I worked my way over to Bridport / West Bay last night, paired communities at the mouth of the River Brit in west Dorset. Branded The Gateway to the Jurassic Coast, I love the epic orange cliffs that rise straight up off the beach, then undulate down the coast into the mists.
There is a small harbour flanked by a crescent of fish shacks, attracting a crowd of tradesmen and hikers for beer and nibbles each evening. Children and parents drop fishing line into the harbour, while others play in the surf beneath the glowing cliffs at sunset. An eclectic ‘food alleyway’, trailers and shacks of street food, is hidden behind the general store.
It’s a lovely spot, always a favorite for a stroll and a few pictures.
I made the trip over for a first meeting with the Compassionate Friends, a UK charity for parents who have lost a child. It’s a group of peers who can give one another advice and support, as well as foster education and research to reduce young deaths.
I’m not a ‘support group’ sort of person, a visit to the local CMT society in the US years back frustrated me by the way that people let their disorder dominate their lives. Nonetheless, I know that, as an expat, I need to avoid isolating myself when dealing with big issues.
I’ve questioned how I feel after losing William, about how to talk to other people comfortably, and how quickly to return to work. Meeting with other parents could give me perspectives on the resolutions that others had reached with time, and practical advice based on their personal experiences.
The small group that met was very kind; everyone had a unique story to tell. I could find bits of my own experience in each of theirs, and when I told my story, there were good observations and suggestions that I hadn’t considered. There was a surprising similarity in people’s perceptions and concerns,and insights for managing the periods when grief wells up, for talking (or not) to friends and colleagues.
This is a transitional step: it’s good to share with people who have been there and understand, but I am wary of prolonging it into a regular social club. On reflection, I most admired the people who have made quiet peace with the past. They never lose the love nor sadness, but the event doesn’t define their lives for themselves or to others.