60 Postcards: Using Storytelling to Tackle Grief

Be part of the postcard project at Kicking the Bucket Festival by writing a postcard with words of advice for dealing with grief and send it to Liz Rothschild. Details at the foot of this piece.  

Rachael Chadwick explains-

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“There’s nothing we can do”, they said. In January 2012, my mother (aged 59) was diagnosed with a very aggressive case of bowel cancer. Just sixteen days after diagnosis, she died in our family home.

I spent that year trying my best to cope with what was happening and put on a brave face to the world, as my own world, behind closed doors, felt like it was crashing in around me.

There is very little that can prepare you for the loss of a loved one. You strap yourself in for the rollercoaster of emotions, attempt to shelter from the uncontrollable storms of grief and you try to get on with life as best you can. But life is not as you know it anymore.

The milestones – the ‘firsts’, Mother’s day, Birthdays – felt so brutal. It was almost the build up of anxiety leading up to those days that hit me the hardest. Death, sadly, felt like a taboo subject and I was desperate to shout out to the world about the wonderful woman I had lost. And so, to celebrate what would have been Mum’s 60th birthday later that year, I decided to create a tribute.

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With 11 wonderful friends joining me on my mission, I set off to Paris for a long weekend that December. We handwrote 60 postcards – one for every year of mum’s life – and scattered them around the City of Love. We left them in cafés, bookshops, in postcard racks, on the Metro – anywhere we could find, as we explored the city. I decided that I wanted to use this as an opportunity to reach out to anyone who may stumble across one and left my email address on the postcards for people to get in touch. I was blown away when some of the notes were found.

Eager to share my story, I created a blog called 60 Postcards, where I tell the tales of the postcards along with an honest account of my grief. I was very lucky when my blog was picked up by the literary world and I was offered a book deal – a difficult manuscript to write but such a valuable, tangible piece for my family and I to treasure.

My postcard scattering led me to New York and, most recently, Australia. On my second New York trip I even took postcards on behalf of other people, which was such an honour. Every single visit brought wonderful responses, connections and memories.

I continue to be overwhelmed by how many blog and book readers get in touch. Every week, someone shares his or her own story of loss with me. I am so glad they feel they can open up. Grief is something that every person deals with very differently, which can result in a feeling of loneliness. But grief does not need to be shouldered alone. Isn’t it a wonderful moment when you find yourself nodding in agreement to what you are reading – when someone just ‘gets it’?

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My 60 Postcards project has been a beautiful distraction, reignited my passion for life and, most importantly, has helped to keep my mother’s memory alive. I believe that words, creativity and storytelling can join us all together. Kicking the Bucket Festival is all about this and I am so delighted to be a part of it this year.

I do hope to see you there,

Rachael

Why not email your thoughts to  info@woodlandburialwestmill.co.uk, or by post to Kicking the Bucket, Colleymore Farm, Coleshill, Swindon, SN6 7PU

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