Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dying and Grieving

Hey it can't all be sweetness and light, right? Besides, by writing about this stuff you know I'm a real person. Or something.

I have posted a couple of times this month about death and dying. I mentioned that I had lots of people in my life die in my childhood and early adulthood. Later I discovered Paganism and Wicca, which helped me to understand more fully the circle of life and that all living things must die in order that others may live. The dying process is, in fact, a large part of Wiccan understanding, since the faith is based on the Wheel of the Year, the year 'dies' at Samhain (October 31) and is reborn at the Winter Solstice (as days start to get longer again, the ancients knew that a crop-growing season would return).

Still later I would return to post-secondary education. I found myself being more than interested in hospice palliative care and cancer care, and it was through that avenue that I ended up doing my Master's research. I did a sort of research internship at Victoria Hospice, which is renowned worldwide for its innovative research. I attended the British Columbia Hospice Palliative Care Association conference three years in a row. In that time, I learned a lot about how the medical profession handles the terminally ill, they dying, the bereaved. I worked on a project that assesses the risk of bereaved loved ones to see if they need assistance after their spouse/child/parent dies.

I was talking with my sister last night about Unc, Mid, and we made a sort of tentative plan about sharing a hotel room if we do have to go to a funeral soon. I told her about the different stories about Unc's status that I had heard from Mum and Dad. According to Dad, Unc is fine, his appetite is returning and he wants to go home. According to Mum, Unc is okay but he has spoken about dying.

Knowing what I know about dying people, and also knowing that both my parents are terrible reporters (bad at collecting data and relaying important details), I'm going to guess that they are both only partly right. If Unc has his appetite back, he will probably be okay for the time being. If he had no interest in or will to eat, then it would be clear that his expiry is imminent. So I don't think he's going soon, at least not in the next few weeks. But he has spoken of dying to Mid. This tells me that he is getting ready to go, and that he is trying to prepare his wife for this. As I mentioned yesterday, Unc doesn't have full on dementia but he's also not all there. For him to say something so lucid as to mention dying, to me, is significant. Also, knowing his wife as he does, he had to say this because Mid does not handle unpleasant or uncomfortable news well. She will ignore it or pretend she didn't hear it and remain optimistic.

Later, grief snuck up on me.

I got to thinking about my grandmother, then my great-grandmother, then my grandfather, and how those that have passed represented a time in my life, a part of my life, that I regard fondly. I also got to thinking about that this is something that I don't - nay - can't - share with either of my parents. It is my sister that was with me through all this. Mum and Dad remember these people differently, had different relationships. But Lori and I had a particular lens as the children. And thinking about all these beloved departed relatives triggered my grieving. Unc will go soon, Mid will go soon after. Mid is really the last person of that generation of people that represents that era to me and my sister.

We navigate through our lives with the relationships with people that we have. Knowing our place in a family or set of relationships often helps us to understand our place in the larger world. When the last family member of that generation dies, it will be much larger than the loss of connection with that era. It's a sign that my own time is marching on. I'm not really concerned about my own mortality (perhaps I will discuss this in another post) but it is always sad to lose a loved one. But my big question to myself last night was 'what will it be like after [that generation] is gone?' The answer, of course, is 'I don't know'. Obviously I will carry on because I have to. Fish will still come off the dock, socks will be knit, ice cream will be eaten, blogs will be posted. I guess it will be a shifting in my consciousness.

Maybe I am overthinking this. It's possible, you know, I overthink a lot. At any rate, I don't think grieving now is premature. I know people who have known a loved one was dying and did the majority of their grieving pre-death. I think that's healthy, actually. There was even a study that said that bereaved persons who knew their beloved was dying beforehand had an easier time of coping than those faced with a sudden loss. Makes sense to me.


  1. Sending you supportive thoughts.

    My sister lives out your way - are you anywhere near Port Moody? She's an artist (and knittter) there.

    Take care of yourself.

  2. Thanks!

    Not really that close. Port Moody is on the Mainland. It would probably take 2 hours to drive from here to Nanaimo, an hour and a half for the ferry to Horseshoe Bay, and probably another hour or two to Port Moody. I've never been there so I can't say for sure...

    Thanks for your kind words!