Tuesday, 30 December 2014
I’ve just been to the funeral of my dear brother in law - brother to my late husband, which obviously brought back a lot of memories of this time four years ago. But it made me realise the importance of funerals - as a way of celebrating his life, and of gathering together those that loved him.
There’s a scene in the film As Good As It Gets (a favourite of ours that we watched the other night) where Carol is in tears of despair over her life. I think most of us have been there - I certainly have, more times than I care to think about - and without any comforting man to assure me that everything would be all right.
After my husband died, when I finally emerged from that tunnel of grief, someone commented on how strong I’d been. “I certainly didn’t feel it,” I said. “It was raw and painful as hell, and I cried for months.” Given how much I howled, constantly, I’m wondering why on earth she thought I was strong - but it made me think about what being strong means.
My dear mum stayed with me for Pip’s last days, but a few days after he died, she announced she was going home. “You have to learn to cope on your own,” she said. And given that she’d lost her husband at a similar age, she knew what was needed: this was a real example of tough love.
I was horrified, and terrified, but actually, in retrospect, I’m really glad she did. It meant I didn’t rely on her entirely, but bothered my brilliant friends instead.
We’ve just done a Stressbuster course which was extremely good, and one of the things they advised was to avoid over-dependency. For several reasons: one, if you rely entirely on one person it makes you feel weak as you believe you can’t cope without them (I was convinced I couldn’t manage or survive without my husband. But when faced with no alternative, you get on with it); two, it is a terrible strain on the other person, and makes for a very unhealthy relationship. So the course stressed the importance of talking to other friends (note plural). Apart from anything else, different people have different takes on situations. It also means you widen your circle of friends and can repay them when they have difficult times.
So if there’s someone you care about, of course be there to help them, but make sure you’re not over protective. That just weakens both of you. Encourage them to confide in other people and make sure you have enough time for yourself. It might sound uncaring, but it’s the best thing all round: everyone will be stronger, and better able to cope with whatever life throws at them next. In the long run it’s the best present you can give them.
On that note, I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year. May it bring peace, joy, love, adventure, singing and sailing. Or whatever it is that will make you happy and fulfilled.