Blood Song (Prologue, page 1 of 2)

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When I was eight years old my father died in a boating accident. One day he was there in my life, and the next he was gone. I don't remember much of those times with my father, but the months after his death were branded into my memory by the hot iron of my mother's grief.

To this day she refused to talk about him in any but the vaguest way - a passing reference every now and then, often in the middle of an arbitrary conversation which had little to do with father or his life. It was a recurring pattern, and the scenario which inevitably followed these unexpected revelations was also entirely predictable. My mother would pause as if she had uttered some terrible obscenity, and her face would shut down, and she would respond to our initially eager questions with a pained silence. It was almost as if she regarded our enquiries as an affront, and her disappointment in our enthusiasm remained for hours after we had given up and returned to more routine discussions. It drove me crazy.

I was initially confused by her reaction, as only a grieving eight-year-old can be. After a few years I realised just how much of my father she was denying me, and I became angry. During my early teens, for what seemed like a long, long time, I hated her. My older brother Joe barely noticed the animosity that bristled between us, but Mark was puzzled. He was only a baby when Dad died, barely five years old, and Dad's death did not seem to affect him much as he grew older. I guess it was because you can't miss what you don't remember having.

I eventually spoke to one of my guidance teachers about it, and she told me about the five stages of grief. The first stage, which usually occurs immediately after the loss, is denial. This is usually a temporary phase, where the person refuses to acknowledge either the loss or their reaction to it. The second stage is anger, then comes bargaining, depression and acceptance. Apparently the grieving person can become stuck in any of these stages on the way through. I could never be completely certain which of these Mum languished in, but I suspected it might have been the first. I assumed that her grief must have been so great that she had been unable to go through the process, her heart stalling at the base of an insurmountable obstacle.

I wondered if I would be like my mother if such a loss were to strike me, stuck forever in denial, crippled by the enormity of my loss, or if I would be able to endure the burning flames of my sorrow, and eventually emerge from it.

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