I miss my dear sister so much I just can't bear to go on living
21:00 GMT, 23 March 2012
21:08 GMT, 23 March 2012
Every day I wake up and pray: ‘Please God let today be a good day — don’t let me think that I want to die’.
Fifteen months ago, at the age of 56, my youngest sister died very suddenly of pneumonia.
The whole family is devastated. Our parents don’t really talk of her and I can’t believe she’s dead. I have to keep telling myself she is gone for ever.
Writing down cherished memories of loved ones who have died can help us be grateful for the lives they lived
I miss her so much. She was my best friend and confidante. We spoke almost every day on the phone, discussing everything, from fashion to politics.
We’d watch Newsnight and Question Time in our respective homes, with a glass of wine, then discuss them.
The hammer blow of her death made me feel a total waste of space. It’s made me realise how poor I am and how poor she was, that she left this world as poverty-stricken as when she came in. My life has been full of ‘what ifs’.
I can’t afford to heat the house, pay the water rates etc. My whole family lives this struggle, but I never thought about it, I just got on with it. Now I am so angry, with her, with myself, with fate. I want to be rich and taste some of the fruits of wealth — the theatre, restaurants, foreign holidays and so on — before I die.
Last week I went to get a repeat HRT prescription and the nurse refused it, telling me I had to have a mammogram, because she could not live with herself if I had ‘something’. I went to the doctor (who put me on it) and asked for the full dose, but he refused, pontificating about risks. I don’t care about them.
I’m not coping. I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of not having my HRT. Basically, the nurse told me to ‘pull myself together’.
I cannot handle the stress. Everyone is telling me how bad-tempered I am — shouting at my children and grandchildren. I used to be so placid, now I feel like hitting someone.
I just want to go to bed and never wake up, but sadly I do, and it all begins again.
You sound so angry and desperate, I beg you to stop, sit down, take some deep breaths (yes, I do say that a lot, because it’s very important), and try to work along with me to disentangle all the pain in your letter.
It moves swiftly from grief, to self-hatred and regret, to angry discontentment over money, to fury at the whole HRT issue, to generalised stress, anger and despair. There’s so much going on here. What’s more, this letter begins and ends with a stated wish not to be alive — which I take seriously as a cry for help.
Your grief for your beloved sister is still very fresh, and I’m not sure you fully realise what that means. I hope no one around you is suggesting you ‘Move on’ or ‘Get over it’ because such (sadly common) ignorance of the effects of bereavement can be very damaging.
Your parents don’t talk about it, and I suspect the rest of the family keep buttoned-up too. That’s actually not healthy. You should let those tears flow. The fact that you feel so angry with everyone and everything can be traced back to the ‘hammer blow’ you had when you heard of your sister’s sudden death.
Yes, you may be menopausal and generally disappointed with life, but your black mood is due to the terrible loss.
Many experts on the subject now resist attaching the label ‘depression’ to what is actually grief — but the issue of what we call it doesn’t really matter.
More from Bel Mooney…
BEL MOONEY: This flirty Facebook friendship could ruin my perfect marriage
BEL MOONEY: Can I be happy again after dumping my married lover
BEL MOONEY: Am I being made to suffer for the abortion I had as a teenager
BEL MOONEY: Our son's harridan wife has turned him against us
BEL MOONEY: Why do I still love my cruel uncaring boyfriend
BEL MOONEY: I'm a liberal – but a man giving birth is freakish and beyond the pale
BEL MOONEY: My husband packs me off to bed so he can indulge his secret fantasies
BEL MOONEY: I dread my mementoes of a lifetime being treated like rubbish
VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
I believe you urgently need to seek professional counselling, and your GP should be the first port of call. Perhaps you could try a different one in the practice, if possible.
You need to place the HRT issue within the context of your ongoing sense of loss. I’m not a medical journalist and this is no place to discuss HRT, but if you need some help (of whatever sort) to see you through this period, your GP must be made aware of the bigger context.
It would be good for you to contemplate a larger picture, too. Today’s ‘And Finally’ might give you pause for thought.
I also suggest you research online or at a library to see what resources are available near you, as well as what others feel and think.
A good starting point would be to find out about Cruse Bereavement Care and Bereavement UK — both have websites. Try to understand what’s going on, recognise that you need help and support and be gentle with yourself.
You describe a truly enviable relationship with your sister — one rich in conversation and closeness. She loved you and you returned that love.
Am I right Well, that being the case, I resist your description of you both as ‘poor’. Oh, I know you’re thinking of income, and since life is a financial struggle, your longing to have more money to spend on luxuries is perfectly understandable.
But I’m sure you’d rather your sister were still alive than you won the lottery. Again, I believe this feeling of bitter discontentment is more about grief than envy of those who have more than you do. I suggest you start a notebook, writing down lovely memories of things you did and said, and feeling grateful for her life.
When you start hating yourself, make the effort to start up a conversation with your sister — and imagine her retorting that there’s no way she would love somebody who’s a ‘waste of space’. She will beg you to live your life, to love your family, to go out and do things — for her sake.
