Coping with bereavement

It’s a couple of years ago this month since I lost my dad and 3.5 years ago since I lost mum. They both lived into their 90s, had been married nearly 70 years when they died and they enjoyed good, long retirements together. Of course that provided some consolation, but I am someone who suffered from chronic anticipatory grief from about the age of 6, when I first grasped the concept of death and losing mum and dad. I have no siblings and I loved my parents intensely, as they did me – of that they made me very certain.

Of course it wasn’t all sweetness and light. My mum was feisty and not always an easy person. Dad could be extremely stubborn. I have both of them in me. It got heated sometimes.

Neither mum nor dad died suddenly, so I had some time to properly prepare and to tell them how much I loved them and what great parents I thought they had been. It was very important to me that I was able to do that. Despite all of that, I felt utterly lost and hollowed out, when dad’s death left me parentless. After mum died, my life was very much taken up with supporting dad as he descended more and more rapidly into dementia, which I didn’t even know he had, when mum died. That kept me busy, mentally and physically, so I didn’t get the full onslaught of grief until after dad’s death.

Around the same time that dad died, my partner lost his son, aged only 33. Shortly before mum died, I lost a dear friend to cancer, so the Grim Reaper was circling me for a few years.

In time, I appreciated that, in life, there are some hard facts that you cannot get away from, no matter what you do. Death is one of them. No point pussy-footing around it or ignoring it. You just have to find your way of dealing with it and keep putting one foot in front of the other. For me, it was important to talk out the feelings inside me. I was able to do that with my close and supportive friends, my partner, to a certain extent, and, finally, a bereavement counsellor, whom I consulted when I thought my friends probably could not take much more.

Eventually, through talking, I processed my loss and that of my partner. I was able to look forward, rather than being frozen in the moment. Several years on, I think I have moved through my grief for those lost ones. I now see the impact of bereavement as an indentation in an otherwise smooth, firm surface of psyche. At the moment of bereavement, the indentation goes so deep, it’s almost a hole. Over time, the indentation springs back, but not completely. There is always a dent in the surface of your psyche and you have to learn to live with it. That’s how it is with death and bereavement. Life is never quite the same after you lose someone very close to you, but it can still be good.

What’s brought this on? Well, last Sunday, I attended a service at the crematorium where I have created a memorial for my parents. For an hour or so, my parents filled my thoughts completely. Tears came, but I was able to draw comfort more quickly from some words of the service which speak to the way I deal with my loss.

Firstly an extract from the poem “Remember me” by Margaret Mead:-

“Remember me in your heart;

Your thoughts, and your memories,

Of the times we loved,

The times we cried,

The times we fought,

The times we laughed.

For if you always think of me, I will never have gone.”

Then an extract from the poem “A Litany of Remembrance” by Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer:-

“So long as we live,

they too shall live,

for they are part of us,

and we remember them.”

I’m not particularly religious but I have a sense of spirituality. I feel that something unseen moves around and within us. Don’t ask me what. Perhaps it’s only our memories. I don’t ponder it too deeply, but draw my comfort from the fact that I hear the voices of my lost loved ones all the time. I know their opinion on events in my life. I am reminded of them in people alive today. I have vivid recall of my time spent with them. So it does feel that I am not completely without them and that I live with them differently now. Maybe it’s a fiction; maybe I’m kidding myself. What does it matter if it gives me comfort and helps me to live on, as happily as possible, without them?

For anyone reading this, who has recently experienced bereavement, I hope you find your solace and consolation.

red rose flower
Photo by Cindy Gustafson on

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