Bereavement and healing-my own little story.

Bereavement and healing-my own little story.

Twenty-five years ago, today, my father died.

It was New Years day 1990 when I watched him take his last breath, in a small out-of-the-way room, in St Columbas hospice. Reflecting back to that day, I remember thinking that, in a hospice, there ought to have been a different place that a family could have been together, whilst a loved-one was preparing to leave them. A room with homely furniture and a kettle to make something hot to drink, to keep the chill from your heart. But that wasn't my experience in that unused, clinical room.

Twenty-five years on, I hope that there is now such a room, in the newly refurbished hospice and indeed in every hospice in existence.

New years day was a really crappy day for dad to die. I mean, he was a man who loved a New Years drink or twenty and I used to love going out on New Years day, with him, to go around all of his relatives houses. All the men would be funny and attentive and my dad would glow, from being with people who had known him his whole life. So, when he died on New Years day we all joked about how he was so unwilling to not party on New Years that he rushed the dying-bit, to get to the biggest New Year bash of them all.

It wasn't much fun for the rest of us, though. New Years Day. That day when you are supposed to be grateful and look forward to the coming year. How could we party on any New Years Day after the stunt he pulled? If we did, wouldn't people obviously think that we didn't care that he was dead? You are supposed, are you not, to be sad on the anniversary of a loved-ones death?

That's the place I found myself on subsequent New Years days for many years. I fitted into societys box, which dictates that you must be unhappy on the day that your father died otherwise you did not love him. Guilt for feeling the tiniest bit happy at New Year was huge for me and it was something that I was sure would never change.

But it has changed, even if it took so many more years than it might have, had I been further along my spiritual path than I was at twenty seven.

I don't wish to change the length of time that it took me to 'heal' from dads death. It's given me something to compare the grieving for my mum to.

Mum died in June 2009 but the exact date is already a bit hazy although I do know that it was late in the month and exactly one week after I walked the Edinburgh moonwalk with six friends. I know that because I was tying my shoelaces, to go on a celebratory short-walk and then have breakfast, when the phone-call came in from the hospital.

My mum was not in a hospice, she was recovering from 'frailty' in a general hospital ward. Yet, the experience of being with her that day, before she took her last breath, was poles apart from my experience with dad.

The nursing staff were very quietly, brilliantly compassionate and I hadn't felt that with the hospice nurses when dad was dying...which seems very odd to write down when the perception of general nurses is that they are too run of their feet these days to make time for 'extras' such as caring for families of the dying.

Perhaps I am remembering it wrongly and it was simply me who was different from one death to the next.

In 2009 I didn't feel the need to 'keep-it-together' whereas I felt I had no option but to do so in 1990. After all, I was a nurse and used to death and dying was I not? Actually no, I was not used to it at all. In all my twenty five plus years of nursing, I never, ever saw someone take their last breath. I hadn't even seen any cardiac arrests and I was seldom involved in huge drama, unlike many of my colleagues. Seeing healing take place, not dying, was my much preferred 'thing'

My parents are the only two people that I have watched die............twenty years apart. With dad, I was in 'nurse-mode' and very much in control of my emotions but when mum died,  I was most definitely and painfully in full 'daughter-mode'

I would recommend the latter for everyone for whilst it was emotionally devastating at the time, the healing process that followed was completed far quicker and much more easily than the former, controlled method of not allowing healing to take place at all.

I couldn't have done it any differently with dads death. I had not even begun to get prepared to lose him. He was only fifty-seven. I had zero coping mechanisms except that of thickening the already-present wall of protection around my heart which was used effectively in my role as a nurse but was an unhelful barrier in my personal life.

By the time of mums passing, I had given up nursing because I had torn down so much of that protective wall, through my desire to be a better wife and mother, that I was unable to resurrect it whilst I was at work.

Having done so much personal work to allow myself to be seen as less than perfect meant that when I saw my mum struggling to breath, in her hospital bed, I simply crawled onto the bed beside her, pulled her close and whispered through my tears that it was okay for her to go...and that I would be alright.

Even as I type this, I feel the upsurge of emotion that I felt that morning. The battle that raged in my head about whether I should allow myself to ask for support from my big brother or try to deal with what was happening to mum by myself?  Why was that even possible for me to debate?

The nurses were  very kind. They saw my tears and pulled the curtains around the bed with gentle words and caring smiles. They asked if they could call support for me and I told them I'd do it myself and I sent my brother a text because I knew that I wouldn't be able to speak to him without crying. He seemed to arrive quicker than was possible and I had never been more glad to see him or feel his arms close around me in a huge protective hug as I crumpled into another wave of tears. He would have guessed that things were bad because I don't think that he'd seen me cry, except at funerals, since we were kids.

Even as I fell apart, I was still unwilling to contact the 'wee-yin' to tell her to get herself in there. Inherantly I always felt responsible for protecting my siblings and I didn't relish seeing my sisters pain but my brother went outside and made the call to her. It would have been unfair, even in our desire to protect her, to have denied her the chance to say goodbye to our mother

Seeing her face, as she came into my mums room, I screamed inside as I tried to be oh-so-brave.....for her.

We didn't have long to wait around, after my sister arrived.

Mum had been moved into a lovely little side-room which had a cosy room next to it for family to sit in. It was a much nicer set-up than the cold, clinical room that dad had spent his last hours in.

When we were all there, my brother, sister and I, my mother left us. My brothers girlfriend who was also there, asked if she could open the window for mums spirit to leave. Whilst I know that it was likely symbolic, it was still a lovely gesture and one that felt right and I was grateful to her for suggesting it.

I cried profusely, on and off, for days and days and days....and some more days. I cried when my littlest sang at the funeral but somehow I managed to help her with her song when she faltered.

I have cried many times since my mum died, mostly when I hear a song that reminds me of her.

Big snow flakes falling make me cry because of one of my last memories of her.

I have cried several times whilst typing this piece and I know that I will cry many times in the future.

But, I know that my heart is pretty much healed from both my losses and to tell you that was supposed to be the point of this blog. I hoped by sharing my own experiences to encourage you to feel your grief fully and to allow your heart heal, without guilt for feeling happy on an anniversary or a holiday.

I hoped to compare more fully the twenty years of healing that were required by my younger, protected heart and the less than five years healing that were required by my older, open, spiritual heart but I think that I may have got a bit side-tracked.....and that's the way it is with my writing sometimes.

To tie this in with Bach Flower Remedies, all I will note here is that they were a huge part of enabling the changes within and outwith my heart and in my healing processes.

I will add that I believe that my father was very close to me yesterday and that today it has been my mother who's been near. I believe that our loved ones do not leave us except in their physical form. I believe that they are always close, to support and to encourage us to be all that we can be.

Sometimes that involves us doing things that we would never have dreamed of doing had they still been with us. If my father had not been terminally-ill and died I would not have met my husband or had my three beautiful children. It's as though dad had to leave for me to change direction.

I still have emotional tsunamis that hit me. They still have the same intensity as in the moment that my parents died but they are now very short-lived and infrequent. I have learned that they are healthy for me and that they will pass.

I started out writing this to be of support to others who may be struggling with loss, this January first 2015. In conclusion though, I think I may have just healed another little part of myself.

Much Love to all,




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