I am no expert on grief but I have experienced it several times, including the loss of both my parents and I believe that it is something worth exploring.
My own timeline and experience of grief goes like this:
Age eleven, my Papa died. My mum woke us up with the news and I remember thinking I was supposed to cry but pretty much feeling nothing except concern for my upset brother who was very close to our mothers father.
This first experience of loss, although not felt, did teach me some valuable lessons, the most important being that bereaved people should not be avoided.
In her grief, my mother shared with me that people who she thought were caring friends, crossed the street rather than meet her up ahead. She translated that into their inability to ask her how she was due to their own discomfort with the bereaved. She was upset and hurt…and lonely in her grief.
I made the decision at that young age to never avoid anyone in their grief and have instead become someone who reaches out to them…nowadays, with Rescue Remedy in hand.
Age eighteen, I was working in a geriatric unit and one of our patients died. The Sister for the unit asked if I would accompany her to the funeral and so I went. It was the first time that I felt the collective energy of grief and I had to stop singing the first hymn because of the sobs in my throat. What was this? I was not close to the deceased lady so why was I feeling so emotional? I had no answers for myself.
Now that I am able to reflect back, I know that I had felt (for the first time) the grief of the gathered bereaved…but I didn’t know that there was such a thing back then.
Several funerals attended, of people not close to me and I had the same response in all of them. I could never get through that first hymn. But, by the second hymn, I seemed to settle and be able to belt out the words, in celebration of the deceased’s life.
Around my 24th birthday, my Gran died and I couldn’t get home from Toronto for the funeral. I was already booked to fly back the week after, for my birthday, as a surprise for my parents but that surprise never happened. When I was home, I went to the church that my Gran had attended for decades and experienced grief again…but differently. It was mine. My own grief. It was compounded by my mother and aunt who flanked me but it was mostly mine. I couldn’t sing any of the hymns during that service, so anguished I felt. It was a rawness that I had never experienced before.
Four years later, I hid from that horrible rawness when my father died. I promised myself that I would not cry at his funeral…and I didn’t.
I was in the midst of a different kind of grief, one that I refused to feel and which caused me to destroy my young marriage as part of a huge demand for self destruction. The price I had to pay, to avoid feeling.
Neither my husband nor my family could do anything about my spiraling ‘couldn’t-care-less’ and I became totally detached from the morals and rules that I had been raised with.
Thank goodness that I got pregnant (to a man who was not my husband but now is) because I would not be here, typing this, if I had not. That’s how dark my tunnel had become…but that’s for another blog.
In my early thirties, having not cried at my fathers funeral, it was extraordinary how much I bawled at the funeral of a young guy I had known since he was a kid. I cried for his anguished wife and for the life they would never have but I now believe that I also cried some of the tears that I didn’t allow myself, for my father. They had both died from brain tumours.
In my late thirties, the impending death of my aunt gave me the chance to speak to her about it…a first.
Through my sobs, I asked her if she was scared? She gently smiled at me and told me not to cry, that she was not afraid and that everything would be okay, but it didn’t feel okay. This woman was as good a person as could exist and she was telling me that I would be okay. She even passed-on between two family birthdays and without her family sitting beside her, to spare them. We were all sat in the hospice coffee shop laughing about having just sang our way through the hymn book for her. Do we get to choose our exact time?
I have attended many, many funerals. My husband tells people that I love a good funeral…and I do.
But, I go to them as a supportive energy for the bereaved and the wine and laughter afterwards is just the bonus. It is a small thing that I can do for those I care about, in their grief.
When my mother died (I was forty-seven) I was bemused by the lack of support that showed up for me and it is only very recently that I have understood that not everyone is like me.
I attend funerals because it is something I can do, something that I am good at.
Other people hate funerals and everything that surrounds death.
My mums death will be the last one that I write about and it serves as my proof that it is better to get your grief on, Instantly, rather than try to avoid it.
I fully embraced the agony of watching my mother die which was the opposite from watching dad die.
With dad, I was in ‘nurse-mode’ and I think I just stayed in it.
With mum, I was in full ‘daughter-mode’ and it hurt like hell at the time but that pain was worth it because it began the grief process and allowed me to heal.
I healed from the loss of my mother before I healed from the loss of my father who died twenty-years earlier.
So, my conclusion from this exploration of grief is:
- Other peoples grief can feel very powerful
- A distant bereavement can unlock unhealed pain from a close bereavement
- Not everyone is good with funerals or around the bereaved
- And most importantly, it is better to feel it to heal it
It is just an exploration. Likely one of many. Hopefully it has given you pause for thought.
I love the image of joyfully being reunited with a loved one, in heaven. Is there a heaven? Watch for a blog on that, at some point 🙂
Love you all, Lxx