The way we deal with death of a loved one, is as diverse as life itself. Never two people the same. I have witnessed grief so devastating that the person was like a howling wounded animal. The pain so severe, so raw, that it seemed it could never ease. Yet other friends seem to show no outward signs, almost carrying on normal life. These are two extremes, most of us fall into the middle somewhere; we grieve, we cry and then we try to move on and remember the joy of knowing the person we lost.
For me, grief was cut short by trying to deal with the family or worrying more about the impact on the children. It has sometimes had to be put aside, to be dealt with later. I’ve lost six family members to cancer, from ages 50 to 74.
Circumstances make a difference, being there to find closure with the person dying helps, I feel. I said a proper goodbye to my mother. Although her death was sudden, I had several hours when I could hold her hand and talk to her. I had been with her every day too, not knowing this massive stroke was about to end her life. It just worked out that way, as I had given up a job I had, leaving me free to spend time with her, going shopping and visiting. The grief was still painful, but I dealt with it.
However, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer only a few weeks before we had a trip to Australia (I was still living in the United Kingdom at the time). I talked to Dad and to the doctors, and they all told us to go. They assured me he was pain free and would be alert and able to see visitors. That he was not expected to deteriorate at all. They were wrong and someone made the decision to give him aggressive chemo after we left. Three days after we arrived in Australia we had the call to say he had died. I felt cheated, let down and riddled with guilt.
If I had been there for Mum I could have fought to keep Dad from having treatment. In my opinion, the treatment was a wrong decision, coming far too late, and Mum was not sure how to deal with it. Then she had to deal with the funeral and keeping Dad’s arrangements on hold until we could get a flight. It was a cruel time for us all. The journey home took 56 hours due to delays and a strike.
My other guilt was not listening to a tape Dad had made for me. He spoke of his life, and many of his childhood memories. It took three years before I could steel myself to hear it. When I did hear it, I truly grieved for him, and for all his life had been and the love he had always given. A lot of tears fell before I could even talk about it again, but it was a final hurdle I got over.
Sometimes grief means we need to take time for us. Anyway we can cosset ourselves works. Be kind to yourself, grief is like an infection or an illness, it needs comfort. Sleep in a little, surround yourself with things that make you happy. Have the expensive tea in a special cup. Wear the good clothes, or get out and watch the garden grow. Meet friends for a coffee, don’t rush into sweeping changes in life, and keep things calm. Play music that has a happy effect. Read the books you have stored away. Eat small meals. If you need the guidance of your church then go. Keep up old friendships and try to start thinking of how you can help others, volunteering and joining a club can be the answer as long as it is truly what you want.
I can now talk about my parents and laugh about things we did, and not cry about what we didn’t do. I will never forget them or the love they gave.