How Long Should We Grieve?

THE DEATH OF MY PARENTS

It was Mothering Sunday here in the UK, that’s three weeks before Easter, the exact date 6th March 2005, I know in America and Australia “Mother’s Day” is celebrated later in the year. My Mum was here for the weekend, I had collected her on the Friday evening from my home town of Bradford, 50+ miles north of here (Sheffield).

As a family we were still coming to terms with the death, not quite three months earlier, on 14th December 2004 of my Father. As my Dad’s death approached, we had been graciously prepared for it, his illness was progressive and we knew the end was coming. In that time I had written poetry in honour of him, some of which was handed out with the order of service at his funeral.

Before I went to bed that Saturday evening I wrote about, the after effect of, my Dad’s death, a subject I hadn’t written about since before the funeral. Here’s the poem I wrote; in my head I saw it as the lyrics to a song I didn’t have the melody for:

WITHOUT YOU
Written and © Copyright 2005
By Andrew Paul Smith 05-03-2005

We’ll the darkness fell as we walked away
And our sadness dawned at the end of the day
Your eyes opened wide
You looked to us, then to the light
As you gazed into eternity
We were right by your side

The emptiness, the loss
In this vale of tears
In the shadow of death
Lie these living years
Your character, your personality
Your “Iron Duke” humanity
This world is a darker place
Without you and the light you shone

Well the days have past, of numbness and grief
Of separation, goodbyes and the tapestry we weave
Our eyes now can see
The image you left, our remembrance of you
We look for inspiration
Into the life we grieve

The emptiness, the loss
In this vale of tears
In the shadow of death
Lie these living years
Your character, your personality
Your “Iron Duke” humanity
This world is a darker place
Without you and the light you shone

Without you, without you
You stay within us, our memories
And still we are without you

Without you, without you
You stay within us, our memories
And yet we are without you

I saw the piece as myself drawing a line under the grieving process, my Mum saw it differently. It was her who had dubbed my Dad, “The Iron Duke” and she must have thought, by the words she spoke, that I had spent the past few months writing poetry about his death, which I hadn’t. I didn’t correct her, but her words to me became poignant later that day.

She said to me “Andrew, you really must stop dwelling on this subject! The poem is beautiful, but you have to move on, your Dad wouldn’t want you to be sad, but instead to live your life to the full!” I took the words to heart, she was speaking out of her own loss of my Dad and her parents, and many others she had loved, who had left this “vale of tears.”

Stunningly after we had eaten such a lovely family meal with my brother and my partner’s parents all of our children and some of their friends present too. My Mum went upstairs to the bathroom, but was never to return to us; she had a massive heart attack and died at the top of the stairs.

There were other things she said to me on that day, which sound like “parting shots” in my memory now; but for me, although her death was a massive shock to us all, her words about my poem made me aware, in no uncertain terms, that she was firmly of the opinion that life is for living and that grieving was something our loved ones didn’t want us to engross ourselves in.

I still miss both my parents, and maybe I am still grieving their loss a little. I do think of them every day, not with sadness, but with great pride for who they were and the massive effect they had on me and hundreds of other people whose lives they touched! There’s is a hard act to follow, but I know I carry both their spirits as I seek to leave this world a better place than when I got here.