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Death and keeping going for the funeral

(14 Posts)
MountainDweller Tue 09-May-17 02:41:11

I posted in life-limiting illness and people were very kind but I think I probably need to start a new thread in s more appropriate place.

My Dad died suddenly 2 weeks ago from a massive aggressive cancer. The primary cause is still unknown. He was in hospital on and off for his last 10 days and deteriorated rapidly. Before that he was basically fine, though I'm worried he was hiding it as he had a dismissive attitude to illness. He had asked for me not to be told as he didn't want to worry me until he knew what it was. Eventually my family called me and as I live abroad I had to go through that sickening last minute flight booking and dash to the airport that every expat dreads. I made it before he died but he wasn't conscious. He was only 71.

We've had a long wait for the funeral - he died on 23 April and the funeral is 15 May. I have come back home but will return for the funeral. I know everyone says that the planning the funeral is what keep you going through those in between weeks but I feel like I resent having to do the funeral stuff because it is stopping me grieving properly. I am either stressed because people are not returning my phone calls or upset because I am thinking how horrible his death was and how awful it was seeing him in hospital like that. I'm not making much sense but it's like the funeral stuff is not to do with him.

There is stuff I want to tell him, funny everyday stuff that we would laugh over and every time I think of something it is like something has hit me in the chest because then I realised he'll never know. It seems weird to me that the world is going on without him.

It's silly because we were not even especially close, but he was still my Dad, my only dad. I feel guilty about everything... that I hadn't seen him for 2.5 years (my DH was commuting to another country for a year and I have an injury that won't heal which make it very hard to fly.) I'm constantly afraid I've said the wrong thing to his partner or my mum. He'd been planning a visit here.

There is a hospital debrief tomorrow which I am joining by conference call, in which they will give us the biopsy results (taken nearly a week before he died) and try to answer our questions, which are mostly about how he went downhill so fast and why the medical staff always seemed one step behind. He had generally good care, I think, apart from being left on an open ward with a very objectionable man opposite who kept demanding attention and shouting, yelling to everyone, "that man's got cancer!" ("that man" was my Dad). He eventually got a private room for the last two nights because he was dying. Anyway they have given us 15 minutes for the debrief which seems like a ridiculously short time to review such a complex case.

Anyway I'm not really sure why I'm posting except that it's such a massive shock and I really feel like hiding from the world. I am trying to do normal things (meet friends, go to my own medical appointments) but it feels really weird, like I shouldn't be out there. I am worried for my mum too, for financial reasons and that she is going to be very isolated when the funeral is over.

AcrossthePond55 Tue 09-May-17 02:54:17

Just because the 'formal' funeral isn't until 15 May, that doesn't mean you have to hold it all in until then. If there are things you want to say, feelings you want to feel, say them and feel it. You don't have to wait.

Would it help you if you had (alone or with friends) a 'memorial ceremony' for your dad right now? Maybe light a candle and say out loud the things you wish you had said? Tell memories of him to your friends, or even just to yourself? Play his favourite song or watch his favourite movie? Or even go to a pub and raise a few in his memory.

We grieve how we want to, when we want to. We don't need to wait and we don't need to do it in a certain way.

Goldfishjane Tue 09-May-17 15:05:22

I'm really sorry for your loss
I totally understand why you feel funeral planning gets in the way of grieving
It's like a to do list at a time you just need to sit and be.

I can see there is time difference here but I'll keep this thread on watch so you can keep posting and know there'll be some replies. Hopefully this post will bump it too. flowers

MountainDweller Wed 10-May-17 00:15:36

Thank you both.

AcrossthePond I might do something like that if I get a quiet moment. Otherwise my Mum's sister (who is a priest) has offered to do a personal goodbye to him for just us in a woodland setting that he loved. When is is over in June. I think I am a bit freaked out because the funeral is going to be quite big.

Goldfishjane it does feel like it's getting in the way, and it's extra stress that I don't need. I'm already stressed that it's a big funeral and I have to get on a plane (I have chronic pain and don't travel well because of an injury).

Still we are nearly there on the order of service (my baby brother is a star!) and today got long awaited biopsy results from the hospital. He had bile duct cancer, which id never come across before - it's pretty rare. It had spread massively to liver, lungs, blood and bones and the doctors were always one step behind, continually surprised by his deterioration. I am sad to think he was probably ill for a while but didn't say anything as he didn't believe in illness hmm

I feel out of the loop on the organisational stuff as I'm not nearby (though said brother has been fab today). Sometimes people take more than a day to get back to me about stuff... the time difference is tiny, I'm just up late as I'm not sleeping well.

AcrossthePond55 Wed 10-May-17 02:52:04

I think the 'personal goodbye' would be lovely. And probably much more comforting. Big funerals can show you how loved a person was because there are usually lots of people there, but they're much more 'structured'.

mylaptopismylapdog Wed 10-May-17 04:44:55

I am so sorry for your loss and can understand how you feel as I have experienced a similar situation when my mother died when I was living abroad. Like you I have medical issues that mean I do not have much energy particularly at times of stress and distress and at the time my children were yourng There was no space to absorb what was going on and I had to didn't have a handle on the organization.Like you I had the moments of realization and eventually decided that the things I enjoyed that she valued were a way of remembering and appreciating her which is what I still do years later. I am not sure that anyone ever really appreciates a good parent when they are around as they should because they are a deft hand at helping you thrive as an independent person. My guilt has faded but the memories of Mum haven't at the end of the day so please don't judge yourself at this stage treat yourself with kindness.

Goldfishjane Wed 10-May-17 11:48:24

The June thing sounds good. I often think funerals are just something to be dealt with, I've never found them comforting I'm afraid.

Do look after yourself, the chronic illness thing is very hard.

Re the bile duct, something similar happened to my friend's dad and he really didn't feel ill at all, he would have told us for sure. So please don't think your dad must have been feeling ill, he might have been feeling fine x

MountainDweller Sat 13-May-17 01:13:02

Thanks for all the supportive messages. And for your experiences of living away from family, and dealing with chronic illness.

Funeral is pretty much organised. I'd like to ask something - the funeral directors recommended that we give this serious thought. The funeral will be pretty well attended I think - upwards of 150 people (my Dad was still working and well known in his field, and he and mum have lived in the village for 45 years so know lots of people). The funeral directors have asked if we want to have just family at the graveside for the actual burial. I don't think I've been to a burial before but I know what happens. They said it can be very emotional seeing the coffin being lowered and feel like a very final farewell, perhaps more so than at a crem service when they just close the curtains. I'm not sure what would be best. My mum's experience of village funerals is that people will follow us to the graveside but keep a respectful distance. She thinks that if people want to lend support they should be allowed to. My step mum (complicated situation, concurrent relationships so basically there are two widows!) seems to be leaning more towards a moment of privacy in what will be quite a public day. No one has very strong feelings either way. I just wondered if others had experience of this either way and felt they made the right (or wrong) choice. The family group will be quite big anyway - about 25.

We're travelling to UK tomorrow. I always get anxious about this because I know I'll be in pain and I'm just so bad at packing... always loads of little things to think of, meds to count out etc, and I think it's bringing back memories of my horrible dash to the hospital 3 weeks ago. But at least this time we know when we're going and DH will be with me.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 13-May-17 02:47:53

I'm in the US and where I live it's very common to have a public funeral and private graveside services. It's what we had for my dad. Because we had to travel to our home town, the church was 'booked' for the morning, so we had the graveside in the morning just family and a public memorial service (so-called because there is no 'body' present) in the afternoon when the church was 'free'. Sometimes the two services are even on different days because of scheduling conflicts.

There were about 30 extended family members at Dad's graveside and it felt really good and right to be 'just' family, all close together. There were around 100 at the church later and it sort of bothered me to look out at the congregation (I gave the eulogy) and see the family all spread out.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 13-May-17 02:50:18

I want to add that I wish you a peaceful and as comfortable as possible journey. Take care of yourself.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 13-May-17 02:51:36

I should clarify, there were about 100 people in total at the church, not 100 family members!

MountainDweller Sat 13-May-17 11:14:28

Thanks AcrossthePond, that's useful and interesting to hear your experience. And I did get what you meant!

I've never heard of doing it that way round but we were offered a private funeral and then a memorial, but declined, partly because there will be a 'professional' memorial service for him in London later in the year.

Luckily in the church they will set aside a certain number of rows for family so well all be together.

MountainDweller Sat 20-May-17 03:14:20

It's all over now and I'm back home. I feel really dreadful - completely exhausted and tearful all the time. Half the time I can't sleep at all and then I sleep for ages. There were some family difficulties on the day of the funeral and I feel utterly let down by my family and as if they wanted to wipe out my existence. So hard to keep going.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 20-May-17 18:25:54

It's to be expected. You've just been through a terribly emotional ordeal. Give yourself plenty of time to grieve and sort through your 'head'. You'll be able to put things where they belong after awhile. Don't rush and don't be afraid to seek comfort from friends or counseling from a professional. The main thing is that you do what YOU need to do to resume your life and be happy.

And I don't know why it is, but a death seems to bring out either the best or the worst when it comes to family relations. Not simply 'inheritance issues', but just the death itself. I've seen life-long feuding relatives kiss and makeup, I've seen previously friendly/close relatives tear each other apart over something as trivial as the colour of flowers or what dishes to serve afterwards. It boggles the mind.

I don't know the state of your relationship with your family (and I'm not asking you to say). But if you haven't been happy with the way things have been now would be a good time to start freeing yourself from those chains. Just because they are family doesn't mean they are your friends. And we aren't called upon by anything to have people in our lives who don't add to them.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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