Over the past ten years or so, I have written eighteen self-help books.
I have covered extensively the crises faced by other people but never my own. Of course, I’ve let out the odd biographical detail but I have remained resolutely private.
So why have I decided now to publish my diary from twenty years ago?
1. When my partner died I felt very alone
There are very few good books about mourning . OK, there’s plenty about the five stages of grief and generalised advice. However, I found the five stages worse than useless. I could do all five in one day (maybe even one hour).
When you’re groping about in the dark, you don’t want general platitudes; you need dispatches from someone a few steps ahead.
2. My diary has helped other people
When friends and work colleagues lost loved ones, I shared the relevant portion of my diary: the death of my partner and my first year alone. The universal response was “thank goodness, I’m not the only person going mad.”
3. Publishing it has frightened the living daylights out of me
I am always asking my clients to do risky things and make themselves vulnerable (because that’s the only way to rebuild loving relationships). But have I held myself to the same standard? Probably not. I’ve been frightened of being judged—because my diary doesn’t always show me in the best light.
And therapists traditionally don’t talk about themselves – so they can be whoever their clients need them to be (without biographical details getting in the way). So this is really outside my comfort zone…but maybe that’s a good thing?
4. Everybody makes mistakes
It is easy to think that other people have got everything cracked. Somehow when there’s a problem, they’ve enough knowledge or skills to circumnavigate the generally messiness of life—or perhaps they are just plane lucky (and never fall face first into the mud).
As a writer of self-help books, it is easy for others to think I am one of these blessed people. So to prove that we’re all in this together, I thought I would pull back the curtain and reveal myself in all my complexity.
5. Death is a universal experience
It is important to remember that death touches us all. Although I intellectually knew this when I was thirty seven, I did not really believe it. At fifty-seven, I have lost other people that I love and discovered there are two approaches to death—to put your fingers in your ears and go “la, la, la” or to face the truth about life and death and learn from it.
I hope my book is a small step towards our society dropping the first option and turning towards the second.
For more information about and to read excerpts from the book please visit the My Mourning Year website. There you will also find my articles about bereavement. The book is also available to buy now on Amazon UK.