Dealing with the pain of double bereavement

Business coach and writer Steve Thomson
Business coach and writer Steve Thomson

A fictional story about dealing with pain has changed people’s lives – not least of which was the author himself.

Little did Steve Thomson realise when he wrote his book, The Sticking Point, in 2011 that he would need its guidance himself just a few years later.

The business coach, of The Sadlers, Westhampnett, had spent ten years living with an alcoholic wife and caring for a mother with dementia. When both died within four months of each other, it threw him into a spiral of guilt and emotional pain.

He said: “I turned back to what I had prepared. It was a complete work of fiction, based on an argument in the workplace.

“Once it was published, I realised there was more to it. People told me it had changed their lives. I am very much a believer in when you need something, the right thing comes along. I believe stuff arrives when you need it.”

Steve’s mother, Heather Thomson, was in a nursing home in Edinburgh when she died in June last year. His 92-year-old father is still living in Scotland and Steve was faced with helping him cope with losing his partner of more than 60 years.

Then in September, Steve’s wife Christine died at the age of 62 from massive organ failure, having struggled with drinking for ten years.

Steve said: “When you are in a situation, you put up with a lot. We had moved down to Chichester from London three years ago. I thought the change of scene might help to get her away from a cycle of destructive behaviour.

“I was doing everything. She said actually she didn’t want to stop drinking. She knew she was hurting people.

“I thought at the time I have to take steps to protect my own sanity, so when she died, it came back as a big guilt trip. I realised that beating myself up was not a good way to act or a good use of my mind.

“While she was away, I realised I could not face another bout so when she came out, she was living in a council flat in Fishbourne. She seemed fine.

“It was challenging. She had spent six weeks in hospital, then nine to ten weeks in a nursing home, but three weeks later, she was back where she started. She was in complete denial at the time.”

Dealing with the effects after her death, Steve found himself referring back to his own words of wisdom in his self-published book, The Sticking Point, an allegorical journey into a world of pain and ways to deal with it.

The book was written to help people identify emotional pain and deal with situations rather than ignore or hang on to problems, which can manifest into mental health issues that could spiral into deep depression and withdrawal.

It was actually based on an experience Christine herself had of bullying in the workplace.

“Since Chris died, I have decided to really major on this,” Steve added.

“The way you talk to yourself is one of the biggest sources of pain. I have built a workshop on it, exploring a metaphor for the book, teaching about people who inflict pain on themselves and others, those who say ‘yes, but’.”

Depression and anxiety are on the increase as everyday lives grow ever more demanding. When life throws a curved ball, people are not always sure how to handle their emotions or resolve certain situations. Steve hopes his experiences can help people to deal with pain better.

People who deal with mental health issues have supported Steve Thomson’s book, The Sticking Point.

Susan Hayward, from Mental Health First Aid Training, wrote a testimonial, saying she found the story both thought provoking and challenging.

“A loud, clear message throughout the book is to deal with your pain as you go along before it becomes too big or too scary to avoid or ignore and it is too late to deal with easily,” she said.

“If you can see it as it arrives, you can deal with it a little at a time, whilst it is still manageable. It suggests ways we can use to deal with our pain.”

Steve said that when he wrote the book, it was from another perspective entirely, through observation and studying people’s behaviours and attitudes within his career as a professional trainer.

“Identifying that people’s ‘emotional pain’ can affect their work productivity and more importantly their overall wellbeing,” he said. “This pain could be in the form of bullying, being put under pressure at work and not speaking out, personal life issues, relationships and being surrounded by negativity, as well as the additional effect this has on friends and colleagues around them in the workplace and how to address these issues.

“However, I never thought I would be re-reading the book a few years down the line to help myself recognise the emotional pain I am now facing in handling the pain of bereavement.

“I can relate to a number of the characters in the book and put myself there. I refer to pain sticks to depict the pain we carry in our lives which weigh us down and eventually, if we don’t deal with this emotional pain, can lead us unable to cope and fall into depression and a very dark place.

“It doesn’t have to be that way, we can choose to recognise the pain and deal with the problems linked to the pain sticks we carry. It just needs for us to recognise the signs and help ourselves discover the solution.”

Steve Thomson is a motivational speaker who runs Profile Training, based in Chichester. He worked with large corporate businesses in London and since moving to Sussex, has brought his experience and skills to help small to medium-sized businesses across the south.

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