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2002-12-18 Dealing with the pain of bereavement

"I don't wanna achieve immortality through my work, I wanna achieve it by not dying." (Woody Allen). Everyone experiences the loss of a loved one. We all dread the day those nearest and dearest to us are snatched away from us, and we are left to pick up the pieces. I am no bereavement counsellor, but in the last few months, I have learned a lot about "coping" after my mother passed away.

 

My lifes inspiration - the most beautiful, eloquent, intelligent, caring and loving lady I have ever had the privilege to know had died, and died too young, and my world caved in. We knew for some time that Mum was very ill, though she continually protected us until the end. I struggled for years to try to comprehend how one so good was made to endure so many illnesses. This was an end to her suffering, and yet nothing could have prepared me for the moment I was told she had finally left us. The regrets began to flood in - I ought to have been there at the end, I ought to have gone home more frequently, but those regrets began to gnaw at me even deeper, and what good were they to me or indeed to Mum?

I love my career, but I know that at times like this it is one of the most false careers. A few hours later, I had to go onstage again, and smile and entertain a packed Gaiety Theatre. Every song in the programme suddenly had a reference to love, loss or death - kneel and say an Ave there for me, as they lowered you down, Remember Me, Fare thee well - the list is truly endless. But only a handful of those 1200 people knew what I was going through. I got through it (only just) and suddenly was free to grieve.

When I arrived home to Sligo, I knew I had to go to the mortuary to spend time with Mum. Though it did not seem like my Mum there, I am glad to have spent those important 20 minutes with her. Like many, my faith rests precariously on quicksand, so the lid going on was almost unbearable. For that moment, I really believed my dear Mum had gone forever. I was dreading the funeral, but strength came from somewhere. I always found it difficult to know what to say to people who have been bereaved, but I will never understand the inane things that some people come out with - Youre gonna miss her somethin else, This is the worst day of your life, How are you?!, Life goes on, and those two all-time favourites a happy release, and Sorry for your troubles!

So I wrote down the useful things that were said to me - Shes in your heart forever, Shell always be part of you and Shes always only a thought away. A hug can say it all, or a simple Im thinking of you.

The graveside was extremely difficult. Having people back to the house for food and drink was strange but helpful. Peoples suppport was at times overwhelming - many had been through a similar loss, and yet, none of them knew Mum like we did.

So why love, if losing hurts so much? One good friend said she was privileged to have known Mum for over a year, and that I was so lucky to have known her for more than 30, and she is right, I am lucky.

Our dogs reaction to death was as always respectful, yet eery. For days afterwards, I expected everyone to behave in a respectful manner, even strangers in the streets. I had that all important meaningful dream, like a message, but I greedily want more. Of course I have had more distressing dreams too. Putting Mums photo in a frame by my bed was very final indeed.

Not a minute goes by that I dont think of Mum. People were helpful at the time, but a few months later when it is just as raw, you are more alone. Talk to people. Maybe it helps to think of us all on the same journey, and some of us reaching our destination a bit sooner? But at the moment, I am just waiting for those feelings of sadness and loss to transform themselves into happy memories of my dearly loved mother.