In our Your Stories series, we collect essays, articles, open letters, poetry and artwork from bereaved people all over the world. In this edition, Conor Duffy talks about losing his mum to COPD after being her carer, and the unique challenges of grieving as a single adult.
My mum passed away last Saturday week. She had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). She had been ill for quite some time. I am her son and was mum’s primary carer. I am a 45-year-old man, childless and with no significant other. She lived with me.
I have a very loving and kind family in my three brothers and sister and their spouses and kids, who all rallied around the time mum became really sick (around November last year). We all engaged in rosters and getting home care for her as I am at work during the day. She passed away in her own home in her own bed as she wanted, and it was peaceful. I am so grateful to God – and to my dad, RIP – for that, anyway. We got to “wake” her at home over a period of two days, which helped greatly.
I know how lucky I am to have such a strong family unit (you do hear horror stories of one sibling being left behind to do the heavy lifting in looking after an elderly parent, but that’s not my story). Yet, I can’t help but feel desperately lonely and heartbroken after her loss.
I felt some people were consciously avoiding talking to me.
You process things differently when you are single. They say that grief is simply love that has nowhere to go, but that is not true if you have a partner or a spouse and kids. You see your parents in your kids, either in the way they look or mannerisms passed on, so it feels like every time you hug your child you get to hug your parents one more time. That’s the way I see it.
Don’t get me wrong – my siblings’ grief is as deep and profound as my own, and as I am the youngest, they knew mum longer and so have more memories to wade through. But … I don’t know. At the funeral, conversations can turn to “How are your kids?” if the person feels too uncomfortable with someone grieving. I don’t have that, so I felt some people were consciously avoiding talking to me. They felt on surer ground with my siblings.
I miss her so much. I am crying as I am writing this (I had to take her name off the last utility bill this morning). She was 87 years old and, save for the last couple of months, the least demanding patient you could meet. She loved us all dearly, as only an Irish mum can (I live in Ireland).
I miss the routines we had together. I would bring her breakfast in the morning, bring her to church (when she was able), bring her up town to get her hair done or bring her out for a weekend meal. I still have an alarm on my phone to remind me to change the batteries in her hearing aids every week, and I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.
I don’t know if I am not coping or if I am doing better than people can usually expect to.
I feel like I don’t have a function anymore. I am back at work and I am actually writing this at my work desk – even though I know I shouldn’t – but I can’t focus on anything right now. I cried a number of times during the past week, and a couple of times at work in the bathroom. I don’t know if I am not coping or if I am doing better than people can usually expect to. I did a lot of crying in the months leading up to Mum’s passing, as we knew she was at end stage COPD, and I once thought that I would be cried out come her funeral. But the tears still came.
Now, I just feel empty. No interest in anything. I know there is no clock on my grief, even if the world expects me to get on with things, and I am just going through the motions. But she was my mum – my best friend. She meant everything to me.
If I want to tell anyone anything it is this: don’t ignore adult single people who lose their loved ones. I know I am a very atypical case, but I am a living, breathing human being who is hurting like hell right now. It is beyond painful when you are surrounded by people at the funeral of a loved one but you might as well be a million miles away, and they don’t want to engage.
I miss my Mum. I miss my Mum. I miss my Mum.
If you are struggling with a bereavement or just need someone to talk to during a tough time, Samaritans are here 24/7, every day of the year. You can call their free hotline on 116 123 or email them at [email protected]