In the UK and Western society, we don’t talk about death. We sugar-coat it in euphemisms and whispers. I didn’t lose my parents, I didn’t set them down in the park, get distracted and walk away. Death dragged the two most beautiful, kind, caring, vital people I’ve ever known away. Cancer lay in wait all at once, stole and stripped them of their strength. Never their humour, never their passion and zest for life.
Life likes to play tricks on you 21st December 2017, my Mums birthday she got the devastating news that the COPD she had been diagnosed with was masking a tumour on her lung and it was considered terminal but with radiotherapy and chemotherapy they could extend her life. And my beautiful mum had so much life and so much more to live for.
Mid 2019 while the family gathered to care for mum doing ‘hospice at home we noticed dad was coughing blood. During one of mum’s hospital stays we met my cousins at the lifts. My aunt had been admitted – here I stood three of the most important people in my life all diagnosed with terminal Lung Cancer.
Grief has many forms; there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I would suggest however not to have people die when the world is entering or in the midst of global pandemics or lockdowns. Grieving when you can’t see the others who support you is definitely not recommended.
My philosophy and faith make some things easier. I tell myself daily that grief and the pain of death are the price we pay for all the fun, laughter and love. I am Blessed that I had my parents until I was in my 40s mostly until the last few years hale and hearty and they remained mentally aware until the final days, so memories, jokes, chat, and laughter is part of their final days.
It’s now 3 years since my Mum passed on and almost 2 since my dad and aunt joined her. The grief is still a fact of life, I still pick up the phone regularly to tell them something, ask them something or just to hear their voice.
I read a post. When someone dies there is a box with a button and that button is the pain. At the start, there is a huge ball pressing on the button and the pain is constant. Over time the ball shrinks and becomes a little bouncing ball crashing around. It isn’t always touching the button but randomly and unexpectedly and the pain is there again.
So how do we deal with and process grief? I suppose as Counsellor and psychology student I should have some answers, but I don’t…I don’t. There is no magic cure, no technique, pill or programme where I can say do XY and Z and you will feel fine. People who don’t talk about dead people are scared that mentioning a loved one’s name will make them sad. I try not to allow that. The family I have on the other side are still as much a part of my life as the family around my table. I talk about them, share memories and laugh. Their lives were not a solemn dirge, and my memories are not always solemn, sometimes not entirely respectful! I’ll tell the stories and sing the songs even if they are x-rated!
My only advice for dealing with death loss and grief? Keep it in the open, talk about them, remember the gifts, the love and laughter you shared and always remember “so long as someone remembers my name, I’ll never truly be dead”
– Terry Pratchett