While many of us are lamenting 2016 as a traumatic year in news, some have suffered more personal setbacks. Olly Ricketts reflects on experiencing collective grief helpful amid his personal loss…

As we landed at Dubai International Airport on the morning of 11 January 2016, my wife and I did what we always do; switched on our phones to absent-mindedly scroll through any news we might have missed during the flight. This time, the results sparked a mixture of shock, bewilderment and sadness that would come to epitomise 2016: David Bowie had died. For several hours we communicated only via grunts, head shakes and the occasional “I just can’t believe he’s gone”. We both felt certain we would always remember where we were when we heard the news.

On 14 March, I sat on a bus, waiting to take me from Glasgow airport to my hotel. My phone rang. It was my aunt, who was on holiday in the Dominican Republic with my mum and dad. I asked how she was and she handed the phone straight to mum without responding. I repeated the question. “Terrible,” mum replied, before explaining that dad – whom, recent weight loss aside, had appeared to be in his best health for years – had died suddenly that afternoon, from what turned out to be undiagnosed lung cancer.

I remember the exact pitch of scream that eventually left my mouth (clue: high). I remember wondering whether this represented a valid excuse to miss my meeting the following day. I remember every second of the flight back to London, the taxi back to my flat and the look on my wife’s face as I saw her for the first time. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

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