On this day, two years ago, Abi fulfilled a four-year-long ambition… to earn her junior black belt in Kung Fu.
[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.]
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.
While debating where to go on our first summer holiday without Abi, I posted about the memories we had of so many places we visited regularly with our ‘Abi family’.
The Isle of Wight was one of them. Our last holiday together had been to Shanklin and we’d had a fabulous and very memorable time.
I decided to change my blog name to something more hopeful and settled for Chasing Dragonflies. So, what is it with all the dragonflies anyway?
While we were researching readings for Abi’s funeral, we came across the story ‘Water Bugs and Dragonflies’ (I’ve posted the full story here). As the story explained, we can never see what waits for us outside this world until we get there, but it is more beautiful than we can ever imagine. We are content, perfect and free…
Since resuming my blog, I’ve had an outpouring of writing (or rather overthinking!) and have realised I’ve posted around 20 new blogs in just two weeks! Yikes!
When I paused the blog some seven months or so ago, my mind had stopped knowing quite what to say. I’d managed to get Abi’s story down – that was essential to me – and that felt enough at the time (although I’ve since kept those detailed posts about her passing private). I needed to get on and live, and see how I managed. Now, my mind is chattering away to me with the many things that crop up. I recall thoughts and feelings clearly and the words just flow. Often one sentence in one post can lead to a whole new post.
Some days I feel like grief has slapped me in the face so hard. This was one of them, about four months (in July) after Abi died. I wrote about this particular day as it was a full 24 hours of challenging thoughts and emotions…
The death of a child, quite naturally, has a huge impact on an entire family and the aftershocks can be widespread and ongoing. In my case, my immediate family (husband and other two children) were emotionally torn, yet we had to find a way to continue to live our lives together, finding new routines and ways to be without pausing.
It’s without doubt that our relationships with one another have changed in some ways; thankfully, we are strong and this has bonded us further together, but it’s certainly no smooth path as each of us battles with our individual feelings, worries and fears.
[Taken from notes written around July 2013]
After Abi died, we kept people informed via Facebook, which was a great help to us as it saved having to contact lots of people at an impossibly difficult time and also prevented any misunderstanding about what had happened to her – many people who knew Abi were incredibly worried… Very soon, someone had set up a dedicated Facebook page in Abi’s memory, which rapidly spread and had around 700 likes.
[This blog was taken from notes I’d written whilst sat with Abi at the cemetery around 10th June 2013.]
Four months on, is that right? Have I grieved? Have I even started…?
What is the point of all that crying if at the end I still feel such deep and painful sorrow? Crying usually releases a tension, helps me feel better. But these tears are different; they flow easily enough but the emotion changes from despair and hurt, to sadness and depression. I suppose, if I didn’t feel able to cry, rant, write or talk then I’d be in a very bad place by now. So, to grieve must be to let my emotions surface as I mourn my darling child, but it feels like that is all it is. There seems to be no benefit, no end to it. Yet, even still, I can see that recently I have been able to laugh sometimes, though not as sincerely as before; I can converse, can think, can function apparently normally.