A year ago I woke up finding text messages from my sister asking me to call her upon waking. She never sent text messages so I knew something wasn’t good. As I was still breast-feeding my baby, I was up at odd hours of the early morning but for unknown reason was not able to reach any one of my family (they all lived overseas). What was going on? I wondered, fearing the worst… Until I finally connected with them.
I was laying in my bed, my daughter beside me. I had spoken to my Mum and Dad the night before on video call. There they were now, my Dad, my sister and my niece, all in my dad’s study in front of the computer on video. Not my Mum. I could immediately tell this wasn’t good. His words were: ‘You’ve got to be strong now…’ and I immediately knew.
Half an hour before my husband had gotten up, had a shower and was in the process of getting dressed to go to work. He was standing next to the bed, buttoning up shirt, listening and attempting to follow the conversation in Swiss.
Three weeks prior, we had said good-bye to my parents who came to visit us in Australia and spent the whole of December with us in the warmth of the southern hemisphere summer, escaping the northern hemisphere winter. My sister and her partner were there too. It was a beautiful family holiday, a rare occasion to have everyone together in one place as we lived on the most opposites places of the earth ball.
‘Mum is dead. She killed herself earlier today.’
I crumbled inside. I remember the scream that left my chest, a deep roaring. My worst fear had become reality. I know now this was me in what ‘you’ve got to be strong’ looked like in that very moment: a person already living and dealing with the grief of having held her daughter while she died 3,5 months earlier. All that was possible was just being, just experiencing the rawness of that moment. No thought, no limitation, no rules of what I should or shouldn’t do or say. I had already learnt to live with the grief on a daily basis. Yes, this gave it another dimension I had yet to get to know. Being alive without my mother.
In my profession as a counsellor I had worked with numerous clients dealing with grief so I knew that I wanted to be supported through this, no matter what. I needed a sounding board to see where I was heading in the process. For some time in the months after the deaths I went to see a psychologist. I hated when she said: ‘You’re doing really well in your grieving process’. I didn’t want to ‘do well’, to get the ‘high distinction’ in grieving. I couldn’t consolidate that me feeling crap was doing well, even though I consciously knew that.
Looking back a year after I know I’m stronger that I seemed and seem (to myself). I can now see what ‘doing well’ means and feels like. I am no longer that person without the experience of grief. I have a different experience of myself, of life, of friendships, … the list goes on. This is me now. The person with the personal experience of ‘death of loved ones’.