Being prepared for the winter of life

This morning, I read this brilliant blog post by Cheltenham Maman about how anxiety over our children’s health and wellbeing can affect us. The post provides some sound advice for helping to manage parental anxiety so it’s certainly worth a read if you’re struggling with this. I also wrote this post last week about how I feel so consumed by the hypervigilant state that being a bereaved mother has put me in.

In Cheltenham Maman’s post, she wrote something that struck me.

Liken it to other things in life that are certain; winter will come each year but we don’t let it dampen how much we enjoy the summer.

We can be anxious – and therefore depressed about our anxiety – every day of our lives, worrying about something bad happening but, just like we ‘dread’ the cold, dark winter months, we also look forward to the summer and make the most of the warmer days when they do happen.

This is powerful stuff!

Yes, just like life and death, we need to make the most of the better days, the healthy days, the young days, the carefree days. It is inevitable that winter will come, death is something no one can escape from, so try not to waste precious time worrying about the cold while you’re bathing in sunlight.


Yet there’s a caveat to this beautiful metaphor.

Because we know that winter is coming, we make plans about how we will cope with it. We get the boiler serviced, we insulate our homes, we buy in supplies that protect against the frost, we buy a new warm coat, we eat warming, hearty foods…

We prepare for winter and so winter, while still cold and dark, is more bearable and we can see hope in the spring and summer just around the corner.

So why not prepare for death? Prepare for the worst?

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An open letter to Virgin Mobile

Dear James (if that’s even your real name),

I think you missed the point.

When I posted about my call to cancel the phone contract I had for my deceased daughter and shared it on Twitter and you said you would ‘look into my complaint’, I expected at least some attempt to show you give a monkeys.

I was impressed by the speed of your investigation, though not so with the ‘template’ response (typo included!):

Thank you for taking the time to contact the Social Media Team.

I’m sorry to hear of your recent bereavement and n behalf of Virgin Media, I’d like to offer you our condolences at this difficult time.

I have now arranged a disconnection of the mobile account and no further balances are due to be paid.’

You know what, ‘James’, I don’t want your sympathy. I never did.

You don’t need to pretend to be sorry about my ‘recent bereavement’ – you clearly have no idea what has happened to me.

You don’t know that my daughter, Abi, died on 10th February 2013 following a brain haemorrhage.

You have no idea how I still remember buying that phone for my daughter just before her 12th birthday.

You wouldn’t begin to understand how I feel knowing on the day she collapsed that she used that phone to text me from school saying she didn’t feel well.

I still have the photos and selfies she took on that phone, her last just a week before she died…

Here, have a look at the girl behind this contract. Just a girl, like any other, using a phone her parents bought her… a girl who died in my arms and who won’t ever have the joy of playing with her smartphone, her friends, anyone.


But then, I don’t care about you or yours either so I guess we’re quits.

The sterile tone of your reply made me feel a kind of guilt, as though by ‘moaning’ I was like every other one of your hundreds of customers today who was ‘after something’.

It might surprise you to know that I’m not after some kind of recompense – I don’t want free phones, free minutes, a voucher, or any-bloody-thing – other than my daughter to not be dead anymore and for companies like yours to get a soul and make this process as painless as possible.

I didn’t need you to ‘disconnect my mobile account’ – as the guy did that for me yesterday.

I don’t need you to tell me that there are ‘no further balances’ – that was the point of my call with the guy yesterday too. I have paid my full 24-month contract like a good customer and that is that.

What I needed was for you to apologise for how poorly your guy handled that call. To tell me that you’ve spoken to him personally to make sure he understands what happened and how to handle a bereaved customer like me in future.

What I needed was for you to tell me that you were so shocked by the process which forces your staff to try to retain customers no matter what, that you are now looking into ways of getting that changed somehow.

What I needed was reassurance that, behind the emails, you are human, people with families of your own who would dread the thought of standing in my shoes for even one second.

Ironically, I dealt with Virgin Media today to renegotiate our TV/Internet package, and the woman couldn’t have been nicer – funny that, as she was retaining business, I wonder what she would have been like if I’d tried to leave … because my daughter died.

Still, I don’t hold bad feelings, how can I hold bad feelings against a ‘robot’? But I think people should know how this turned out – I think my readers would be interested. I’ve learnt the hard way that things like complaining are pointless in the scheme of things. Life is for living not complaining about. I just won’t be buying another mobile phone off you again in a hurry.



Stressful times cancelling Abi’s mobile phone contract

So it all kicked off a bit yesterday afternoon as I tried to finally sort out Abi’s mobile phone contract. And, as usual, it’s the big companies who seem to have no idea about dealing with the bereaved. I’ve blogged about this before.

In October 2012, we bought Abi a new mobile phone (as she’d just started secondary school and as a part early birthday present). I took out a 2-year contract with Virgin mobile as they were offering a Samsung Ace for £14 a month. It was less than she’d been spending on her pay as you go, so it sounded a good deal.

Then, four months later, she died.

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Child Benefit… a sore subject for the bereaved parent!

Oh the irony. Having just had a baby, I’ve finally got round to filling out the claim form for child benefit, the same day we receive our first correctly adjusted and reduced payment (for two children instead of three) following Abi’s death 14 months ago.

Dealing with the Child Benefit department at HM Revenue and Customs has perhaps been one of the most upsetting things we’ve had to do since Abi died.

Having received her death certificate (oh how hard that was!), there were a number of practical admin type things we had to change: direct debits to clubs, savings accounts… and child benefit.

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An elephant in the room

2012-10-21 10.37.51


There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting,
So it is hard to get around it.
Yet we squeeze by with “How are you?” And “I’m fine”
And a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.

We talk about the weather.
We talk about work.
We talk about everything – except the elephant in the room.

There’s an elephant in the room.
We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.
It is constantly on our minds.

For, you see, it is a very big elephant.
It has hurt us all.
But we do not talk about the elephant in the room.

Oh, please say her name.
Oh, please, say “Abi” again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
For if we talk about her death,
Perhaps we can talk about her life.

Can I say “Abi” to you and not have you look away?
For if I cannot, then you are leaving me


In a room…

With an elephant…

(by Terry Kettering)

I’d like to close the account please… because she’s dead!

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.

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