September 27, 2004

Hi all!

Sorry it's taken me so long to get round to posting, but things have been more off kilter than usual here.

I left off, last time, with our return from our delightful honeymoon and left you knowing that Friday the 27th wasn't the best day in our lives.

I'm not going to dwell on it, but say that Rob's mother, Anne, passed away in her sleep between 6 and 7am that morning. The funeral was held the following Thursday. It was a simple, warm service and I know Anne will be greatly missed.

We've had a pretty stress filled time. Dealing with his family has been really hard for me. They don't like me and, at that time, had no idea that Rob and I were married. Rob's father now knows we are...whether he's told the others, I don't know. I do know that it's not going to change the way they feel. For Rob's sake I wish it would, but frankly, as far as I'm concerned, I couldn't give a rodent's rear end!

What I want to address in this post is grief. It's a complex subject because there are no right or wrong ways of dealing with it. It's different for everyone.

I’ve had my fair of death to deal with and each time it’s been a totally different experience.

First was the death of my grandfather on my father’s side. He was a young man debilitated by heart disease…he died at 52 and I only have misty memories of him now. The things I remember, which always bring him to mind are smells. Curry is the main one – he spent years in the British Army in India and brought a love of curry home with him. I was inducted into the ‘Curry Club’ at a very young age. The others are lavender and 4711 Cologne. My grandmother used to bath his brow with 4711, in an attempt to reduce the fevers he suffered. Lavender was used by my grandmother to store the bed linen. I was probably about 6 when he died, so he was just someone who wasn’t there anymore. BTW, I still love curry.

My paternal grandmother also died young, she died when I was about 11yrs old and she was 56. We had been living with her after my grandfather died. It was not an easy arrangement. I was forced to share a large bedroom with my parents. I imagine it did wonders for their sex life. I didn’t like my father’s mother. She was short and very, very fat. I guess she was an embarrassment to me – youth can be cruel and really shallow. When she died, I inherited her bedroom. To be totally and brutally honest, it was a relief, not to have to spend time with her, when I got home from school. I was a selfish little beast.

Nanna and granddad, on my mother’s side, were a different kettle of fish. I spent a considerable amount of time with them when I was a child. They probably had more impact on my upbringing than my parents. I think I grieved for them when I left England to move to Australia. I missed them – they were my ‘real’ family. My parents never really filled the gap that was left. When they died, first my grandmother at 82 and then my grandfather at 88, it wasn't really any different. I still missed them and still couldn’t see them.

My next, and probably most devastating, run in with the grim reaper, was the death of my second husband, James, in 1977. He was a delightful young man, intelligent, articulate and loved my kids. Unfortunately he was a bi-polar – non-compliant with his medications. I actually had no idea that he was a sufferer, until after he committed suicide. We were married for 6wks. My world fell apart. I was inconsolable. I ended up in a psychiatric unit for a week, until things dropped back into place. I think my grief and feelings of guilt, lasted for many years…until I put it all in perspective and accepted that it wasn’t my choice and that I had only been guilty of giving him love. I also learned to accept the anger that I felt towards him and that it was a healthy thing.

Gordon, my father, was killed by a drunk driver in 1979. I experienced rage at the waste of such a good man and the sparing of the criminal who killed him. My father and I were kindred spirits. Both rebels in our own way, both keen debaters …especially with each other. We both tolerated my mother’s obsession with animals, because it made life easier. To say I was pissed off at his demise is a total understatement. He had his faults as do we all, but he was a mate.

I think the death that had the most profound affect on me and my ability to cope, was that of my late husband Wayne. We found out that he had liver cancer in 1997, when he was 44yrs old. He was officially diagnosed on the day I retired (the first time). I had known the diagnosis for several months because I worked in a hospital and had taken his CAT scans in to our X-ray specialist and he had given me his opinion. We waited 7 wks for his private specialist to get back from holidays! I moved him into the public hospital system, to actually find a doctor who gave a damn. His oncologist told me that he had approx. 8 months to live. He died one week after the 8months.

I spent those 8 months watching him go through palliative chemo and caring for his bodily needs. I drove him to his fathers home in Maryborough for a quiet time besides the river. Then we continued our trek to Sydney for alternative therapy. It made him a little stronger, but that was all. On the way back to Cairns, we stopped for more treatment in Brisbane. By that time we were grasping at straws. After three weeks the doctor told him it was time to go home.

Wayne amazed me. He’d never been a particularly good husband or stepfather, but in those last 3 months he became superhuman. He found the will to get the jobs that needed doing, done…even if he was only supervising most of the time. He developed a relationship with Karl (my son) that I wish they’d had for all the previously 18 years. I cried when he died. I cried from relief for both of us – it had been a long, traumatic battle. I’d had time during those previous 8 months, to do my grieving, so, when he went, I could only pleased that it was over for him. I didn’t feel any guilt, I didn’t feel anything other than being a little numb. Two days later, I knew it was time to get on with my life. I guess others thought I was callous, but it was the only way I could be – it was right for me.

My mother died on my youngest daughter’s birthday, in 1999. She’d had a running battle with cancer for a couple of years. We didn’t have a good mother/daughter relationship and it took her doctor ‘ordering’ her to ring me, before she spoke to me for the first time since Wayne’s death in 1998. It was weird…I disassociated myself, I did all the daughterly things expected of me. It wasn’t until I knew that things were just going down hill and that she had, in fact, had a heart attack after an operation, that I decided that I was going to follow my mother’s wishes. She had been a member of an Euthanasia group and had that noted in her Medical Records. I spoke to her doctor and she agreed that prolonging my mother’s life, was not something she would have wanted. All lines were removed, only pain relief was given. My mother was already in a coma, but I knew that she could probably hear what was going on.

The nurses in the Oncology Unit were wonderful, they played CDs of bush sounds, burned fragrant essential oils and sat with her, when I wasn’t there. Finally, one of her favourite nurses and myself, gave her ‘permission’ to go. She did, twenty minutes later. It was possibly the only time in her life, that my mum had EVER done anything she was told to do. I spoke at her funeral and said my goodbyes publicly, I’m not sure I’ve actually done it privately.

Last year I heard something interesting and thought…’ I must ring mum and tell her’…Now that’s weird. I understand now, that whatever our feelings about our ‘dear departed’ ones, they have all made an impact on our lives. Grief is for us – not for them.

Whether we wail and gnash our teeth (to be biblical about it) or shut ourselves inside ourselves, it’s a painful process. It’s a coming to terms with OUR loss. Some indulge in excess in an attempt to block their pain, while others deny themselves creature comforts as punishment for surviving. Denial is another way of dealing with it, but that one will turn around and bite you.

If you don’t really feel mammoth amounts of grief, don’t feel guilty, it’s OK…it’s only your system providing you with the best way for you to manage.

Wow…that was a long post…sorry if I bored you all to tears, but it’s something we will all have to face, even if we haven’t already.



Posted by Midus at September 27, 2004 03:30 PM