A Simple Greeting 

“How are you?” (This simple greeting has many variants)

I never thought that such a simple (and well-meaning) question could be filled with such divergent answers, in my case at least.

There are two main answers.

The first one – also known as “the abbreviated version” – leaves the questioner to carry on with their day / evening emotionally unmolested.

“Yeah. OK you know. We’re getting by…. ”

It’s the second – aka “The Full English…..” as A A Gill recently put it – which leaves the questioner fraught. Thinking that they have ruined your day / evening. And leaves you knowing that you’ve ruined theirs.

The second response contains an unspoken pre-thought, which is “Are you REALLY ready for this……?”

And then, when you give that response, when you’ve finished, you get a sense of shock. And you wish that you’d given the abbreviated version.

I used to always give the first one. And then one night, I said “No. I’m not really” and broke down.

You see, when you lose a child, especially when they’ve ended their own life, there is no route map to follow. In the first two weeks every minute contained a question. That question always started “What do we do…….?”

And nobody knew the answers.

There were good people. A lady named Gina at the Co-Op funeral parlour guided us through the majority of the formalities. A veritable angel of a woman, to whom we owe so many thanks.

And everybody meant well. And that is understood and truly appreciated.

People have been lovely.

And then you realise how broken this country is. The human cost of “austerity”.

We soon learned that the NHS in Bolton (I don’t know about other areas) has no (in-house) mental health counselling service. We are lucky in that we got quick access to a Doctor locally for a consultation, but the emphasis appeared to be on “self-help” groups. And we were offered that.

I said “No. I’ve been here before (depression). I know what we need.” So we were – after some forceful nudging – referred.

(Lesson? Be forceful yet polite.)

And then hit the wall. Resource Prioritisation.

There is so little money dedicated to mental health provision, that they can only guide services to those at high risk of self-harming. Or of harming others.

So you get an assessment consultation. And get told that you don’t fit the criteria. And still, you walk away with a list of self-help and charity groups. And here’s the thing…

Sometimes, just sometimes, you need to speak to a professional. Somebody who understands where you are at. Somebody who can treat you. Teach you how to cope. To avoid sliding into a pit from which you can’t ascend.

I’m lucky – if that can be said in our circumstances – I truly understand the need to talk. And when I need to, I’m unafraid to do so.

It’s people who don’t understand this that I worry about. And the lack of professional help concerns me hugely.

Grief is not uniform. It’s a cliche – but nonetheless, true – it IS different for each sufferer.

As I’ve said on many occasions, there are a lot of good people in this beer game. Following on from my previous (related) post, there were a lot of supportive comments. Many have backed those up by not standing back. By saying “Hello”. And by doing that, they make the heart beat a little bit stronger, help me breathe better. And yes, occasionally, cry a little – in a good way.

That’s all we can ask.

So, if you know me – and despite the pitfalls – say “Hello”. And, from now, I’ll give you the abbreviated response.

Thank you all. And greetings of the season.

N.B. This will be the final personal post. And I don’t know if he reads this blog (he’s a busy man), but “Thank You” to Paul Jones from Cloudwater. For taking time and tapping me on the shoulder at The Smithfield last week. I’ve been putting this post off. Unwittingly, he nudged me on and – in all probability – has prompted me to keep blogging.

And further, along the lines of “the immutable law of the gig” (where, no matter how tall you may be, there’s always someone taller, blocking your view), there is always someone worse off than yourself. As I learned recently.

See you soon.