Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Writing through bereavement

I haven't blogged for a good few months but today I went to a creative workshop and was encouraged by former Derbyshire poet laureate River Wolton to write a poem about MND.

The process of writing it has really helped me take what you might call a sideways look at my bereavement.

Norfolk Sky

Dusk. The sun descends on the horizon.

Loud male voices disturb the peace from afar. A small white fishing boat has entered the bay.
The men are returning home for the day.

They move close enough to the harbour that she can see their yellow life jackets.

They're anchored. Moored.

Stepping off the boat he sees in her face there is something wrong. He holds her as she weeps into his chest.

It's not going to be ok.

Dusk. The sun descends on the horizon.

Fran Hall

Monday, 19 August 2013

Getting Real

I was 26 when my mum died. It felt way too young to lose a mum, but I’ve come to realise that many people don’t even get 26 years with their mum, and if they do, they’re often not as blissful and secure as mine were. I'm so grateful for the person she was and the relationship we had.

I’d be lying if I said I never argued with my mum but I was extremely lucky that those occasions were very rare, and I don’t remember her raising her voice to me more than once or twice. (Maybe that’s because I was just such a good child!?)

Some people have their mum in their life until they’re old. Some lose their mum at a very young age. Some never meet their birth mum or find them later on in life. Some people lose their mum unexpectedly and some have a long time to prepare.


There are many emotions to deal with when you’ve lost a mother, have never known her, or just wish your relationship had been very different. These feelings are different for everyone. There can be a mixture of sadness, denial, regret, pain, misery, anger, joy and happiness at memories, hope, and many more.

It has been easy for me to have a rose-tinted view of my mum since her death; pretending that she was always perfect, and although I thought she was most of the time, I’ve realised that as well as this I need to remember the times when I was frustrated with her, the times when we fell out, when we weren’t speaking, and when she annoyed me. Only then can I have a full picture of what she was like.


I started this blog as a way of dealing with all the different emotions I was feeling and I can honestly say that writing it has been one of, if not the most, cathartic activities to help me deal with my loss.

If you’ve experienced the loss of a parent I would encourage you to write. You can write about anything, you don’t have to write about your loss – writing about other things can trigger memories (bad and good) about your loved one. Sometimes it doesn’t make you remember anything. Give it a go if you haven’t already, what have you got to lose?

Here are some other good articles and blogs on the same topic:

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A certainty in what we cannot see

Caveat: Christian content!

As a Christian, when my mum was ill and getting worse, I prayed everyday for her to get better, knowing that in earthly terms there was absolutely no hope. People just don't recover from degenerative diseases.

It's hard to be a Christian in that kind of situation because, for me anyway, I felt as though I was in a constant battle between what I could see in front of me each day and the fact that I knew God was and is the Great Healer. In many ways this meant that I wasn't prepared for mum's death when it did arrive because I had convinced myself so strongly that God was going to heal her on earth. This made the eventual reality even more difficult to take.

So why did I put myself through that?

I realise now that I had created my own 'DIY' fix/coping strategy/religious behaviour to deal with the situation, as a lot of people do, and that actually this is not what the Bible instructs us to do in these times.

I felt that I had 'hope' but I can see now that what I had was a self-made interpretation of hope, not an eternal, Kingdom hope. I would pray with what I thought was a big pile of hope, trying to persuade God that mum shouldn't die, shouldn't leave us here on earth without her.

After some time this kind of prayer became too much of a strain on my emotions and my relationship with God. I was putting too much effort into talking to God to try and earn brownie points for spending time with Him, but then a funny thing happened. As I spent more time with Him, my prayers began to change and He started to fill me with a different kind of hope. A genuine hope.

I remember vividly I'd spend at least 30 minutes a day sitting in the jacuzzi at the local gym just chatting to God, pouring my heart out to Him, as well as just resting in His presence and listening to the thoughts He put on my heart. I found that as I started to come to Him just to spend time with Him without an agenda He was filling me with hope and changing what I hoped for.

It says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die.' Don't get me wrong, I never wanted mum to die and of course I still wish she was here, but I started to accept that there was a bigger picture to life, and not just in my life; others' too.

What does God's word say about hope?

The Bible says, 'If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.' Or, as The Message puts it, 'If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot.' 1 Corinthians 15:19 

Many people have turned hope into something similar to what I was doing - essentially 'wishing' and sometimes bargaining with God. I know now that hope is something that only comes from God. We cannot create it, however much we try. 

In the original Greek New Testament the word which we now translate as 'hope' means 'a strong and confident expectation'. Only God can reveal the true meaning of 'hope' to us and I don't believe it is a concept that we'll ever fully understand until we meet Him face to face. Humans like to label things, they like to put things in boxes so they can understand them, or think they understand them, but that's not how God works.

So what was I hoping for?

As I slowly gave over my wishes and dreams to God He started to replace them with His hopes and dreams and they became the dreams of my heart. I started praying about lots of different things, for friends, the future, for family, of course for mum but most of all, for God to be glorified. I couldn't have prayed for these things in my own strength. God was showing me the bigger picture.

