Turning grief into positive action
"As a bereaved parent you represent people's worst nightmare." These were Jane Harris' words at our Day of the Dead conference on 1 November.
Jane was speaking to the audience about the death of her son, Joshua (pictured right) in January 2011. The 22-year-old was on 'the trip of a lifetime' across South East Asia when he was killed in a road traffic accident.
Josh, a beautiful young man with haunting eyes, had already seized life by the throat, not just in travelling to far flung destinations but by securing a job making films for arguably the world's most famous music club, the Ministry of Sound in London.
In trying to make meaning of something so arbitrary and senseless, Jane and husband Jimmy, helped by their other children Rosa and Joe, have created a website beyondgoodbye.co.uk, a virtual world where Josh can be celebrated and remembered, and where other bereaved people might find solace or even inspiration. In an associated blog, friends and family can even send postcards to Josh, who had been eager to see as much of the world as possible, as a way of "taking him with them".
Then there's the film, also called 'Beyond Goodbye', about Josh's intensely personal funeral. Jane and Jimmy made it not just to share with those who loved Josh but, as it says on the website, for "anyone interested in the healing power of creating a funeral ritual without recourse to conventional undertakers".
Jane, who admits she has learned more about bereavement in the last year-and-a-half than she has in her 20 plus years working as counsellor, comments: “As Josh's sister Rosa says, ‘Josh wasn't just ours’, and by sharing our memories and messages I know we are strengthened, and his friends tell me they are too.
“Our aim is to share our grief in a positive way, both for people who know us and those who don't. We hope that in our death-averse culture, by bringing our experience into the public domain it will encourage others to open up more about an area so shrouded in silence.
“Our aim was, and still is, to celebrate Josh's life as well as mourn his death.”