A holiday of memories

Summer holidays can offer a pause for reflection, but they can be an emotional minefield.


Summer holidays are supposedly a moment to pause and recuperate ready for the months ahead. But they can also be a bit of an emotional minefield. We have come to Barcelona to visit family in the blistering heat with news of droughts and fires all around us. The last time we were here was seven years ago when the world looked altogether different and all the family were together.

Now we come without daughter one, retracing our steps, staying at the same Ibis budget hotel on the way down. We have revisited all the places we used to go to when the children were young, looking up at the balcony where their grandmother used to wave the kids off as we headed into town, past the bread shop we went to daily and the play areas and to the little squares where we, the parents, would sit having a drink while the kids went down the slide, past the jazz club where daughter one and I went for a wonderful evening out, walking home along the beach and past musicians and artists. It’s like one big ghost town. The kids swung on the children’s swings at the bottom of the Rambla Prim where we would go often. We took a photo. A ghost photo. Everything is ghosts, most of all me.

I cannot connect to anything. I pass through it and the memories just wash over me and I can’t process anything. I am here and not here. We have visited friends and family, daughter two wearing her sister’s dress – something that daughter one would have been annoyed about in the past, but which is now a unvoiced tribute to her. One member of our family in Barcelona is very ill, trying very hard to keep everything and everyone going as normal. Loss lurks at every corner. I am reading a very good book, It’s ok that you’re not ok, which is about how our culture stops people dealing with loss in their own way and time, how it makes them feel that grief is a process to get through as quickly as possible rather than something you have to learn to carry for the rest of your life.

We’ve been out with friends who I haven’t seen since before the funeral. I know they have spoken to my partner about daughter one, but no-one who knew her speaks to me about her. It is the huge elephant in the room and I want to talk about her. It is like she never existed and I don’t want her to have never existed. I know it is difficult for people to talk about these things or even imagine them, but the only person they are protecting when they do that is themselves. I don’t need protection. I live this every single minute of every day. Nothing can make it worse, except having to pretend that nothing much has happened and that everything continues as normal.

So it is a holiday – and we are lucky to be able to have one in these terrible times – but it is also like treading on the broken glass of your life, the shattering of your heart. I want to come home now and hide in work and the routine of the coping mechanisms I have constructed for better or worse. I would only ask that, if you know a person who is grieving, acknowledge what has happened and that the person they lost was here, is here with you and will always be. Grief is love. It won’t just go away.

Comments [2]

  • jane says:

    I wish people who are likely to meet you read your posts, so they would know what to do to help just a tiny bit. Rather than just me who will never be able to put in action what I learn from you. It is such a simple request- just mention Anisha, acknowledge her existence to her mother.

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