They Hung Him Out to Dry

Moving back home after my Father died, was extremely difficult for me.

I lived in fear before he died and now I was afraid he would appear as a ghost and having worked with children for many years, I now know and understand, that it really wasn’t necessary to be told that he died in my bed.

Some details are better left unsaid until a vulnerable mind is able to process it.

I was unable to enter the bedroom alone and refused to sleep in there too, so continued to share my Mother’s room for a further year.

Feelings of anxiety was rife and I can not say that anybody really understood how I felt-how could they? We are all individuals and make sense of our world differently and all those years ago, access to grief counselling or therapeutic help, wasn’t readily available.

Thank goodness things have advanced somewhat today.

There are three things in particular (apart from the obvious) that stand out for me that happened over the weeks that passed after his death.

At night my Mother would take me up to bed and say goodnight. She would then go downstairs to watch television. I’m sure, it was a much needed escape from the situation she found herself in and from a grieving teenager. I laid in what would have been my father’s bed and for as long as I possible, I managed the overwhelming fear that engulfed me.

All of a sudden the panic would take over and I’d rush down the stairs sobbing.

It felt impossible to contain the fear and anxiety.

My brothers were never really home at this point and my mother was trying to bring some normality back into our live’s. Bedtime for me, mean’t time out for her etc… I know that I would have felt safe, if the boys were upstairs nearby but instead I was alone in a room that was jammed packed with trauma, next to a room that felt full of loss and ultimately death.

My running downstairs went on for sometime and in the end my mother lost her patients with me and began to offer punishments as a threat if I didn’t stay in bed.

I just couldn’t do it.

She just couldn’t handle it… or me.

I remember clearly getting to the point where I would grab my bed pillow, creep down the staircase quietly and sit on the bottom step of the stairwell. I sat awkwardly on the step so that I could continuously turn my head upwards, in the direction of the landing, where my father may show himself.

I felt sure he would.

I was consumed with fear.

Eventually as I recall, one of my brothers found me sat upright, with my head in my lap on my pillow, asleep. On waking me, I cried telling him how afraid I was and that I was being told off for not staying in bed to which he reprimanded our Mother for not understanding.

Put simply, she didn’t have the energy or emotional understanding and was wrapped up in her own grief.

The second memory that is poignant, is when my big brother surprised me with a kitten one evening. Something of my own to love and nurture. He was living and working at a holiday camp at the time and a stray cat had given birth to a litter of kittens. My brother and his then girlfriend whose nickname was Tiggy, placed this tiny little tabby bundle of joy, into my arms whilst I was laying in bed, unable to sleep. My Mother knew nothing about it but my brother knew only too well, that she wouldn’t have the heart to take the kitten away from me.

I fell in love instantly and named the kitten Tiggy too.

My brother knew and understood how much I was struggling and I wanted so badly to go and live with him.

I hated it every time he left me.

At some stage I had to return to school and this is where the third most significant memory comes from. The day I went back, I remember walking up the main school pathway with my friend and people were staring at me. There was one particular group of girls stood to the side and one said very loudly;

“That’s the girl whose Dad just hung himself on the gas pipe out side of her house!”

The story that was spreading quickly around the school was that my father had hung himself on the gas pipe that lead from above the back door, to the shed, as a result of my mother failing to pay the bills.

©All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019/2020

An Unbearable Prison

Once upon a time there was a Mummy, a Daddy and two little boys who were excited to welcome the new baby into their family.

The rest of the day was a blur.

I have no recollection of what happened and it was sometime later that I found out my Father was at my Godmothers house when he made the call to us.

I wonder what they talked about?

I wonder if Aunty Barbara was able to console him?

I wonder if she held him just for a moment so that he knew he was loved?

I wonder what was going through his haggard mind?

He had lost everything, his wife, his children, his self respect-his mind…

At some stage, either that day or the next, my brothers went home to collect some belonging’s for us.

This is their account of what happened;

They awoke the sleeping Giant when going upstairs and his rage was tenfold. My father tried to stop my brother Ashley taking clothes from my bedroom and demanded to know where we were. He refused his fathers enforcing and all hell broke out.

The dog was going crazy once again, confused as to whom he should protect and somehow during the eruption, the younger of my two brothers, who was only 17, had his head jammed in-between my wardrobe sliding door by our father.

A scene of commotion.

My brothers have said that he would have killed them to get to us.

They escaped the house and took the dog with them.

Everything that he had ever loved was gone and now his home was not his home, it was his external prison too.

An unbearable prison.

During a conversation with my Mother not so long ago, she added another layer to the story that was kept from me for many years. On entering the house, my brothers were hit with the stench of gas. My father had opened the oven door, left the gas on and gone upstairs to lay down.

https://www.crisistextline.uk

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.mind.org.uk

I have no words to describe the pain that is inside of me now that must have been inside of him at that very moment, to arrive at a place in his life where he believed he could no longer live.

