As a funeral director and son, whose mother recently died, I am constantly subjected to grief and bereavement, probably, as you would imagine?
I read numerous articles and find the teachings for grief counselling, similar and truthfully, that is to be expected. When numerous experiences are reported and recorded, some patterns emerge but often, initial findings, when those affected are still numb, seem to end there? Research may go on for years but all too often, the tender, personal experiences, seem to go unattended – people are left to fend for themselves.
This all may seem somewhat of a natural process after all, most of us are unaffected after the initial ‘shock’ - on a day-to-day basis. That someone else is going home to a situation devoid of a principal role person, with all the mundane topics of conversation that were possibly boring - missing now, is an abstract. WE are not there, we are not suffering and in truth, did we think of anyone in this situation before our own, unfortunate, ‘event?’
Solitude can have a wonderful place in our lives; peace and quiet is often welcome but what happens when ‘choice’ is taken away? What happens after 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years of marriage and ‘routine?’ How are we supposed to cope with the ‘new’ situation?
I was corresponding with a friend recently by email and wrote the following (below) but firstly let me say that this person is lucky enough to have a very supportive family living within travelling distance although, some words were spoken to a daughter-in-law which presumably, distanced the son a little – poor timing?
I wrote: (the names are fictitious - Thomas died two years ago, mum - recently)
There's a massive problem with death that remains only at a personal level.
Everybody else, I'd say, almost without fail, assumes - I guess (but really doesn't assume ANYTHING), that 'we' become OK almost instantly?
It's partly because our lives are so busy. It's partly because the effect of the loss is distant or removed? What I mean by that is our 'normal' lives do not revolve around Thomas say or mum. Yes, she's in our lives but we are in WSM or Brighton and ‘OUR’ partner and family are there and our life revolves around them for 16 hours a day.
We all 'know' you miss Thomas and mum but we don't have them under our feet or have them there to talk to and listen to. The decisions on dinner, what flowers to buy, when we cut the grass and all the other mundane things that make our day go by are not affected and this 'habit' is something we think about but DON'T FEEL in the same way.
You talk about motivation or, lack of it. When your whole purpose focuses on your day and your house and you make all these decisions together then, all of a sudden, that 7/8th - for it seems more than 50%, is removed, the question becomes, 'What was the point and, what IS the point going forward?'
What is the actual purpose getting up every day to practice work and chores without an end game? I have no idea Rosemary and personally, I wouldn't bother - in some ways.
I look at all the things that drive me; the areas where I consider I have OCD.
Our Christmas Tree stopped working. It's old, a fibre optic relic but Diane likes it.
I got it going (fixed it) but she bought another smaller one, which she enjoys. The other one stopped working again! The input socket got hot and melted a bit. I said it was unsafe to leave really so we agreed to throw it away. I HAD to fix it!!
I bypassed the socket, got mega frustrated trying to solder the wires without any flux, swore, cursed, threw my toys out of the pram but, fixed it! I then took it to the dump and ditched it? Yep, that's right - it's the challenge that drives me not always the result.
I will never have the best garden in the neighbourhood. I will never have the best stamp collection in the world. My workshop will never be the tidiest but it's the challenge for me and the, not giving-in.
There are people far better at things but that's not the point - it's the ability to do the best I can with the tools and money I have.
When my dad died, my mum was just about to move house. They were buying their council flat and she had taken advantage of the 50% discount concession (a Margaret Thatcher idea) but was only 23 months into the contract.
Everybody told her, moving to a house with five areas of grass to cut and all that maintenance was crazy! If you're going to be crazy, stay in London for another month then you at least won't have to pay the council back 80% of the concession it will only be 60% - what did she do? She moved to Warminster where she knew no one and did it straight away so lost another 20% of the discount concession!
No grief or bereavement councillor will EVER advise doing that and rightly so BUT, for some folks, that IS the way forward.
New challenges will drive you crazy but, they will occupy your mind. THAT you CHANGE your purpose and try to gather some inner motivation to a NEW project, would work for me; to slug away trying to get inspiration to 'carry-on' in the old frame of mind - NOT for me after all, what's the point?
The other thing is this, YOU ACHIEVED your aim in the 'old' life. You, and Thomas, and mum - ACHIEVED your goal. It's like laying a lawn; you get your ground, you stake it out, you dig and clean it, you get the best seed, you make your lawn, you aerate it, you fertilise it and you make it perfect - you know what's left? MOWING!
Maintaining it is great but a chore and one you KNOW you can handle - no more challenge - you need a new lawn!
Now, getting back to the children: no matter how much they want to be a part of this 'new' adjusted-to life, it is NOT on their minds 24/7 - it IS on yours.
In the same way, this is going on daily, everywhere in the world. Is that fact supposed to help? No but, in the same way, before we were personally affected like this, it WAS happening all over the planet, we just weren't affected.
In the same way, the children are NOT affected but, one day, they will be; their turn will come and they will have similar experiences. It DOESN'T help but it is the way of things.
You know the toughest thing? Those that survive! It is (not really) OK for those who have left us, what do they have to cope with? We are the ones with the problems, with all the practical and emotional difficulties; 'they're' out of it!
So what do we make of all this?
We should take responsibility for the fact that there is still a purpose for us here on Earth. There is still work to be done and people to influence going forward, people who need to benefit from OUR presence, our experience and our personality - I don't know all the reasons yet and it is not important to know all this but look at it from this point of view: We're in our late sixties, right? Given that we have another 30 years of life ahead of us and given that the average age is say 76, (who knows) we don't have long left on this planet.
3 score years and 10 I believe is the biblical life span?
The Earth is 4 billion years old.
I don't know how many 70 years there are in 4 billion (4,000, 000, 000!) but, it IS a blink of the eye and what influence are we going to have in that proportion?
What I do know is this: whatever our purpose is, and we do have one, it is NOT our time yet and we only have a short time of 'suffering' before we join our partners! They are not going anywhere; their day is not critical no matter what you believe, their time is done and now, it IS our time and we still have work to do.
It probably won't work for everybody I agree but I find that quite exciting. Yes, we feel sad, yes we feel empty but it also comes down to 'our glass' - is it half-full or half-empty? Do we feel we should have the empathy of everyone close, around us, our family? Did we give the same empathy indefinitely to those we know who suffered similarly? It matters not the answer it is in the journey and ours is still on.
Will it be tough? At times yes but, we will imagine our 'driving force' is still looking down on us, overseeing our actions and progress. They still motivate us and we will try to please them, their memories - who knows OUR characteristic better than them? We will continue to 'perform' for them, we have done it all these years and it is our nature, it won't change - thankfully!
Finally, your house will sell when the time is right - no, 'perfect,' for all timing IS perfect.
True, we don't hold all the cards but, we have faith; faith in those who have departed, preceded us, faith in our children to 'come through' and mirror our teachings. Faith in so many things and in the 'afterlife' no matter whether that is nature or religion but, most of all we have two other faiths - faith in ourself and those who have Faith In US!