The afternoon my mum died I remember saying
‘I don’t know what to do’
Since getting back to Austin that question has stuck with me. I feel too restless to sit still to tired to do anything.
I struggle to accept mum has died, partly why I have refused to write anything for her funeral. I put on a smile and avoid talking about mum so that I don’t cry. I don’t look at photos of her on my iPad. If I do start to cry, I fight to control my breathing so that I can make the sobbing stop., Writing this blog does help. but it also serves to trap those feelings. I can leave my grief frozen in black and white upon the screen and walk away. I steadfastly don’t think about how I am going to manage in a world without my mum to back me up.
Then last night, awake at 4am and unable to sleep, I was googling ‘grief’ on my iPad. I came across Worden’s Four tasks of mourning. Suddenly something I could do.
I know that my mum when she was alive would have appreciated the active, concrete, success orientated nature of the model. So this is what will be working on today.
Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning
Task 1: Accept the reality of the loss
Mum died on Monday 18th September: nothing I can do will bring her back.
It’s common for people to feel like the deceased is just on a trip and will return home any minute. They technically “know” the person is gone, but still expect to pick up the phone and hear the person on the other line. This first task involves recognizing the finality of the loss on both an intellectual AND an emotional level.
Task 2: Process the pain of grief
Later I go through all the photos of mum I have avoided and let the tears flow.
Death brings up all kinds of emotions – anger, sadness, relief, guilt, confusion… Every person’s grief journey is unique and not everyone will feel all of these things. But in order for healing to occur, the full range of their own particular emotional experience must be felt and worked through.
Task 3: Adjust to a world without your loved one
There will be no more late night chats in my mum’s room while she plays with the cat. But there are others I can talk to.
There are 3 types of adjustments are necessary in order to complete this task.
- External adjustments – day to day changes the death brings – eg.
‘Now that I’m a single parent, who will pick up the kids after school?’
- Internal adjustments – changes to your identity – eg.
‘Who am I now? Am I still a mother even though my child died?’
- Spiritual adjustments – changes to your belief systems eg.
‘What do I believe now? Do I still believe in God? I used to think the world was a safe and predictable place, but now I’m not so sure…’
Task 4: Find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life
My mum fought to make education meaningful and inclusive valuing all children whatever their background or ability. She believed that all children learn better in a comprehensive school and she proved that as Headteacher of Hampstead Comprehensive School. She also believed that children and staff educated to value all others (however different they seem from themselves) will go on to make a better world for us all. The huge varied success of staff and students from Hampstead School have shown that, in multiple ways from, music, medicine, literature, science, cookery to obviously education. Comprehensive Achievements: All our Geese are Swans is the book mum co wrote to celebrate the school. Numerous studies have also confirmed her belief that Comprehensive Education is better education: including a recent one which found that students from Comprehensive schools make better doctors.
But Comprehensive education is constantly under attack from people with, often, little understanding of education and fundamentally a divisive view of society, Luckily there is an organisation out there fighting to preserve Comprehensive Education its run by Melissa Benn, someone mum knew well. It’s called Comprehensive Future
Mum donated to it in her lifetime and instead of flowers we have asked people to donate to it in her memory.
Finding ways to continue your connection with the deceased is normal and healthy. This task also involves recognizing that forming new relationships and moving forward with your life doesn’t mean that you are forgetting about the person who died or that you love them any less!