Venn and the Art of Paper Bandages

When it is all over.
When the cards and flowers cease, when the concern is no longer manifest, when the customary obligations tumble back into your path and the time has come to stop drinking yourself into a stupor every night. When you are stalked by a dark shadow-ghost, when you close your eyes at night and cannot think, blink or dream away the agonising picture memories of suffering and death. When you wake bruised with tiredness and remember that nothing is the same. When crime and horror films do not entertain but trouble and scratch at your weakened heart, when suddenly every phone call might herald bad news. You know that you are in your own circle.

It always comes back to Venn Diagrams. In a roomful of people at a wedding, a funeral, a birthday, everyone has something or someone in common. Linking arms, embracing, nodding in understanding and recognising similar characteristics creates overlapping relationships, unions. Intersections.

But the salient part belongs only to ourselves, and in our own circle we remain detached in our own cognizance.

The terror of an ugly death and loss of a parent left me bubble-like, floating, bumping, bobbing. I shared many experiences and sights, was involved with group discussions, linked to many by common characteristics and a common cause yet always looked at everything through my eyes, at my father dying, feeling my loss. I began to want less and less to participate.

After eight months I shrank the intersections, rubbed out the unions and retreated from the Venn Diagram. I tried to close my circle, but a great ugly gash remained. Scarred and scared, I was tired of sharing. I wanted solitude. I wanted peace.
The Autumn heard my plea and sent me to a sun-warmed garden step with a notebook and pen to witness blue skies, September sun and busy blackbirds. I found good. I found minute by minute simplicity and I found words. I sat still and enjoyed warmth, softly falling leaves and creaking trees. I wrote for no other reason than I needed to. Pages and pages of colours, shadows, smells and sounds. Mounded damp pages from my tears and from the bathroom where ideas sprang pay homage to nature frantically toiling around me while I merely existed and observed.

A year on, I wander the house with my soft-cover notebooks. I place one beside me each night and reach for it in the morning. I have found comfort and security in the healing properties of ink and tree pulp. I am not yet mended but I am patching myself with paper, righting myself with words and beginning to relearn the art of finding joy and success in recognising those with similar attributes and forming unions and intersections again.

13 thoughts on “Venn and the Art of Paper Bandages

  1. That was beautiful, Rachel! The imagery of the Venn diagram was great, very well described and richly resonant.

    I didn’t know about your loss, but I’m truly sorry for it. Keep writing.


  2. This is just stunning. Venn diagrams are such an apposite way to describe our relationships with others, as is writing being a paper bandage. I cried when I read this because it perfectly expressed how I felt when I lost my father, something I haven’t yet been able to do. You are an incredible writer, Rachel. Don’t ever stop.


  3. I am lost for words as to how to describe this wonderful piece of writing. Nothing that I have read in 8 months of grieving quite so accurately can summarise how I currently feel.

    In many respects, it describes my weekend just passed – a special annual event amongst friends, this year tinged with people asking me how I am and telling me how proud they are of how I am coping.

    They see the superficial, only the intersections of our own individual relationships, and not the fresh, raw scars that I carry.

    I can really identify with all you have said, but congratulate you on having a rare & beautiful talent in putting it into words as you have.


  4. Rachel, a perfect description of early grief. I thought it was just me that went off Horror films, I guess not. I am glad for you that writing gives you such comfort, it beats religion or alcohol (I haven’t been able to gratify myself with these either). I have realised that I shouldn’t stop trying to achieve because there is no-one to feel truly proud anymore, my venn diagram having been demolished. But should learn to feel proud of myself so at least some of it stays untouched.
    Please don’t ever stop writing, you have a true and important talent. Your Dad would have been so proud, I’m very sure.


  5. Stunning writing! You have described how we all feel in those terrible circumstances. I can still see my brother before he died & that was over 10 years ago. So glad you have your note books to give you some comfort & us some wonderful reading!


  6. This gets to the essense of everything and is well worth sharing. We often show only our brave face when all sorts of heartrending is going on in the background. Minute to minute simplicity struck me. Sometimes its all you can do.


  7. This is absolutely beautifully written Rachel. You explain and describe everything so perfectly, and almost make me feel what you were feeling. Really beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I hope writing carries on bringing comfort to you.


  8. Beautiful.

    For what it’s worth, I think mortality, be it ours or those close to us, lies behind all writing, whether we acknowledge or are aware of that or not.

    Writing can be therapy so I hope and pray this has enabled some healing for you.




  9. I just love the title that you’ve chosen for this piece. The venn analogy is perfect, as is ‘paper bandages’.
    Your post reminded me that one of the things we do as writers is share our experiences, both joyous and tragic, to remind others that there are both, and that they are not alone.


  10. Thanks all for truly wonderful comments. Some fine observations there. Each one has given me a lovely warm gushy feeling in my tummy (< see how good my writing is getting! ;))
    I'm so pleased to have made connections with those of you hurting from the death of someone precious. It's a very very lonely place, grief, and is often incurably damaging. To survive we all have to find ways of carrying it forever while protecting those around us.
    Although this was honest writing, I have spared my reader the true details, which are painful. I often think of Blake Morrison's And When Did You Last See Your Father? and wonder if I could cope with sharing quite that much minutiae.
    Now I have discovered what a special place I go to when I write I am never leaving. It is as precious to me as breathing and up there with my family as the top loves of my life.


  11. This is a beautiful piece of writing. I found the line ‘waking bruised with tiredness’ very moving. It’s how I’m feeling right now. I find writing extremely therapeutic. Hopefully this piece was therapeutic for you to write, as well as being moving for us to read.


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