‘Every so often there’s a chink of light and you get to breathe in the oxygen again’

Collette with Andrew at daughter's Tiffany's christening.

Collette with Andrew at daughter's Tiffany's christening. - Credit: Archant

Collette Parker spoke to editor Debbie Davies about the devastating impact of grief for our We Need To Talk... campaign.

Freelance journalist Collette Parker believes grief never leaves you, but she says it has also made her stronger and in many ways the experience has enriched her life.

Collette’s husband Andrew died in April 2009 in the most appalling of circumstances. He was a fit and healthy 48-year-old and on the evening he died, which happened to be Collette’s birthday, he literally dropped down dead.

He was playing in a football match with his two brothers, son Rory as well as his father and cousins when he fell to the ground. It was later revealed that Andrew had suffered sudden adult death syndrome.

Collette was at home preparing a family meal when there was a knock at the door that shattered her family’s world forever.

Collette's son Rory with her dad Jimmy who died last year.

Collette's son Rory with her dad Jimmy who died last year. - Credit: Archant

“My husband died very suddenly and we did not have time to prepare. There was nothing physically wrong with his heart, it was just like an electric light switch going off, but there was no disease there. It was a complete shock. It was actually his father who came to the door to break the news.”

Collette believes the death of her father last year opened up old wounds and forced her to relieve some of the grief she stills feels for Andrew.

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“When my dad died, it felt like the grief I felt for my husband was reborn,” she explained,

“Since then we have all lived through this pandemic and grief is linked to vulnerability. You are feeling vulnerable, sad and insecure. During the pandemic we have all had a lot to bear and I think because of that your emotions are susceptible and that grief suddenly bubbles to the surface again.”

Read more here about the Hunts Post’s We Need To Talk campaign

Collette describes grief as pain and sadness and a feeling of ‘blueness’, but she believes the experience of losing people close to her has also enriched her life.

“At times the grief chokes me and leaves me unable to communicate. I just have to go with it and accept the ‘blueness’.

“In a strange way, the experience of my husband’s death and my father’s death has made my life richer. I wish my husband was with me every single day, but that incredibly, powerful loss has made me understand myself and the human condition much more than if it hadn’t happened.

“I don’t wish that kind of loss on anyone and I do wish Andrew was still here with me, but loss and the feeling of that loss has made me understand myself so much better. Death is a part of life the same way birth is and it was very important when my husband died and my father died to celebrate their lives. I wanted to tell their stories and let people know how important they were to me and I think that gave me a sense of purpose.”

Collette admits she and her two children, Rory and Tiffany, have sad days, but she explains how she has been able to grow from her grief.

“Every so often there is a chink of light and you get to breathe in the oxygen and that oxygen comes from talking to people and friends, comfort comes from sharing our experiences and telling our stories and that makes that chink of light grow and grow.

“Then it turns into a good day and everything looks clearer and sharper and the colours look so much more vibrant because of that grief and sadness. I am blessed because I can recognise the value of what my husband and my father meant to me and because of that, my life is richer.

“The most important thing to do is to talk. I have always been realistic, I have never sat there and wishing my husband could be back with me because I can’t allow myself to wish that, but I feel blessed and happy about the time we had together.”

The Hunts Post team has also produced a We Need to Talk...Grief podcast which has some heart-breaking interviews with those who have experienced loss, as well as advice and support from health professionals and bereavement charities. INFO: www.huntspost.co.uk.

You can listen to the We Need to Talk podcast via our host Audioboom online at www.podfollow.com/need-to-talk or your podcast provider.