"In all probability, each of us will have a day in our lives when the heavens appear to fall in and our world comes crashing down around us; especially when fate or circumstances take a loved one from our presence. For a while after the event, our bodies will be traumatically affected and we may start to dysfunction as we slowly sink into a state of emotional disturbance. Most will healthily negotiate the process of bereavement, some will seek to minimise its more painful effects and others may even try to avoid and deny it!
Though others may try to console us, the depth of our sense of loss and the loneliness of the grief we feel often numbs us to their concern and compassion. We may become selfish in our sorrow and initially, refuse to share with another our overwhelming feelings of fear and uncertainty for the future that preoccupy our thoughts and bring us closer to a point of 'learned helplessness.'
Some people who are suffering bereavement, will, as their defence mechanism, adopt a stiff upper lip and put on a public face. They will opt to cry in the privacy of their own space and carry their burden unassisted.
Then, there are others of the opposite order who will express their grief to anyone and everyone they meet and who will listen; especially those good neighbours who proffer ongoing help and prodigious support, simply for the asking. Unknowingly, a bereaved person who willingly accepts all offers of this nature runs the risk of not processing their grief healthily. They may find it easier to develop a lifetime of 'learned dependency' on others who are willing to forever talk about the day their world fell in and changed their life irreparably, besides doing for the bereaved person those things they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves and ought to be doing for themselves!
Just as it is foolish to immediately rush into a new relationship after the sudden breakup of a lengthy marriage, then busying oneself with all manner of things that deny one's feeling of the loss and pain after the death of a loved one, is also unwise. After the trauma of either death or divorce, the body requires time to readjust and come to terms with the new situation. Such time is best done alone (outside new relationships), as one's thoughts and uncomfortable feelings are processed. The support best used is the support of a few good friends who will listen to your fears, talk with you about your feelings and at the end of the day, let you go home alone to start to live with your own feelings without distraction.
During my life, there have been many occasions when I have comforted a dying person or have tried to help the one left grieving. All in all, I'd have to conclude that it was invariably easier helping a person to die than helping the bereaved person to live!
Between 1989 and 2005, I wrote and had published many books for children, young persons, and adults. Often, the press and other media would frequently ask me what it felt like to be an established author, to which my response would invariably be that I considered myself to be more of a 'social crusader, masquerading as a writer'.During my early years as an author, my prime objective was to use my stories with children to deal with topics that would help them grow healthily. I was more concerned with selling 'ideas' more than 'books'. The books were merely a means of conveying my thoughts.
Through my books, I highlighted the many situations children face from day to day which involves dealing with feelings they found both difficult to understand and hard to resolve; unexpected happenings which made their worlds come crashing down around them. High up on my list of concerns were the feelings of loss and separation. Year-by-year, more of their parents' marriages were ending in divorce, splitting their family units and often resulting in their sudden separation from one parent and the adaption of a changing relationship. Parental separation and divorce often brought with it the changing of houses, friends, and schools, along with a greater degree of uncertainty they had never previously had to deal with about their future.
On those occasions when the death of a parent, brother, sister, grandparent or much-loved pet occurred, this was when their emotions got tangled and were hard to unwind. Their young lives appeared to stop and they quickly lost interest in school, home, and many other activities and things that they used to value highly. So often with children undergoing these types of trauma, their behaviour might become destructive and aggressive as they fought the irreconcilable forces of loss, separation, grief and uncertainty which suddenly blitzed their happy world. Some children seek refuge in comfort eating while some even resort to bullying behaviour as a revenge response to the world.
The themes of all my children's books involved experiences that most of us will experience from time to time, and which we all find hard to cope with. If such life experiences bring with them thoughts and feelings that all adults find difficult to cope with, think how hard must it be for the child having the same experiences? Common among my book themes is bereavement, loss, separation, bullying, racism, homelessness, anger etc. etc.
From all the traumas a child can experience, the sudden death of a loved one is undoubtedly the greatest. This is the single event which triggers the greatest emotional disturbance in the child and its impact on their lives led me to do more than I'd done before to redress this problem.
