The concert had just finished and the hall was semi-lit. A dance recital entitled ‘Hope’ had coaxed everyone’s feelings up from deep within to just under the surface, like fish in an aquarium hovering at the top for specks of food. The main supporter of the show was the Patel family who had recently lost one of its eminent members. He was survived by his young wife and three kids. The soft thuds of seats folding up, the hiss of people whispering in gentle tones and trudging in small steps towards the exit filled the warm air.
I approached the 17 years old Patel boy, one of the sons. He appeared shrunken. Contracted, like an empty plastic water bottle, after a flight.
“How’re you doing?”
‘Not bad. Thanks’ he stated, unconvinced, looking downwards and sideways.
“Did you enjoy that?”
‘Yes. T’was nice.’ Still expressionless.
“How’s mum doing?”
‘We went for a safari to Kenya. That was good’ he looked up a little.
“I am sorry for your loss. I hope you’re taking good care of yourself.”
‘Yes. Thanks’. Mortified.
“Can I give you a hug?”
At the age of 51, he was finally consumed by the very thing he loved to consume. He died peacefully in his sleep. Pat, his wife was sad but knew it was inevitable. She carried on.
9 months later her son Kevin went on a Summer camp. He was 15. The camp site had been shut all winter. 2 days before the start date, the camp site had been checked by officials and declared safe. The lads arrived with great memories of the previous year and masses of energy and excitement. They started with a race. With a big smile on his face, Mark flew to the finish line ahead of everyone else and was instantly charred.
Pat’s family wanted to take care of her. They moved her from her family home in Surrey, to a house closer to her brother’s, in Essex. Pat went quiet. She silently and diligently pulled the shafts of her hair out from their roots one by one till she created white little clearings on her scalp. She scratched those clearings with such vigour that they turned into raw, red, weeping craters. She would empty the kettle before plugging it into the mains. She wore her clothes back to front, inside-out. She stood by the window for hours, waiting. She drove down the motorway in the opposite direction. Her family couldn’t help her. They thought she needed to be moved to an Institution for the insane.
A doctor in the Isle of Mann was well-known for his abilities in this field. Pat’s sister-in-law asked him if he would make an exception and help Pat even though she did not live on the Isle. He kindly agreed. He saw her. He unpicked her heart. He unwrapped the wounds in it. It was an excruciating process. She felt he was cruel, forcing her into the darkness of her soul with a torch, untangling the tight knots in her mind, wading through whirlpools of turbulence within.
After 5 weeks he invited her to live in his family home. He encouraged her to walk down the street. The first few times he went with her. Thereafter she walked alone, with her eyes fixated on her shoes. He suggested she try looking up and tell him what she saw. “Blossoms on trees, the church spire, white fluffy clouds, birds, light…”
By the time the hair-dresser had finished with her, she was ready to go home.
Bereavement by suicide is a risk factor for suicide.
A study published in The British Journal of General Practise in August 2016 found that among GPs there is a low level of confidence in dealing with suicide and an unpreparedness to face parents bereaved by suicide. Some GPs described guilt surrounding the suicide and a reluctance to initiate contact with the bereaved parents. They talked of their duty to care for the bereaved patients but admitted difficulties in knowing what to do, particularly in the perceived absence of other services. They also reflected on the impact of the suicide on themselves and described a lack of support or supervision.
2 weeks after Saagar’s death I went to see our GP. I just wanted to see him as there had been no communication between us since Saagar’s last consultation, which was 2 days before his death. He asked me if I was sleeping well. Through a non-stop stream of tears I said I wasn’t. He gave me a prescription for sleeping tablets to last me 3 months. Just perfect for someone who was para-suicidal. Time up. Consultation over.
A few weeks hence I consulted a homeopath. She asked me how I felt. She listened. She created a safe space for me to share from the heart. She wanted to know how I was coping and what support systems I had in place. She acknowledged my tears. She held me like a baby. She taught me techniques that would help me release anger out of my system. At the very end she gave me some medicines for healing. She knew exactly what needed to be done. Having time with her was a blessing.
This is how Wikipedia defines ‘Alternative medicine’: practices claimed to have the healing effects of medicine but are disproven, unproven, impossible to prove, or only harmful.
Lately, there is a trend towards slating alternative medicine as quackery. This is worrying as it assumes superiority of Allopathy over all other disciplines for every possible condition. However, this is not the case. The pharmaceutical industry has something to do with this propaganda just as the automobile industry had a huge influence on cutting back train services in the UK. As far as evidence is concerned, Randomised Controlled Trials are often not do-able or appropriate for many medical interventions within Allopathy.
Holistic care is only possible if we acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of different disciplines and use them in conjunction with each other.