Just over 2 weeks ago I heard the news that an old friend who I knew from the literary writing circles where I live had passed away after a very brave battle with cancer. I’ve had a lot of death and loss to deal with in the last year and a half since Frankie died, and I was very sad when I heard that she had died. She was a lovely, vibrant woman who loved writing but I hadn’t seen her in over a year and a half. The last time was in September 2013 when I was nearly 6 months pregnant with Frankie.
I bought a card, wrote it and put it through her husband’s door, and waited to hear when the funeral would be and I fully intended to go. When I got news of when it would be I put it in my diary and arranged to take a couple of other friends as the parking up at the crematorium where I am can be tricky at times. But the decision to go to the funeral didn’t rest easy with me at all, and I started to dread the thought of going. I know that death is the only thing that is as certain in life as being born, and a part of me thinks I should just “man up” (or “woman up”), put on a brave face and go to her funeral. But the truth is, I can’t because I just cannot bring myself to go back to the place where I had to say goodbye to Frankie, my father-in-law and my cousins.
I have thought and thought and thought about it until I am blue in the face but the closer it gets to the funeral happening the more I know in my heart that I can’t face it. If I had to say goodbye to another family member or a very close friend that would be different, I would have to grit my teeth, grin and bear it and go to the funeral at the Crematorium whether I liked it or not. But this time I have a choice. This time I can decide what is best for me. I went to the crematorium for the funeral of the father of a friend who I don’t see any more before all the other deaths happened, and at the time I went because I felt that I wanted to be there for him and his wife, and also I wanted to be brave and say to myself, “See? I can go back there, I can handle it.” I thought I did really well to go back to the Crematorium so soon after we said goodbye to Frankie, but little did I realise I would be back there so often following that funeral.
I have been having bereavement counselling recently which has been a godsend and instrumental in helping me make sense of all the death and loss that I’ve been through in the last year or so. When I went to my session last Thursday my counsellor asked me how I was feeling, and the first thing I said was “I’m anxious about a funeral that is coming up for me next week and I’m dreading having to go, as it is taking place at the Crematorium where I had to say goodbye to Frankie, my father in law and my two cousins who passed away.” My counsellor asked me who it was who had passed away and I told her, and she said to me, “Do you have to go if you are feeling so anxious about it?” I replied that I’d arranged to take a couple of people so I felt obligated to go and my counsellor said, could they make other arrangements to get there?
And I thought, actually, why am I going? Why I am putting myself through such angst? In the card I put through her husband’s door I put a note in it saying I was only a phone call or message away if he needed anything, as he lives not far from me. Since my counselling session last Thursday I gave it a lot of thought and I have decided not to go. I know in my heart it is the right thing for me to do, as I am doing a lot of healing work to try and come to terms with all the death and loss I have endured, and I know that to go back to the Crematorium right now would undo all of the hard work I have done so far and set me back. This time I am very lucky because I have a choice not to go. I didn’t have a choice previously; I had to go to all of those funerals because they were family ones, and if it had been a family member or a much closer friend this time I would have had to go. But I can’t tell you all the immense feeling of relief I have about not going.
There are times in life that self preservation is paramount, and I am so glad I have a choice this time to protect myself from going back to the place where I had to say goodbye to my much loved and much wanted son Frankie, to my father in law and to my cousins. It is all part of surviving or thriving. Of doing what is best for me and my feelings, rather than trying to make everyone else happy. On this occasion I know I am 110% doing the right thing, and on the day of her funeral I shall light a candle for this lovely, dear lady……and remember her fondly.
I am very sorry if I come across as selfish in this post, or of only thinking of myself, but right now I belong to the self preservation society and I intend to remain a member of this club until I feel much stronger in myself. As the saying goes, you can’t help other people or be there for other people unless you help yourself first.
And that’s what I fully intend to do right now, because I need it.