- Family and Parenting
Bereavement advice.How to cope with the death of a parent.
Death is a fact of life.
Death and bereavement is a subject most people avoid at all costs, which is odd given that it's also a subject that will touch each and every one of us at some time. Death is a fact of life. I lost both my parents some time ago, my mother passed in nineteen ninety three and my dad followed her a couple of years later. Losing a loved one is always going to be the hardest thing you will have to deal with in your life.
At first, I thought about them every day. Then, as time passed, they kind of slipped from the front of my memory. They were still there, somewhere, hanging around the back of my mind with my best friend Sue whose death when we were thirteen devastated me and the only grandparent I ever knew - my crazy Gran. I say crazy because she insisted on wearing her bra over her blouse and never washed on Wednesdays. At the time I thought that she was really funny and would tell all my friends about her, but now, I just feel sorry for a person obviously in the last throws of dementia. And I can understand why my mother, who spent years looking after her, cried every day when I was growing up.
Facing our own mortality.
Something happens to a person when death touches you and you lose your parents, suddenly,you’re not someone’s child anymore, suddenly, you are the older generation. It brings you up short, makes you face the reality of your own mortality. Death becomes a constant companion for a time. There are relatives to inform, funeral arrangements to be made, flowers to order etc, etc.
You really are too busy to grieve properly. That time comes later. With me the grief hit me like a blow to the chest about a week after we laid my dad to rest. I was shopping and happened to see bars of Turkish delight on sale at the checkout. That was my dad’s favourite chocolate, I bought him a half dozen of them at Christmas, Easter, for his birthday and just as a little treat when I went to visit. I stood there with my shopping moving along the conveyor belt and piling up at the end of the checkout and bawled my eyes out. It was so embarrassing. I somehow managed to pack my stuff, pay my bill and run home where I broke down and spent the rest of the day crying.
I soon came to understand that the tears were a vital part of the whole grieving process, never try to be brave, never try to stop the tears from flowing. You can cry in private, but do cry.
Keeping the memory of the deceased alive is very important. I found a couple of really nice photos of my parents and had them framed to put up on my wall, where I could see them every day. Don't try to block out painful emotions by hiding evidence of your lost loved ones, it doesn't work. It also leaves you open to ambush emotions like the one I suffered when I was shopping.
Dealing with death, a short video expaining the stages of grief.
Tell your parents you love them as often as you can.
I look at my own children today and think about how proud I am and how much I want to be able to tell my own parents about them. I want to be able to pick up the phone and brag about their achievements, I want to be able to bitch to my mother about my husband, I want to tell her about my day, I want, no, I need to be able to tell her how much I love her. But that time has passed. I’ll never speak to my mum or my dad again. Sometimes that fact hits me like a blow to the chest and I just have to sit down and have a good cry.
If I could offer any advice to people who are still lucky enough to have their parents around it would be this… let them know how much you love them, tell them they will never be forgotten and give them a hug from me.
This is a piece I wrote last year on the anniversary of my mothers death.
Random thoughts on the anniversary of my mothers death.
Fourteen years ago today you died. I miss you, but I almost forgot today, it was seven o’clock at night before I remembered what day it was. November the fifth - the night you died, which has a strange kind of irony because you loved this day, this night. Loved the bonfires and the fireworks, loved the looks on the children’s faces as they oohhed and aahhed - caught between awe and fear, between flight and scrutiny. This night you seemed more alive than any other.
I guess our relationship was much the same as many mothers and daughters. I loved you - I hated you. I craved your attention but resented the time I felt you stole from me and my own family. I have few memories of my childrens early lives that don’t include you. Each morning I woke and told myself that today I wouldn’t feel the need to be at your side, and each morning that’s exactly where I found myself. I often felt like a puppet pulled by an invisible umbilical cord, a fly pulled into a web of comfort and familiarity.
So many things were left unspoken, so many things I wish I had never said.
I want to boast about my children to you. I want to tell you my secrets - things I can’t tell anyone else, things no one else would understand. I want to sit and simply be me, no mask, no pretence, no shield - just me. Your little girl.
I sometimes fear I will end up as crazy as you.
I love you. I miss you.