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Grieving my friend: Helen's story

01 Jul 2024

Helen's friend Kerrie was her biggest source of support when her mum died. This made the grief she felt when Kerrie herself died all the more painful. In her blog she reflects on these two different experiences of grief and what she's learned about how we can help each other.

Grief can feel lonely because it is something that isn’t talked about. Although we all experience it differently, it is something that all of us will go through, so we don’t need to be alone. We need to talk about it more.

I think partly it is because people are scared to talk about it. I don’t mean the people going through it but the people in their lives. They are scared because they worry they are going to upset the grieving person. They may not know what to say, or they may not know how to comfort them.

But messaging, asking how they are, checking in or even talking about their loved one is not reminding them of their loss. We never forget. To know someone has thought about Mum always makes me smile.

Those that have yet to experience it simply cannot comprehend the magnitude of such loss. I was that person. Before losing Mum in 2019 I don’t think I fully understood how painful a close loss is. I had experienced loss before but nothing like this.

Helen and her mum

Helen and her mum

I think before I lost Mum I could sympathise and imagined how hard it must be to live without her but honestly it doesn’t come close. Mum taught me so much, the one thing she couldn’t teach me was how to live without her. I have apologised to friends who I was not there for because I just didn’t get it.

I am so lucky to have a few very good friends who supported me since losing Mum in 2019. One amazing support was my gorgeous Kerrie who I was lucky to have in my life for 25 years.

One amazing support was my gorgeous Kerrie who I was lucky to have in my life for 25 years.

Kerrie was that friend. The one who remembered EVERY anniversary, every moment, every difficult day she was there. She was the biggest cheerleader, a wonderful friend and one that helped put me back together. She was a one off.

Kerrie loved being with people. Whether it was rugby days that ended at 3am, holidays with her beloved Mum and sister, garage festivals with her girls or trips home to Ireland where I don’t think she slept for days. Kerrie was living her best life, not letting on how much pain she went through. She had FOMO (fear of missing out) and was never going to let being poorly get in her way.

When I had my son, as a lone parent without my Mum I was scared and “Auntie Kerrie" was one to make me feel like I wasn’t alone. She loved my little boy so much and that made me love her even more.

Helen's son and his Auntie Kerrie

Kerrie died suddenly on the 21st August last year, her birthday. The loss of my girl has been totally different to losing Mum. I grieve for her beautiful Mum and Sister, because no matter how hard I find it I cannot imagine their pain. They were the three musketeers. I grieve for my boy losing someone who loved him so fiercely. I grieve for her family and friends but most of all I grieve for Kerrie, because she deserved to be here living her best life. She had so much more to do.

My future has changed since losing her. I was pretty certain I would have to do life without Mum but not Kerrie, I saw us in the nursing home together listening to garage tunes reminiscing about all the memories we had, and were going to make.

Losing Kerrie has been lonelier. A lot of weekends after Mum died were spent with Kerrie whether at the rugby or hanging out with her and my son after he was born. Weekends suddenly got quiet. They felt lonelier this time. I had my son, but I couldn’t talk to him about how I was feeling. I felt like I was on my own this time.

I honestly feel losing Kerrie has been as tough as losing mum, maybe even tougher.

I honestly feel losing Kerrie has been as tough as losing mum, maybe even tougher. When I lost Mum I lost the biggest part of my past. When I lost Kerrie I lost one of the biggest parts of my future. Both were irreplaceable.

Helen and Kerrie at a festival

I am not sure if it is because I am now a parent and cannot just sit in peace when I need. Or if it is because societal norms mean I have had to just get straight back on with work and life this time. Or perhaps it is because the friend who remembered every date and made sure I was never lonely is the one I am now missing. But what I know is that we need to try and look after one another and talk about loss more.

Ask people how they are. Sue Ryder socials offer some great tips for how to contact a grieving person. Ask if they want to pop over for a cuppa. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy. Before I lost Mum a friend lost hers, a mutual friend asked me what to say to comfort here. I said it doesn’t really matter what you say just say something. Let them know you are there. Silence is louder than anything you can say.

Loss can come in so many forms, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the loss of a person. It can be a pet, a job, a relationship, friendship. It is the loss of something you loved from your life and the weight of it can stay with you forever.

Grief doesn’t get easier. It just becomes familiar.

Grief doesn’t get easier. It just becomes familiar. It changes you and you learn to live with it as a different person to the one before your loss.

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