Vigil for the victims of New Zealand attack

Sometimes you feel helpless when bad things happen thousands of miles away. I felt I needed to show solidarity with those who are suffering.

In the days after the Christchurch killings I felt utterly helpless. In the past when I have seen such suffering I have been able to help by sending to money to those who need it. This time is different as how can you let people know that these people are not alone and we won’t sit silently allowing such hate and evil go unnoticed.

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I follow a north east group which protests against racism and those who chose to stir up hatred within the entire country. They felt it was necessary to hold a vigil for the people who have survived the massacre in New Zealand.

It was amazing to see so many gather in St Nicolas’s Cathedral, Newcastle. It isn’t surprising but very sad at the same time that we have witnesses the rise of hate-related incidents in this country and it parts of the world. People’s inability to leave in a harmonious way has led us into some terrible times.

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The rise in social media and people sharing unsavoury views about certain groups has led some in our society to have views which I think are plainly warped. Their views about the Muslim community has been distorted by those who have played a dangerous divisive game for years. Spreading lies and mistruths for their own agenda.

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Thank goodness now the social media companies have started to crack down on those who spread hate. The main ones have put the brakes on those who spread hatred. They have decried their so-called action as attempt to ‘silence’ and ‘censor’ them. This only plays into the hands of the supporters as it gets them angry even though there are thousands of other ways in which hatred can be spread throughout the world.

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The evening was a peaceful reflection where there were members representing a number of faiths, including those from the Jewish and Roma communities, came together as one. As someone with no faith I still strongly believe in standing shoulder to shoulder with those in a minority who had suffered in such a way.

Dipu Ahad is a Labour councillor in Newcastle and was the person who introduced some people to speak about the attack in New Zealand. It was heart-warming to hear of the generosity of those who had reached out to the community on the other side of the world. As I said at the beginning of this post I certainly felt helpless at being unable to share my sympathies with those who were hurting but after this evenings vigil I felt I was able to give my support to the victims of hate and violence.

Gun Control – Las Vegas

I don’t think I have ever spoken about gun control on this blog. But the tragic news today has made me think. 

Firstly, my thoughts and condolences are with the families and friends who have lost loved ones in this horrendous tragedy. It’s appalling to think that so many people lost their lives in such a way that is easily preventable.

This wasn’t a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake. Something that couldn’t be avoided or stopped. This was a deranged terrorist (and rightly named) who brought carnage, death and suffering on an unimaginable scale.

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Yet I am still hearing that people in America will not move on the idea that there should be stricter gun laws in the country. I have heard commentators repeating their mantra that they should be allowed to access weapons as it’s this is their right.

All I can say is that thank goodness I live in the UK and not USA. It is almost laughable that a progressive country like the USA is allowing its citizens to carry out mass-murders without sensibly addressing the issue.

When the Dunblane massacre occurred in 1996 stricter laws in the UK were brought in and I believe made the country a safer place. I had to reassure my class at the time as they were frightened that a gunman could do the same in the school. They were genuinely worried.

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If ISIS had carried out this attack, USA would have reacted. If North Korea had done the same they would have bombed their country. The utter madness and insanity in this that America cannot and will not police itself. Believing their second amendment right outweighs the rights of those who tragically lost their lives.

The USA has collective denial. Some of those people who were affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy have campaigned for tighter gun laws. This was reflected in Barack Obama’s attempt and failure to change the country’s law regarding guns.

Everyone can own and drive a car with a license that’s attained by certain standards. These standards are legally required drive on UK roads. There are yearly checks made on a vehicles roadworthiness. Billions of pounds is spent implementing safety measures in vehicles so people are less likely to be injured or killed as a result of an accident. Yet America is not prepared to do so on guns which are solely designed to insure or kill. If you don’t know that a definition of madness is, this is it.

 

Chester Bennington

What do we do when someone we know commits suicide? How do we handle it? Do we mock them for being weak and ‘taking the easy way out’? Do we simply brand the person selfish? If only the answers to those questions were that simple.

I have tried to commit suicide. There I said it. I’ve wanted to. I don’t feel ashamed of saying it, but I am not proud of it. I don’t wear as a badge in a ‘feel sorry for me’ statement. My mental health has reached crisis point and it’s acknowledging that it’s got so serious.

Others have mocked people who have tried to take their own lives. A simple disruption to someones travel plans of a few minutes is met with derision on social media if they have found out that it was due to someone’s action at that critical point. It was someone on the lines or someone at the top of a building; cue the insults.

I don’t wish my worst enemy the thoughts of suicide. Believe me. If you have been there you know what it is like. Nothing that you could ever put into words or have a go at describing.

Chester Bennington’s death seems to some a natural consequence of a rock star lifestyle.

“He struggled for years with alcohol and drugs addiction” as is often reported in these cases. So do a lot of people, despite their wealth or fame, but suicide isn’t inevitable. It is the treatable manageable disease of depression which causes it. Depression and mental health problems aren’t helped by substance abuse although people seek short-term fixes to alleviate the suffering.

I have come to terms with my suicidal thoughts, I acknowledge them. If they get bigger than I can handle I know I have to seek help. Recognising they are serious is the first step. Stopping yourself getting to that crisis point by telling someone else you are feeling this way. I have done it numerous times. People will be happy enough to stick with you if they are good friends. It’s the pain of not reaching out to someone at that point that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Charlie Gard

This my be a controversial post and might cause some people to stop reading my blog. I am not here to deliberately provoke. But I am simply stating my opinion and thoughts.

