The British bereaved by the Afghanistan war

From The Sunday Times
September 27, 2009
The British bereaved by the Afghanistan war
As soldier after soldier is killed in the conflict, how do their grieving relatives pick up the pieces and carry on?

Margarette Driscoll

It was coming up to lunchtime when the two men in dark suits turned up on Brenda Hale’s doorstep. She glanced curiously from one sombre face to the other, then one of them discreetly showed his ID and asked if she was the wife of Captain Mark James Hale. “I slammed the door in their faces and locked it,” she says. “I thought if I locked them out I could lock out what they had to say.”

The two men were army officers, come to tell her that Hale had been killed in Afghanistan at a quarter to six that morning, August 13. They waited patiently, in silence, until she was ready to let them in. “I didn’t cry,” she recalls. “I just started to shake and my teeth chattered. I said, ‘Are you absolutely sure it’s my husband?’ And they were.”

For Brenda Hale, the devastating sense of loss and grief, “the massive, massive black hole in my life” was just opening up: but by the time Hale was killed, families around Britain were grieving after a summer that had seen the highest number of deaths in the armed forces for a generation.
When it comes to bereavement you can't just pick up the pieces and carry on. Unfortunately in the current times we all seem to recognise the names that appear on an almost daily basis. You reflect on the person that you once knew and all that they were. You remember the families left behind and the day seems darker. We crack on because if we gave in it would mean they gave their life in vain however we will never forget.

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