Friday, 25 September 2015

Good Grief

Depending on which self-help book or website you choose, there are five or seven stages of grief that we all must go through. That puts me on the sixth or eighth with regard to my mum.

My mother's death in January of this year was a harrowing and horrifying thing. I don't like to think about it - but I do. It was an inevitable thing to happen, and something that I and my siblings had been expecting for some time. She had been ill for more than a year.

In a way, a good part of our mourning had already taken place by the time she finally slipped away. It was an inoperable brain tumour that took her from us in the form of a cruel instalment plan, piece by piece. In the months before she was bedridden, she spoke and heard nonsense. Her brain played tricks on her. But she seemed happy enough.

The last days and weeks, though, were miserable and scary. There were lots of tears and a lot of confusion and anguish. One of the cruellest twists was thrown at us just a few days before she finally died. A change in her medication brought her a sudden burst of lucidity. After days of motionless and inactivity, we found her sat up in her bed, chatting, even taking sips of tea. One of my happiest memories of my mum, strangely, is of her as the dying woman - nodding and smiling, looking around and chatting to us all from her bed. Her brain had given up on allowing her to form words. But we let her have her say anyway.

It gave us false hope, which was ultimately and inevitably dashed. Her decline was swift from there. It was so sad. In the end, as is often the way, her death came as a release for all of us... and a mercy to her.

Now, with my mum's passing an entire generation has gone. I have no uncles or aunts: all dead. My father died 11 years ago. Suddenly, at 51, I'm the grown up.

Since January, I have had a few tearful episodes. But nowhere near enough. This is something I'm mindful of. I've kept myself occupied since then, in positive and not so positive ways, and have kind of bricked away the crushing magnitude of it all. The losing of my mum has become, to my mind, the most recent in a series of disasters beginning with the death of my dad and continuing through the death of two very, very important friends, leading up to Jean Mary Barding (nee Newton). The grief from those three predecessors was well-defined, reasonably well-handled and, I'm sad to say, cumulative. The grief I feel from losing my mum is aggravated no end by the compounding factor of the other three deaths. If I'm going to feel sad about my mum, I will feel sad about my dad, about Ali and about Jon too. So oppressing is this feeling that I have not yet been able to properly handle it.

My parents' house has just (today) sold and contracts have been exchanged. This is an important thing for me, since I needed that finality to allow me to draw a line under that part of my life. No house, no mum - so I can get on with my life.

That life, now, is me and Rhoda against the world. It's been on pause since January. I couldn't help that, it's just something I had to stash away. I am a little worried that it has festered for too long, that I won't now be able to go back and work through grief processes 1-5 or 1-7 depending on your chosen book or website. But it's what I'm left with.

I'm looking forward to being able to remember my mum properly, and to celebrating her in whatever way I am able to. That's all to come. Right now, though, with the closing of the sale of her house - the house I grew up in - and the closing of a very important chapter in my life, I feel I am able at last, and at least, to have a really good, productive cry.

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