All grief is unique. It’s something we say a lot around here. It seems obvious at one level, after all every relationship is unique. The statement sounds true when we hear it because no matter what our life experience is, by the time we are adults we have all experienced loss of various kinds. Even if we've never given it much conscious thought we know that we experience loss differently each time. There may well be common features of course. Reduced ability to concentrate or the urge to eat a bar of chocolate the size of Belgium, but no matter how hard some theorists try and push our messy human emotions into little boxes or “stages” it doesn't work. Grief IS unique. 
Mother's Day without your mum

I wanted more time 

I am seeing that truth in great clarity today in the midst of my own new grief. Last week my Mum died and a new grief was born. Her passing was not a total shock. Just over a month ago she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and was told it could rupture at any point and kill her. 
Being my Mum she took this news stoically. She rang and told me in a completely “matter of fact” manner and said that she had refused surgery as she wanted to retain her current quality of life. 
I was completely supportive of her position. It didn’t occur to me to question her or attempt to debate it with her – this absolutely was her choice and fitted exactly with what I knew of her views and values. 
It was as I put the phone down that the grief kicked in. Mum was 84 and had a heart condition. For a long time a part of me had been on alert for the call that would bring bad news. Over the next few days I realised that actually nothing had changed. Mum was still 84 with a heart condition, what was different was the possibility of losing her had just become emotionally real rather than an intellectual fact. 
Naturally I hoped that nothing would happen right away – she’d been living with this thing for years already – she just hadn’t known it. Sadly that was not to be. On 13th April she was taken to hospital, that “thing” had started to leak. At the end of a long day she was allowed home to die, given just hours to live. Doctors’ guesses are of course just that. 9 days later she passed away, peacefully, knowing her loved ones were around her the entire time. 
Mum got what she wanted – to be in her own home, on her terms, surrounded by family. We all got to say everything we needed to say including goodbye. It really doesn’t get much better than that. Mum was also organised. Her Will was clear, her funeral planned and paid for and even birthday cards for the Great-Grand kids were written. 
Who could ask for more? Well me. I wanted more. I wanted more time with her so she could see me married in June; so she could see her surprise 85th Birthday cake at the reception; so she could be there when I needed her one more time. 

Brand new grief 

While I grieved her diagnosis with tears and sadness, when she died this changed. mysteriously the tears stopped - a brand new grief was delivered. It's almost like I can see it, sitting in a glass box about 15 feet away, grief billowing inside like smoke. Occasionally little wisps escape from under the lid but on the whole I’m watching it, detached, wondering when the seal will break. I am numb. 
This is a very different reaction to what happened when my Dad died. That had come as a complete shock, I’d never had a close bereavement before and it produced storms of tears and rants about the unfairness of it all. I hadn’t got to talk to him again, he was unconscious in the hospital from the stroke and I was too shocked, and too unaware of the reality of what was happening to think of saying “goodbye”. It was utterly different again when my husband Kevin passed away invoking more physical pain than I imagined was possible for any one person to bear. 

Grief is unique 

I wrote all that a few days ago. The seal on the glass box of grief gave way last night and a huge cloud of sadness engulfed me, yet my heart has remained peaceful throughout. I know this is because at the time Mum died I was “complete” with her –as much as it was possible to be. I’ve said everything I needed to say. Most importantly I got to say goodbye. 
I miss Mum a lot, her wicked sense of humour, her strength, her love, her cake! Inevitably new things have come up since she died that I realise I now need to communicate. Thankfully I can use the tools of the Grief Recovery Method to complete those final undelivered communications and any more that crop up in the future. As a result I am left with only the sadness that I no longer have Mum in my life and yes life is a lonlier without her; the pain though, has gone. The actions of getting complete placed it in that glass box, sealed the lid then made it disappear. 
About the Author 
Carole Henderson
Carole Henderson is Managing Director and Senior Trainer at Grief Recovery Europe and was the first-ever Grief Recovery trainer in the UK. Since 2010 she has trained hundreds of Specialists from over 30 different countries to help others move beyond loss. She has been featured in The Guardian, the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Jeremy Vine, The Sun and numerous other publications.  
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