I felt that feeling for a split second some time ago when driving home one day in floods of angry tears. The thought crossed my mind at how easy it would be to drive the car at speed off of the downs and end all of the overwhelming inner turmoil that had been plaguing my life for so long.

Just for a split second…

and I reached out for help.

Depression, drugs, trauma, loss, grief, devastation, abuse, loneliness, self disgust and anything else you can throw into his dark pot, had WON the emotional and personal battle that he was fighting.

He didn’t want to live anymore.

He couldn’t live anymore.

Approximately 1970
Who was taking the picture?

 © All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

20.10.1981

Today, grief washes over me like a vicious ocean.

I have been running from this sadness for so long now and have felt too paralysed to work on my writing this past week. Some days I just wander in my mind looking for a safe place to rest but seemingly, it’s proving more difficult

I have to keep writing through it.

On the anniversary of my fathers passing I desperately want to acknowledge him and give meaning to his life as no other person ever does.

Nobody… and I feel very sad about that.

Was he that insignificant? Did he really matter to anyone? Was his life that unimportant?

If you were to ask my brothers to tell you the date of their father’s death, they wouldn’t have a clue and my Mother always needs reminding.

The date goes unnoticed.

Most years I remember him in silence but this year I wrote a Facebook status which came completely out of the blue.

If there was a direct telephone line that could reach him now, I would choose to hear him speaking softly to me and listen carefully to the sound of his voice, savouring every moment. I would ask him how his day has been and tell him about mine. I would spend the time laughing with him and sharing the simple things I know he’d love to hear… and I’d love him just that little bit more.

We must never underestimate the power of un-resolved grief. Its a burden to carry for sure and one that is so heavy for me to this very day.

Even though I was very afraid of my father, my love for him is evident.

Our healing is unfolding

©All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

The Warrior Child

I feel compelled to write about a little girl I know who lost her Daddy suddenly, nearly a year ago.

This morning, she is unable to access the outside world because grief is her opponent and grief is winning.

She sits on the sofa with her pet dog, wrapped in soft blankets. To the left of her, close by are her Dad’s ashes – which, she says with slight confusion, are much smaller than the ashes of Fidget! Her recently deceased, much loved pussy cat.

She is 12 years old.

Her strength has the capacity to withstand the mightiest of storms. Her wit can enthrall an audience of listeners and her smile lights up the darkest of rooms and yet…

her heart is fractured.

Over the years, her survival techniques have pushed the closet of people away, often hurting them to release some of the burden that she carried. At times she unacceptably played the role of scapegoat when other children could do no wrong.

Trying to find a way back from the self destruction was so terribly difficult for her and although she longed to be accepted and forgiven, the path was somewhat difficult.

She really didn’t want to hurt others… just to show them how much she was hurting.

The pattern became familiar until it was a safe pattern of knowing and by that I mean she knew how to fill up other people’s convincer strategies of who she was and what she was about.

It really wasn’t true.

This child with her fractured heart is hurting and there aren’t enough words to describe the pain that she is in.

I feel the depth of an unforgiving, relentless and unbearable grief that she is carrying and trying to make sense of. I know that there are questions that she will be asking internally that can not be answered now, but still she carries them. There are days when the world forgets about this little girl and her struggles and I guess that is just a part of life.

Life carries on.

Grief carries on.

When a child loses a parent their whole experience of the world changes. When the death is sudden, no time to say goodbye, no time for a last hug, cuddle, giggle, sharing of stories, anything.

Just left with an ocean of overwhelming loss.

A nothingness.

Gone.

To the education system who lack the knowledge of how to help these children emotionally, day to day within their school life, please take the time to train your staff appropriately. Give them the tools that are so desperately needed to assist these kids.

To the education system who refuses to understand that there are days when these children cannot and will not be able to access the school day because grief will take over.

Let them be children who need time to grieve not an attendance statistic.

To all you Mums and Dads out there that are struggling with loss, please please know that you are doing an amazing job and ask for help if you need it. The earlier the intervention, the more a child can begin to work through and begin to process the trauma.

https://www.winstonswish.org/

And to the Warrier Child

I feel your pain.

I really do see you.

I know.

I understand.

I am so very proud to know you and I am grateful to be able to walk alongside you and your Mum throughout your journey. Thank you for re-connecting with me and allowing a certain trust to begin to build between us. You are the most resilient child that I know and one day you too will rise up and show the world who you truly are.

Summer 2019

I love you both.

Author unknown

© All Rights Reserved – The boy in the Chip Shop 2019

Not this time

1978

I fear the dark
the dark fears me
we fight at night
won’t set me free.
Shadows creep
they terror my eyes
slow to sleep
how hard I try.

I’ve been struggling to write the next part of my story. Its been weeks since I have managed to even get this far, deleting my words over and over again. I guess I didn’t realise the magnitude of the emotional backlash I would feel just by revisiting my past in such detail, hence my breaking the story down in to manageable excerpts.

