January 5, 2010

When someone dies – how do you cope?

Bob and Francis moved to my street almost 8 years ago. She was Irish. He was Portuguese, and 10 years younger. His first marriage; her second. They were obviously in love. Bob just beamed when he told me that he had to buy the house for Francis because he KNEW she loved its most amazing kitchen!

Two years ago they moved to a house in little Portugal in Toronto where it wouldn’t be as hard for Bob to maintain the home. You see, a few years after moving onto our street, Bob got colon cancer. Throughout his treatments, his high spirits made us forget he was sick. He was, in fact, very sick.

Sadly, days before this Christmas, Bob died at just 49. I and many other past neighbours were at the visitation. I think that says a lot about who they are. Speaking with Francis that week was hard. Though she was devastated and in grief,  she acknowledged friends and their questions at the visitation by telling them she was “OK “ or “ I’m fine”. I wondered – “Really?”  I know when my Mom died I said the same thing. But I wasn’t. Not truthfully.

Her reaction also reminded me of something I had read in a booklet Elaine had given me.  “When Someone You Care About Dies” by Dr. Bill Webster. Dr. Bill Webster speaks from personal experience. His wife Carolyn died at a young age from a heart attack.

In his introduction, he says “You quickly learn that you get rewarded for hiding your grief. If you can keep from crying in public, even after the worst experience of your life, someone is going to praise you for “doing so well”. People seemed pleased that I was “so strong” and apparently “handling the situation”. A few months later, when people thought I should be getting myself together, I felt like I was falling apart. I wanted to be able to handle it and be strong for my friends and family, and when in spite of my best efforts, I didn’t seem to be able to do that, I felt even worse.”

Francis has gone out of town for a few days so I put the booklet in the mail to her today.  I am sending it to her in hopes that it helps her through this time. It is written softly though with strong messages that I am hoping will lend calm and clarity to her grief journey.


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