Monday, November 20, 2006

How to grieve....

Does anyone else think there is something wrong with a society that hides away from one of the most basic truths of life.... that we will all die.

Seventeen months ago I experienced something completely natural - my father became ill and three months later he died. I had a wonderful, loving father. Oh, he wasn't perfect - no one is, but I loved him with all my heart and I knew he loved me. He fought against his natural instincts which made him long to protect me all my life, and did his best to set me free to be the person I am. Sometimes this was extremely challenging for him I know, but because he loved me, he worked at this, and usually succeeded.

Even though my father was 82 and I had realized many years before that he was nearing the end of his life, I was still totally unprepared for his death. I'm not sure what you can do to prepare for a loss like this but I can't help feeling there must be something.

In particular one thing that disturbed me was that I had no idea my father had enterred his final 24 hours when this happened. I visited him in palliative care and helped him to drink and to go to the bathroom. He communicated with me through notes because he had lost control of his speaking muscles but not his thought processes. And because I had no idea how close he was to death, AND NOBODY TOOK ME ASIDE AND TOLD ME, I went home. I planned to come back the next day. But because I have cfs and I had no idea how long this might go on, it seemed important to ration my energy so that I could keep visiting each day for as long as it took - I envisioned about two weeks.

Instead I was wakened at 6am by a phone call to tell me that he had died. Now I don't know how easy or how difficult it is to tell how close a person is to death. I only know that I couldn't tell. And when I think about it, it seems ridiculous that we are so unfamiliar with one of the most basic occurrences of life that we don't know. And the reason we don't know is because we have medicalised the process and hidden our elderly and dieing people away to avoid the pain and the grief. Imagine if we didn't know how to tell when a baby was about to be born. It's laughable, isn't it? And yet not all babies are born at the same rate - some come quickly, others take days, but at least we know that it is happening. And alright, I know the birth of a baby is a happy occasion, but it's no more or less a part of life than dieing.

For the past month or so my energy levels have been so low that I've spent most days lieing on my bed. Last week I went to see my doctor and we realized the connection - I started to deteriorate on the anniversary of my father's death. I hadn't even realized that I wasn't dealing with the grief. Earlier in the year I tried to help myself through the process by having some sessions of art therapy. The artwork I have included with this post is one of those I made at that time. I plan to return to making artworks about my father and my feelings of loss around his death and I will post some of those here. I have found in the past that making art about deeply emotional issues has allowed me to work my way through them, and this has released a lot of energy that seems to get caught up containing the feelings.


  1. I'm glad you have found art as therapy a good way to handle cfs and also dealing with emotive issues

    I recently studied art therapy - having been helped by it myself - and am in awe of the changes and growth people make as they explore things intuitively

  2. This post and artwork are so heartfelt and beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story--I was very moved.


  3. Hi Amanda
    thank you for being so open about your inner thoughts and on a subject that is so personal, I am very moved and a little teary.


  4. Thanks to you all for your supportive comments.
    I do hope I haven't distressed you - that's not my intention at all. I guess I just feel that if I can face my feelings I am sure it will help me, and perhaps at the same time it may help someone else in a similar situation, either now or in the future.


  5. No you didn't distress me, I just think that your post was so beautifully written and heartfelt that it really moved me, and I cry pretty easily so that isn't unusual for me. I really admire people who can express their thoughts and emotions into written words. I try, but I find that the process doesn't always flow easily.
    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I was more moved by your post than distressed.