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Bereavement and Depression 3. It's complicated. Friday November 7, 2014

One of the problems we have now with grief, especially the grief from bereavement, is that there are few rituals once the funeral is over. In Victorian times the whole family would go "into mourning", wearing black bombazine and crepe (if you were female that is – black hat bands, cravats and gloves were sufficient for men) for set amounts of time according to the relationship with the deceased. If you were in mourning then you didn't go to parties or other social events: you were expected to stay quietly at home and yes, to mourn.

These days it seems that, as soon as the funeral refreshments have been cleared away, we're supposed to carry on as usual but yet, everything has changed. We don't want to bore or embarrass people by becoming emotional at inappropriate moments, yet grief can sweep us away unexpectedly for months, even years after a loss.

And it can be complicated. With my own case, my sister and I had not realised just how much we were loved and cared for by our late uncle until we started to administer his estate. Because our father had died young, our uncle was the man we relied on and looked up to. He never tried to take the place of our father yet, to all intents and purposes, that's what he was. To explain the depth of our grief to anyone outside our immediate circle has been difficult. In Victorian times you mourned an uncle for three months, but a father for a year. We have wanted that year, please.

It can be complicated when there have been unresolved issues, things left unsaid, when a deceased person's will is unexpected or perceived to be unfair, if at death someone is unforgiven or unforgiving.

We do need to talk, even the most stoic of us. For many of us, an understanding friend can be enough. When I grieved the loss of my first husband a kindly friend allowed me to weep and vent on her shoulder to an extraordinarily generous fashion. When I commented on this she explained that she had wept and vented on another friend when her own relationship broke up. It was her turn to lend the shoulder. A few years later, yes, it was my turn. I think that this is one time we cannot pay forward, but can only pay on in our turn with understanding.

Sometimes no friend is available and that is where the professionals come in. There are organisations that can provide support free of charge. The Samaritans is the most obvious one. As they say "You don't have to be suicidal to get in touch"; their volunteers are trained to listen and have the time to listen, no matter how complicated your feelings of loss and pain and grief.


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Comments

Anonymous Fri, Nov 7th 2014 @ 11:03am

Thank you Mary. Having lost my father nearly 19 years ago, it would seem fair to people that ' I'm over it', but only seeing his grave every six months or so, it all got churned up each time and it didn't seem that long ago.
Last year we lost my mother in law, in August. I found it extremely difficult to bear as I looked after her and loved her so much. This year, in June, we lost my dear Mum. Some days are just too much to bear and I can't function- husband doesn't understand...but it's all so raw. Then a glimmer arrives and new hope that I'm getting there...then wham! I'm lost once more.
Time doesn't heal - it just takes time, however long, to get used to the new way of life without that person there.

Anonymous Fri, Nov 7th 2014 @ 4:29pm

Mary,
Thank you for the thoughtful posts the last few days..we all have suffered losses and have to deal with them as best as able....sometimes in a goo way, and others not...but we move forward as best as we can Thanks again...Dave B

Anonymous Fri, Nov 7th 2014 @ 5:01pm

Fantastic posts on grief and bereavement Mary. Sorely needed. Suzy

Anonymous Fri, Nov 7th 2014 @ 7:45pm

Thank you Mary for these posts. To anonymous at 11.03am, I empathise completely with you. I am flattened by grief and depression. I completely understand when you say, "Some days are just too much to bear and I can't function...". This is what most of my days are like. DC

Di Murphey Fri, Nov 7th 2014 @ 8:38pm

Dearest Mary,
I really appreciate the history lesson on the Victorian Era honoring grief with actual customs. It makes me feel better about making up my own family & personal customs in dealing with loss. We can make up our own while thinking how the deceased love might want us to carry on.

I find the feelings to be raw, as you describe. Your words are such a comfort. Thank you.
Lovingly,
Di Murphey

Anonymous Fri, Nov 7th 2014 @ 9:16pm

Many thanks from Anon 11.03 - it's so hard sometimes to articulate all the grief. Depression makes it harder - harder still when it's the one you love the most who brought it on, and even though his depression started first and brought mine on, he can't understand when or why I am drowning....

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