When someone close dies, it’s awful. Even if you’ve known for some time that the end was approaching, nothing fully prepares you for the actual reality of it happening.
Yes, there’s the saying: ‘there are two certainties in life, you are born, and you die’, but when you lose someone, you’d happily stick that saying up someone’s behind.
I won’t pretend I’ve suffered extreme loss, but I have experienced various grandparents, aunts and uncles and my childhood pooch passing.
I’ll always remember the day my great grandma, my nanny Lou, died. I was about 13, and she’d been in a hospice for a few months. A couple of days earlier she’d celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary with my great grandad, Grandad Wally to us all.
My grandad Pete drove us to the hospice for our daily visit to see her, but when I got there, my grandma took my brother and me aside to tell us that she’d passed earlier that day. The visit was so that we could have a chance to say goodbye. That was the first and last time I’ve ever seen a dead body.
Bereavement hits people in different ways; there is no right or wrong way to deal with death.
For many, a loved one’s death doesn’t really hit them at first. For a time, it’s more a numbness or even denial that they’re gone.
And then it hits you, the utter and crushing sadness. For me, it was the reality that I’d never be able to spend an afternoon at my nan’s drinking tea from my special saucer and watching the Flintstones.
I cried like a baby, and I got mad. I was so angry; how could she just leave us all? How dare she die. And how dare I not appreciate her more before it was too late.
I prayed. I prayed like crazy. I’m not religious really, I’d only gone to church a handful of times in the last few years, but at that moment, I needed something. I needed to believe that she was at finally at peace and in a better place.
I felt guilty. Had I told her enough times how much she meant to me? Did she know I wanted her to live forever?
I probably felt this emotion the strongest when her husband, my Grandad Wally, passed a couple of years ago. As you may have read in my previous article on estrangement. I don’t talk to my mum’s side, except her dad – my grandad Pete, and until he died, my great grandad Wally. He was the kindest giant and the best listener. However, because of the situation, and no one is at fault for this, I didn’t get to say goodbye. Every day I have to live with that.
In grief you learn who is actually there for you; my step mum sadly lost three very close family members in the space of a year, and in that time, she learnt who her true friends were. In that period, she, her mum and her sister once again showed us all how strong they really are. They celebrated the lives of their loved ones, instead of becoming consumed with sadness.
How long it takes to be able to cope and move on depends on each person. Some may take no time at all, some may take what seems like forever, and some may think they’ve done it, only to be set back by a memory or event.
Sarah who works at Trinity Hospice in London explains, “You might feel a lot of emotions at once, or feel you’re having a good day, then you wake up and feel worse again. It’s like waves on a beach. You can be standing in water up to your knees and feel you can cope, then suddenly a big wave comes and knocks you off your feet.”
It’s been nearly ten years since my nan died and about two since my grandad followed her. Everything I do is to make them proud. They were always there for me and fought my corner. I think about them nearly every day, and every so often I’ll play Dam Vera Lynn’s song We’ll Meet Again – it was their song.
People die. It’s a horrible thing we will all witness and eventually experience in life.
Whether it’s a pet, relative or friend; your life may seem a bit empty without them there. Even not having them around for a chat or well-needed hug can seem world-shattering.
But, like life, you’ll move on. Live every moment as if they’re still by your side because they’ll live on through your thoughts of them.
If your struggling with bereavement, you can contact the Advice & Counselling services at QM.
Alternatively, here are some links to organisations: