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Why there is no easy guide to mourning

We never know how we'll react when we lose a loved one until it happens. Especially when it's a parent and for a woman, especially when it's your mother. I expected to cry and be devastated on the fourth of September when my dad called to say mother had passed in the night of the third. Instead, nothing, emptiness, well maybe relief was the strongest feeling.

Am I cruel ? Didn't I love her ? Of course I'm not and of course I did ! It's just that my mother was taken away from us almost ten years ago by a debilitating and progressive illness called Parkinson's. After three and a half months of hospital we knew it could only end one way.

My father's soul-destroying visits were killing him too and all he could do was tell her how much he loved her and hold her hand. How could a simple fall end in death ? It's quite rare to die of Parkinson's, more often it's old age or a worn-out body, heart, lungs that take you. It is also common knowledge that an aging person, after more than 5 days in hospital, rapidly loses neurological faculties and it's a downward slope after that.

My summer was punctuated with trips to and from the UK to support my father and meet-up with my brother at mother's bedside. It's in the worst times you need your family around you, pity it can't be for happier moments. In France, my friends rallied round me to accompany me emotionally during this period which was also destroying me, as mother fell deeper and deeper into a never-ending sleep.

Between her passing and the cremation, there were have been over 3 weeks to organize, tell people, meet up with long-lost faces from another time and weep at the last ten difficult years. My dear mother lived life to the full and loved my father profoundly for over 63 years. Unfortunately, in recent years, she fought sadness, anger and frustration that her body had abandoned her.

It seems strange for me living a totally French life to be writing this article in English, but if feels befitting. I'm rekindling by English spirit and accepting that it's were I came from before fleeing to live in France 33 years ago. I say fleeing, because father was always upset I abandoned my nationality to make a life over here, in Limoges, Limousin.

The calls to my father when I'm not over there, are almost daily, "just checkin' in", I say brightly. He loves and misses me, I only came back to France last week and I'm going back for the funeral in a few days. This father-daughter bond is stronger than ever and I desperately want to keep him motivated by life.

The risk, after a certain age (mother was 86 and father is 90), is to give up and want to follow a deceased spouse. I've already told him that I couldn't cope with losing both parents in the same year, so my current life motivation is finding ways of encouraging him to stay with us. For now, he's doing well, has a lot of visits from friends, popping in for a chat, my parents were a very popular couple and as a widower father is well-loved.

So are we all in denial if we aren't crying every day ? In a way, we're holding back to stay strong for the big day (would have preferred a wedding !) and we'll all probably shed buckets of tears on the day. Looking forward to the big family reunion though, seeing family I've never even met or not seen in almost 50 years !

In the British tradition we have a wake after the ceremony and a chat and nibble, this will be happening at a pub in a function room and will be a lovely opportunity to relive happier memories with loved ones. In the meantime, life goes on and it's not a mean feat continuing to work as if everything is normal !

I'm teaching English online as well as my personal development business (the pandemic slowed down our activity to a trickle and people are still scared), as well as just finishing the writing of my autobiography. My students understand, even so, I must remain professional and as efficient as ever. They have orals to take and grades to improve, never mind my problems.

This evening, after reading the celebrant's eulogy for mother and correcting a few details, I'm feeling fragile and a little lost. It's all right being strong for others, but much harder being strong for myself. The sports session today with Nelly my coach, was a welcome break and I threw my muscles into the exercises with great gusto !

So the next time someone says, "well she was a good age" or "it's a relief, I suppose, you were expecting it", you can either smile and nod your head or walk away and shed a tear. Staying positive through the negatives is not always an option, we need to grieve, need time to remember and cry, then smile. Because life is in front, not behind.

If you need help grieving, I definitely understand what you are going through and can conduct sessions via Skype or any other online video call.

Take care and enjoy life, we only get one chance.


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