The other day someone asked me if I felt relieved that Mother had died. It’s a fair question and I discussed it with Aunt last night. In the long run, I am sure we will feel some sense of relief. The knowledge that Mother is not going to decline further, is not going to descend to a state of unknowingness where we cannot connect with her, is not ever going back to hospital, that she died peacefully, yes these things will be a relief. But at the moment neither of us is feeling that.
Aunt describes it as a big dark space. I am still wrapped in grey fog much of the time. While Mother lived, I knew where she was, had a picture in my mind of her at the home when I wasn’t with her. Now, she isn’t. I can imagine her ashes in the drum that matches her coffin, residing with the undertaker until such time as we can arrange for Dad’s ashes to be exhumed so that we can scatter them together, but where is Mother? Maybe that’s why the video continues to play in my head while I try to locate her.
In time, the need to place her so specifically will pass. I know this from my experience with my father. He is in many places; from rows of runner beans growing in someone’s garden (we called him Bean Man, such was his devotion to this vegetable; he grew two rows, one to eat fresh, one to freeze for the winter), regulators in the clock gallery at the British Museum, streets in Guildford, Mozart’s music, to repeats of Round the Horne on Radio 4 Extra – I can hear his laugh and see his smile as I listen.
He isn’t in the cemetery where his ashes are buried. There is no sense of him there. It is not a spot he’d have liked. If we’d been able to bury them at St Martha’s Chapel in Surrey, he would probably lie there through eternity. That ws a place he loved. It may be where we scatter him with Mother, though I’d like some of her to go home to Ireland too, and Dad with her.
When the rawness of grief starts to soften, relief of what she avoided may be a comfort. At the moment it’s academic and the cards on the window sills are the reminder that she is dead, that it is now three weeks, and there is no going back.


31 thoughts on “Reactions

  1. You have been relieved of tasks and immediate concerns; that is very different from being relieved your mother died.
    I’m glad my mother’s health didn’t linger in a ‘half dead every week’ fashion- her body was worn out. She was much closer to the end of her journey than I recognised until the last few days. I’m glad she wasn’t in pain. I’m glad we got to spend time with her, and that we know she enjoyed the company.
    I haven’t got to ‘relief’ yet.

    • Thanks Speccy. Relief is quite a big concept, if only a short word. Someone else gave me the “good innings” comment. He was too far away for me to slap him, but e implied that the length of her life meant we shouldn’t be too upset. We disagree.

      • People, honestly! Is it that brains and mouths aren’t connected, they’re just lost for words, or that they have never experienced loss?
        Maybe it’s worse, that they’ve not loved or been loved and so we should cuddle them instead of slapping? But a slap would be waay more satisfying 😉

    • She is. I took a photo of her on the Monday as she lay sleeping peacefully. I am very glad I did. I just wish it weren’t on my ‘phone as the quality is not that great.

  2. St Martha’s – how lovely, up on the hill. Ireland, too. There’s a little bit of our mum and dad sprinkled (from a silver confectioner’s sugar sifter) in the shrubbery at Glyndebourne. Still makes me smile.

  3. Loosing my parents was one of the hardest times in my life…I was in the gray fog for several months time. I actually knew a lot about grief as I was a family and individual counselor but when I came face to face with it, it was very hard. I went through two grief and loss groups, each was meeting once a week for 6 weeks and that helped me tremendously. I needed to be with others who had lost a loved one too. I was young and most of my friends had not gone through loosing loved ones yet. I read several books and prayed a lot too. Grief is a journey that we work through, the most important thing is not to get stuck and to go with it. You will begin to have better days and then all of a sudden waves of grief hit you again. It was about three months after loosing my Mom, she died a year after my Dad, I was in the local grocery store in town, Safeway, and I had my cart and everyone was laughing and shopping, talking to whoever and I had to leave and go home as it made me mad that the world was going on like nothing had happened when my world was yet shattered…it was learning to take one day at a time and I took time off when I needed it. I did not return to work for two months and then I took it slow. Be good to you and to know all this is normal…it takes energy,so be sure to get lots of rest too. One way to look at grief is this, take a jigsaw puzzle and dump it at your feet…this is our life after we loose a loved one…grief is slowly taking one piece at a time…turning it over and figuring out how to put your life back together again without your loved one present. They will always be with us and live on in our hearts…eventually the pain softens and good memories carry you forward and back into life. My heart is with you, and so are my prayers…hugs and lots of prayers for you and for your family…HRCG
    PS The best book I found had super short chapters that you could read each day and I swore they wrote it for me as each day when I read the short chapter it hit the nail on the head! I have given it to many people and always keep a stack handy. It is called Grieving the Loss Of Someone You Love written by Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside. It is not text book at all and very easy to read. Amazon has it and probably larger book stores. I have to order mine off Amazon:)

    • This is such a heartfelt, felt response HRC. So hard. Thanks for all the good advice. I may get that book. The rage you describe I felt the day after my father died when I saw people going about their normal business. I wanted to go up to them and say,”don’t you realise the world has changed?”

