The table of love & loss

This weekend saw the second annual event to remember people lost to sudden, violent deaths. It was an emotional occasion, but one that was full of love and hope.

 

This time of year can be a difficult one for many bereaved people. And when someone has died suddenly it can trigger a lot of reliving and feelings of panic, which I guess is what trauma is. Which is why it can be important to talk to other people who have been through the same thing. In my experience, you are generally on safer ground talking to people who have been through more or less the same thing.

The terrain for those who haven’t is tricky because the bereaved person feels they just want them to say ‘fine’ when they ask ‘how are you?’, they just want it to be somehow better [which it can’t be], or expect them to have ‘moved on’.

Maybe that’s unfair, but just as some people – even members of the family – avoid you because they don’t know what to say, I now avoid people who I feel expect me to say ‘fine’ or, worse, tell me what to do as if they would somehow do it ‘better’ or talk to me as if I am an objective bystander on the situation [for instance, that the person who killed my daughter is probably really anguished when I am telling them he has shown absolutely no remorse and didn’t even come to court to be sentenced]], because it makes me feel worse.

That’s not to say that there are not people who take the time to listen and don’t make you feel that way and sometimes I say ‘fine’ because I just don’t want to have the conversation at that particular time. I too do tend to speak about it all as if I am a reporter on my own life sometimes because detachment makes it easier. And I definitely don’t want to speak about it all the time. I long for distraction.

It’s very difficult to negotiate for everyone involved. So I found myself on Sunday at an event in East Ham for people who have been through sudden, violent deaths. It doesn’t sound like a bundle of laughs, I know, and I was, to be honest, worried that it might be a bit overwhelming. In fact it was both difficult and life-affirming. It was called the Table of Love & Loss and was set up by the amazing Ayse Hussein whose cousin Jan Mustafa was found murdered in April 2019. Ayse wants to focus not on the terrible deaths of people like her much loved cousin, but on their lives, on who they were and their lasting legacy.

I went with a friend who I met through a trauma group, whose son was killed in 2021. We shared a table to remember our children. We brought photos and items that reminded us of our children – for Anisha, her cowprint trousers, some philosophy books, music and more. How do you sum up a person in things when they were so very much more, beyond things and beyond words really?

We spoke to other families who had lost loved ones to murder or road deaths. We spoke to the Victim’s Commissioner for London about the need for more help for the families of road deaths specifically as they are so numerous and there is so little support available to navigate all the awful aftermath, the court cases, the lawyers, the press and so much more. We listened to galvanising speeches about domestic violence, women’s rights and the importance of coming together to celebrate our loved ones.

It was emotional and draining, but also a day full of hope and love because that is what powers us and if the world could harness and support that better rather than avoiding victims’ families or treating them like something to be managed [one woman described how police labelled her hysterical for being emotional about her son’s death] how much more could we do?



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