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We have in our culture the theme of an individual traumatised by some event, carrying it as a burden throughout everything they subsequently do.   I’ve no doubt  you can think of some ancient Greek who made a living out of that sort of theatre.  The Babylonians were prolly doing it before them and so far back and so on down to today. 

I am one of those individuals and, to give you a time scale, it’s been near half a lifetime and has palled my every hour.  That’s as much as you need to know.

About four years ago, feeling particularly under the weight of it, I wondered just how common an experience it was.  I mean, we all (wrongly) think that everybody else has the same feelings and general outlook that we do, and many similar experiences.  
Amongst other things,  I have been inculcated in ways of enquiry scientific, empirical and methodical.    I thought I might do a small survey.

Finding suitable subjects was difficult.  The nature of the enquiry means that for intimates it’s too close and for strangers it’s at best mawkish and, no matter what, boring.  I mean, who wants to hear other strangers problems ??  I’ve got enough problems of my own.

An opportunity arose when I met with a group of friends turned out to support a chum at a gig.  Among the party was a friend, not close but solid, and his wife.  She’s Japanese and was in her early thirties (I’m guessing), at our first meeting she’d taken an immediate shine to me.  Well, I can be fun to meet and I’d spent a couple of years checking out Japanese culture and trying to learn the language, it’s a bonus.   We had an affectionate, accessible relationship.   So I asked her.

I told her I’d been troubled and wondered about others.  I asked her if there’d been some terrible loss or event in her life that still affected her today.     She just said  “yes”.   She told me that when she was thirteen or fourteen (my confusion)  her sister, who was three years older had suddenly taken ill and within a week had died.  It was just one of those things, nothing could be done for her.    She said, that since then she had thought of her every day.  Then she went quiet.  Morose.     It seemed like time both of us rejoined the banter of the party.

A few months later I went out for a drink with an old workmate.  More precisely I was his boss and he was a handyman.  When I left off working at that joint, he was one of the guys I kept in touch with.  He was then in his late thirties but one of those round morphs who it’s difficult to put an age on.  At first glance you might assume he was a bit slow but you’d be wrong, he’s quite sharp.  The clients used to love him.

We’d meet up abt twice a year and talk about old times and how the world was looking today.  Arsenal fan, always lived in N.London.  We had a good, easy relationship.  So I asked him. 

I asked him in exactly the same way as before.    He just said  “yes”.   He told me that when he grew up he had a sister who was three years younger than him but she was born handicapped and had fits.  When he was seventeen, his sister had a fit and died.  He said that since then he’d thought of her every day.  Then he went quiet.  Morose.

I didn’t ask anyone again after that.

Loss through life is more difficult to cope with than loss through death.   Neither of them is easy.

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