Grief in a pandemicNov 08, 2021
Where did the last 6 weeks go? I honestly feel like life has been a blur of online schooling and walks around our neighborhood. With Auckland's strict lockdown (this is Day 84, not that I’m counting!) there really isn’t anything else we can do. Although retail starts opening up again tomorrow… yay!?!
Writing this today, I pinch myself that 6 weeks have passed since dad left us. And while he was diagnosed 19 months prior with stage 4 cancer, he fought so hard, the tumours kept decreasing in size, we thought we had more time. The final days were a shock, we didn’t realise how sick he was, and frankly neither did he.
He died peacefully with mum, my brother and his sister beside him. They had some close family friends visit the evening prior and shared pizza, wine and memories. His final day had been a quiet one with family. Except for me. I didn’t get to hug him one more time. I didn’t get to hold his hand as we all cried. I had to sit in front of my phone on FaceTime, an experience I am grateful for but wouldn’t wish on anyone.
He had been unwell a few weeks prior, given we were online schooling and would be for the remainder of the term I tried to get there to help him and mum. But all outbound flights from NZ were canceled… literally right before my eyes as I was trying to book. Despite the exemptions I had to enter, quarantine at home etc, when I told him that I couldn’t get there “buggar” was all he said.
There was so much I wanted to say to him, so much I wanted to thank him for, I just found it so hard over FaceTime. So I wrote him a letter, which Miss J saw me doing, so she decided she was taking the day off school and doing the same. We cried tears in memory of all the wonderful things we shared. We cried tears for all the things we were going to miss out on. And dear mum read out letters to him that afternoon… we didn’t realise it would be his last lucid day. And so I’m grateful I was able to share with him everything I wanted to say, but couldn’t. I ask myself now if I would have had that opportunity if I was there in person? I’m not sure I would have had the courage?
The love and support I have felt since dad died has been overwhelming. There are days it literally catches me by surprise. Yet, I’m still not there, I couldn’t be at the funeral sharing the hugs and stories over a vino later that day. I had to deliver his eulogy over Zoom… again I am grateful I could participate but it was just surreal. Right down to the end of the service, when everyone was placing their rosemary on the coffin and filing out of the chapel, I whispered to hubby “holy smoke we’re on top of the coffin”… as everyone was paying their respects to dad, they would also glance up and wave or blow a kiss to us! A moment that had us laughing and crying!
It’s been tough grieving in a pandemic, I haven’t been able to help mum sort out his estate, I had to sign my rights away so she could get on with it. I might be able to see her in April 2022? It’s just insane!
One thing that everyone asks me, how are you coping? How do you get closure when you’re not there? How do you move on?
I’m not sure I have an answer.
I miss him every single day. I often light a candle in my office, so I can feel his presence. I pray that God has him in good hands and I take peace from my faith. I don’t have any regrets, dad and I had a wonderful relationship, we shared a lot of wonderful memories and we always made the most of every opportunity.
Even in the pandemic, when I was only able to see him briefly in May, we have stayed connected, talked often and shared lots.
When I surveyed mums recently, it was overwhelming the number of people that have the same fear - not being able to support ageing family members and potentially not seeing them again. Which is why I put together my tips for nurturing relationships from afar. I am sharing what I have done over the past 2 years to keep my connection with my family
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