On the road …
We like to travel. Josh died on his travels. A LOVE THAT NEVER DIES is a road trip. Travelling is now part of who we are, who we have become. Last year we screened the film to over 25 venues across the UK and in the last few months alone we have presented our films and talks to audiences here and abroad.
In March we showed A LOVE THAT NEVER DIES at the Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol (UK) as part of The Life,Death (and the Rest) Festival and then travelled to the Czech Republic as guests of Dlouha Cesta (trans Long Journey) where we again screened the film to a packed house in Prague. Dlouha Cesta is a small but important charity supporting bereaved parents and other family members after the death of a son or daughter and we were honoured to be invited.
Lucie Burdova introduces the team to the Czech audience
A few weeks later we were in Dublin for the Irish Premier of A LOVE THAT NEVER DIES. Another packed house at the Odeon’s Point Cinema which had been organised by the Irish Hospice Foundation along with a number of other charities including Anam Cara, Irelands foremost bereaved parent network, the counselling service First Light, children’s hospice LauraLynn, HUGG a peer support group for those bereaved by suicide and the Irish Road Victims Association. Over 250 people came to this screening which attracted major coverage in both the Irish Independent and the Irish Times.
Q & A after the screening of A LOVE THAT NEVER DIES in Dublin
Liz Gleeson – podcaster and grief therapist
People do talk of grief as a journey and we have taken this quite literally, meeting new people and learning much on the way. Following the screening in Dublin we spent a few days in Greystones in County Wicklow as guests of Liz Gleeson, a creative arts therapist and one of the few practitioners in Ireland trained in Complicated Grief Therapy. She also produces the Shapes of Grief podcasts where she hosts conversations with ordinary people about their experience of loss and grief in their lives. Through the recounting of our own stories of grief, she says, healing can begin to happen, both for the teller and the listener. One evening Liz and Jane sat down with a couple of microphones and talked about traumatic loss, the isolation many bereaved parents feel, and the fear of what we might represent.
We also met with Justin and Beatrice Caffrey whose son (also called Joshua) died in 2011 just a few days after our Josh. Coincidences like this do create new bonds and hearing the Caffrey’s story was both enlightening and comforting. Our Josh was 22, their Joshua was just eleven months old when he died. We sat round their dinner table and shared our stories. News of our Josh’s death came as a bolt from the blue. Their Josh became seriously ill soon after he was born and spent much of his short life in ICU. His death was a disaster for the family but not unforseen. Conversations among bereaved parents about whether it’s easier to manage a sudden and unexpected death rather than a prolonged life limiting illness almost always grind to a halt in the first few seconds … grief is grief and the manner of their dying seems irrelevant, even inappropriate when forging a new friendship. Better to discover how the tragedy will have changed them over the last eight years. Having spent his previous life in the higher echelons of the finance and banking world, Justin set out on a path of personal reflection and growth – as he puts it “a connection to his inner spirit”. He now earns his living as an elite mindset coach helping individuals and businesses reevaluate their needs. Success he told us is not made, it is sustained. Life to be sure is about self discovery but then it’s about more self discovery and repeating the process over and over again.
with Justin and Beatrice Caffrey in the Irish Sea
Since his son died, Justin has become very much aware of how grief can help us find qualities and strengths we never knew we had. He is also wild swimmer who introduced me to Greystones unique ‘swimrise’ community which is where we met Ruth Fitzmaurice author of “I Found My Tribe” a best selling memoir that chronicles hers and her family’s life following the discovery that her husband Simon has Motor Neuron Disease. It’s a viscerally honest account of the physical and psychological chaos that comes with having to bear witness as well as to attend to a loved ones deteriorating condition and his eventual death.
“There is a secret society of the hurt” she writes “we harbour pain skillfully under smiles”.
The tribe Ruth has found are wounded warriors, tragic wives, superheroes, moon dancers, and sea glass collectors – all fierce friends. Her book is a generous invitation into her world and an offer to ‘walk’ that mile in her shoes but it’s the cold forbidding waters of the Irish Sea that present a better insight to what her grief is like and why diving into the unknown can be so therapeutic, so liberating. Her writing is edgy, staccato …
“I stand on those steps every time with raw fear. Your brain screams no! It’s the first time very time. To dive you need to turn your brain off. Steer past your brain. What the fuck am I doing? Shut up brain. This makes no sense. That’s why it makes perfect sense. Just dive… cold water hits you with a head slam. Don’t fight the cold. Let go and let it seep in. Keep treading water, this too shall pass. Ten seconds later you don’t feel the same. Ten seconds later is pure freedom.”
Greystones Swimrise community
Ruth Fitzmaurice – author and swimriser
As someone who also loves to swim in cold waters, I know what she’s talking about. A year ago I set my own challenge in an attempt to find a more physical response to a grief that has often felt out of reach. My plan is to swim an ICE MILE. You enter another world when swimming in open waters especially in the winter months when temperatures in our seas, lakes and rivers will drop below 10°C. But an Ice Mile requires you swim that distance in waters temperatures of less than 5°C and without a wetsuit – just a pair of swimming trunks, goggles and one hat – in ‘skins’ as we say.
So why? The answer is I’m not sure. All I know is that my own grief isn’t comfortable with everyday life. It demands to be special but won’t hold my hand in public. So sometimes you must grab grief by the scruff of the neck and drag it through the mess it’s made of life. Sometimes you have to show grief just who is in charge. Plunging into really cold waters is one way of doing that. Despite the very obvious fear you will tell your body what you are about to do and your body will resist. It has felt the grip of ice cold pain before so it knows … it just knows. But you’ve come this far and grief has shown you how pain takes on many forms and frankly this is the least of it.
Unlike Ruth I do not dive in. My entrance to cold waters is slow and steady, a gradual immersion as the freeze creeps up my body. The real challenge presents itself when I must dip down and submerge my neck and shoulders. My face will ache, my hand and feet will go totally numb, my mind will want to go awol.
And here we have it – the junction between head and body, between heart and brain, the moment when both must endure together the shock of real cold, of a nothingness that wraps its icy arms around you, no air, no feeling, no nothing … I have never entered the water with a temperature is less than 10°C without thoughts of oblivion. Allowing those thoughts to free roam is an acquired skill that has come with much practice – as much practice as it has taken to train to swim for longer and longer periods in colder and colder waters – but with every stroke and with every breath I’m learning a little more about how to do this thing called grief.
Thanks for reading
Jimmy (May 2019)
Please see below some attempts to express my grief photographically … with thoughts of a wild swim never far away.
Joshua by Fran Landsman – rephotographed on the beach at Branscombe (S.Devon)