      • Yes that is the one…I went through so many varied emotions and as time went on, I would think “ok, maybe things are moving along ok and I am doing better, and then a huge wave of grief would knock me down again! It is up and down for a few months…and I leaned we do not live in a world that embraces grief as people do not know what to say and often say really dumb things…I am with you:) and I do understand the emotions and feelings. Seriously that little book was my lifesaver and has been to anyone I have ever gave it to. It speaks from the heart and it speaks the truths you need on the day you actually need them…it was truly amazing to me to read the chapters…and they were user friendly and short. One thing I did on my parents first anniversary when they were not here with me to celebrate, we always did dinner together…I usually cooked up something special that was a treat as they did not like going out to dinner. Anyway, I got sidetracked, I picked out two special balloons for them and took the balloons to the cemetery, and released them to heaven, sending them my love and my heartfelt thoughts…little things like that helped me through the first year after loosing them…mainly be good to you and do what you need to do:) ((((Hugs and prayers))))

        • Thanks again. One minute I feel fine, the next it’s horrid. So I know just what you mean. Even when you think you are fine, you’re on the edge of not being fine.

  4. My thoughts and heart are with you. It seems every one handles grief a little differently but in some ways, the same….Everything seems different…Be kind to yourself is the best thing I can offer, too!

  5. As Pix said, you are in my thoughts every day, Isobel.

    “Relief” is in the eye of the beholder–that kind of comment says more about the commenter than the situation, but it’s still horribly insensitive–slapping ’em silly seems good, very Jane Austen!

    Go slowly, let your mind wander and rest….

      • For a few weeks or more: take time off from work and remove yourself from demands. It’s the only way to give your brain room to breathe, your body room to grieve. This is a terrible loss, Isobel, with years of complexity that came before the loss.

        I know you’ve said you’re feeling terribly foggy, but you also are very clear about what you need–it’s just hard to make the thoughts stay put long enough to do something with them.

        The only rush is to stop certain demanding activities. After that comes the wandering at whatever pace a moment dictates. For as long as it takes….

        • Taking time out seems logical, but of course it looks very bad on one’s record. Just the sort of thing that is thrust in your face at meetings. More stress. That is when resigning seems the best, but of course I couldn’t go immediately. I don’t know. Maybe after the weekend I shall be clearer.

      • You will be better able to cope with the stupid attitudes at work later, after you’ve rested as you wish.

        It is hard to remove oneself from work–out of sight, out of mind– but the reason for doing so is more urgent than worrying about what might happen later.

        That’s a good idea–always give yourself time. We’re all in such a rush these hectic connected days, and it isn’t easy to go against the grain and ask for or take time. (You can imagine that I know a lot about moving slowly…. takes a little practice….)

        It’s *OK* to be not ready to return to work, Isobel. As simple as that. No other explanations.

      • Under our US laws for disability, we are protected as long as we follow the employer’s rules as best we can, which usually means communication.

        Some work we can’t do at certain times. For instance, when I go back to work, I’ll need a very quiet atmosphere–no emails, meetings, phone calls.

        If you could do *some* of the work, the employer might call it light duty. Maybe that’s another way to look at it–what part of my job can I do right now? Then tell the employer you need to modify…. Most people are willing to help–especially if you have the law on your side.

        However, if you need time, you need time. If you had a broken leg, you’d ask for time — and it would feel quite normal.

        This kind of thing right now is terribly complicated–uses up a lot of energy, I know. Just the idea of talking to the employer and how hard that could be…. I took a human resources person with me when I talked to my employer. I was too muzzy-headed to represent myself well. Just had the bare bones: need time off for personal reasons for 3 months…. (which was within the terms of the family leave law).

  6. people can ask the strangest questions or say the oddest things.
    the funeral home that we went to for my Dad offered me a book on grieving entitled, ‘Roses in December’ (Marilyn Heavelin) which I devoured in that week before the funeral. that was 14 years ago and i have kept it because it was so helpful. one of the things it mentioned was that others who have not been there, do not know what it is like. and so in their attempts to cope with our loss or be done with it, and wanting us to be done with it, too, they do not realize that they are saying inappropriate things. and the book wisely suggested to be aware that this could happen and to intentionally not take it to heart but to forgive even where no one has apologized.
    armed with those fresh words of wisdom, i was reminded of them when at my Dad’s funeral, an old family friend came up to me that i hadn’t seen in years since our paths had taken different turns. ‘how do you feel?’ i was asked, a question that seemed too raw to respond to. can’t remember how i responded, but the book came to mind. someone else came up to me, shook my hand and said, obviously rather awkwardly, ‘nice funeral’. so i simply smiled and said my thanks.
    but do take care of yourself. you are in my thoughts and prayers. sending you e-hugs, and Timmy sends you purrs. he seems to know when things are not as they should be and he is gentle and close with his quiet presence. just like your MasterB, i am sure.

    • Awkwardness I can deal with, and from some quarters the lack of understanding is almost funny. The formulaic ” accept my condolences” before moving swiftly to business is harder. Though realising I wasn’t concentrating on what I was being told by a relative stranger the other day, I apologised and explained that mother had died. When he used the phrase, it felt real, and the few minutes in his company a comfort.
      No. It is the lack of head/heart space at work I find so hard. There isn’t a switch that you can flick to make everything one while you are at work, and feeling supported there is terribly important in enabling you to carry out tasks.
      Timmy has obviously settled so well and carved himself a place in your family. I am glad I have MasterB. Watching him enjoy himself, even when it means him knocking down the sympathy cards, is precious.

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