I went to a funeral this week. It’s the first time I’ve gone to a funeral on my own. It was for the hospice patient I’ve been visiting for the last year and a half. Since hearing of her death I’ve been struck with the sense of isolation in this type of loss.
My relationship with her was totally independent – its very nature was that I was only in it for her, much like a client-counsellor relationship. So, while I knew of her family very well, it was always and only entirely via her that I learned about them. So to suddenly be surrounded by all of them, hear them talk about her, and share in their loss together was truthfully rather lonely. I found myself questioning my relationship with her, asking myself if indeed it was a special and important as I had felt it to be. I realised the importance of an ‘other’ in these circumstances. Sitting there in the pews, without anyone next to me to affirm my experience, left me with the possible but terribly difficult job of being self-affirming.
At the end of the service I introduced myself to the family and they were wonderfully warm and grateful for my time. They invited me to the wake. I declined, not without some shame, but also with some emerging acceptance that although I was not part the wider mourning community, that was no reflection on the depth of my relationship with her. It has taught me a great lesson – that mourning alone is no less real or painful than mourning together.
Annie Broadbent (@anniebroadbent), our guest blogger, lost her mother two years ago to breast cancer and began writing about her experience of grief. Her book, We Need To Talk About Grief, a guide for friends of the bereaved, will be published by Piatkus in November. Check out Annie's blog, Good Grief, here