The pain of losing a person we love is immense. The finality of death is absolute and unchangeable and our world becomes surreal and unfamiliar without our loved one. Emotionally, we can experience feelings of shock, denial, overwhelming sadness, anger and hopelessness.
How can Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) help us work through this grief to reach a place of acceptance of the ‘new normal’ and hope for the future?
I have delivered the SFSC parenting programme to hundreds of parents both in person and online for a little under 10 years. When my father died suddenly a week before my birthday last year, the shock of losing the man who had always been in my life was overwhelming. He was there when mum had died: now what?
What helped immediately, was the support of friends and family who gave me their time, to listen to me and love me. In SFSC delivery, we talk about the importance of our family history and our ethnic, cultural and spiritual roots; where we come from is the foundation of our existence and helps us begin to understand who we are, why we are here and what we stand for.
In grief, I found that those family roots literally gave me the strength to stand up at a time when I felt I could barely function. I was able to rely upon the traditions, rituals and ceremonies around death and grief which had been passed down from generation to generation: my parents, family and the wider community had already shown me the way. I was not facing the grief alone, but following the steps taken by my ancestors.
In the weeks and months following my father’s death, after his funeral and burial, it is the continued support from those in my ‘circle of interdependence’ that has helped me move forward: the neighbour and her small children who knock on my door to say ‘hello’ with smiles that brighten my days, my old school friend and her dog who take me out for walks come rain or shine and my father’s 90 year old brother, who shares memories with me. My father is still in the circle, in that the memories of our close father/daughter relationship has given me the strength to move forward with hope . I can hear his words of, “Love you always love”, or his mantra after losing our mum 14 years ago, “Never give up, never, give in”. My identity is clear, I am his daughter. He was strong and resilient. I will be the same.
My parents were first generation Greek Cypriot immigrants who arrived in England separately in the early 1950s. My father was just 19 and alone. He had to find a place to stay and a job, had little money and knew very limited English.
He came for economic reasons and as Cyprus was then still part of the British Empire, he chose to come here. I remember the stories of my parents’ struggles, of them meeting and marrying here and their determination to make the lives of their family better.
I was fortunate to have wonderful parents. I knew that their love for us was unconditional. I now understand that the love between a parent/child can also be everlasting, preserved in the stories and traditions that my children will pass on to their children. In the Orthodox faith, we say, “Eonia i mnimi” which translates to “may the memory of them be eternal”. It will be.
For more information on the Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities programme and how it can support the emotional needs of families see: https://raceequalityfoundation.org.uk/children-families/sfsc/