Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Laugh Out Loud or Lots Of Love?


Following on from yesterday's post, I currently seem to be the only one retaining my sense of humour right now, and I hope I can keep it up until Sis's funeral next week, but I'm having a hard job of it and the stress is beginning to show.

Yesterday I received a text from niece saying that it felt weird to be sending a text message to me from within the warm and toasty sun-bed capsule she was lying in, knowing that - literally on the other side of the street - her mother was lying in a freezing cold one.

I replied by saying that I found that observation quite funny, and I knew that her mother would have done as well. She agreed about the irony of the situation, and then - here I went again - I said that her mother would be lying in a nice hot cabinet next week as well, when they get around to cremating her. Well, I didn't use those exact words (I'm not quite that insensitive), but as good as.

She didn't reply to that one, and I was hoping for  'LOL' or 'ha ha', to put my mind at rest, but none came. Oops. I was just trying to use the same humour on her as Sis would have done,and received no feedback as to whether or not it helped.

This time of crisis is - or should be - a temporary one for me, as my cold should be over quite soon, money will doubtless be going into my account (only to go straight out again), feedback about the manuscript samples should be received from Mr Wordsmith quite soon (hopefully positive) and sister will be rendered down to pleasant memories shortly as well. For niece, however, it will not be so simple.

Without going into too much personal family history (I am only going this far because I know it will not be seen by any of them, and there are no connecting names etc. which could be traced by anyone other than someone with too much time on their hands), her personal crisis will have to dramatically escalate before it resolves itself peacefully.

The apron-strings between niece and her mother were never cut. Now that they have actually snapped, she seems to have no obvious purpose in life, and her mental state fluctuates between highs and lows which are greatly magnified by the situation, and the situation itself will only stand a chance of being ameliorated after the torching of Sis. Until this point and a few weeks after, I will remain avuncular, but if things don't improve after that, then I will have to start telling her some home truths - for my sake as well as hers.

I learn this morning that she has now fallen out with her brother and sister-in-law - over a bloody photograph. I would like to go around right now and tell them all to grow up, but it's not so simple. Having never told them to grow up when they were children and supposed to be doing just that, I am in no position to do so now, this of all times. If the situation demands, my future role will be something between a psychologist and exorcist, when all I would like to be is a wicked uncle. More stress.

Why am I telling you strangers this? Well, I suppose you are not strangers by now, in a sense. I don't even need to be told what to do - that much is obvious. It is not as if you may possibly find this situation useful in the future or amusing in the present (as I usually justify my posts) - it is far too complicated and rare to be either.

When I learned of Sis's death, it was about 2.00 a.m. in the morning when my phone went off next to the bed. For some reason, I had left it switched on - something I never normally do. Now, I am under instructions to keep it switched on when I go to bed, in case niece needs to talk to me in the middle of the night. This means that I haven't had a peaceful night's sleep since Sis kicked the bucket, as I am half waiting for the nocturnal, tearful telephone call. I'm very tired as a consequence, and there is nothing like tiredness for ruining your sense of humour.

It takes a great deal of effort to prevent humour being replaced by anger for most people, and if the situation gets any more silly between niece and her next-door neighbours, I will be sorely tested in the run-up to the funeral.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible - after the other service. Look on the bright side - Halloween is just around the corner.





34 comments:

  1. I see this kind of thing everyday at work.
    I have also experienced the nerving "twanging" brittleness of post death stress...
    like you said it is so hard to retain a sense of self (especially when you would like to think that that self is a wisecracking old queen)
    insults are seen when non have been offered and childhood slights and memories are only a stones throw away.

    the only way of surviving is to be yourself and take a deep breath before commenting

    hey ho me old son!

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    1. nerving? NERVING? I ACTUALLY MEAN nerve

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    2. You calling me a wise-cracking old queen, you wise-cracking old queen?

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    3. I WAS calling myself an old queen you old queen!

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    4. OMG I am entering a Marx Brothers movie

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    5. JOHN G you are so right about this. Wanted to say much the same to Tom. Since the death of my mother in march, the bitterness that surfaced among my siblings has slightly faded but the sorrow lives on.

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  2. As much as she obviously trusts you and leans on you, I think you need to tell her that starting in a week your phone will be turned off at night. You will be much more helpful and tolerant to her if you are not on edge waiting for your phone to buzz, as we all know that when one is lacking sleep, it is easy to become crabby and loose lipped.

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  3. Death brings families together, but it also divides them. Sadly the power of division is often more powerful than the bringing together. I have experienced 'division', and it still pains me.

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    1. True, but it's usually the death of a child which splits them up - funnily enough.

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  4. My years in hospice taught me this...Elizabeth Kubler Ross didn't know crap when it came to her silly five stages. Very few of us go through the bargining stage, all of us go though the anger stage (some never leaving it) and the brightest of us prefer the inappropriate humor stage. Bottom line, we each do what we gotta do.

    You're a good uncle. Will you be mine as well?

