Grief and the Bank.

5 Mar 2014

Grief is not a linear process. Since July last year when our uncle (effectively our father) died, my siblings and I have all at various times found ourselves suddenly crying for no apparent reason and then for weeks at a time we've been fine.

We knew that the first year would be tough as it's a year of firsts: his birthday, the first family Christmas without his quiet presence in the corner, the children's birthdays with no birthday letter.

The healing is not smoothly gradual however; we can all be unexpectedly swamped again in the emotional mire. When I heard last week that someone else had moved into his cottage it was like a physical blow.

Yesterday was particularly grim. We are just on the final push to obtain probate. There is a lot of administration and it feels as if the whole of his eighty plus years of loving kindness and gentlemanly conduct has been reduced to a mere balance sheet and set of official forms. The accountant and the solicitor are gentle but relentlessly professional and there's no comfort there.

The bank is not the place you would immediately think to find solace in grief, but the Estates Department of my uncle's bank have been wonderful. They too have been professional but yet compassionate and yesterday the lady I spoke with reassured me that it was absolutely OK to be in tears on the phone to her as I organised the closing of his account. Everyone I have spoken to in that department exhibits the other side of banking – the side that never hits the newspapers. They understand that when the material things a person leaves behind are distilled into a list of numbers on an official form, the inadequacy of those numbers to represent all the love left behind triggers a lot of emotion. They have been very kind and understanding.

The acceptance and kindness of strangers is always a surprise yet it is immensely valuable. If we allow people their feelings and emotions in even the smallest and most business-like transactions we validate their humanity and raise immeasurably the quality of that transaction.

So Nat West, thank you for your assistance and understanding. Today the forms have all been completed. The sun was shining from a blue sky this morning and yes, it's a better day today.


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