As children our biggest fear is losing a parent, well, for me it was. It was a huge fear and even when I grew to a teenager and an adult, the thought of not having my parents was unbearable. Dealing with the death of a parent or sibling is a rollercoaster, and I know this from experience. Death is scary, but it is a fact of life. You are going to die and so am I. Many of us will face the death of close family and friends during our lifetime. I have had experienced many funerals of friends and in-laws, and unfortunately my brother aged 34, my mother 5 years ago and my dad last year.
All three grieving processes were different for me and I will explain each.
You are probably reading this article because you have a parent who is sick and maybe near the end of their life or you have recently lost a parent and you are overwhelmed with grief. Trust me, I have been there, so let me hold your hand and give you some cyber love.
Because I have faith that only our bodies die, not our souls, it did help me with my grief, however it did not take away the raw emotional pain.
I have linked to some other articles below on why I believe this to be true and to elaborate more on the death of each of my family members I have written about here. If this is not your belief, that is OK, because despite my faith, it still was a terrible process to go through.
My brother was an artist. Here is depicts himself as a little boy, running away from the priest that molested him. I wonder if he knew his life would be short?
The first death for me was when my brother, Gary, who took his life at the age of 34. The shock not only caused me great mental anguish, it also took its toll on my body. To this day, I still remember the shock of Gary's death brought on Crohn's Disease, it was diagnosed only 6 months after he died.
At first, I did not want to believe it. I remember on the day (2nd November 1998) sitting outside at my parents property crying tears so huge I imagined they would be the size a crocodile would have if they cried; they were huge drops of water with sobs I could not control. Even as I type this all these years on, I have tears streaming down my face remembering those feelings.
It took me over 7 years to finally come to terms with Gary's death, and eventually the pain turned to laughter as I remember the antics that he got up to. Please read on because as I said not all grief is the same, and 7 years of grief is a long time, but that wasn't the case for mum or dad. I guess it was because Gary was young and his death was a huge shock.
HOW I FELT
What if questions
Did I help him enough?
Could I have been a better sister?
Writing in my daily journal - up to 7 years. The first year I wrote daily. When I read back on those poignant entries it helped me realise I was slowly progressing to coming to terms with it.
Painting. My brother was a brilliant artist, so I used to sit at night when my children were in bed and paint flowers and frogs. I sensed Gary was guiding me.
Talking about it, although I noticed after a while I had to stop as it was becoming obsessive and I'm sure others were fed up with me.
Running and exercise.
Excepting that one day this grief would pass. It did!
DEALING WITH THE DEATH OF A PARENT
Me and mum circa 2002. She never recovered from Gary's death the sadness is in her face.
My mother was a heavy smoker and in 2011 when I was travelling from Australia to New York, during my flight she had her first stroke. The stroke took away mum's dignity and ability to look after herself. It was devastating and heartbreaking to watch her deteriorate. Unfortunately she suffered three more strokes.
My elderly father, then 79, was my mother's full time carer, and I lived a long way from them. I regret I didn't make more trips to help mum in those days, but I can't take that back and I have forgiven myself for this. A week before she died she was taken to hospital in an ambulance because she had become gravely ill. There is a link at the end of this story on her passing. Watching your mother take her last breath as she opens her eyes from a two-day coma gazing at you is not something you cannot forget quickly.
HOW I FELT
In a way relieved that she no longer suffered
HOW I COPED
I thought about how unhappy she was and how she couldn't do anything for herself, including bathing and toileting
Talked to her as if she was still here
Accepted, she was in a better place
Thanked her for being my mum (a lot)
I still go to call her and remember she's not here anymore and it is going on for 5 years.
Dad went downhill after mum died. He would travel hours a day to stay at her grave, and he talked about nothing else but mum in the first two years. Three years after mum died dad started to get Dementia and had kidney problems. I was devoted to my dad and it was a terrible thing to watch my hero go downhill. He lived in a remote country property about 30 minutes drive from me. Dad would not go into a nursing home, and nor did we want him to. It took much work on my part and the social workers for him to accept in-home caring. I will forever thank the Australian Government for providing this service.
Two years before he passed I became gravely ill myself and it was a huge strain on me trying to get to visit him when I could hardly look after myself. At one stage I ended up in hospital and had a third of my bowel removed in an emergency operation, so the stress of having my dad with Dementia and me not being able to help was unbearable. I finally recovered but dad continued to get weaker. More about his death in a link below.
HOW I FELT
Relieved in a way, he was back with mum and to be honest it took significant pressure off me
Guilty because I thought I could have done more for him and I complained a lot to my brothers when he was alive about the burden it was on me to be his carer and not them.
HOW I COPED
Remembering how comical he was and laughed a lot
Contemplated the lessons he taught me
Realising his time was up, and he had an excellent life. He loved his life.
Took notice of his words to me (many times) that I was not to dwell on his death and to live my life to the best
Thought about (and still do) all the conversations we had about the world, the Universe and life after death. I guess he knows all the answers now.
Accepting this is life and I will meet them all again in the next.
At each funeral of my family I was a pallbearer and wrote and read the Eulogy.
To end this story, I have cried many tears as I have written about my loved ones. You see, grief never leaves us, it just goes easy on us over time. I still go to call mum and dad, I still think about Gary 22 years on. I still weep tears of love.
I hope my words have helped you. Much love, Deb. xx