Bereavement and Christmas

Yesterday was the six month anniversary of my Mother’s death. She was 98, and had been ill for a few months. Even before the end game, she’d been gradually going downhill.

Last Christmas was a particularly difficult time. The whole family came around to our house for Christmas Day lunch, but halfway through the meal, Mum just slumped in her chair and didn’t move. She eventually recovered, but it was clear something was wrong.

I didn’t realise it was the six month anniversary until my sister texted me mid morning. She’d had “a moment” and reached out.

At first I chastised myself for not realising the significance of the day. Why hadn’t I at least made a mental note of it? Was it a sub-conscious defence mechanism to protect myself from the emotion of that period?

Unlike my sister who retired a couple of years ago, I’m still working. When my sister texted me, I was sat at my desk trying to deal with an issue that had landed on my lap. It required a lot of thought. So I made a note to ring my sister when I could talk.

When we spoke my sister asked, “Did you ever howl with tears?” I had to admit I hadn’t. Neither had she as it turned out. We’d both shed tears at specific points. I remember walking past a sweet shop whilst on holiday in September and seeing fudge being made. Mum loved fudge, and it set me off.

Part of the reason for the lack of extreme grief, is that both my sister and me saw it coming. Last Christmas was major sign, and it had been coming for a few years. It sounds callous to say this, but there were times when we wanted it to be over. There’s nothing worse than seeing the quality of life slip away from a proud and dignified lady.

The whole episode has made us both think very hard about about our own lives, and what we want should we ever reach the same situation. The two of us have talked about living wills, and even euthanasia. Of course it is easy to think clearly when its a hypothetical scenario. If you’re stuck in a situation like this, would I think differently than I do now? Big questions that are not to taken lightly.

At the end of the call, I added a reminder to ring my sister on the first anniversary of our Mother’s death. We’re in regular contact with each other, and occasionally visit each other’s homes even though we’re geographically separated.

It’s important to have that support network for when times are difficult. We may not be able to solve a problem, but just having someone else to talk to and say, “I’m feeling the same way”, can make a big difference.

This Christmas will be the first time for over 50 years where my family we won’t be together. We discussed this, but both wanted space. My sister particularly wanted a quiet Christmas Day to reflect on what had happened. We’ll meet up on the 28th and share a low key lunch together. Maybe next Christmas will be different.

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