Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On grief and grieving

Thank you to all the many people who have written, emailed, texted and called, donated money in lieu of funeral flowers to the stroke/heart disease charity CORDA ( click here) , and held the family in their prayers and thoughts. It means a lot, and I am slowly responding to everyone, my sincere apologies for delays in response. What has also helped is the suggestions of people pointing out poems and writings and useful websites and information - because I am still all at sea with this, and hungry for finding out how others have coped and whether what I am feeling - numb, sad, shocked, exhausted, angry, don't want to talk to anyone at length about it, sometimes wierdly calm and normal - is normal.

I have been reading Zinnia Cyclamen's site; Zinnia is a talented writer as well as a humanist funerals service officiator ( think that is the right term) and she has some lovely, thoughtful writing on her blog which I recommend anyone to explore. The blog is here. I also read Libby Purves' column on the media coverage of the week of Diana's death in today's Times.

Like many people, I remember where I was when news of Diana's death broke. I was woken up early by my Mum, who told me and my then-boyfriend that there had been ''some awful news''. We sat bolt upright, feeling sick - we were expecting his Mum to pass away any moment, she had suffered from MS for years and was progressively deteriorating. Hearing that it was not his Mum who had died, we were oddly, heartlessly relieved. Perhaps as a result of that - I didn't know Diana or her family - the explosion of wild public grief in the week that followed seemed strange and unreal, and the attacking of the Royal family rather nasty. When someone in the family dies, you don't necessarily want to be publicly emoting all over the place. Grief is a private thing.

My then-boyfriend's Mum died a few weeks later, and though it had been long-expected, I saw the grief and shock and the sheer hard work of all the things that you have to do to prepare for the funeral and after. I can see why leaving Balmoral and rushing back to London to ostentatiously lower flags to half-mast and tour piles of rotting flowers left by strangers was not the first priority of William or Harry, or their father and grandmother in those numb, appalled days after Diana's fatal car crash.


Blogger Henry North London said...

A book I shall recommend for you to read Rachel is the tibetan book of the living and the dying.

It helped me a lot after James's death perhaps it will help you too.

Henry (R+J)

August 28, 2007 3:14 pm  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Rachel, thank you so much; I'm glad my blog has been some help to you. And, for what it's worth, from a combination of my own experience and from my work with hundreds of newly bereaved people, I'd say that the way you are feeling is well within the range of normal experiences of grief. So, yes, about as normal as it gets.

August 28, 2007 3:20 pm  
Blogger Kris said...

Dear Rachel

The day my father died, a good friend suggested that I get to my GP and put my name down for "grievance counselling". I knew what she meant and, as it is just around the corner, I walked over, with help from PC Bitseach, that day.

I have to say, that was the best advice anyone's given to me.

I was glad I went through my GP, because I wanted someone whom I could trust.

It definitely was not easy- but well worth it.

August 28, 2007 5:34 pm  
Blogger Kris said...


I can identify with the feelings you described.

I also had this thing that I really wanted to talk to other people who'd lost their fathers- I think because I thought that everyone else was bullshitting and I wanted to know how people with my experience got through.

I've changed my view since, but that's how it was for me.

August 28, 2007 5:57 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

Not wanting to talk about it at length with anyone, that's very familiar.

The one thing that seems to be most true about grief is that it is highly individual, enormously unpredictable, very changeable and there is no right way of doing it. It's different every day for every person, and you can move through an astonishing range of responses in a short amount of time. But still there is this strange urge to do it properly, or to fulfil some strange requirement one believes others have.

If it's possible, it's good to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to feel / do however and whatever you feel at any particular moment, but that's not always easy.

You don't have to be "strong" either, you know. Not all the time. Never mind all this stuff about being inspirational. You are, of course you are. But you don't *have* to be. You can fall apart if you like, although in its own way that would be inspirational too.

Thinking of you, hon.


August 28, 2007 10:10 pm  
Blogger Flowerpot said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. But I agree that grief is a very individual thing. I find writing helps, so hope it does with you, though there's little anyone else can do to help except be there for you when you need it. Take care.

August 29, 2007 10:00 am  
Blogger Josephine said...

What Clare said.

Talk, write, share, or don't. Whatever works for you in the days and weeks to come...

My only additional thought. Talk about your mum if it helps. People sometimes don't wish to talk to you about someone you have lost - they worry it will upset you. But when my father died, I really wanted to talk about him and I wished others would do so too. They didn't.

Talk here if you like.

Again though, whatever makes sense for you though - is right.

August 30, 2007 12:28 am  
Anonymous Maria said...

Grief is very individual. I'm normally a very stiff-upper-lip, professional, working at a law firm. Yesterday I got terrible news about my sister-in-law. I fell apart at work. I told them I was leaving early, but they wouldn't let me drive myself home in the state I was in! The bosses daughter drove me home, which was very sweet of her. Today I felt a bit embarrassed at my emotional melt-down....

August 30, 2007 12:42 am  
Blogger Josephine said...

(Don't be embarassed Maria...hope things turn out OK whatever the news was)

August 30, 2007 11:36 am  
Anonymous Maria said...

Thanks, Josephine! Basically, it was a medical emergency and then 2 major hospital bungles that could have left her a vegetable, or dead. She is a young mother of a darling 2 year-old, and she and my brother are very happy and looking forward to expanding their family. Miraculously, she woke up last night, and she's TALKING! They were talking brain damage at the very least, and she seems fine! A miracle! I do believe in them!

August 31, 2007 12:30 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Maria that is wonderful news, I hope she continues to make a good recovery

September 03, 2007 12:58 pm  

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