A very long time ago

by John
(Wiltshire, England)

In February 1967, when I was seven years old, I was watching Pinky and Perky on the television when my Dad burst into the room and switched the television off.

"I have something to tell you," he said to my younger sister and I. "Nanny has just died. Your mother is very upset so go and tidy the playroom and let her be quiet upstairs."

I immediately sobbed my heart out into a huge soft white cloth which my Dad provided for me. After that I joined my sister in the playroom. I was too afraid to approach my mother that evening or the next day, as I was embarrassed and didn't know what to say to her. Also, Dad had told us to leave her be. It was an awkward time. I was still terribly upset and nobody comforted me after that initial crying session in the kitchen with my Dad.

I wasn't allowed to go to my beloved Nanny's funeral because my Mum was concerned, I think, that it would upset me. I wanted so much to be there but could only stand up in my classroom at school at two o'clock looking out of the window (worried the teacher would see me) to view the hearse. I never did see it because of the awkwardness of trying to stand up and peer out of the window without my teacher spotting me.

It took me years and years of crying myself to sleep at night before gradually the grief faded. But even in the late 1970s, over ten years afterwards, I hadn't felt that I had got over it. I had bonded with my grandmother and not my mother.

In fact, because I wasn't supported at that time (despite the few minutes my Dad let me cry), the grief was internalised, and at the age of 51 I still have problems which I trace back to that day.

I say to all parents: Please, despite your own grief when your parents die, remember the little children and watch their grief. Allow your children to go to their grandparents' funerals if they want to.

Ensure they grieve fully and well.

Don't let the grief continue into adult life.

Comments for A very long time ago

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Sep 19, 2010
Thank you...and description of our situation
by: Herman

My family is facing the loss of my grandmother to cancer. She is 88 years old. If she makes it to December 4, she will turn 89. I am 35, and I'm not having an easy time of this, but I will tell you one thing. My sister's children are much like my own...I call them "my kids, once removed"...and I know how VERY attached they are to their great-grandmother.

My nephew keeps coming up with ideas, as if he thinks he might be the first person to think of something that could save Nanny's life...I encourage that, because who knows, he might!

He is 11 years old. His sister is 10. They are very special children to my entire family, and they seem to be coping amazingly well. I will also tell you, though, that in my presence, they will TOTALLY be allowed to fall apart if they need to. They can have my shoulder, as I will need their presence to make it through this, too.

You make a good point in this post, and I thank you for it.

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