Since Hugo died, a number of lovely people have observed that I seem to be so strong, so brave, so positive.
It often feels like a false modesty to say I’m not.
Maybe I am, to a certain degree: it probably would have been much easier to have taken to my bed, stuck my head under the duvet and waited for everything to be better again.
It wasn’t about making a conscious decision, though.
I had to carry on.
I had to keep breathing.
I had to get up every day.
I had to write, to campaign, to channel my anger and energies into something constructive, positive.
I have never forgotten, not even for a moment, that I could have died. Nor can I ever forget that Hugo, my precious little boy who gave so much to the world in his 35 days, is no longer here.
So I keep going.
A positive outlook doesn’t mean someone is ‘positive’, though.
To see someone seeming to turn a personal tragedy or trauma in to a positive and thinking that makes them a ‘positive person’ does them a disservice.
Because people are multi-faceted.
Because to say someone is ‘dealing with things’ positively, while intended kindly and as a compliment forgets empathy, the vital stepping for a moment in to someone’s shoes.
It makes assumptions about what that person’s life is like.
It forgets to ask questions.
It forgets life is never simple, never black-and-white.
It disregards the fact that life after grief and trauma is like riding waves – sometimes the sea is calm, tranquil perhaps. You float along.
Sometimes the sea is rough, black as ink, throwing you around as if in a spin cycle threatening to drown you, sharks circling beneath you just waiting for you to give up give in and you will sink down down down deeper deeper deeper until….
You get the picture. The point is the sea is always there.
You sink or swim, to an extent.
You can prepare all the life buoys, dinghies, boats, transatlantic liners if you like to help keep you afloat.
It is a constant fight.
There are times when I thought the storm would never end.
I am inclined towards positivity, yes. The glass is usually half-full. Trauma shows you what is most important.
That means you are unlikely to find me engaging in negative activities – gossip, sniping – or simply things I don’t enjoy.
Life after is often about survival. Finite supplies of energy.
Focusing on the positive gives me more energy to survive, and even to thrive.
But please remember: if you see a bereaved person with a smile, a focus, a purpose, seeming happy even. Try not to tell them they’re doing well. Ask them how they are doing, and listen. Reflect that a positive day might be that day, or even that part of a day – it is not necessarily representative of their life.
While I may seem to be positive on the whole, there are times I feel anything but. I know I am not alone in that.
The world would be a better place for more empathy, understanding, listening, reflecting.
A far more positive outlook.