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Dear Annie: Bereavement heartache’s cheated me of happiness

A grieving woman reflects on her sadness, as she looks through a rain-streaked window

Dear Annie: My younger brother died in an explosion at his job at age 32. I was very close to him. Then a few years later my best friend died. Soon after, my husband was killed in a horrible 24-vehicle crash driving to work. Our youngest son with mild special needs was only four years old.

Then, two years later, my mother died and a year later, my father died. I was so grief stricken and alone. After every death, there was family conflict with relatives who tried to make trouble. There was betrayal, theft and conflict by relatives against me in each situation. The relatives were not close to my family while they were alive.

I have had to battle many challenges and obstacles alone with very little support. I had to make funeral arrangements and take care of all matters for each family member that died. No one else would help me. But others thought they were entitled.

I was extremely close to all who died and we loved each other tremendously. They all trusted me and left me in charge. My two children were young but I had to stay strong for them. Many people do not know how it feels to have your loving family wiped out so close together. I felt abandoned and had to go to grief support for five years for emotional support and guidance, since remaining family, friends and bosses at work were not understanding or considerate at all. My boss told me to just get over it and stop feeling sorry for myself. The remaining relatives have caused nothing but additional grief each time.

I believe I suffered from post-traumatic stress. I am actually doing much better in life now that my children are grown, but I feel like most of my heart was forever broken. I know that this happens to almost everyone eventually, but it happened to me during my early life in my thirties.

I am now 60 and I feel cheated, losing my loved ones early in my life. I also feel sad that they all lost their lives too early as well. Many people I know have not encountered multiple deaths and cannot relate. Many other families I know tend to help each other in time of loss, but not in my case.

I know life goes on and I try hard to find happiness. But I always have that missing feeling. Thank you for allowing me to vent my feeling. – MA

Annie says: What a terribly difficult and painful time you have had. I am so sorry. I can absolutely understand that it must feel deeply unfair to have experienced so many losses, and additionally to go through family conflict during those times you needed support the most. I also hear how alone you feel, having lost so many people, and so early on in your life. Well done for seeking out help by getting bereavement counseling. That in itself is a brave thing to do. It sounds like you try hard to enjoy life, but as you say, the spaces left by your loved ones who have died can never be filled. And that hurts.

There is no easy route to acceptance. And part of the journey is actually about accepting that it will always hurt, rather than waiting for the pain to stop. It's about finding a way to live with that hurt, not against it; to let it be a part of who you are and to believe that you are better because of it. The words of Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai International, come to mind: Just as the pure white lotus flower blooms unsoiled in muddy water, our lives, which are supremely noble, can continue to shine even amid life’s harshest realities.

Thank you for writing in. Keep venting your feelings. And be kind to yourself.

If you have a question for Annie to answer in this column, you can write to her at

About Annie

Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counselor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.

She is the author of bestselling self-help book We Need to Talk About Grief, inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.

Regretfully, Annie cannot enter into personal correspondence

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