Bereavement. A week?

I have been thinking about bereavement.

When I was younger, and nowadays, the allocated time for leave after the death of a parent is a week.

Death comes in all forms and at all times.

The death of a spouse or child are special types of grief that aren’t included in this reflection.

For a sibling death, or a friend, I think the context is dominant.

Or, rather, age.

A death at 90 is considered within the natural progression of events.

It is likely that our planet was not designed for humans to live such long lives, although in ancient (biblical) times, people did live to be very old, most famously Methuselah who died at 969.

I suspect by the time Methuselah passed-on, everyone else he knew had gone too, his children, spouse, siblings, friends.

It must have been like starring in your own episode of one of those fictions where people don’t age or keep being reborn with an ongoing consciousness. (The Time Traveller’s Wife, How to Stop Time, The Age of Adeline).

Very old age can be lonely.

I have frequently been told by those in their nineties that all their friends and family have died.

Anyway, back to parental death.

The death of a parent is for most, a twice-off event. I guess, if you are adopted you might have your biological or birth parents and those who have raised you.

For the majority, for you, me, we have one mum, one dad.

When they are gone, you are on your own.

An orphan.

With the changes in society, with people living longer and healthier lives (so long as they are not socioeconomically deprived), fewer people experience death and when it comes, they are older.

In pre-Victorian times (and in Africa, today), parents experiencing the deaths of multiple children was not uncommon and for children to have their parents die before they reach adulthood was an everyday occurrence.

Today, most people haven’t witnessed someone dying until they are very old.

Our society is detached, separated from death.

In half of cases, death is clinically sanitised in a hospital; white sheets, oxygen mask and intravenous cannula attached.

And this is the question I pose.

As I said at the beginning, the tradition (in the UK at least) is a week of absence from work; enough time to arrange a funeral, begin the house clear-out or the letters/emails to banks, building societies and mobile phone companies.

Is that enough?

In our society that has changed over the past 50 years and continues to change at an ever-accelerating pace, should bereavement be redefined? Should there be a different acceptance as to what is, OK? How individualised should this become?

Mostly death, or dying, is about the person who is leaving, that is, until they lose awareness, and then, it is about the family or the friends.

Everyone has a different relationship with their parents.

Some never see their mum and dad from one month or year to the next, others continue with a close association, spending time with them every day until the end.

In the local community where I work, it is not uncommon for families to live on the same street or round the corner.

I can only imagine or dream what that might be like. Popping round daily to my brother or my mum and dad’s house, rather than the distances that have been constants throughout my adult life. And this I suspect has an influence on relationships and grief.

Grief, unlike death is the ultimately person-centred experience.

You can’t compare grief, it is like Victor Frankl’s suffering – unique to the individual; like a gas, it expands to fill the space available.

Where have we gone-wrong?

I think the flaw in our society is our lack of openness and discussion.

Over recent years, death cafes have opened in the UK and US.

These are events where people meet to discuss death.

Not in a morbid way, but in a reflection or celebration of life.

Which, makes me think of my half-completed death book, I’m dead, now what?

Seeking a normalisation of dying is not bad.

Death can provide meaning.

It can provide context and insight.

Without an open discussion of death, we are left behaving in a stereotypical fashion, one where people do what they do because they think they are expected to behave in certain ways, like my blog of years ago, wishing people, ‘a long life’ as is the tradition at Jewish funerals without a sense of what a long-life is or what it means or connotes.

Following the crowd is a diversion from person-centredness.

Grief should be made to measure.

Tailored to the person left behind.

Death and person-centredness. See here. In an act of synchronicity, sent to me by my brother today.

Have you read this or my other blogs and not read Man’s Search for Meaning?If not, please buy.

Link to my forthcoming converstation on good death, bad death, follow this link on the 10th of May 12 to 1pm

Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

2 thoughts on “Bereavement. A week?

  1. The grief also depends on the mindset of the survivor. When my mom died when I was 13, and when my grandma (who raised me after ma) died about 6 years ago, I got back to routine in a day – the funeral was on the day they died, and that evening I was back to my regular day – I may have shed a tear or two, but that was it. As heartless as that sounds, I don’t grieve the dead. What’s more disturbing is that I sometimes grieve the living.

    Liked by 1 person

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