I refused to give up

When my son Robbie died two and a half years ago in the horrendous
way that he did, I didn’t believe I could survive the experience
(This Life, 20 November). I most certainly could not believe that I
would ever be happy again.

I haven’t got over the death of Robbie. I’ve just transformed into
a different person because of his loss. Now I know what is trivial.
I know how to value each day because I know how life can change
irrevocably in an instant. This transformation has been hard won
and the pain of Robbie’s absence can still hit me but it doesn’t
last for long and it doesn’t consume me. I am learning to live
fully again.

So, what helped? After hearing of Robbie’s death I vowed that good
had to come out of what had happened. I had to get better, not
bitter. These were, and still are, the guiding principles of my
recovery. I accepted that I could not manage what had happened to
me alone. I asked for help, of all kinds and from many different
people. Time alone does not heal but love does. I had to allow
myself to be open to it and cry the rivers of tears that gradually
started my healing.

I had counselling, tried alternative therapies and friends and
family listened to me talk. They took me to beautiful places, fed
me tempting food and wouldn’t allow me to give up on life. When I
was despairing they held me up – sometimes literally. I refused
anti-depressants and sleeping pills, as I knew I had to experience
this all “neat”. It made the process acute but I think it made it
pass more quickly. I knew I would have to deal with it sometime and
I didn’t want my body to do it for me through serious

The Quaker community, which I was part of, supported me with their
prayers and their practical help when I felt incapable of doing
things for myself. They believed that I would come through the
grief. On most days I wrote, pouring out my anguish, anger and
despair. I charted my grieving through poetry, which gave me
release from what I was going through. I refused the company of
people who would drain my energy or be negative about my
circumstances and sought out those who had known Robbie and sobbed
in their arms.

Nine months after Robbie’s death I went to see a medium and she put
me in touch with him. The sense of separation I felt since he died
left me and I knew that he was alright. I started to write and talk
about Robbie’s life with a view to helping those who wrestled with
similar problems. I began to give meaning to his life and his

I met a man who had also lost a son in tragic circumstances and a
relationship flowered. We shared our losses but also our
determination to go on loving and living. A friend of mine, who has
also lost a son, said to me shortly after Robbie died: “Make no
mistake about it, grieving is hard work.” It is but the rewards,
despite the pain, are worth the effort if you continue to

Judy Clinton’s late son had cerebral palsy.

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