Friday, 6 September 2013

Trying to survive on my own.

After a few months of living on my own in the house I realised that I wasn’t coping very well. I was feeling so angry and ashamed about all that had gone wrong while I had been living with Nan and Granddad and I was missing my Mum and Dad so much that every day felt like a battle just to carry on. I wasn’t feeling suicidal or anything like that but running a house and handling all the school work - plus all the sadness and stress in my life - was just too much for a youngster like me to manage.

In the end I realised that I needed some extra support so I phoned a group that specialised in dealing with young victims of bereavement. It was really hard picking up the phone, mainly because it felt like an admission of defeat, but in the end that is what I did and I said to the lady at the other end, "I'm 18, my Mum and Dad died 11 months ago. I’m not coping very well and I really need some help."

Perhaps the most useful advice they gave me was that I should think about finding somebody to share the house with me. They knew about a girl, she was 19, who lived a few miles away and who was in a similar situation to me. The lady assigned to help me wondered about the two of us sharing the house and "supporting each other a bit." The school helped me a lot while I was looking into doing this and the Deputy Head took me down to the CAB for a chat about what it would mean, emotionally, financially and practically to do this.

In the middle of January I did meet up with this girl. The main trouble was that I really didn’t like her very much, something just felt wrong and I worried that if she had started living with me it would have added to the stress in my life. I know it sounds mean but I don’t think 2-way support was part of her master plan. She was nearly 20 and lived in a tiny flat about 4 miles away. She relied on public transport (she had a car but hadn’t passed her driving test) to get to work and I thought (knew) she was going to expect me to ferry her around. Nan who was there with me thought the same. So I ended up saying “Sorry, but no” to her. Then I took her back to the bus station in my car and waited with her until her bus arrived.

A couple of weeks later I was put in touch with a young widow. The two of us met at my school and she seemed sensible and nice. She was 23 and had lost her husband in a motor bike accident in December 2009. At first having her living in my house worked really well. She seemed able to cope with her grief better than me, mainly because she seemed able to focus on the good memories she had of him. But after three weeks she told me that she would be working away during the week for a few months to cover a maternity leave. This removed most of the reason for having her share the house with me. The problem was that she was paying me rent for the full 7 days a week but was only able to stay in my house for 2 nights. The money side of this didn’t bother her because her firm was paying all the bills for her 5 days a week in a hotel while she is working for them away from home. I didn’t feel able to just chuck her out and look for somebody "better" but of course the whole point of having a house sharer was to avoid exactly what was still happening, which was me coming home to an empty house.

In the end she did start sharing the house with me again full-time and I was more cheerful. But then she suddenly announced that she was moving to Belfast. She paid all the money she owed me so that wasn’t the problem but it was only a few days between her telling me the sad news and her leaving me for good. She sent me a three line note when she started her new job and that was the last time I ever heard from her. I did feel that I had been rather exploited by her and that perhaps she wasn’t always totally candid about her plans.
Generally I think I was rather unlucky with my house-sharing. The money side worked well and the extra income was very useful but the disappointment of having this young widow – who I came to like and respect – being alternately in and out of my life so frequently for months made things quite stressful. What I needed was stability but what I got was almost constant coming and going.

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