“Hey! I’m a therapist… I can sort my own shit out…”

It was the morning after the disco and Saturday morning’s were devoted to gymnastics, a place where he never came to watch me, a place where I found respite from my ‘torrid’ home life, a place of freedom (momentarily).

He remained in such a drugged up state that my mother couldn’t wake him and she had no choice but to call an ambulance. My father was slipping into a dangerous place of not-living, close to leaving his body, close to death. He hated hospitals and any form of institution after being contained as a child in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Poor man.

I remember walking home from gym feeling that sense of dread in the pit of my stomach yet again, what would I find when I got there? Taking the familiar short cut through the garages, from a distance I could see an ambulance parked outside my gate and I started running…

I ran so fast with absolute urgency as if I was being chased and the desperation to get to my father, my dad-before it was too late, was heartbreaking.

I thought that I had lost him, that he had gone, that he was dead.

Not this time.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

The Beginning of The End

It was Friday the 15th of October 1981. My Father had attended his hospital appointment for a Myelogram; a diagnostic imaging test to look for any problems in the spinal cord, nerve roots and other tissues. A coloured dye is injected into the spinal column before the procedure and then an xray is taken which enables the radiologist to see more clearly, if there is any damage. When the dye is injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which also surrounds the brain, there can be side effects – risk of a seizure, severe headaches, risk of infection, short term numbness in the legs and a risk of bleeding in the spinal colum.

In the 37 years since his death, I have never researched what a Myelogram is, only now in order to write this.

I just remember the coloured dye bit of the story and the violent aggression.

The local Community Centre held a kids disco every Friday evening and it was a great place to hang out. My Father used to drop me off and pick me up every week, much to the amusement of my friends who were allowed to walk home. He was very strict and often told me that I may be taken away by a stranger, if he didn’t keep me safe.

This Friday felt different…

My father was subdued to begin with after his treatment and I remember him complaining of a headache that was getting worse. I can picture him now, standing in the hallway by the front door. He gave me £1.50 for the disco, put his arms around me and squeezed me tight, told me he loved me and let me walk with my friends.

I can still feel the intense feeling of worry just by thinking about that evening.

The disco came and went and the entire time I was there, the anxiety was growing within me; what I would find on my return home?

He was in bed having taken as many drugs as he could take without killing himself, just to relieve the pain and was in and out of a drugged up state. I sat next to him, feeling so heavy, strained and tired. Why couldn’t he be normal like my friend’s Dad’s. I HATED him being like this, it scared me… The smell of Old Holborn soaked the atmosphere and I swear he could have burnt the house down on many occasion, leaving his rolled up cigarettes smoldering in the ashtray. His wedding ring was on his bedside table and I picked it up and held it in front of him. In a slow and slurred manner he said;

“Your Mother doesn’t love me anymore, you have it – take it!”

Closing his eyes, my father passed out and was snoring in seconds.

That was the beginning of the end.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

The Prayer

There doesn’t seem to be a beginning for me, just a mixture of memories, some more powerful than others and in no particular order, allowing them to rise and fall .

My Father died when I was aged of 13.

My belief is that he had to die, in order for me to live and somewhere within his soul, he knew that. Its a struggle to remember him without the overwhelming feelings of fear and pain. Everything about him seems tainted with those two powerful emotions and I feel sad that I can’t find a single memory that is full of laughter or joy. Sorry Dad… My hope is that by writing my story down, it may evoke some happy memories that are stored somewhere within me.

It wasn’t until I discovered NLP and whilst on my training in the USA, that I realised I had emotional ‘stuff’ that needed dealing with. I have to add, that a NLP practitioner training is not the place for personal therapy in any event. During learning the processes, I experienced some emotional releases that were extraordinary and quite profound and my passion for helping others to do the same began. That was over 21 years ago.

https://johnoverdurf.com/training.php

The events leading up to my father’s death were extremely traumatic.

I remember one day when he was lying in bed in a drugged up stupor, slurring his words, telling me to write down his life story. In more coherent days he would say that the world needs to know the truth about his traumatic experience of being a child prisoner of war. He suffered mentally and physically for the entire 13 years of having him in my life and as a family, my mother and two older brothers, were marred by his suffering too. Even as a little girl I could feel the intense sorrow that seeped out from him and it was confusing. I’ve in turn carried his pain deep within me maybe to acknowledge him in some way. I loved my father so much but was terrified of him too. The double edge sword.

On the night before my father was found dead, I knelt down, sobbing, resting my elbows on the bed, placed my hands together and I prayed;

Dear Lord
Please forgive me for the sins that I have committed.
Please make my Dad die and take him to Heaven to be with you because if you don’t he will kill my Mum.
Please Lord keep us safe, I’m so scared.
Please forgive me.
Amen

© All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019