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
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

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