This piece sums up how important Le Guin was for all of us. I shall miss her.
Category Archives: Grief
Life flew by and I’m around again to the month that I find the hardest to deal with. You see my Mother died at the beginning of January and my Father at the end of January. Yes there was a few years between them, Mum died in 1998, Dad followed her five years later, but for me January is the worst kind of month.
It’s the month I dread for the rest of the eleven, because even though the years have flown by since I lost them, the grief is still there. It hides away, waiting for something or someone to remind you, to then flare up and you’ll find yourself (or I do) standing there in public with tears rolling down my cheeks. I find that hard black lump in my throat as I stand or sit or even lay there and really feel the loss that they have left behind.
I cuddle my partner, our child, our animals to try and salve this wound, and yet that isn’t enough, and will never really fill it up. I’ve learnt to move on, to accept this grief as a small part of who I am, and adapt to the new paradigm that exists. And for folk who have never lost anyone in this permanent sort of way, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But for those of us who have, and will live a different life afterwards we do understand.
Catching up with friends, it is the ones who have lost something or someone (a relationship or a person) that understand it more. Who get where I’m coming from. Who accept the older woman with tears on her cheeks in public, mourning her loss in public.
So the past week I’ve been down with a cold, which means I slow right down……and it gives me a lot of time at night to ponder on the big issues, while I can’t sleep. (Colds and Menopause – who knew this is like chronic sleep deprivation for the non HRT me?).
I thought a lot about how I coped in the aftermath of the losses I’ve experienced so far. Of how I shut down at first by the first waves of grief, of how getting out of bed, eating right or even exercising seemed things too far away to cope with. Of sheltering in the grief as it pounded away at me.
Then there comes a day when you can get out bed, with your box of tissues, and though it’s not easy, you get through a day. It’s no longer getting through that initial hour by hour loss, but it’s a day. Slowly you learn to live in this new world that has been created for you by the loss, and your feelings of loss. You adapt, because you have to. If you don’t you stay mired at the point of loss, and forever swim in that tragic grief.
It’s not easy – the first year, all those firsts you have to weather. And our western society expects us to put on a brave face and get through them, even when all you want to do is crawl backwards into bed. For me it’s justifiable, that’s how I grieve, I wail, I gnash, I sob, and I want to do that by myself, in the safety of my own room. (Door closed, tissue boxes lined up). It’s not fair that we’re expected to hide this part of who we are now. But it’s part of what society expects. (A cruel expectation especially in that first year).
So you weather that first year, and you’re faced with the second, the third years, and I will say for me, they did get a little easier to deal with. But that’s because I allowed myself to grieve at my own pace and in my own fashion. I was kind and gentle to myself, and not taking on the stiff upper lip attitude when my heart had been broken and it felt like the world as I knew it had ended. (Even when it was obvious the rest of the world kept going, oblivious to the gaping hole now in my life).
So I’m now at sixteen years passed the death of my beloved mother. I can now think back on what we had, on what we shared, and also on her flaws. She’s no longer a saint, but a human being, that I loved dearly, even though we did argue, bicker and disagree on major issues. I can for the most part (last week excepted) talk about her, and share her with my own family now.
But it took a long time for me to get through looking at friend’s sharing moments with their own mothers without tearing up and crying. For the loss of what might have been, could have been, had been.
During these sixteen years, I’ve lost my Dad, friends, relations, and each loss has changed again my world subtly at times, or in the case of my Dad, forced me again to re evaluate what I wanted, what I needed to do with the remaining years of my own life.
So for me, going on after a loss of any kind, is a simple fact of just getting through the grief, to feel it wash over you, acknowledge it, and then be kind and gentle until you’re ready to start living the new life, the one that was formed in the temple of your grief. It’s hard, it’s bitter, it’s full of anger and rage at times, but it’s a process that we have to go through, to get to the new phase.
So here I am on the phone in an interview for a survey on my reproductive health – I know, but I love surveys and helping out surveyors from Universities seems the least I can do if it helps my sisters gain better access to medical treatment and support.
Anyway we’re discussing the influences on my own decisions, and bang, I’m overwhelmed at the thought of the influence my own mum had my decisions. I start crying. Now my Mum died when I was 28 – a lifetime for me ago now. I’ve been so good, being able to talk about her now, and really embracing her life and all that she contributed.
But right there on the phone, I was hanging there, overwhelmed and shaky of voice for what I had lost, and for what she had given me – the power to choose my own reproductive health. She had empowered me – even though we disagreed on a lot of issues, but she had given me the gift that I now embrace.
So I choked on my grief, felt that burn that comes with a wave of my own grief, for what I have lost, what has been lost by her death. I feel for everyone who is experiencing the raw grief now, and those of us who have moved past that and into the grief that comes out of nowhere and catches us out. But it’s a sign of how deeply an impression that person has had on our lives, that makes this grief appear.
I finished the interview, and the interviewer was so very kind to me, as I blubbered quietly, and drank my glass of water to get me back on track. I’d mentioned to her that grief is another one of those issues that isn’t spoken about, just like a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive choices. It’s a taboo, and so when it does appear, we all scurry away from it – all of those who aren’t embracing it, and accepting it as part of who they are.
My daily reminder: Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere from Lisa Bonchek Adams
Please consider this quote, it’s written from the heart by a courageous woman and it is something we can all do, in our day to day lives.
Live well, and love those you care about,
This post dates back to when my Mother was battling bowel cancer, sixteen years ago. She was an incredibly brave woman, who had endured countless operations to remove the cancer, but looking back now, with every breath she took, her body was dying. Her inner strength could not overcome what she was facing.
I remember walking into ICU to visit her, and walking past her, because she had physically shrank, to the size of a child, her body was in the end skin and bones. I did not recognise my own Mother, and that was incredibly frightening to me.
My last conversation with her was on the 1st of January, a new year, she’d rung me to wish me a Happy New Year. Her voice was faint, and I asked how she was, and she said “oh getting there”. What I found out, after she had died, was that she’d made her own decision to take herself off her heart tablets by then. She and my Dad had spoken about it, and she had made the conscious decision that she had, had enough. That her body could no longer go on. She was weary, exhausted by the battle that had been fought and lost in her body.
She died on the 4th of January, a massive heart attack, finally taking our brave, dearly loved mother. One that she had a hand in.
So endeth my Mother’s bitter battle. And started our family disintegrating. (That is another story for another time).
But in the end, she had chosen this path. She had suffered long enough, and battled so hard, that her body had shrunk. We found out when they autopsied her, that the cancer was everywhere, she was riddled with it. Can you imagine the pain that she must have been experiencing?
It took me a long time to come to terms with my Mother’s decision, but I respect her for making this decision, it was hers to make. What went through her mind in those days after she’d made the decision I’ll never know, but I know she made it because in the end, the pain and suffering was too much for her to bear.
So when I see other people making similar decisions, about their own lives, I respect their decision making. It is their choice, and their lives. They know how much pain they have suffered, and how much more suffering they will endure. It is not my place to tell them that they must soldier on, to put on a brave front, while their body consumes them.
But I do speak as someone who was left out of the decision making process, as someone who was left behind. I would have liked to have spoken to my Mum about her decision, so I wouldn’t have spent ten years afterwards trying to work it out for myself. To have heard it from her…….
So I support a person’s right to choose. That might offend you, or offend your belief system, but having seen both my parents die terrible, painful deaths from cancer, this is my decision. You will no doubt have your own opinion.