I couldn't honestly say that I was confident in mum being healed on earth. That would be a stupid thing to proclaim. And that wasn't what God wanted me to be confident in; He wanted me to hope in Him, know that He was in charge, that the best is yet to come, that we have an eternity to spend with Him, and that this is just the start.

God never promises that life is going to be easy, but if we surrender our hearts to Him he will show us a way of living above our circumstances and being joyful and at peace just where we are.

I believe mum is having an absolutely great time with her Sovereign King, sitting at his feet in freedom that she could never have found on earth. And I believe that I will see her again one day and we'll sit together at God's throne and bow down to Him alongside millions of others.

He knows what He's doing.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


As what would have been my mum’s 65th birthday approaches (16th March) I have been thinking again about the grieving process and how events can help so much in healing.

Here we all are on mum's 62nd birthday, the last she had on earth. It was a lovely day and one I didn't realise we wouldn't have again.

Last year my sister and I bought cards for mum’s 64th birthday to celebrate the occasion. As Lucy still believes mum is behind the red curtain inside our local crematorium, we wrote our cards and took them to the crematorium door. We read them out loud, resealed them and posted them through the letter box. Marking occasions such as this gives me permission to remember with reason. I can hear you saying, 'you have reason enough Fran', and you're right, but it links back to my previous post on intentionality - sometimes we need a sense of purpose, and a plan for grieving, remembering and healing.

I know I need more than this once a year 'ceremony' (twice if you count the day she died) to remember her. My mum was an amazing woman and deserves to be remembered every day. 

Our family doesn't have a grave, commemorative plaque, or planted tree to visit when we feel low or want a place of focus. While I wouldn't want any of those things to become the focus, I am coming to realise that these things all provide a place of ceremony, and a place with absolute permission to grieve.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


What strategies can I adopt to help me through the grieving process?

Here are a few things that I've tried, along with their results.

1. Ignoring the situation

Result: Emotional combustion

2. Thinking really really hard

Result: Not a lot

3.  Feeling sorry for self

Result: Downward spiral into alienation

Maybe these are states we need to experience to a certain extent in the grieving process so we can get to a point where we realise they don't work. However, I wish I'd listened to friends a long time ago who suggested I might want to engage with my grief in a tangible and intentional way.

Now I've started to do that, here are some things that have helped and continue to help in my life:
  • Bereavement counselling - Finding a good counsellor is so important
  • Writing - For me this has brought back memories that I thought were gone forever
  • Talking to friends who knew mum - Asking for stories about her is like rediscovering her
  • Looking at photos and watching videos of mum - I'm lucky to have these things
  • Watching a really sad movie - Get those emotions stirring!
These all sound like really obvious things to do, I'm aware of that, but sometimes it's difficult to actually sit down and 'do' as life inevitably takes over and sweeps us along. I won't be swept anymore.

My biggest learning: Be intentional

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The End

This video from the MND Association pretty much demonstrates what happened to my mum between 2008 and 2010. Although the process of degeneration is brutally quickened, the emotions and reactions it elicits are the same. I find it difficult to watch and I hate the undignified portrayal of this woman but for me, watching such things are exactly what I need to help me through the grieving process. It's reality.

At this present time I can only really remember mum in the end state and I hope that one day when I think of her, my first thought will be of her in a normal mum state. Until then, I will continue to think of her as I naturally do in the hope that once I've confronted those images head on I'll be able to move past them to happier memories.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


Well, it's only 2 days until Christmas and I can't help wondering what mum would be doing right now if she was here. Somehow I have to get my head around the fact that she isn't here but I'm in a constant dream state of surreality (!) and have been for over 2 years. Thinking about her at Christmas time, even when I really really try doesn't bring that much to mind. There's some kind of blockage there but how do I move it?

When mum died I thought I could just carry on with my life as usual, pick up from where I left off before she was ill, not out of disrespect for her but simply because it was easier not to think about the situation and therefore not confront any pain. Of course denial is a natural part of all grieving, but more than 2 years of this has not been a great idea for me. However, something in me obviously knew I couldn't deal with the pain right away and has allowed me to wait until I am ready.

I love this photo because it says everything about how I felt about mum. And although, ok, yes I probably am looking adoringly at my new born sister, I know I'm looking at mum too thinking how great she is.

Perhaps if I had lost something or someone much much less important to me I could have dealt with the bereavement earlier but this prolonged denial just goes to show, to me anyway, that I lost the most important person in the world.

The way I think about my future, every present moment and even my past has to change. The past in particular is a source of great sadness to me at the moment as it contains regrets, memories that can never be repeated as well as unrealistic representations of a person that I must dispel.

I think one of the hardest things for me has been to understand what I'm supposed to do while I'm grieving. I mean how does someone actually grieve? No one teaches you how to do it yet it seems to be a thing that people 'do'. Well, it seems that both my mind and body are telling me it's time to start doing this illusive thing we call grieving, so here goes...