Last Lesson from My Mum
By Carol Duncan - 5th June 2010
Firstly, I'm a journalist, not a psychologist. I am, however, a mother and a daughter. My sons' introduction to grief, big earth-shattering loss, was also my own. On Boxing Day 2007, two days short of her 70th birthday, my mother suffered an enormous stroke and literally dropped dead. In my house. At the feet of my sons - then aged 4 & 6.
I was alerted by my youngest son's cry of, "Grandma! Wake up!" She never did, but that's a story for another day. The entire scene was calm. I gently told the boys that Grandma had fainted, and to pop upstairs and turn the telly on while I took care of her. Resuscitation attempts. Paramedics. Ambulance. To hospital. Where I told the doctors to stop.
A few hours later, I returned home to my boys who asked me how Grandma was. I knelt down with them and explained that Grandma had gotten very sick, very suddenly, and that the doctors hadn't been able to help her. That Grandma had died. And we sat in a little huddle on the floor, and we cried a little, and I assured them that Grandma would have been very proud of them for 'taking care of her when she fainted'.
So how have we dealt with it? We talk about her quite often. Sometimes we cry. We admit that we miss her. But we talk about what she did, what she liked, what she loved about them. Her secret names for them, her favourite colours and flowers and flavours. Things she had taught me or that I remembered from when I was little. Sometimes we're sad, but often we smile.
Just a few weeks ago, we took her ashes to scatter as she had made very clear over many years. I hadn't taken the boys to the funeral, I felt they were too young to deal with a room full of grieving adults! And although it might have taken us two and a half years to fulfil her wish, we did it together. We wrote her name in the sand and decorated it with shells and bright green seaweed. We laughed about how much she hated swimming! I talked with their teachers, made sure they knew what had happened, asked for any concerns to be passed on to me.
My sons know their Grandma. They know she loved them. They know what she liked and what she found funny.
I know their memories of her will fade over the years, but hopefully the love will remain because we talk about her. We acknowledge her.
I was their age when her father died. My grandfather.
I have no memories of him at all.