Image by Lucija Rasonja from Pixabay
A grateful Kerrie Portman discovers the beauty of receiving and giving support
There are many times in life when I’ve reached, sometimes desperately, for the empty space left by the absence of family. I can feel haunted by the ghost of love lost. These moments come in small and large moments, happy and sad, sick and pride and sometimes just in the mundane everyday.
It’s part of the human condition to want to be loved, to want to love other people. I wished I had someone there when I started summer school, as a safety rock to return to as I ventured into the unknown.
When I got my exam results, I wanted to share my excitement and victory. When I lost my former best friend to suicide, I dreamt of other friends I’ve lost and still love, who are still alive but not in my life. I wrote them messages I never sent because I knew they didn’t feel the same way. They didn’t understand how much I’d relied on their friendship as a stand in for family because they had families to turn to. I deleted the unsent messages when I just needed a hug.
Grief is a very complicated thing that I will never claim to be easy, but it’s an awful lot harder to manage mostly alone. We were friends and then we fought and then she killed herself. It wasn’t the suicide that I struggled to understand; it was that I understood it all too well.
It feels almost embarrassing to try and ask to be loved, to try and articulate that need and ask someone to fill it
I understand feeling utterly hopeless. I understand feeling like you’re a burden and people would be better off without you. I’ve attempted suicide. I’ve attempted suicide when I’ve been in hopeless situations. I’ve attempted when I’ve felt like nobody cares, I’ve attempted when people got angry at me for reaching out when I’ve felt suicidal and I’ve attempted when there was actually nobody to care, or even know.
When I was homeless, it would have taken a long time for anyone to even notice if I’d have died.
The grief is harder when I can understand why my friend did it. It felt almost fraudulent to carry on with my life but I didn’t know what else to do or who to talk to.
I wanted family or people whom I loved, who loved me and people who’d loved her too. But I had no one. I carried on because that’s all I’ve ever really known. There has never been a safety net of people to talk to, of space to grieve, of space to feel my feelings. If I don’t get up, I don’t eat. If I cry, I cry alone. If I don’t carry on, I lose.
It feels almost embarrassing to try and ask to be loved, to try and articulate that need and ask someone to fill it. I don’t know what it’s like to have a family: to be loved and accepted and supported and protected and space to be myself, space to suffer and fall and space to grow from.
I am grateful to my university for teaching me it’s okay to reach out for help when I need it
I wish I did, but I also think, if I had a safe space to go to, I would have gone there instead of fighting. And whilst I’m sure elements of my life would be better if I had that, I would have achieved less.
This past year at university I faced significant abuse from former friends back home. I felt like I was drowning a lot of the time and if I’d have had anywhere else to go, I probably would have gone there to float and rest.
Without that, I had no choice but to swim my way to the qualification. I am grateful to my university for teaching me it’s okay to reach out for help when I need it. I’m grateful to them for being proactive enough to reach out without me having to ask.
I’m grateful to my university for teaching me what it’s like to feel supported, with a base to return to when things are tough. It’s one of the first times I’ve felt this; had this. And it is a very beautiful thing. It is a very beautiful thing to have that support, for people to want to give it.