, it is beyond comprehension the way they behave but I feel sure your comment about the sun will help!! Love always xx

sarasiobhan says:

Sun on our faces in the future? Good to know it may well happen, Valerie. Hoping the NHS are shifting position right now…

Valerie McKinlay says:

Sara, I know the circumstances of our sons’ deaths couldn’t be more different. My son was killed in a war and I don’t know who can be held accountable for his death other than an anonymous gunman. Your poor son was in the care of others who should have known better. It amazes me that in this day and age people who you believe to be responsible for something or someone are all to ready to take the credit when things go well but pass the buck oh so swiftly when the outcome is disastrous. This attitude seems to be endemic throughout our society. It is a very sad state of affairs. My heart aches for you and I so hope you will find the answers you need. Don’t look for ‘closure’ (horrible concept; it doesn’t exist) because your pain will be with you for ever but I’ve learned to live with it and have taught myself to be thankful for the time my son was with us.

Sara, we lost our son too http://dailym.ai/1djQNuk through suicide, and I totally share how grief is made worse by lies and suppression, by the heavy feeling that some people are entirely indifferent to the suffering of others, as long as they save their own skins. Our Chris’s death was a ‘PTHP suicide’ and I have tried for five years to raise awareness. http://dailym.ai/1gWRisu As many as a million people in the UK may have PTHP, but nothing is done.http://bbc.in/1kCqj6N That is enough about him, I just want to say, keep fighting, because that is the way to make life better for other people, and to feel you are keeping faith with your son. I am so sorry for what you are going through.

dms91 says:

Thank you all for your comments. My lovely 29 yr old son didn’t grieve properly for his fathers death from cancer at just 47 and altho he survived for 10 more years, my misdiagnosed illness (where I almost died) seemed to trigger self-harming….putting him in highest risk category for successful suicide according to UNIMPLEMENTED National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

After second harming,my son was eventually detained for “his own safety” (having been given a leaflet after first harming) and then he was “found” fatally wounded”in a bath”.He was moved 6 times in 5 days (a recognized trigger in UNIMPLEMENTED Trust policy )

My son was moved to Guys and St Thomas’s for life support, he came off life support and died on Aug 16th 2005 and I am still battling for justice (not ££££ but accountability). There was no investigation for 6 YEARS! no police were called, no alleged weapon was secured, Trust withheld key documents from Inquest hearing…Trust also sent my son’s possessions back in a bin liner marked “NHS Household Waste” I also lost my dear Dad two months after my son, and emotionally I needed system for support. Lesson Learned….don’t wait for support as you wont get it! Truth may hurt but lied hurt more!! My son was socially conscious, he would want us to fight on for others. His attitude was “all it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to stand by and do absolutely nothing” I intend to keep fighting for justice.I try to remember my son loved and was loved for his entire life! Thats my comfort now!

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