She can’t, but you can.
Listen to that dear voice inside you reassuring you that what you shared was too wonderful for death to be able to destroy.
Listen to her telling you that she’s still with you — and when you stop shouting, you will hear her.
WHY CAN'T MY LOVELY GIRL FIND A MAN
I have a beautiful daughter who had her 43rd birthday in December. Let’s call her Isabel.
She used to be a professional dancer but now she teaches ballet, and also works in a very stylish fashion boutique selling incredible clothes. She enjoys all her work.
Having said that, she is sometimes very lonely and that worries me. She has had a few romances and one was a very close relationship until Isabel developed some serious health problems, at which point he ran away.
Isabel is a very capable young lady, full of energy. She keeps a lovely home, is a good cook, and (to me) is an altogether wonderful person.
So what’s the matter with all the men she meets Can you help her — and me at the same time, as I am beginning to despair
This letter touches me, as a reminder that parenting is truly a lifetime activity, and those of us who are family-centred (I realise not everybody feels this way) go on feeling concerned about our adult children until the day we die.
Yet at the same time we have to accept the limitations of what we can say to our children, and do for them.
Internet dating could be the answer to finding love – but it's not for everyone
As a devoted (and very proud) father, you know quite well that any man would be lucky to marry your daughter, but unless you accept the fact that you can do nothing at all to help her find love, you are dooming yourself to frustration and worry.
It’s easy to understand how sad and angry you must have felt when her partner let her down, but — again — there was nothing you could say or do, was there
I didn’t put in all the detail your letter gave, because I wouldn’t want Isabel to know you wrote, but I gather you are separated from her mother, to whom she’s close. I’m sure she and her mother talk about these issues, and hope your ex-wife will be able to advise and support as needed.
The only way I can ‘help’ you personally is gently to advise that you must never mention this matter to Isabel — unless she raises it, of course — as it will only make her feel worse to know that you are (as it were) watching over her life.
After all, Isabel didn’t write to me, did she
You may even be perceiving an issue which is not actually as bad as you think. Some women enjoy their single status.
Still, as you can imagine, the question of how to meet a partner is a staple of any advice columnist’s postbag.
All of us usually resort to the kind of advice that’s almost become a cliche: join a club, take a course, find a new activity, start some voluntary work, and so on.
HOW TO CONTACT BEL
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to: Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail [email protected]
A pseudonym will be used if you wish. Bel reads all letters, but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
That’s because those are all time-honoured ways to make relationships — and are better (in my view) than internet dating, since friendships can form gradually, and evolve into something deeper. Having said that, I know two happily married couples who met online, so that can work. But it’s not for the faint-hearted!
Isabel is mature and intelligent and will surely know about all the above ways of meeting people — but I’d still like to emphasise (for all others reading who feel a similar lack in their lives) that people who want to find a romantic partner really do have to get out there and try new things in order to meet people.
In my opinion, ‘looking for love’ is better replaced as an attitude by ‘looking for life’.
That removes the note of desperation. The truth is, those who find new ways of living life more fully almost inevitably become the kind of people who attract love.
The key is always to be enthusiatically ready for new experiences. And that goes for Devoted Dads too.
AND FINALLY: HEALED BY THE BEAUTY OF NATURE
Four years ago, I wrote about a beautiful DVD called ‘Calmer by Nature,’ consisting of mesmerising footage of nature without voiceover or music.
The DVD was recommended by healthcare professionals because of the therapeutic benefits of natural beauty. Now I’ve heard from film-maker Barry Wheelock again, this time for a sad reason. He tells me that he has recently lost Ilse, his wife of 30 years and ‘my everything’.
He’d just finished creating a second calming DVD (see www.calmerbynature.com). Passionate about nature all his life, Barry was able to experience at first hand its healing power through Ilse’s terminal illness. At the Truro hospital and then the hospice, he saw patients and families helped — just by being able to experience beautiful gardens through the windows. A bird-table near where Ilse spent her last hours brought great solace.
Alone now, Barry reflects movingly on what he’s learnt: ‘How does nature help with bereavement Whether you are looking at a dewdrop, a daisy or a daffodil, it is the very fragility coupled with their beauty that will impress you. But if through illness or injury you or a loved one cannot get out much, or feel trapped in a city and have that yearning to be relieved of stress, anxiety or sadness — then images can help.
Watching a magnificent red stag come out of the forest into the early morning sunlight or newborn cygnets on their willow nest cuddled up like little grey bits of fluff or seal pups swimming with their mothers by the rocks (all things I’ve filmed) you feel absorbed, relaxed, refreshed.
You’re aware that nature puts life in context. Life and death are a natural, ever-present part of creation. The stag can be challenged and killed during the rut, the cygnet’s nest washed away in a flood and the seals overwhelmed by the next storm.’
I like his simple, but profound message: ‘By watching nature you will build a philosophy and an understanding which will help you cope with stress, anxiety – and grief.’
No one is saying it’s easy. But we all have to be open to how the world can help us.