banner

My turning point

Poorna Bell on getting through grief towards life

Poorna Bell, 35, UK executive editor and global lifestyle head of The Huffington Post, on her journey through grief and discovering a strength she didn’t know she had
Poorna Bell on getting through grief towards life
June 9, 2017   |    Poorna Bell

Almost a year ago, my husband Rob took his own life. I believe he killed himself because he had spent a lifetime struggling with depression. He was a wonderful man, but he lost hope that a day would come when life wouldn’t be a battle.

Loss and grief cut at every mooring for me, from the hope of having children to figuring out where I’d live. I got through the first few weeks by setting myself a goal: to get through to the end of that day. People were surprised that I went back to work so soon after the funeral, but I had to keep busy, or I wouldn’t have been able to get back up.

FINDING MY VOICE

After the first month, I was aware of two things. I already knew mental health was stigmatised, but it was evident that suicide was met with an even greater wall of silence.

It was bad enough that I felt utterly devastated by the events that had unfolded around me without my permission. But to not be able to talk about it was far worse.

So I wrote a blog – a love letter to Rob, saying I understood and that I loved him. That it wasn’t ‘selfish’ or the ‘easy way out’ or the many other nonsense things people assume about suicide.

I didn’t know what to expect – half of me thought no one would read it, the other half thought I might get trolled. But it went viral globally and ended up with 68,000 likes. I’d put my email address at the end and I got hundreds of letters – both from people with mental illness, and those whose lives had been affected by it.

I realised that in talking honestly about the experience, I may actually be able to help prevent this from happening to another person. So I was damned if I was going to remain silent.

MISSION NOT IMPOSSIBLE

As well as radio appearances and interviews, I poured my energy into managing a month dedicated to men and mental health. I remember hyperventilating in the toilets before giving a talk at the Southbank’s Being A Man festival about why men are more vulnerable to suicide and how we need to give them space to express themselves. In February, I was part of a project at The Huffington Post called Young Minds Matter, guest edited by the Duchess of Cambridge, which focused on mental health in children. I cried when I saw the statistics – for over 50% of adults with mental health issues, their problems could have been prevented if they’d been given the right help as a child. This could have been my husband.

A PROMISE TO MYSELF

Realising this allowed the healing to begin. For the first time in a long time, I can see a glimmer of a future that might include new loves and a new life, with Rob always in my heart. Some people have said I’m strong and resilient, but honestly, I’m neither of those things. I just decided I had to make a choice about whether I wanted to live my life or go through it like a bystander.

I chose to live.

For more information and advice, visit The Calm Zone

Do you want more Balance in your life?

Subscribe to our newsletter to get a bi-weekly wellbeing fix, straight to your inbox