The grief of losing a childhood friend stays with you | Friendship


    Losing someone close to you during your formative teenage years can affect you profoundly (A moment that changed me, 26 October). Like Amy Fleming, I too lost my best friend at 17.

    In 1969 I started secondary school. Barbara was confident and bright, with fiery red hair. She was my protector from the school bullies. I was very shy. We were both studious – I loved French and she loved English literature. We were hardly ever apart. We would go to the iconic Wigan Casino and immerse ourselves in the Northern Soul scene. No drink or drugs, just non-stop dancing.

    Then we were separated. We both wanted to train to be teachers. Barbara got the grades she needed to do A-levels at the local college – I didn’t, and the only option for me was the secretarial course. We managed to meet in the student union at lunchtimes. I felt bereft.

    Then the phone call came. Barbara had passed away after having an epileptic fit. The funeral was unbearable. To this day, I still cannot go to a funeral. There was no grief counselling then – you had to “carry on and get over it”, as my mother said. I stopped going out and spiralled into a deep depression.

    At 19 I left home, moved to the south and started to heal. I met the two girls who would become my best friends. I did eventually go to university and then taught French. Now, at 65, we reminisce about the good times together and I often wish I could do that with Barbara, my soul-friend. I miss her.
    Caren Chaloner

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