A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
I don’t think I had ever cried over the death of a person I didn’t know until last night. As I was leaving work I heard the news that Peaches Geldof had been found dead at her home in Kent. I immediately thought of her mother, whom she had lost at such a young age; she must have suffered so terribly from her loss. Then I remembered that she had two young children of her own; history seemed to be repeating itself in the most devastating way. Then I turned my mind to her husband for a moment. He mustn’t know what’s hit him, I thought.
How on earth will he know what to do? How will he cope with the children? How will he explain their loss to them? Tears ran down my face as I remembered the confusion, shock and despair that I felt when I was told that my own wife was dead.
I couldn’t get the story out of my head, so I went online to try to find out exactly what had happened. That was when I first read this: ‘I remember the day my mother died, and it’s still hard to talk about it. I just blocked it out. I went to school the next day because my father’s mentality was “keep calm and carry on”. I didn’t grieve. I didn’t cry at her funeral. I couldn’t express anything because I was just numb to it all. I didn’t start grieving for my mother properly until I was maybe sixteen.’
Peaches was speaking about her mother’s death, which happened when she was eleven.
Some people may be astonished to learn that parents get more support when a child is born than children receive when a parent dies. Although a midwife will almost certainly have visited Peaches after the birth of both of her children, it’s unlikely that her husband, Thomas Cohen, will get any immediate medical or psychological intervention to help ensure that he is physically and mentally able to care for them alone following the loss of his wife. And from what Peaches said about the death of her mother, Paula Yates, almost fourteen years ago, things were no different for her father, Bob Geldof, back then. The unguided expectation was, and mostly still is, to simply ‘keep calm and carry on’ unassisted.
And yet Bob Geldof gave a statement last night saying: ‘We are beyond pain. Peaches has died. We are beyond pain. She was the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us. Writing “was” destroys me afresh. What a beautiful child. How is this possible that we will not see her again? How is that bearable?’
They are ‘beyond pain’ and still it’s unlikely that any immediate support will be made available for the family – nothing to help them understand how to best deal with the potentially catastrophic consequences of losing a parent as a child.
Many things will be written over the next few days and much will be said. There will be space devoted to how Peaches dressed, what parties she attended and what company she kept. Tributes will flood in from famous friends and celebrity commentators. Photographers and reporters will stand outside her home in the cold and rain trying to get the latest updates about the cause of her death. And all the while a family will be inside trying to figure out how to even begin to cope with their loss.
Friends and family will drop in with cards, words of comfort and home-cooked food. Neighbours will offer support and send messages of condolence. Flowers will arrive and funeral arrangements will be made. But it’s unlikely that anyone will come specifically to talk about the kids.
Perhaps it’s time for someone to ask the question, Why are parents offered post-natal but not ‘post-fatal’ care? I just can’t help but think that some of the space that will inevitably be dedicated to what clothes this young woman wore could go to better use.
Together we could choose to shine a light on an issue that has so affected the life of a young mother on behalf of the sons her death leaves behind. Or we could simply decide to learn no lessons from the past, keep calm and carry on. I for one know what I’m going to do.