I now know what grief means.
Because I have been living with grief since my beloved husband died only six weeks ago.
I have written about death, prepared for the end of life, and have conducted funerals myself in the past in my role as Funeral Celebrant.
The familiarity of the subject has been such a support to me in the last two years. Firstly with my Mother’s death, and then my husband. I am so grateful that I trained as a funeral celebrant, and also as a facilitator with Jane Duncan Rogers in her Before I Go programme (BIG).
The preparation included Tom and I discussing what we wanted to happen leading up to death, and also what we wanted to happen to our bodies after we died to this world.
That knowledge was unbelievably supportive, especially to me, when I found myself standing in A & E and being asked to decide about resuscitation.
We had made an advanced statement, which can be known as a living will, advance directive and other titles. This was lodged with the GP, but I had to tell the consultant as he could not get hold of Tom’s records in time to check. But also having a Power of Attorney for health and welfare made all the difference. The A & E team made every move they made clear to me as they fought to save Tom’s life.
And we made it clear in writing what our wishes were for disposing of our earthly remains.
Tom decided that he did not want a funeral. So we made a plan that his body would be cremated, unaccompanied, (known as an unaccompanied cremation), and that we would scatter his ashes on Dartmoor, which was his favourite place to be. The close family got together, had a picnic in a beautiful spot and carried out his wishes, then drank a toast in the Warren Inn on Dartmoor. Other members of the family and friends are doing it too; individually as and when they can.
We loved and understood one another in a very deep way, and right up to the end, we used our sense of humour about everything. Only the day before he died suddenly, he joked that he would come back to haunt me. And this is happening, but not by any means is it scary, it is a blessing to know that he is still around, and sometimes I find myself laughing at the tricks he is getting up to.
Then the next day, the 10th July, he was suddenly taken ill in the hospital café after a routine x-ray, which was being carried out to begin looking into the reason why he had become so weak in the last three weeks.
He was rushed to the resus unit in the hospital, and an hour later, he died.
But the knowledge, POA and advance statement gave me the strength and the courage to say what he wanted. The consultant told me afterwards that he thought I had done so well, and that I had made their job easier when it was not up to them to decide to stop and let him go.
I was on my own, because of the suddenness, and it was a good hour or so before any family was able to be with me. I was numb with shock.
But at the same time, I was confident that I knew what Tom wanted.
I am currently publishing my new book about knowing the Truth for me. But I don’t want to use this blog for marketing it. I just wanted to write this first because it is so important, and it was where I have been for the last six weeks.
I will be writing other blogs about the book.
Grief is a journey; it is not something to be “Got out of the way.” I will always grieve for my beloved husband; he was my soulmate in every way. His love for me was unconditional, and it took me a long time to learn that. But my love for him was indescribable; he said that I was the only one in his life who completely understood him, and he felt safe with me. That is quite a fundamental statement I feel.
We carry our grief with us when we lose someone, and we learn to live with it as we continue on our earthly journey. If we have loved, we will grieve at their transition into another life.
My take on death is that I will simply move to a dimension that humans cannot comprehend. That is so comforting to me. I feel Tom’s presence with me, he is not gone out of my life but is beside me, and I love that thought.
For the 27 years we were together, we somehow knew that he would be the first to die. And we always gave each other plenty of space. Indeed Tom certainly gave me space, and doing many activities which did not involve him gave me the preparation to be on my own.
We did not go everywhere together, nor did we fully depend on the other for company and outings.
In the last nine months of his life, because of other conditions and gradual frailty, we even slept in different rooms. Me upstairs and him down, because he could not climb the stairs anymore.
So I am encouraging you to be prepared for your own death, and your partner’s, or other loved one. Talk about it, make it clear what you want to happen at the end of life, and thereafter.
If your partner does not want to talk about, you do not have to press the matter, but at least try. And you can gradually write it down from snippets of conversation between you and other people.
When you are numb and in shock at the moment and days straight after the death, society, including hospitals, doctors, Funeral directors all expect you to make difficult decisions. If it is your own death, it will be such a big help for your loved ones to know where to go for the paperwork, and read what you wanted.
I have helped people write their wishes down in a document, and have commented that they found themselves crying at their own funerals when they read the final document.
Death is part of life, and avoiding the subject won’t make it go away. Everyone reading this will die; you cannot avoid it.
All the preparations I have described here help you to deal with the grief that goes along with bereavement. So be prepared, it makes all the difference, believe me; I KNOW!
Also on Grief: Hallo Death, How Are You
Patricia Cherry, Hummingbird Funerals