Avoiding grief

I remember very little of the two weeks when we waited for the autopsy results. I can’t remember making funeral arrangements, but I must have done so, or else Maria took care of it. There were reporters camped outside the front door, and my press secretary was always in the kitchen drinking coffee and answering the phone without asking.
I could cope with all the practicalities, but I couldn’t talk to the children – Chloe and Rachel were bawling all day, and Ellen wasn’t fit to do anything. People saw her lying on the sofa and they skirted round her like a museum exhibit in a glass case. Nobody knew what to say. There was nothing to say.
The day after Emily was buried, I was making and taking calls for work again in my study. There was a knock on the door and Ellen walked in.
“Ok, I’ll ring back in half an hour. I’ll be in later and we can talk then. I’ve got to go now. Yes, thanks. You too.” I put the phone down on Maria and watched Ellen’s pacing.
“Can’t you take a bloody moment to grieve your daughter’s death?” she said.
“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to get through . . .”
“How can you do that? I mean, how can you work?”
“I don’t know what else to do. You look exhausted. Will you let me call the doctor for you? Perhaps he’d give you something stronger to make you sleep.”
“I don’t need bloody sleeping pills! I need to stay awake and stop seeing her lying there. I need you to stop making bloody phone calls and I need us to get away from all this. We need to get Rachel and Chloe away from those vultures outside.” She was pacing back and forth in front of my desk and every time she passed it, she stopped and straightened my papers, into parallel piles. “They can’t take any more of this, and nor can I.”
“I can’t just drop everything and go.”
“You can when it suits you. Look, we can go down to Rottingdean. We all need to be together now. You can leave the work to your precious Maria.” “Really? Do you think we should shut ourselves away at the cottage now? Wouldn’t you prefer to keep busy?” On cue, the phone rang again.
“Oh for God’s sake!” Ellen turned and slammed the door.
She needed to share her grief and to have some reassurance that I loved her. But I felt completely cold towards her. She took the girls to Rottingdean that afternoon and I didn’t see them again until a week after they’d returned. I’d moved into Putney with Maria by then, and coming back to the house to collect some clothes, I bumped into Rachel on the stairs.
“Dad, you need to come home. Mum needs you, and Chloe. And me.”
“Hi Rach. I know . . . It’s going to be . . . I’ve just got a lot on right now . . . I’ll call you in a day or two when I can and we’ll go to Rules. You like Rules, don’t you. Give me a kiss.”


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