We all know that most lives have a great deal of sorrow given in equal measure to the many blessings that are given to us on our journey. A remarkable life time involvement came to me when I met a man called Derek Nuttall who was the director of a comparatively small charity called Cruse. It was 1978 and they needed help with fund raising, and a dear friend of mine, Sir Sigmund Sternberg with his usual far sighted acumen thought I would find it of interest. I knew nothing about bereavement counselling. It was not long before Derek gently ferreted out the fact that my father and two siblings had all died when I was in my teens. This was something which had been so profoundly awful that the only way I could live a normal life was to blot it out completely. I did not need much help with that at first because nobody ever mentioned it to me, not even at school. My mother was so devastated that she became an alcoholic, and basically decided that everyone she ever loved died on her so the only way I would survive was if she pretended I did not exist. I see that now that she has been long dead.
Life was generous though because I found two wonderful surrogate parents. I did manage to have a conversation with my poor mother about all her loved ones when she was dying, and when she was finally gone I cried a lot as I looked at her, and thought how awful it was that nobody intervened at the time these things happened and showed her that life was worth living, without a gin bottle and a seedy lover wearing my father’s clothes; that she could have been a loving mother and grandmother. I vented anger in the sterile hospital room. I cannot say if she heard as she left, I hope she knew that I loved her and would have given anything to talk to her about my darling father and my brother and sister . There is nobody who knew them now but I have a very precious cousin and we talk about family and our grandmother a lot.
Later when I had resolved my own grief, I trained as a Cruse councillor, and went on organising events for them . My work with Cruse for the last thirty five years has been both a privilege and joy. Knowing that by talking and living the journey and finding the strength through understanding that there is life after death here and you must go on living it. I have been a trustee of Cruse for a very long time, and faces have come and gone. Yesterday a retired from the Council and they gave me a most moving thank you. Seeing such lovely people around me was very enriching, I tried not to be too emotional. A great eminence in the organization Colin Murray Parkes read something out of one of my books called A Rose in Winter, and remarked that overcoming bereavement is a recurring theme in my novels. He is right of course, and when I write about this, for as in real life we must all experience loss, I usually weep over my word processor. I am so grateful to the things I have learned from Cruse, recently I have had to draw on all this for family reasons, and never cease to be grateful to Sigmund Sternberg for putting me on that path.