About this blog

My only daughter's name is Clea. Clea was six years and nine months old and she was enjoying a family holiday in Samoa when the ocean surged as a wall, ten metres high, and drowned her. Many other people died that morning of 29 September 2009.
The other four members of her family survived the tsunami.
Life has never been the same since. It will never be the same. This blog features memories, reflections, poetry, etc...
Just let me stay with her under this moon,
hold her in my arms, spin her in the air,
with my dear daughter in some timeless swoon.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The No-Go Area

You meet lots of people while travelling, and that’s a good thing, no doubt about that. You get to exchange views, anecdotes about places, little bits of important information about your next destination or places you have already been to, etc. It’s all very civil; some people are very chatty; some will ask you lots of questions; some will tell you lots about themselves, while others seem to prefer not to say much at all.

Travelling with two young boys always attracts the attention of other travellers. People like to comment on how well behaved they are, or they will ask whether they are twins (“they look so much like each other are they twins?”), or they will make a comment on their (obvious) Australian accent.

A fairly usual (and really, harmless) comment we get is the one about how lucky we are to have twins. I remember a waiter two years ago, while we were visiting Burgos (Spain), who made the comment to me while serving lunch. I replied that everything was relative, and that I did not (could not) consider myself lucky. He looked puzzled, and asked me what I meant. So I told him: “These two boys had an older sister. She died a year ago in a tsunami, in Samoa, in the Pacific. We were all caught by the tsunami. Clea was the only one who drowned. Do you really think I am lucky?”

His expression changed on the spot, of course. He apologised profusely. I did not understand why he needed to apologise. I still don’t. He did nothing wrong.

The no-go area is what I call that moment when someone I have just met finds out that my daughter died three years ago in the Samoan tsunami. It does not seem to matter much that a library was built and named after her in the Samoan village where she drowned. Anything related to Clea becomes a no-go area. Most people do not want to know anything else.

All of which I perfectly understand. Why would anyone wish to know more about parental grief, or about the circumstances of anyone’s death, or about what it is like to go through a tsunami? Why would anyone who is in fact on a holiday wish to step into this uncomfortable territory of terror and horror, of loss and grief, this disconsolate terrain of what it is like to live life without your child?

It is perfectly understandable. I am a stranger who they happen to meet on a bus, in a hotel or at a restaurant in a country thousands of miles away from home. I am not part of their world, their reality. Just like my reality is, quite logically, not the sort of story you want to hear while on holidays.

We, the grieving, are strangers to them, and I think it is fair enough that we will remain strangers, and we will never hear from each other again.

But why have we become strangers to others who were so close and used to know us so well? Why have our new, not-chosen-by-ourselves lives become a no-go area?


  1. I think most people don't understand and really don't want to face our pain (and I don't blame them). I wish I didn't have to face it either. I've probably been avoiding people more than they've avoided me. I often don't want to deal with any of it, it's easier for me to be by myself. I have to force myself to allow other people into my life right now.

    I'm just highly selective about who I'll spend time with anymore. Anyone that might make me more uncomfortable is someone I don't want to be with right now. I also can't be with people who think that it would be healthy for me to "move on".

  2. Thank you so much. I completely understand that you feel you have to force yourself to allow others into your life. It would be easy for us to feel guilty about that, to put the blame upon ourselves, but in my view that would be wrong. It's no blame game, so to speak. Nobody is to blame for how we feel.
    It'd be great to be able to "move on". But then I ask: "Move on..., but where? What to?".
    It seems to me we're expected to "move on" back to the selves we used to be, but that former self is gone, an irreplaceable part of our self died and cannot be replaced. As Rebecca says, we "have a hollow space in [our] life that nothing else can fill". The expectation that we can "heal" and be who we "used to be" is futile, and I for one cannot believe why anyone would think that is possible.
    Of course we become selective about who to meet, even the where and when. It is a defence mechanism, and we need to apply it. We are very vulnerable. We are very fragile. For example, one reason I quit my job (and it was a dream job!) was because I saw myself in such a vulnerable position that I preferred not to be exposed any longer. There were other reasons, of course, but that was the main one.
    I wish we did not have to grieve for our children, for Graham, or for Clea. I wish it all were a fiction.


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