Trauma, support, empathy and guilt
By John Norgrove
11 February 2011
I’m to write a blog once a week and this is my first attempt, so bear with me.
The Foundation is clearly going to be the main subject but, to begin with, I’m going to write about how important it’s been to both Lorna and me to receive support, following Linda’s abduction and death, from friends, the community and the wider public; about how this has changed our outlook; and the pressure of obligations that this creates.
During the first few weeks, the phone was going constantly, and we were receiving 20-30 cards and letters a day, from people we knew and also from strangers. We’ve received more than 700 in total. A substantial proportion were from people who had suffered some loss themselves: miscarriages, family killed in road accidents or in incidents like ours, cancer, children’s deaths.
Reading these was harrowing at times, but also strangely comforting because it made you realise that people who go through these traumas feel for others who suffer. And they were feeling sympathy for us. You also realise that most get over these traumas to some extent.
You find inner strength that you didn’t know you had because you’d never needed it before - the other side of this is that you realise that, when times are easy, you tend to explore your weaknesses.
But the most significant aspect is that we both felt more empathy with others who are suffering - and that’s one of the main reasons for starting this charity.
This is also why we’ve been trying to find out more about the farmers’ wives and children who were left when their menfolk were killed during the rescue. We’ve received lots of support - they’ve probably had very little. And, very important to us, we’ve had each other - those women are now on their own. We’d like to help them if we can, but have been advised that there is a lot of anger in the area just now and it would be better to take things slowly.
The main difficulty of receiving support is that it brings a social obligation to write back and thank people for donations, to reply to letters etc. Apart from wanting to thank people, charity managers that we have talked to have advised us that it is vital to maintain contact with our supporters and those interested in the work of the Foundation.
Well, we’ve found it impossible to keep up, especially with having to manage all of the other demands - Linda’s estate, possessions, trips away to briefings, award ceremonies, press interviews, charity administration and accounts, websites - the list goes on and on. I hope that this blog will be one way of ‘keeping up’ and maintaining contact.
I’ve been used to having a backlog, doing as much as I can and ignoring the rest, but Lorna is more mindful of her social obligations and feels the burden more heavily. I’m sure that this will all settle down but it can be a lot to cope with alongside the other stresses.
As Lorna said last week: ‘I’d like to go and hide in a burrow.’ -‘With a teddy,’ she added as an afterthought.