Validation Matters: Five Not Three

By Emma Pearson

June 22, 2024

16th February 2020

I have had a tough week.

First, hearing difficult health news regarding someone I care about deeply. Then being the recipient of highly confrontational/aggressive behaviour from family friends that I cannot even begin to comprehend at this stage. Ending with the words, “do not contact us again”.

I need an outlet for this extra bleuch. Where is my vent? How do I let steam off, when on top of the primary losses and stresses, more just keeps piling up? I can’t always rely on having people to hand. Mike was always my go-to person. And then other close family and friends. It was always more than enough. But over recent years, some of those relationships have petered out or disappeared completely. Particularly the one with Mike.

My relationship with Medjool, delicious as it is, is still in an early development phase. It’s strong enough for a lot of bleuch, I know that. But we don’t live together. We don’t always have much time to see one another to catch up over the course of a week. A lot can happen in a day, let alone a week. And he has his own fair share of bleuch. And when we finally do get to see each other, we don’t necessarily want to talk about more bleuch. It’s hard to build a new relationship just with bleuch stuff. There needs to be nice stuff too.

So what to do?  The gasket this girl carries has to blow off pressure from time to time.

I contact a couple of close girlfriends who are intimately connected not just with my former life and current grief, but grief (often their own) in general. I keep my request vague and non-urgent-sounding; even though it is. Urgent. At least to me. Nothing life-threatening. Just extra weight on top of the weight, and all becoming a bit too big for me to handle.

If there were such a thing as “whiney font” this would be when it was used.  I wrote, “Do you have time for a chat? Soonish?” (That means, “Please can we talk. Asap?” (At once, if not sooner, as my dad would say when he was trying to hurry us up as teenagers). But my friends have lives, busy ones, complex ones, and finding 30 mins in the moment is not always easy. Especially as my “moment” can be any time of day or night.

I manage to keep a hold of it all, wrap my arms around it, stagger around with it all, until I could let the steam off more gradually, first with my dad (thank you – that was a necessary release), and then with Tom Zuba, my “grief guru”, who seems to be able to pick up and help absorb whatever lightness or darkness I am experiencing in the moment.

And then I am lighter. Again. Just back to carrying my “normal, massive load”. Other stuff put somewhat in perspective. A keener awareness of what is my shit to carry and what is not my shit. It’s enough sometimes to just have space for a couple of extra breaths around my life. Before I carry on carrying on.

The day after not being able to talk to one of my go-to-buddies, beautiful roses arrived. 30+ of them. From Joan. Joan, who remembers that roses are Julia’s flower. Joan who finds the space, time and energy in her own hectic days to remember that even though “the tough moment” might have passed, it’s still very hard. Always. And maybe some flowers and words will lift me just a little. There were four cool chocolates in the box of roses too. So cool I dare not eat them. And the most touching words that acknowledge much of the current latest load of crap.

The note ends with, “From one mum of 3 to another”.

The next day she sent me a poem, “We are Seven”, by William Wordsworth, accompanied by the words,

“Dear Emma, I love the spirit of and in this poem…. And it reminds me of your beautiful family of five. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

How soothing, calming, gratifying, validating, acknowledging, “seeing” of her to write these words. The acknowledgement that despite there being only 3 currently breathing bodies, we are Five.

We Are Still Five.

I am still a mother of three. I know that, in every cell in my body. How could I ever forget? Even though the family feels decimated without Mike and Julia. We are five. A family of five. And I have three kids.

Five, not three.

Thank you, Joan for validating that.  You soothe my heart and life more than I can express.

And here is Wordsworth’s poem.

Remembering of course, I am part of a family of Seven too. John, Hilary, James, William, Emma, Edward, Laura.

Seven, always. Regardless of how many of us eventually stop breathing.

We Are Seven

A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

About Emma Pearson

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