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Anticipatory grief and loss during a terminal diagnosis: Colin's final story


Hello again!

Colin is back with us to round of the story he has been sharing with us during previous articles.

His words recount a challenging period in Colin’s life when his mother's health was in decline, and his relationship was detereorsting as well. Two losses at once. He reflects on the gradual changes in his mum’s health, the emotional impact of these events, and the moments of resilience and love that are still with him until today.

Sharing the keyboard one last time with Colin…

During this period you could just see little by little mum was slowly getting worse. Not in major ways at first, just small little things. Perhaps getting tired more easily or wanting to sleep more and eating less than usual.

My then girlfriend was performing in the opening night of an opera and mum and dad came down for the concert. Mum looked desperately thin post-chemo. Looking back, it is interesting to reflect that it was my girlfriend that realised this before I did. This is when more than ever, reality started to hit in.

On one of my last memories with my mum was when I went for a visit back home. Mum was still strong enough to go for a short walk around the park together. We sat at the same spot from which Mum had painted from previously. Maybe she wanted to mark an occasion intentionally in my brain, so whenever I miss her I can go to that spot. At least, I would like to think so, as I still have the painting mum did from that spot at my flat.

November 2014 I received the call I had dreaded since Mum’s diagnosis came. Dad called to say I should come home. I flew home that evening.

Dad warned me to prepare myself for a shock. Mum had faded away to nothing, she was like a skeleton.

The strong, beautiful woman who was my mother was fading away.

One evening she seemed to slip into unconsciousness and my dad, brother and I thought this was it. We all said our goodbyes, and I remember being in tears as I said mine. Yet somehow mum made it through the night and seemed to be better in the morning.

During the day I remember hearing mum telling dad how much she loved him and appreciated him which made me feel happy and desperately sad at the same time. I suddenly realised what marriage meant and genuinely understood how much they loved each other even after 40 years.

It was definitely a tough period for me as my relationship was in a very difficult space. I was losing both my Mum and my girlfriend at the same time. It was a powerful experience.

Mum passed away and was finally at peace. Weirdly, I had found peace as well as Mum was no longer suffering and I realised I had been grieving for her even before we had lost her.

Despite how difficult the previous few months were, I still counted myself extremely lucky. I was lucky to have had an amazing Mum (as well as Dad, brother, extended family and friends). I fell in love with a wonderful and beautiful girl (even although we were not suited to one another) and I knew what it meant to be loved.

We had several hundred people come along to the funeral which was incredible and I drew strength from this and it was actually a wonderful tribute to my mum.

A lot of my friends came along and I know I would not have managed as I did without so many of my friends having my back. It was also an incredibly funny day filled with wonderful moments of humour including a friend of mine (who shall remain unnamed) making advances at a member of my family causing a lot of hilarity (I remember my Dad brother and I roaring our heads of laughter afterwards).

Season 6 Flirt GIF by Friends

I learned some incredibly powerful lessons during this period that did her me to get through this:

1. Relationships fail. Some things are not meant to be and it is best to accept that and there is no easy time for them to fail. I fell in love during mum’s illness. We were both two people in pain, who found each other in our journey’s through it.

2. Grieving before the end. I think I knew mum’s prognosis was bleak and I was grieving before she passed away. “Pre Grieving” as Fernanda has talked about in her articles, is healthy and normal. It isn’t a betrayal of your loved one but an important part of the process of recovery.

3. Weird consequences. Even after you move on from losing a loved one there can be weird consequences. From experiences you shared that you miss to unexpected reactions. Even to this day, there is a piece of music I cannot listen to as it makes me cry. The weird thing? It wasn’t a piece of music that Mum and I ever listened to together or shared an experience through. I just somehow associate the words with Mum and what I would do to see her again.

4. Taking risks. During this period I left a well paid job in Financial Services, took a pay cut and went to a start up (still one of the best decisions I made in my life). Mum’s condition made me realise how precious life is and sometimes breaking out of what is considered normal is good. I don’t mean live every day like it is your last but taking proper risks can be incredibly rewarding.

This marks the final part of my journey sharing my story with you. I hope this was something you may find useful right now or in the future.



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