Immersing yourself in the world again following a bereavement demands several decisions to be made: who to tell; when to tell them; how to tell them; what to tell them. People intimately involved in your life will obviously be acutely aware of the tragedy you have experienced and are still experiencing. Many people more loosely linked to you will also have heard about it ‘through the grapevine’, as it were. But we interact with such a wide range of people during our day to day activities not all of them will know of this new, terrible path your life has taken.
What will you say to the man at the post office who is likely to comment that he hasn’t seen you for a while? What will you say to the Pilates instructor to explain your recent absence over the last few months? What do you say to friends of friends to explain your current unemployment?
A few months after Greg died I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a few years, and they asked me what I was up to. I completely panicked. I would have to say I was unemployed. I would have to explain why. I would have to say aloud, to someone I don’t know all that well, ‘Greg has died’. I wasn’t ready; I hadn’t anticipated this conversation when I left the house that morning.
Starting a new job presented the same issues. People are interested in what you did before and why you decided to make a change. I decided early on that I would allude to a mysterious ‘change in family circumstances’. Generally people recognise that this is a deliberately closed reply and don’t ask any further questions. However, more recently I decided that it would be more helpful for me for my team to have some awareness of my situation. I’m not completely okay, or my normal self. I’m not totally fine. In order for my team to have realistic expectations of me they need to know that. I’m also anticipating a change in my mood and behaviour at certain times in the year (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.), and I want this to be understood in order that I am not unfairly judged. So I told my team, probably not in the best way or in a well thought out manner, but now they know and I am comfortable with that.
Survivors of suicide have an additional question to consider – do I tell people how Greg died? If I decide no, not at first, what do I say if they specifically ask? There’s such a stigma attached to suicide that the answer would simply not have the same reaction as other causes of death. It’s more of a horror story than a tragedy. It’s more sensationalist somehow. I am not ashamed of Greg – I never could be, in any way, for anything that he has ever done. That includes his suicide, which was a tragedy that happened to him not because of him. But I don’t know how people will react to this detail and I am not ready to deal with their reactions.
In a way, I’m continuing the stigma. It’s a sad thing that stigmas are so self-preserving.
The Cooking – Vegan Chocolate Cake
According to the rules of this blog this post should be savoury. It should also have been posted last week. Well the great thing about making your own rules is that you can absolutely break them at whim! So I am making chocolate cake.
One of my closest friends is vegan. She is a beautiful, intelligent, principled and much more determined person than I am! I could never be vegan, however much I might agree with the reasoning. I just like food too much – all food. I am told, however, that one can eat well without relying on animal products. So this is my attempt at a vegan chocolate cake, using a recipe from ‘allrecipes.co.uk’.
The unusual ingredients here are oil and vinegar. The missing ingredients are butter and eggs. Cocoa powder replaces chocolate. I’ve made a cake before using oil and although I found it quite an off putting ingredient the end result was lovely – a very moist sponge. The recipe here is super simple – you mix together the dry ingredients, then add oil and water. The cake was quite good – chocolaty but not rich, and not too sweet either. It was nice with a cup of tea. It’s not vegan, but I preferred mine with yoghurt and think it would be even better with cream!