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Grief and the loss of a parent:

What is it, how can we get through it, and what can others do to support it?

#Grief – it hits us like a hammer and leaves us utterly shattered! Much has been written about it, every one of us will go through it at some point, but so many of us fail when it comes to understanding and supporting it!

I am #grieving – my lovely mum died on 3rd December, and whilst it was expected, it has left me bereft. Maybe this is ‘because’ it was expected? People are telling me that ‘it’s for the best’, ‘she’s no longer suffering’ and ‘she’s in a better place now, at peace, with your dad and sister’. And yes, this is all true - and yet, I am totally, utterly shattered by her loss and by my #grief.

Moving on?

They also say, ‘at least you can move on now’ – my mum had #dementia, and it feels like we lost her, or at least the essence of her, a long time ago. And once again, yes, we can ‘move on now’, but I just don’t know how! I have previously described #dementia as ‘death by a thousand cuts’, with each visit, phone call, interaction, a painful reminder of the cruel way that dementia steals our loved ones; slowly, over many weeks, months and years, until finally, they are no longer recognisable as the mum, nan, sister that you are desperately trying to keep hold of.

I am SO battered by ‘the cuts’, that it’s not as simple as being able to ‘move on now’. So please, if you know me -either personally or professionally – forgive me if I seem distant, cancel at the last minute, forget my words, or simply crumble in front of you. I’m not yet at that point, and I might not be as ‘whole’ on the inside, as I appear to be on the outside!

It comes in waves, my #grief, as small, daily reminders, or sleepless, midnight thoughts, overwhelm my otherwise ‘stoic’ appearance. I let the waves come, let the tears flow, allow the #grief to envelope me – because in those moments, I feel my mum, and open myself to remembering her fully, as she was, before #dementia took her from me, and before #death took her completely.

Dying With Dignity' describes grief thus:

An article in Psychology Today explains it really well, saying that ‘#grief is the acute pain that accompanies

#loss.' The word ‘acute’ is significant here for many people on their #grief journey – the definition is ‘sharp or severe in effect’. And it is! It hurts like hell and leaves us reaching out for support – either physical or mental.

Survivor Guilt

In some ways, though, I feel #guilty for feeling this acute pain – after all, my mum was 81 (she very nearly made it to 82) and had been ill for a long time, so surely, I should have been prepared for it? Also, she was ‘just’ my mum – not a husband, partner, or child – parents are supposed to die first, aren’t they? This is the natural order of things! This is, of course, #survivorguilt and a perfectly natural reaction - it's hard, though, to acknowledge this and to ride that wave!

I had every intention that this blog would be about #processinggrief – it has turned into a blog about ‘processing my grief’. I don’t apologise for this. In searching for answers to my own questions, I have found so much support out there from others, either in person, or online, and this is a good thing!

When you feel confused, forgetful, overwhelmed, or like you’re only going in circles, give yourself grace and mercy. Think about all the tasks you do in a day and add ‘while grieving’ to the end of each. For example, ‘I drove my kids to school… while grieving,’ or ‘I sat through a two-hour meeting…while grieving.’ Looking at your everyday to-dos through the lens of grieving helps remind you that you are doing everything you used to do before your loss occurred and now you’ve got big, unavoidable grief in the mix, too. So, when you accidentally put your keys in the freezer, you can let yourself off the hook: ‘I misplaced my keys…while grieving.’

She asserts that this two-word phrase, ‘while grieving’ gives people permission to get rid of the incredible amount of guilt that they might be feeling at not being the person they used to be – not being able to function in a world where expectations are so high that we ‘move forward’ and carry on, regardless of the tremendous internal upheaval that we are carrying around with us. She reminds us that we are NOT failing – we are in fact exceeding – because we are doing these things 'whilst grieving'.

How to support someone who is grieving.

At the start I shared how others had tried to comfort me – and how these things, however well intentioned, did not help. I get it, though, I know why people are saying these things to me. I’ve said the same things myself in the past. We hate to see our friends upset and want to offer them comfort – but you know what? It’s not our job to make things better, or to offer advice – all we can do is express our deep sadness at their loss and listen, for as long as it takes. For me personally, tell stories and share memories of my mum – let me know that you miss her too! Rest easy now mum, you lived well xx

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