Publish date: 13 June 2019
Below are three personal testimonies marking the second anniversary of the Fire and one poem.
They are written by three of our Service User Consultants - Sarah, Richard and Sabre; local people who received therapy at Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service and who now work with us, bringing their experience and skills to help us to ensure that the service we offer is as relevant to the needs of the community as possible.
They are keen to share their experiences in the hope of making the service more accessible to others and to demystify the process of therapy. They also highlight the importance of community, which is also valuable to share.
The testimonies are personal, moving and for some upsetting, so readers should be prepared for that.
Our thanks to Sarah, Richard and Sabre.
The rain falls as if nothing happened
As if it wasn't needed
… that fate filled night
Outside barren land
force home by the rain
That night I wish it was the same
Woken by a glowing orb
silenced by the flames
sucking the atmosphere
calling on souls to return to their
Agog I gasp and mumble fucking hell
in the highest pitch
I've ever heard leave my lips
I know but do they
I am about to watch their end of days
Thumping on windows
as I type I tear
A scream for help
so close and full of fear
Someone waves a white flag
Defeated by orange
I convince myself it’s debris
Falling in the shape of children.
Before me stood something so monumental
Took my breath away
snapping and snapping
As if every photo I took I managed to save a life
Now these days and nights
The groans of machines built to retrieve
The souls have left but
Teeth and bones
A giant crematorium
all souls lost in vain
I wake every morning and rush to the window
Hoping I gazed at a nightmare
But unfortunately all I can do is
Rest peacefully dear souls…
I remember your faces…
My community lost
The poorly boy at the doctor’s surgery
his face on the news…
The man who walked his beloved dogs on the same patch of grass
On the news…
The woman who took five minutes to ask about my son
Her face on the news…
The bellows of a man close to perish
screaming help echo endlessly
Bother my sleep endlessly
You are the unforgotten
Forever in our hearts and minds.
The hot still night of the 13 th of June 2017 took me to bed early. Unusually I had left my bedroom window wide open, my 11-month-old son and myself fast asleep before ten thirty.
Just after midnight I heard bellowing, this stillness made the sound travel, a man yelling help in a tone that could only be described as a person who is aware it is his end of days.
I approached the window and as I split the curtains, a blaze lit the sky, strangely mesmerizing for a few seconds and then a dull ache (that still remains to this day, when triggered) came from deep inside
….I could recall that night as if it was last night and I will for the rest of my life. A light inside me faded. The fear and fragility of life played out on a stage before the eyes of a community, who lay suffering from helplessness and riddled with guilt.
For weeks after pandemonium raged through the community, memorials of the lost ones; walls strewn with posters of the once hoped for missing, now pronounced dead.
My first connection with the Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service I found myself in a waiting room, as I scanned my surroundings I spotted someone who had lived in the Tower.
Every moment that passed I wanted to reach out and comfort him, show him how much he means to this community, I thought I could write a note. My name was called; I used this as an excuse not to engage with the survivor.
So distracted by my thoughts, when asked how I was by my Therapist the first thing that came out was “I am a fraud…” I had only witnessed something, and he had actually experienced it.
The process of Therapy from that moment until recently when it ended has been one of the most truthful and successful times of my life.
My Therapist a senior practitioner in CBT has guided me with a level of skill that I believe is unmatched by any other service.
My life has become simpler and I have a greater understanding of myself.
What most people may be unaware of is that past trauma can re-present itself when such a major incident occurs.
For me this has been a journey through the toughest times of my life and I am finally feeling like I am able to not only function but also thrive within society.
The wrap around support from Grenfell Health and Wellbeing team has been outstanding, the warm smiles from the front desk, silently acknowledging your bravery; to the personalised welcome from individual Therapists, I have never felt more seen and supported.
I am eternally grateful to the service and its employees, as without them I am unsure of where I would be now.
I reflect and write this at a challenging time; the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire approaches.
This brings with it a palpable, collective energy of remembrance, sadness, grief, trauma and frustration in the local community, as echoes of the tragic event of 14 June 2017 resonate around North Kensington.
The Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service provided me with support when I was feeling particularly upset and disturbed, in the late winter / early spring of 2018.
I realised that I was struggling to deal with the often overwhelming feelings of heavy-heartedness, of helplessness, of anger at the slow progress towards justice for those who lost their lives on that night, for the many relatives and neighbours deeply affected by the tragedy, for our community in the local area who have to face the evidence of the fire on a daily basis and try to carry on with their lives.
I read about the Counselling Services in a Grenfell Newsletter. I called the number, then met someone at The Curve. I was then offered a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at St. Charles Community Hospital in the new Centre for Health and Wellbeing.
The environment is welcoming and peaceful. The therapy helped me come to terms with how I was feeling and provided some ongoing, flexible support and understanding when I most needed it.
I also shared and gained great strength from the collective response of our community, in the days and weeks after the fire – how we all came together and did what we could, what we felt right, instinctively, in solidarity, to support each other, especially those directly impacted by events. Friends have been displaced and severely affected.
People arrived from all over the country. This support continues with gatherings and The Silent Walk every month, which I join whenever I can. The first anniversary march was a very powerful act of remembrance. I have found these collective experiences empowering to be part of.
I am motivated to participate and give what I can into our community as a result of using services and not becoming isolated or withdrawn.
I have had issues with stress, emotional and mental health in the past, having accessed services before, in recent years.
The Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service has linked into those experiences, with positive results.
The journey is up and down along the way; I am currently trying to cope after a few recent bereavements of people close to me, including losing my father.
This actually allows me to empathise even more with people who were bereaved by the fire. It is a hard, deep-reaching reality to live with.
Services such as Grenfell Health and Wellbeing, along with creative responses, make it more manageable to come to terms with and help transform the pain into healing.
I would also like to sincerely thank everyone involved in providing support to the community.
On the 14 of June 2017 a fire tore through the Grenfell tower which is located in Latimer road which 72 people perished; I lost a personal friend and he died alongside his family.
I personally struggled with what I saw and experienced and made aware of services connected to the Grenfell tragedy such as the curve, time to talk, (NHS), adventure centre, GPs etc.
Due to my family support I got referred.
The first appointment I had I couldn't go in I was constantly crying, not sleeping and eating I couldn't work due to the grief.
My first appointment was in August 2017 two months after the tragedy and I attended appointments until December later that year.
After six months I realised I was still struggling with grief I went to my GP and was again referred for counselling; that lasted until April 2018.
Our community is vital in dealing with the tragedy as it is something that has affected us all and the NHS assists in this recovery with the professionals who are there to help us.
A tragedy of this magnitude brings emotions which I have never experienced before.
I sought help in order to learn how to deal with the grief in time. I wanted to help my community in their recovery with their mental health dealing with trauma, it may trigger mental health issues and it's always best to seek professional help.
After I fully understood what I was I was going through, and I also owe gratitude to the NHS Grenfell recovery.