First, I wrote a book about the death of a father in a musically talented family called 'Nancy's Song.' That book was publicly read in hundreds of Yorkshire schools by famous people of national and international fame. Readers who brought tears to the eyes of its child listeners and their teachers, included Hannah Hauxwell, the late Richard Whitely and the late Brian Glover to name but a few. 'Nancy's Song' is available in e-book format from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/77825 and in paperback copy from www.lulu.com and amazon, with all profits going to charity. Please note, that this is a book designed to acquaint children with some of the feelings accompanying the gradual death of a parent and how they might help both self and dying parent in the process, as well as better understanding the feelings and fears that one of their friends in this situation will probably be experiencing. It is a book that does not push death under the carpet but instead encourages children to see it as a stage in the existence of all creatures. All children can benefit from reading this book as well as their parents. When a child reads the book, it is helpful if the parent ensures they are around afterward to discuss any issues, or better still, read the book with them!The book was dedicated to the late Roy Castle and helped to raise much-needed money for his appeal.
Next, I persuaded the National Lottery to fund me to write, arrange and produce a musical play, based on my best selling book, 'Douglas the Dragon'. In my 'Douglas Dragon' stories, I used the opportunity through the mouth of an angry dragon character, to provide advice to child and adult how best to cope with anger, bereavement, and loss. As the founder of 'Anger Management' in the early 1970's, I felt suitably qualified and experienced enough to do this. When this project was completed, 1000 Yorkshire schools received free 'anger management packages' and the musical play was made freely available to every school and educational establishment globally through free downloading from my website. That play and all its original songs has been performed in a number of countries and can be freely obtained from my website by accessing:
In this musical play, a volcano erupts in anger, killing half of the villagers below, destroying their crops and houses and leaving them uncertain about their future as they cope with their deep sense of bereavement and loss. The oldest and wisest woman in their village, Granny McNally, is called upon to address the downhearted people. I include her speech from the play below as it represents the heart of the production:
GRANNY McNALLY:(Slow, solemn and assertive delivery)
“Our hearts are heavy with grief for our dead; our feelings of loss veil our pain. Even our mental images of their tragic deaths mangle our minds and press our thoughts of confusion into feelings of uncertainty for the future.”
“Our skies seem filled with the harbinger of doom and gloom, but believe me when I tell you that (determined voice) the sun will shine through again!”
“I’ve walked this earth for 90 years. I’ve seen all of you born and have witnessed more deaths than I care to remember. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I’ve forgotten more than most of you have yet learned.”
“And yet, despite the extent of my age and worldly wisdom, I know so little about what lies beneath this green sod that makes the ground shake so violently when ‘The Angry Hill’ explodes in rage.”
“But this I know with every breath of my being and tell you most truly (more determined voice). I know that sadness suffered in silence grows ever more bitter and sours the soul of humanity. I know that grief denied is grief extended and that bereavement borne alone is a cross far too heavy to bear.”
“I urge you, one and all, do not hide away your grief from family and friends. Share your fears and sadness with them, for a burden shared is a weight lessened! Let it out. Let them see it. Let others help you to carry your loss!”
“Do not conceal your pain behind false pride, good people. There is no shame in crying, no comfort to be found in silent rage, and no point in trying to cope alone when others will help you willingly; and be glad to have done so.”
“This is a time for you to share with friends and family; a time for all to rally round and to offer what we give best. This is not a time to isolate oneself from the lives of others, but a time to take part in all around you: the wisest time of all to express your feelings to those you love and trust!”
“Do all of this, my dear friends, and I promise you that the light will shine through your darkest day. Follow the substance of your future. Do not dwell in the shadow of your past. Put your past behind you and I tell you, that a brighter ‘morrow shall follow.”
“However sad you feel today, I promise, that in time, your feelings shall change for the better. Remember, the birds shall still sing, the sun shall still shine, the grass will still grow, the flowers shall still bloom and the wind will still blow.”
“Consider this, good people. Even mighty oaks have to bend to the force of nature. And then, even when they are battered and blown by the Earth’s storms; even then, experience encourages the trunk to grow ever stronger and its roots to spread ever wider. Are we no less?”
“So give heed to the ramblings of an old woman. Do as I advise, and peace and reconciliation shall enter your lives once more. This I promise you. This I know!”
Since I wrote, arranged and produced this musical play, I am proud to know that both children and adult drama/operatic groups in many parts of the world have performed it on stage and read my 'Douglas Dragon' books in thousands of their classrooms. For me, if I have helped but one person through their emotional disturbance of anger, bereavement, and loss, my lifetime's work and presence on this earth have not been in vain." William Forde: November 6th, 2016.