How TV alienates the grieving

I saw a trailer on Sky the other day for the next big thing in hospital drama – Critical. A fictional series based on saving (or not) the life of a patient filmed in real-time (over an hour). The filming looks slick and the actors serious. It’s sold as being ‘ground-breaking and the most realistic hospital drama to date’.

Great!

Not!

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I’ve long-since wanted to write about why I find watching TV so hard now. Since Abi died, every telly programme seems to feature a death, a trauma, an argument, distress, pain, gore, fear… I instantly felt alienated by my TV, which is something we use every day for a bit of light relief. We’ve been living on trivia and gentle humour – endless episodes of QI, Would I Lie to You?, anything with Jimmy Carr in it and the comediens that usually feature with him. I’ve pretty much exhausted all those and have moved on to Top Gear now! My new ‘happy pill’. Sigh.

We have the whole Virgin Media Cable TV package, yet we can only watch a fraction of the channels simply because we can’t bear the programmes that are put out. Each night we scroll through the listings and there is nothing cheery on at all! And all of it sandwiched by the News, which isn’t much better (I’ve written about how I conquered that particular battle here)! We’ve even got Sky Movies and Netflix to widen up our choices, and some days I just put on a Disney Pixar film as that’s all I can handle!

The hard thing about this is that we used to really enjoy watching telly. We could easily watch a good old murder mystery – Midsomer Murders, Death in Paradise, Silent Witness etc – but we’ve not watched one since February 2013. Not that Abi was murdered, but it’s that these programmes inevitably have blood in, a dead body, perhaps a scene with someone performing CPR, grief, crying… ahhhh!

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Then the endless shows about bodies and health! We used to enjoy watching Casualty or ER, pretty easy viewing for a Saturday night, but now I rush to the remote if anything remotely medical is on the screen.

Every channel, every night there is something about death and trauma – it could be a drama like Holby City, this new Critical, or a documentary-style show like Benidorm ER, 24 hours in A&E, or as I’ve said, gritty crime thrillers.

We used to watch these shows just like ‘everyone else’. They didn’t bother us much at all, they were happening to other people. In fact some of the documentaries gave fascinating insights into how much our NHS staff have to put up with to save lives day in day out, and I feel it’s stuff we need to see in order to understand what goes on. But I can’t watch anything now. I see someone pass into death (the flatline is just horrendous!) and I am thrown back to the moment my daughter died. I see blood and CPR and I’m thrown back to the terrible moment I had to perform CPR on my daughter when she collapsed. I see people crying, screaming, pretend grieving and it cuts deep to know I feel it for real.

It is easy to say ‘switch it off then’, ‘read a book or do something else’. But our bedtime routine is long and drawn out, putting our children to bed; our days are hard trying to get on and live normally. TV is our escape and watching light-hearted silliness for an hour is essential to help us unwind before trying to go sleep. The Rev. Kate Bottley from Gogglebox once said something about how her day is a mixture of highs and lows – one minute she’s burying a baby, the next she’s dancing around at a school assembly – so she watches ‘trashy’ telly as a way to zone out a bit from the day. I totally get that. One minute I’m mourning Abi, the next I’m laughing on the floor with my children – a constant life/death ride.

We live with real life trauma and sorrow and hardship every day and I feel it’s becoming ‘critical’ that TV offers us more in the way of positive stuff, shows that inspire and give us a lift. I’m all for pretending, but why not do pretending happy instead of pretending sad?

So, as ‘brilliantly accurate’ as Critical may be, I won’t be watching. I’ll be too busy channel hopping!

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You are my sunshine – a birthday poem

My darling Abi,

I recall you lying on your changing mat when you were a tiny baby
Those early months just you and me while Daddy was at work
Finding my feet with this miraculous little person
Who had grown inside me for nine months

I found I would sing ‘You are my sunshine’ to entertain you
It came so naturally to sing that song, it became ‘your song’
I know why now…

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
you make me happy, when skies were grey,
you’ll never know dear
how much I love you,
please don’t take my sunshine away….

You were my light and my joy, but now you’re gone
The light has dimmed.

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I dreamt of you

In my morning sleep, the sleep before the day begins, I saw you

Clear, real, here

You were standing on the landing, in the doorway to our bedroom.

From my bed, I talked to you

Like I used to

You up and ready for the day

Me rousing from sleep

You looked a year or two older, taller too

Your hair still long and golden

Your face was beautiful

Luminous and radiant

xxx

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Good grief! I had a facial

I used to enjoy booking myself in for an occasional massage or facial, it was always a nice treat, but since Abi died I’ve not been able to allow myself to do it.

To relax is to let emotions come to the surface, to be able to meditate on the thoughts going through your mind, to think about how nice the touch is on your skin and enjoy the moment. But you see, when your entire being is held together by invisible ropes of tension attached to a large stone of grief where your heart used to be, encouraging the body to relax is met with quite some resistance.

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For instructions on grief, please read this leaflet…

Dear Doctor,

You’ve stood with me on this journey

You saw my daughter being rushed into your ICU

You stabilised her

You kept her young body going

Gave us hope after hope that she might wake up

You showed empathy when that hope was gone

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Halloween just got scary

[I didn’t post this blog about Halloween at the time, I suppose to avoid offending anyone or to put a damper on the fun, but reading back on it, it’s certainly worth sharing. It’s not a major worry for me now, and who knows how I’ll feel about it in the years to come, but it’s a classic example of how trauma and grief can distort things.]

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A satisfactory response from Virgin Media

So, following my last post about my complaint of the way Virgin Mobile handled my contract closure, Virgin Media has finally responded to my complaint in a more human way.

I missed a call this afternoon from the Head of Customer Services, but I’ve just spoken to the Chief Executive’s PA who called me about the issue.

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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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The heartache of decluttering after Abi died 

Ever since I had children, I’ve been bagging up clothes and toys for either car boot sales or charity shops, although it always seems the more I ‘recycle’ the more ‘stuff’ comes back into the house!

It’s been a long time since we did a car boot…  I say ‘we’ as normally Abi and I would get up at dawn to go and do one together, she really helped with setting up, tidying and selling – it was fun.

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Just a bunch of grapes

I’ve realised I’ve started buying grapes again, and not just buying them… eating them too!

Abi loved grapes. She’d come in from school and devour a bunch easily while watching TV.

Ever since she died, I’ve not been able to even look at grapes. I bought some once about a year ago, just to see if I could have them again. But I felt like gagging when I tried to eat one. The image of her happily munching away on them was all too recent. So I’ve avoided buying grapes… until the last few weeks.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, which is interesting. I just seem to be okay with it now.

It’s just fruit! Grief is funny like that.

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