Video: I lost my son but writing has helped me heal

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Writing kickstarted the healing process for Angela Christopher after a devastating blow.

The 64-year-old, who has had her first poetry collection published, was an artist and running an autistic unit in a special school in Worcester when her son died suddenly.

Angela Christopher.

Angela Christopher.

Fourteen years on, she is justifiably proud of her poetry book, The Memory Tree, which is dedicated to the son she lost and which oozes colourful memories of places and people who have touched her life.

Angela who lives in Green Street, Morecambe, said: “Joe was 20, had finished his first year at Warwick and he just killed himself.

“When that happened there was no run-up so I was teaching and my world just collapsed.”

In many ways, poetry keeps Angela – who suffers from the chronic fatigue syndrome ME and fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body – close to Joe.

She said: “The whole book’s dedicated to Joe because he was a poet and had already come second in quite a big poetry competition so he would have certainly written.”

That Angela turned to writing after his death is then a fitting epitaph. 
She said: “If you lose a child, you’re living for him as well so I’ve got to make use of every day and it’s not good for my fibro and it’s not good for my ME but it is the only way I can be, having lost such a vibrant character.

“I put a lot into my creative work and I do get very tired. I’m not sure it’s the best way to live with these illnesses but if I didn’t do my creative work, I wouldn’t be living.

“I think I started to heal when I started to write.”

Too grief-stricken to continue teaching after Joe died, Angela – who has another son, two daughters (a third daughter, Jessica, died aged three months) and two grandchildren – chose to move to Morecambe with husband Chris.

She explained: “My younger daughter who’s a vet had done quite a lot of lambing in this area and you could have a studio in these big houses so it seemed to have everything.

“I was ill for quite a while and I used to walk by the sea and I started writing again vaguely. I did some classes at the Dukes and I really started to get into it.

“Then a friend said to me there’s spaces on the University of Cumbria creative writing MA, do you want to think about it?

“My eldest daughter had just emigrated to New Zealand and I thought I’m going to have to have a strong focus because I knew she wouldn’t come back so I started the MA.

“I got a distinction which was a real surprise to me and I’ve gone on writing.”

Angela, who went to art school at 16, added: “With my art, I couldn’t express what I wanted to say when Joe died and writing seemed much more accessible.

“I really realised that I was a writer.”

Angela’s next project is to get her first book published. She’s taken two years to write it and it’s about her African childhood as the daughter of a colonial officer in Nigeria.

“I believe it will have an audience,” she said.

She is also confident that there will be many more books of poetry.

“I’m sure this is the first of many collections,” she said.

“Poetry can be very elitist. I want it to be accessible. I feel poetry’s for everyone.

“I want people to enjoy my poetry. There’s sadness but there’s a lot of upbeat stuff and I think I want to reach out and grab people’s attention so they listen.”

*The Memory Tree is published by Indigo Dreams, Devon, priced £7.99.