It has been interesting, in an abstract way, but sometimes an all too personal, bittersweet way, observing reactions to my grief over the last couple of months. I can understand, from a distance, how the death of my sister is probably fairly insignificant for most people. They will understand in some abstract way, that it ‘must be a bit sad’ for me. But the brutal, stark reality, simply won’t be there for them. Their life goes on, and if/when they see me on a day-to-day basis, it will be the vaguely smiling, reasonably organised, ‘kind of getting on with life’, me. So they would have no reason to remember or understand how broken I am inside. Therefore, I can understand the various insensitivities and stupidities I face on a daily basis; comments like “gosh, I don’t know how you can still be here” etc. And I think to myself, “because I have to be”, and remind myself that I have probably said similar stupid things in the past. We don’t know, what we don’t know.
And what has been especially interesting, is that sometimes the people I least expected to say the most comforting things, so often have. My post-grad studies are based in the Humanities. You would think that I would benefit from the most compassion and empathy in that department, when faced with this kind of grief. And it’s true, some people have been amazing there. Well, at least one – my primary supervisor, whose main research interest is grief, bereavement, death and dying, and he has been through the fire with all this himself. So he gets it.
But I also used to work in epidemiology, based in Medicine. Professors of Medicine are not renowned for their compassion and empathy, and the Humanities are fond of pointing this out, on a frequent basis. However, my old boss of three years, a Prof of Medicine, came and found my office the other day, and went well out if his way, just to see how I was doing. He also sent me an email later, that has been extremely comforting. I have replaced all names with – : “Hi -,
Love is such a hungry beast and it is what nourishes us, whether it be our love of others, their love of us, or our love for ourselves. – will have known you loved her, and you her love, regardless of the present and message, even though more poignant now*. The same for -. I hope – can be inspired by you, not that you need that sort of pressure. It may be what she sees. If so, that would be a good thing**.
I think tears are a strength, not a weakness, as one who does not cry has missed life completely.
– will always be with you. Maybe you can find her strength or laughter, rather than her pain. Maybe it is in -**.
As is often the case, it seems that a lot of different things added up to increase -‘s risk and even with them all she was still very, very, unlucky.
I’ll stop now, as I am probably upsetting you further.
PS. I know – – and he is a wonderful fellow. He would be genuinely most upset about events***.
* Referring to the present I had sent my sister for her 42nd birthday, which was 2 days before she died, but never arrived in time. It still pains me that the beautiful sapphire star earrings and card, with a special message, never arrived in time, before she died.
** Referring to my sister’s daughter, my niece.
*** Referring to another Prof of Med who worked with my sister, and sent me a couple of very comforting messages after her death. He expressed his (surprising, to me) belief that she was ‘still with us’ and said she came to him in a dream, with important messages. It has been interesting how these guys based in medicine, have been the ones to be open in expressing their belief in the soul and an afterlife of sorts, while my friends in Humanities are often the opposite….and do not believe in the soul and an afterlife, but rather, believe that these are functionalist creations by our desperate, grieving minds. Not something I feel like dwelling on right now, nor something I take comfort in at the moment.