On Sunday, 19 June, Father’s Day, I was going about my life with a friend as we were enjoying a wine and music festival. I received a missed call and eventually listened to the message a bit later. The message (yes, I do have my cell phone message set up and I do listen to messages) was short and blunt that one of my nieces had died. She was a pregnant 23-year-old.
Please note that this blog entry is not about soliciting sympathy but processing loss from my view.
The first emotion was distress due to shock and the first thought was disbelief. I, as the auntie, who took care of her from a few days old to her earlier years expected that she would out-live me. I was expecting that she would have fond memories of me when I died not the other way around. I speak so casually of my death because I have had occasional thoughts about dying and death. It is an inevitable part of life and to ignore it is naïve. In this crazy world, here today and gone tomorrow is such a frequent recurring concept.
My place to be was with my family in order to share and support each other in this unfair and miserable situation. My distress was not comparable to that of my sister who loss her first-born and first grandchild. I felt helpless for her – my grief was pushed aside for her. Sadly, my sister and I had a tiff a few days before but in that moment, it was not about my loss but hers. It was an automatic response. As another sister said, we are family no matter the disagreement we had in the past.
My darling niece had a Facebook account so her younger sister and I used that medium to pass on the news. I made a subtle tribute to her and ever so slowly people started catching on that my family had a loss. My parents and her parents were fielding a stream of phone calls while her younger sister managed the Facebook inquiries. There is not much to explain when a seemingly healthy young woman suddenly dies.
I appreciate people’s condolences. I have always been a solitary person so, I am not comfortable with letting other’s know I had a death in the family. I prefer to grieve in isolation and letting a select few aware of what’s happening. However, what I prefer is in conflict with what is the socially right thing to do so, in such instances, I defer to the latter.
I find myself being egocentric in this process. For me and my family, the loss and everything following is the most important thing now. For some ridiculous reason, I expect others to see their lives from our point of view. For example, I went on Facebook and was slightly bothered that some of the people who made condolences had already moved on to their regular lives. People were posting happy pictures (this was Father’s day weekend), funny jokes, political stuff etc. My tragedy was but a blip for them. The last time I was on Facebook before this tragedy, I would read and ‘like’ people’s pictures and posts. However, after the tragedy, I find most of those posts frivolous. I was not capable of extending myself to see their point of view about what was important in their Facebook sharing lives.
I am aware that life does not stop even for our family. I became more aware listening to the news about the people who died in freak accidents etc. I wondered what their families were experiencing at this ‘here today gone in a second’ event in their lives. I imagined the shock and disbelief, the notification to family and friends, the condolences phone calls, the explanation of what happened, the dealing with never seeing that person again, and the funeral arrangements. Interestingly, I somehow could not fully grasp what those families are experiencing even though I and my family are going through a similar situation.
The passing made mortality the forefront of my thoughts. Despite my tenuous relationship with God and Christianity, I never once thought of blaming God. I never thought of why us, why God allowed this to happen or any such things. “Shit happens” whether I like it or not and God already knows I don’t like this shit happening to us. People said they would pray for my family. Funny thing is I have not said a prayer in regards to this situation. It’s like an avoidance of this issue with God. Maybe I am expecting the prayer of the faithful to have more weight than mine. I really am not sure why I have not addressed this issue with God.
What does play in my mind are the what ifs. What if the hospital staff had done a better job when she was there a few days earlier. What would have happened if…? Did she pass peacefully? Did she know she was dying? What were her last thoughts in her last moments? Was there anything that could have been done differently? When I see the face my darling niece, the disbelieve comes rushing back. My sister wailed “she is never coming back” repeatedly and that was the kicker. The next time the family sees my darling she will be in a coffin-the breath of life gone. A shell of the person she used to be. I remembered that coffin view with my grandmother and it was a very difficult moment. The thought of her lifeless body is exceedingly distressing. I can’t imagine…
I am still in the early stages. My whole family is in the early stages. My sister, her husband, the remaining children, and not to forget my darling’s significant other will have a much more difficult time than I in the days, months, and years to come. I know there are more tears to shed and more disbelief and feelings of emptiness in the future. I will eventually come to an emotional peace that life continues for everyone. However, for myself and family who had a loss, life will go on outwardly as we learn to deal with the absence of one member of our family. The positive from all this is that I hugged tighter and said more “I love you” than I ever uttered in my 40 years and meant every word. Loss can either destroy or bring others together.