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    1. good point donna.... I so agree with it

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    2. Anyone who saw the first series of M.A.S.H. would also agree, Donna.

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  5. "Laugh Out Loud or Lots Of Love?"

    Lots of love Mate, just to answer your question.

    Afterwards you can just go home and pour yourself a stiff one. Not everyone can appreciate black humour but that is how I always coped. As they lowered my Father into his grave I asked his sobbing ex Army mate next to me if he knew why they always lined the grave walls with crimson cloth. 'So you can't see the worms queuing up to get in' I told him. We were both ex Army so I could get away with it. When I helped my brother bury his two year old son I kept my mouth shut.

    When he asked me to go with him to the spot his little boy died I said I couldn't do it so he went on his own. I will live with that lack of courage to my dying day.

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    1. I'll get the barmaids to pull me a stiff one - if I can. If not, I'll just have a pint instead.

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  6. You're doing fine, and I know you will help your niece grow up. I know she's tall and old enough to be considered grown already; you know what I mean.

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    1. Too right Joanne - she's about 43, I think.

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  7. It's a very difficult time for all of you at the moment. I can't tell you any answers because I haven't got any, except like Hippo says - LOL is Lots of Love from all of us.

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  8. Oh why are we humans such a complicated bunch? The extremely close tie that you describe between your niece and your sister is an unfamiliar one to me. I, myself, do not feel a close emotional tie to my family. When I reveal this to others I always do it with a good portion of shame. After all, one is SUPPOSED to charish one's family. Soooo ....

    Your niece now faces the difficult task of figuring things out for herself without the feedback and support that can be available at all times of the day or night by just pushing a button. Definitely revert to turning your phone off during the night soon. Should her calls to you come in to often during the day, ignore some of them as well. It might sound heartless, but she can either lean on you by making you her new 'crutches' or she can learn to walk without help. The latter is the more difficult one, but it will make her stronger in the end.

    And this concludes todays tidbit of wisdom from my neck of the woods.

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    1. It's still early, so I am closing no doors right now.

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  9. We all find our own way to grieve...and you niece is trying to find hers. I do think that it's a good idea to put an end to your 24/7 availability via your telephone. Warning her in advance that you will shut it off at a predetermined time each evening is the kindest. She's only trading her apron string of her mother for yours. I think it's wonderful that she has you to shore her up, but it sounds like she's leaning pretty heavily, maybe gently propping her up as time progresses is the kindest thing you can do for her.

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  10. Kindly keep Hallowe'en just around the corner for as long as possible Tom - that date is a big 0 birthday for me and one I would rather not reach.

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    1. What's the number in front of it, Weave? I would say I could guess from the accounts of your first husband's war-time exploits, but then you wrong-footed me by being suggestive about your current one's!

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  11. It's a tough one to call Tom. If people can find relief in humour that's the best way to go. When my father died, there was no humour. Just anger. My brother stormed out, went missing for burying the ashes (much to the distress of his mother) and has been estranged ever since. Getting on for 20 years.

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  12. Agree with Raz and Kelly about limiting 24 hour availability for your niece. A thing I found hard to accept during my mother's final weeks and after.

    Tom, you have to look after yourself first otherwise you can't help anyone let alone your own health and grief. After my own experience of my mother's very distressing death earlier this year, I've now likened it to those safety briefings on an aeroplane. You fix the oxygen mask on yourself before you attempt to help anyone else, even your children.

    As you have often posted, siblings are as much a curse as a blessing. Family deaths and funerals can exacerbate matters of distrust. I'm still smarting from the remarks and actions of my warring siblings who mostly distanced themselves until the sorting of the assets.

    Try to remind yourself that it's not you - it's the situation and GUILT has descended in giant waves. I've never heard so many protestations of "I know I didn't help/visit etc but I don't feel guilty because (any crap reason)"

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  13. All I can say Tom is what I said the other day .....she will come to terms with everything in her own good time I guess and she will come out the other side. There are no set answers and all that you can do is support her as best you can without over doing it or stressing yourself out.
    ..... and, how many barmaids does it take to pull Tom a stiff one !!!! hahahahahahahahahaha. LOL !!!!!!!!!!

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  14. It gets worse. I have had some news tonight which puts ALL of this into insignificance, and it's nothing to do with my family, just old family friends.

    I am not going to say anything else (for fear of overloading) but please - all of you - spend about 3 minutes thinking of a sweet girl called Emily tonight, before you go to bed.

    Think of a little, 15 year old, pixie faced girl, and just wish her well for 3 minutes for me would you? I am more distraught over this than anything else right now.

    Bad times.

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    1. Oh my goodness Tom ..... it never rains but it pours ........ Emily will be in my thoughts. Lots of love. XXXX

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    2. Will do of course. Wishing Emily well and in my thoughts as I go to bed.

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  15. I am thinking good thoughts for Emily right now.

    I agree with all that's been said and can't think of anything to add. Please do what you can to take care of you.

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  16. Sorry for your loss Tom, and though I'm late to the game, I will think of Emily too!

    Kat

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