The disease that Charlie is suffering from is extremely rare. Infact, there are only a handful of known cases around the world. This poses problems for those who are treating him in hospital as trials for medication and treatment will also be in the experimental stage and have no guarantee of success.

The medical staff in the USA that have treated people with this terrible disease have only treated those who were not at the terminal stage as is with Charlie. It is at a point where doctors feel that Charlie should be allow to die with dignity.

When do our emotions stop and clear thinking take precedence? I know when mum was dying it was clear that little could be done for her in the latter stages. I would have done ANYTHING to have her here now. I miss her dearly to this day but one of the things that I as well as other family members had to do was think what was in mums best interests and this is what the courts have explained to Charlie’s parents.

We are only human beings and don’t work miracles. We can only work within the parameters for what we know now as far as medical and scientific research allows us. There isn’t a magic solution for everything.

Raymond Briggs (the author of The Snowman) said that he always tries to write in his books the subject of death. As you know, very sadly the end of the Snowman, he dies. Briggs feels that children shouldn’t be hidden away from death and it should be explained that it’s a very real part of life and I whole-heartedly agree with him.

For someone who has had a very real experience of people dying I have had to look at situations clearly and not let emotions dictate what is in the best interests of the person. Friends, grand-parents, aunts, parents and beloved pets have all died in my lifetime. It is what makes us human to allow us to show utter respect in the last stages of someones life.

Good Grief

Who talks to you about grief when you are growing up? When my grandfather died in 1984, my parents went into silence and I was told under no circumstances was I going to see him. Another member of my family experienced the death of a friend and again I was told not to talk to him about it. Silence was the way to deal with grief.

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It was certainly a generational thing, as it wasn’t just applicable to my family alone. You didn’t talk when someone died. It not a healthy way I have learned to start to cope with someones passing.

Jeff Brazier was in a relationship with Big Brother contestant Jade Goody. They had two sons in that time and he was given custody of them when Jade sadly passed away after suffering from cervical cancer.

I always remember that when I was a teacher, there were a lot of lads that had so many problems due to losing someone. Usually a bond between them and a grandfather and the grandfather had passed away and they have an inability to cope and deal with the grief, which in turn, causes major mental health problems.

It’s about time that people talked about grief and I am sure that Jeff Brazier, through his own experiences, will be able to guide people in how to deal with the over-whelming emotion of losing someone.

How do you move on?

I spoke in the last blog about remembering the time when my father died and how it has affected me now that my mother is no longer with us. There are some people who stick to death and bereavement like chewing gum sticks to the cat. But how do we move on?

Firstly, do you want to move on? There seems a thread now in society that if we aren’t at the grave every week or sometimes even every day that we have forgotten the person or the person somehow doesn’t hold the same meaning to us when they were alive. I have seen and read numerous times how families are clinging on to the memory of their loved one in some vain attempt to keep them alive. Siblings forced to mourn for a brother or sister they haven’t even met.

Because you are moving on with your life that doesn’t mean you forget the person or love them less. Building shrines to someone aren’t helpful. I will talk about the person but there are times now after the stage of mourning where you have to start living your life again. Sitting around thinking about the person you have lost all day isn’t helpful or healthy.

I am not a one to shy away from bereavement and expressing the hurt and pain it causes. At my funeral, I don’t want any of this ‘celebration of life’ crap. I want crying and tears. Then when you have done the dishes and hoovered then you can raise a glass or seven and then start moving on with life. I am dead. Gone. Not coming back. No amount of bright colours or waving off balloons is going to bring me back. I might joke about this but I know that a lot of people want a celebration of life and there is nothing wrong with that either. It’s not me and not who I am.

People who post messages to a person on social media like they are looking in from another spiritual dimension can be helpful for younger people in the beginning but again I have read where people are posting messages about how the person who has died will be drinking alcohol and spending Christmas on a cloud somewhere. A bizarre way to view the afterlife and a little childish in my opinion.

Bereavement can cause a whole raft of behaviours that are strange. It’s when that behaviour is unhealthy or even dangerous that help should be given. It can cause serious mental illness and as someone who has suffered from depression for over twenty years I have had to be aware of my own health and keeping that from slipping downwards.

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The best advice I have heard in the past few months is taking a few small steps into the world again but don’t expect change over night. I am terrified of leaving my home town and going on holiday. I am racked with guilt about ‘enjoying’ life. Somehow it seems wrong to have a life outside of mum. Having been her carer for so many years. But if I was to ask what she might say about my guilt, she probably would laugh, and ask ‘What on earth have you got to feel guilty about?’.

She would then chastise me for being silly and tell me to move on. It would have been her way of dealing with things. Dismissing them and then getting on with life. If life was as easy as that I wouldn’t be writing this blog in my living room but in the south of France somewhere.

So you take small steps until you are ready. I went for bereavement counselling as part of those small steps I am not ashamed to say I got help. There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. It hasn’t been easy but I am glad I did it. It doesn’t make me any weaker or less of a man it means I am being honest about what I am feeling and willing enough to take steps to being well again.