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  • Kerry-Jane

GOOD GRIEF – I feel lighter and enlightened

It was with great interest and trepidation that I signed up for the Good Grief Festival after hearing about it from Bamestream. The festival is a wonderful event designed to aid people in the grief process, or those that wish to learn more to aid others, it was also a celebration of life.

I attended a few of the Grief School workshops and talks hosted by an array of brilliant people, professionals and experts that included Bamestream members. I used the term trepidation as I have what could only be described as a phobia of death, which at times causes me to have severe anxiety, it is irrational, but I hoped attending and confronting the dreaded topic would ease my fears and phobia.

The Substance Misuse and Death talk piqued my interest due to two of my immediate family members having battled with addiction issues, one more seriously than the other. Due to the current pandemic attendees of the festival did so online, but it didn’t take away from the experience and it still felt personal and intimate.

I was surprised to hear the statistics on addiction, and death by addiction in the UK. It is shocking to know that statistically we have the highest drug death rate in the whole of Europe. Yet, there is still little to no help for the addicts or their families that suffer in the wake of the death of a loved one.

A topic arose regarding guilt for feeling relief when an addicted loved one finally succumbs to their addiction and passes; this struck a chord with me and it was a relief to hear that somebody had similar feelings to mine.

When my sister was in the darkest depths of her crack addiction and was homeless, stories filtered back to me in the small town where I live – tales that filled me with sadness and pain, never embarrassment because I knew that beneath the exterior of the shell that she was still in there. She was just trying to survive to get the medicine she desperately needed; attempts to prostitute herself, theft from loved ones, selling anything of value to her for £30 a time, living in a tent in a field, and numerous suicide attempts had become her life.

Prior to her severe addiction and throughout her relationship with narcotics, I spent sleepless nights wondering if she would overdose and be found dead, she’d already had a visit to ER due to her overuse of cocaine, and prior to the crack addiction she was extremely aggressive and spent her nights high and her days on a comedown being non responsive and hostile, so by the time I had worked out that she was addicted to crack, I had partly mourned the loss of my little sister, she hadn’t been there for the last 2 years.

A part of me waited for the relief, just so nobody had to spend sleepless nights worrying or if she had been beaten to death by a boyfriend in a drug fuelled fight. It wasn’t until I listened to these incredibly wonderful, courageous, academic women who too expressed these same feelings that I felt the burdens release and I let go of my own burden of guilt.

My sister spent time in prison for a drug related crime and came back clean and had furthered her education – but sobriety is a lifestyle choice and a battle she contends with daily, but she’s a fighter.

The workshop maybe didn’t heal my phobia, but it certainly left me feeling a little lighter and enlightened.

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