Having Abi’s death well-publicised thanks to the wonders of Facebook and local media coverage has really helped me to avoid the anguish of telling people face to face. To speak those words is extremely hard, even now, although I’ve been talking about what happened to her so much that it’s almost become an automatic message playing over in my mind.
Then something happens that rocks the already rocky boat… It’s the practical aspects of existing that are hard to confront, but they must be done. As her mum, I have to ‘undo’ the admin side of Abi’s life.
The first emotional confrontation was when we had to register Abi’s death, the day after she died. You have to register a death as soon after the event as you can, as you need the certificate to arrange the funeral. Just like registering a birth, you have to physically get yourself to the registrar’s office, sit in front of the registrar and give them the details of death, which they tap into a computer and give you a certificate. We were supposed to register her death in Bristol, but as it was a Sunday when she died, we would have had to drive back the next day. We couldn’t face that, so doing it in our home town was the next best option, although it meant a few days’ delay on getting the certificate sent across from Bristol. So that process wasn’t easy or pleasant and we were suprised that it wasn’t entirely straight forward either. We’ve only ever been in the registry office here to register the births of our three children, so to go back and ‘undo’ one of them was beyond awful.
Then we had to call the DWP to tell them about Abi’s death and cancel her child benefit payments – I let my husband do that one, I couldn’t face it.
Abi also had a building society savings account, so we went into town to close it. ‘I’d like to close this account,’ I said to the cashier. ‘Okay, no problem. Can I ask why?’ she replied efficiently. ‘Because she’s dead,’ was all I could say. It’s rather silly really as I knew why I was closing the account, I just didn’t think I would be asked and have to say the words. I didn’t know what to say and wondered if I should tell a lie so that I didn’t make anyone (including me) feel uncomfortable or upset. I was conscious of the people in the queue huffing behind me, on their own missions. The cashier stopped her mindless tapping on the keyboard and looked right at me with an ‘oh’ expression on her face. I think she was more stunned than me at my response. The silence between us during those minutes while I waited for her to finish the task was deafening. She politely gave me Abi’s precious savings in an envelope, and I hurried out.
There are other things, such as telling the dentists, hairdressers, opticians, osteopath, places we don’t go that often, but I hope I’ve got everyone. I really want to avoid a reminder letter being sent to us addressed to her in a few months from now, although I’m sure there will be something random I’ve missed, like her subscription to ‘Scribbler’ magazine (ah, there’s another one…).
But the hardest ‘admin’ task I had to perform so far since Abi’s death, apart from the death certificate, was cancelling the direct debits on our bank account that paid for her monthly fees to the clubs she loved so much – kung fu and the Cheltenham swimming club. It was easier in the sense that I didn’t have to talk to the bank, I did it online, but it was so heart-wrenching to press those buttons. It was so final. For years, that money has paid for those activities and now, suddenly, we don’t need to pay it anymore. No doubt my other children will fill the gaps in time, but it felt as though I was wiping out her very existence.
These things may seem somewhat insignificant in the scheme of things, but they all contribute to deepening that hole in my heart where she now rests.