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Coping with losing a parent

Unexpected Grief

June 18, 2017

On the 5th July 2016 my good friend (GF) went into hospital with suspected appendicitis which they soon discovered was a blocked urethra causing an infected kidney. I arranged to visit on the 10th July as this was the first date she was being sent home. In the meantime I went to visit my parents, only to discover my Mum had been poorly for a week. On Sunday 10th July I arranged to go and cook Sunday roast as they hadn’t been eating too well so had to postpone the visit to my GF. On Monday 11th July Mum was taken into hospital with an arrhythmic heartbeat and pneumonia. She rapidly went downhill, unable to eat and by the time she had a CT scan on the Friday we knew this was not going to be good news. Mum died on Tuesday 19th July at 8am, we were all in shock and unable to take in the speed at which this had happened. The early days and nights were spent with my older sister, Daughter and Dad at Mum and Dad’s house just getting through one day at a time. I was totally numb and unbelievably tired, I didn’t realise grief made you feel this way. I am not one to breakdown publicly and through these very early days had amazing support from my darling GF. She sent me words of wisdom and messages this was one of the first of many:

“Hi Lovely GF, how are you doing today? Beautiful sunset and full moon last night, all specially arranged to welcome a very special Mum to heaven, I’m sure. Thinking of you and here if you need a chat anytime – not doing much still feeling a bit yuck, though better than yesterday. Love you xxx”

My Birthday was 4 days later and Mum had managed to sign a card for me, I did not open it then but further down the line I did – it hurt. My grief came in waves usually reaching the crest around 9pm each evening when I would sob and write notes to Mum. This continued for many days and weeks following Mum’s death as I was trying to make sense of the speed at which we lost her. None of us is ever ready to lose a loved one and no amount of clichés or platitudes help in those early days. What did help was the support and a hug from family and friends, the more hugs the better.

During this time my GF was in pain and undergoing no end of tests, missing my birthday an ex colleague’s leaving do and any other social occasions we would normally attend together. We managed a telephone call on the 13th August it had been a life changing separation. The day before, what would have been, Mum and Dad’s 60th Wedding Anniversary my GF text “give your Dad a hug from me, gonna be another tough day to get through. But we are strong girls and we WILL survive these tough times!” She never ceased to send me any articles that she thought might help plus wise words to comfort me.

Having tried, and been cancelled, to visit on quite a few occasions I eventually got to see my GF on Monday 29th August. She was out of hospital, feeling brighter, so we went for a walk and then sat outside a pub and had ½ a cider. During the next two months we were in constant contact and I visited on a few occasions as more investigations and operations took place. By October she was diagnosed with secondary bowel cancer, and then they found the primary in her stomach. My lovely GF died on the 30th December, I was so lucky to be able to talk to her through her entire illness and to tell her all the stuff we don’t say daily to those we love the most. We cried together and laughed together and I held her hand and hugged her. She died knowing how special she was to me and how much I loved her. I know my Mum did too but I had far less time to share that with her. Clare even continued to give me advice for when she would no longer be here to take my calls, knowing how distraught I was feeling. My grief for Mum was put on hold with my worry for Clare and now I grieve slowly, at a distance, as I cannot deal with it all at once. Both are quite different as you expect to lose a parent but not a friend and contemporary. I am starting to feel that Mum was a part of my life in the past that has now gone whereas with Clare I grieve for a future we cannot have. That said losing Clare has hit her other friends too so we now meet and talk about her and remember all the great times we had. For me it helps, greatly, to be with other friends who had known Clare longer than I had and in some ways they remind me of her. I continue to cry, sometimes at the most unexpected moment, and to write notes to them both. I feel grief makes me grateful, for the experiences I have had with both Mum and Clare, that they shared their lives with me and how fortunate I have been so far.