Nov 2011

On Grief

Five years ago I wrote a book: Sunlight on the Garden.

It was a patchwork history of my family as it sometimes soared, sometimes staggered through the twentieth century, wrestling with wars, dislocation, the English class system, love and loss and depression. I had myself been treated for depressive psychosis over several months in hospital a quarter of a century ago but had recovered completely and never relapsed. It was, to a degree, a biography of an illness.

I’d enjoyed writing this book, partly because I hoped it revealed that some wit might endure through the drama of intermittent mental illness (and, to be frank, melodrama). But what I’d liked most of all at was exploring the collision of history and personality and near the end of the memoir I said, triumphantly, that despite everything, we were a family of survivors.

Despite everything, no-one in my family, I wrote, had killed themselves.