Death and grieving
…is not something that normally dominates my mind, although it is always there. From experience, I have known the death of loved ones, and I also know the grieving journey is personal. It is something that is individual, painful, and affects everyone in their own way.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to grieve. There is your way, and my way (which was stumbling through the process, wondering how I would survive.)
As for the ‘stages’ of grief, maybe some people have them, but in my experience they were not clear cut.
Why think of death now?
Two reasons this subject came to my attention again recently – one, in my book series, one character is about to explain about the death of another… to John. (Don’t want to give spoilers) was in this last couple of weeks hearing of so many people who had a parent who died.
The other reason was in this last couple of weeks hearing of so many people who had a parent who died.
One was the postmistress at my local shopping centre. While she is still feeling vulnerable, a customer came in and told her the sad tale of the loss of her own father. Jane (I will call the postmistress) sympathized and, I guess they shared their feelings. On the way out the customer stole something very expensive and was never seen again. Not yet anyway.
It is possible that the customer had indeed ‘lost’ her father, and in her grief had stolen the goods. It is hard to say, grief does strange things to us.
First death I experienced
Although I trained as a nurse, my grandmother, who was a patient, was the first person I ever knew who died. I was living in the nurses’ home, not far from the hospital and I had asked the ward staff to let me know if she deteriorated. (She had dementia, and was very ill with pneumonia.)
I always went to the hospital before my shift was due so I could go to my grandmother’s ward and see her. One morning I did, and her bed was empty, stripped. She had died and no one had told me.
My duties that day were in a psycho-geriatric ward in another part of the hospital. It was quite far into the shift before I realized that the reason the shift was going so badly for me, was that I was nursing other old people… they were alive and my beloved granny was not.
That was the only time I felt anger when grieving.
When my mother died, I had been living in Australia for many years. She died of lung cancer and I remember how helpless I felt because I could not afford the fare to Scotland. (In those days the fares were a horrendous price, and I had a family here in Australia.)
Grieving a child
My stepson, who lived with my husband and I, died. The police knocked on the door at 4.00 am. My husband heard the knocking. At that time I was a heavy sleeper, but he managed to wake me. I thought he was dreaming. He was not.
It took a long time for it to sink in. ‘Gone’ didn’t mean ‘run away’, it meant dead. He was sixteen and a half.
Everything passed in a blur, but although first my husband, then I were hospitalized with the shock, we made it through the valley of the shadow of death. Sleep was something that only came as the result of sleeping pills, and then not for long. Two, maybe three hours, then a blessed moment of unawareness before I felt the ton of bricks fall on me. “’Bill’ is dead.” That was the end of sleep. Yet, my husband and I were part of the ‘lucky’ few, the blessed ones whose marriage did not fall apart because of it. In fact, we grew closer as we stumbled through the pain, the agony, and all those guilt feelings.
The wondering ‘if I had done this’ or ‘if I had not done that…’
My husband wrote a poem in the note pages of his Bible. His words can still bring tears to my eyes. As he once said to me, “I have lost my future, not just the past and present. I will never see him married, never have grandchildren from him…”
Death of my husband
My husband was never a completely well man. Very few people knew the struggle he had with the pain of a crumbling spine and herniated disks. He did not parade his health problems. It wasn’t the pain that killed him. For years he had been in and out of hospital, sometimes near death, but the doctors could not decide the cause of his lung problems.
I remember now, the pleasure he felt when finally, a diagnosis was reached. So many people had said that it waas all in his mind. But it was not. It was Pulmonary Fibrosing. Or, as they called it then, Fibrosing Alveolitis. Little did we know it was a death sentence. And I am glad of that. There were so many things we did in the last years of his life we would never have attempted had we known how serious, how fatal that lung disease was.
There were times when what was happening to him frightened us, but still, no one told us what was going on inside his lungs.
Not until the last 6 weeks of his life.
But that is another story. Suffice it to say, it was something of a shock to be told that his lungs were smothering him.
After a couple of years, when reliving his death became less painful, some of those feelings went into the Prologue of one of the books in the series I am writing. A character asked how he could live with the person who was dying, knowing she was dying, and not knowing how to help.
And still, it continues…
In fact, in the fourth book, published last year, when I came back to it to read it over before sending it to the lovely lady who edits it, I noticed there was a huge bit missing. After the death of a much-loved character, it stopped. The next chapter started months later when all the intense grief was easing.
It felt as if I had fallen off a cliff.
As I puzzled over the manuscript and why it was like that, I realized. I could not have written it before. ‘Killing’ the character off was difficult enough, but exploring the grieving of the various characters her life affected, had obviously been too much for me to look at before then.
With several revisions and many tears, the ‘missing’ part of the book was written.
As for my own grieving
As for my own grieving. Only the one time, after my granny’s death, was I ever angry.
Neither my husband nor I were ever angry with our son, or with God… although people assured us it was okay to be angry with God. One well-meaning church member briefly cut the feet from under us by saying, “God could have prevented it.” Well, I guess He could, but we have all been given free will.
Death and grieving
Death is the end of our human lives. Grieving is part of coping with death. I guess I will go to my grave grieving. But on the other hand, grateful to have had such love in my life.
If you are grieving, accept what is happening. There is no specified order like it says in the books about death and loss. Sometimes you might flip from one to another in a matter of hours. It’s a roller coaster, it will eventually slow down and become acceptance.
There is no ‘getting over’ losing a child, a grandchild, sibling, niece, nephew, or a spouse, and generally, we only have one set of parents. We become used to being without them in our lives, but in losing that person, we have lost part of us. The person who created us, the person we created, or the love of your life and best friend.
There is no right or wrong… unless you steal – as mentioned the customer did at the start of this post.
Tread softly, vulnerable people are easily crushed.
Before you speak… think