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Ribbleton psychotherapist lands shortlist nomination for bereavement book

Posted on - 11th November, 2021 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Health, People, Preston News, Ribbleton
Angi Dixon

A Ribbleton psychotherapist has landed an awards nomination for a book covering grief and bereavement.

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Angi Dixon, who currently lives in the West of Ireland with her family, is a writer, counsellor and psychotherapist specialising in grief, bereavement and loss.

She wrote her first book, Sh*te, Thanks for Asking, last year after losing her younger brother Seán to suicide and has now received a nomination in the Design for Good category at the Irish Design and Innovation (IDI) awards.

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Irish broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE) also shortlisted the book for its 2021 top ten mental health reads.

Speaking on her inspiration, Angi said: “I grew up in a strict Irish emigrant household in Ribbleton. I struggled because I wasn’t sporty or academic, so I spent a lot of time in my room writing in my diary and recording the charts!

“This is where my love for writing began. I would record everything – observations, stuff I heard out my bedroom window, funny conversations and behaviour.”

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Angi stayed with her aunt, a former ward sister at Whittingham Hospital who emigrated from Ireland when she was 17, in Ribbleton each weekend and returned to Ireland a few times a year.

She said she profoundly changed her life, forming her into who she is today and teaching her about arts, science, politics and how to be independent.

Angi now operates a clinical practice centred on grief and loss, and she runs a project called SPILL: Breakfast Club for the Bereaved: Helping People Balance Bereavement, Recovery and Loss.

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She said: “Where I grew up, kids like me didn’t know anyone who wrote books or illustrated comics for a living. 

“We were told we could be astronauts until we were handed an application form for the local jobcentre when we turned 16. That’s no good if you’re creative. Most likely, if you grew up in an area as I did, you got told ‘get a proper job’ and ‘get yur ed outta clouds’.”

“We didn’t have mates whose parents were artists and went to NCAD or painted in Paris on their funded year out. They were cleaners, dinner ladies and worked in the local chippy. Our canvas was the back of the toilet in school or the back of the bus seat into town.”

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She said their inspiration came from listening to men buying pies in a queue, women talking in the toilets and mums getting the news from the neighbours while putting out the milk bottles.

The street became her story, as they had no access to cultural capital, and she did not know any creative people growing up.

Angi said: “All my mates’ parents were hardworking, working-class people doing their best. They were dinner ladies, cleaned the schools – they worked night shifts like my mum, or they dug roads for a living like my dad.

“What do you do if the kid from the flats wants to be an astronaut, the next Dave Pilkey, or wants to film a documentary about life on his estate?”

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Her aunt lived independently and engaged in continuous education until she passed away in 2021, which Angi described as a loss she cannot begin to process.

Having written for the Irish Times, Irish Independent, The Irish Post and several regional newspapers, Angi worked on the Roddy Doyle Fighting Words project in Longford, a community writing project for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She then received the news about her brother Seán and how he had succumbed to suicide after a brave fight with addiction and depression.

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Angi said: “Almost overnight, my world changed, and I changed along with it.

“You might look the same on the outside, but you will forever be changed on the inside. This book is about that journey and how we must decide to go on or go under.”

After receiving the news that ‘Sh*te, Thanks for Asking’ was proving popular with awards panels, Angi said she was surprised, shocked and overwhelmed.

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She said the judges embraced the book as it connected with the pandemic, as it reflected on a time of collective loss and a withdrawal from loved ones.

Angi said: “Having something real or tangible to hand or give to persons during this time was a significant act. 

“I was delighted for Aishling Griffin, my friend, who did the illustration on the book. Getting this recognition and acknowledgement for our work, especially during such a challenging period, meant everything.”

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She is now working on her second book, Words of Consolation, from Knees, available next year.

Angi’s counselling work continues with The Seany Project, a breakfast club for the bereaved. It is a social prescribing initiative helping people balance bereavement, recovery and loss.

It is a space where people who have been recently bereaved or are experiencing issues with mental health can have a cup of tea or coffee, meet other people and share their loss stories.

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The Seany Project is now a case study for evaluating different social prescribing models and how it supports communities.

Angi said: “I sellotaped some crayons to the pile of rubble that was formerly a wall the last time I was in Preston around the time my brother died with a quote attached, ‘Even broken crayons can still colour’.

“Success is ambiguous. Things come and go. Real success is ensuring the next generation has the tool to get them where they are going.

“I see that every day when I look at my children and see them happy, growing and thriving. They are my biggest achievement.”

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‘Sh*te, Thanks for Asking’ is available online from The Harris Museum and via – www.Facebook.com/dixonangi

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