If you’ve been following my journey over the last 2 blogs, you will know that my Mum has been preparing to leave her body. Where I thought that it may still be weeks or months, death came to visit far swifter than that. 10 days after I shot her with my arrow of truth and told her that I love her (read “I killed my Mum”), she was gone.
She had spent her last 48 hours firstly in the Emergency Department at her local hospital. The doctors ran all sorts of tests, which showed simply that her body was shutting down. Her blood pressure was very low, not enough oxygen was getting to her organs, and her kidneys were inflamed.
That first evening, she was transferred to a private room in the main part of the hospital. It was quiet and peaceful, and was a place where we’d be able to say our goodbyes.
Mum was aware that we were there, but as the hours ticked by, she was less and less able to acknowledge us, and spent the majority of her time sleeping. She’d come to for a moment, open her eyes, and then be gone again.
A nurse came up to me. “Hearing is their last sense to go,” she said to me. “So just talk to your Mum. She’ll hear you.”
And so I did. I talked to Mum about the many things I love about her, and how much I’ll miss her. I told her in detail about the tests that the Doctors had run, and what they’d revealed. She was a Scientist, after all, and I knew she’d want to know what was happening to her body. I anointed her with her favourite oils, and shared a cascade of happy memories with her. And finally, I told her that I had sensed my Father and my Grandmother around, and that I knew they were waiting for her.
Little did I know that Mum had indeed been having visions recently of my Father and her Mother.
Little did I know that Mum had indeed been having visions recently of my Father and her Mother.
They’d been asking her to come with them, but she’d stubbornly refused, saying that she wasn’t ready to go yet. I found this out later. Mum had shared this in passing with a relative stranger, but not with us – her three children.
Mum was like that. She wouldn’t have wanted to alarm us, any more than she would have wanted to accept that she was dying.
But the most important thing I did was to give myself space to truly “be”.
Instead of racing into my head, I sat firmly in my heart and felt every moment. It wasn’t all pain. As I spoke to Mum about happy times, I could feel joy run through my veins. But then I’d have a hiccup and realise that I was sitting in a hospital, holding the hand of the woman who had birthed me and raised me and loved me unconditionally….and she was preparing to leave her body.
In those moments, I cried. I allowed the tears to pour down my cheeks. I gave myself the space to feel the intensity of the moment, with full presence.
This is what grieving is about. These are the tears that purify and heal us, which express our humanness, yet in turn allow us to empty the cup of our sadness into the well of the Universe, and have our sadness be purified and returned to us as peace and joy.
But not everyone grieves this way. My brother’s mind was carrying him into the future, into all the preparations we’d need to make, all the people we’d need to call, all the material decisions we’d need to make. In his own words, this was how he “decompressed” from the emotional intensity he found himself in.
Realising the discordance between how we were both grieving, I needed to call “time out”. I asked my brother to allow me the space to grieve first. The plans and the future would need to wait.
My brother’s wife, who is as dear as any Sister to me, saw me crying and her heart broke for me. She wanted to comfort me, and offered to come to the hospital to be with me while I sat with Mum.
But, just like childbirth, grief is a journey no one else can take for us. Only we can go through that tunnel in order to come out the other side. Sure, we can bury our feelings. We can distract ourselves with busyness and talk….but if we do that, we only postpone the inevitable. At some point, grief has a way of catching us up, and I learned long ago that the more immediate I am in my response to grief, the quicker I can move through it.
And so I’ve learned to not be afraid of the intensity of grief. It is like riding an amazingly high wave. It’s scary and edgy and dynamic and intense….but as we ride it, it starts to lessen, and we find ourselves once again in calm waters.
I’ve also learned the importance of allowing others to grieve
As tempting as it is to step in with a comforting touch and a hug, if we do this we bring them out of their grief, and we turn their attention to us. Our own discomfort at seeing them in pain has interrupted the natural flow of their grief….which only means they need to circle through it again, at some point in the future.
So now, when I see someone in emotional pain, I hold space for them. I imagine that I’m wrapping my arms around them, but I don’t do that physically. In fact, I don’t do anything to draw their attention away from themselves. Instead, I let my gaze carry the warmth of the sun, letting them know how much I care, how much I understand, and how honoured I am to hold space for them while they do the dance of grief.
This is the greatest gift we can give to another person.
I wasn’t with Mum when she passed.
It was Saturday morning, and I was preparing to head to the hospital to spend the day with her. Then, she popped into my mind, and I felt her fear. It was just a small amount of fear, like the fear we feel when we need to do something we’re uncertain of. I felt her reaching for me. And indeed she was. She was passing at that moment, and 20 minutes later we received the call from the hospital.
The fear that she transmitted to me was her fear as her body took its final breath, and her heart stopped. She was conscious enough at that moment to reach out to me.
Why me? It’s because I had been with her in Spirit for 48 hours, even when my physical body was apart from her. I snuggled up to her when I slept. I dreamed of her. I was aware of her, just as she was of me. So of course her final moment reached me through the invisible thread that we shared.
But it was only an instant. My sister Susan and I headed straight to the hospital, and less than 2 hours after Mum’s passing we were sitting at her bedside.
If you’ve ever seen a dead body, you’ll know how different they are in death than in life. It’s not just that their eyes are closed. The body itself looks lifeless, just a mass of empty tissue, its Spirit departed.
But in fact the Spirit stays close to the physical body for quite some time after death. That’s why those first few hours after passing are so important.
I knew that when I worked on Oprah the Camel. I did an emotional clearing technique on her, after she’d given birth to a stillborn calf. As I anointed her with a series of sacred oils, I reached a point and she allowed me to see into her heart. She was not grieving for a stillborn calf. She was grieving because she’d not been given any time with her dead calf, to mourn and grieve. She showed me that in the wild, she would have stood with her calf for 24 to 72 hours, firstly trying to revive it by licking it, then just being with it as it took its transition. She wasn’t given that opportunity, because as soon as her human owner saw that the calf was dead, he’d taken it away. She’d had no opportunity for completion, and this was the source of her sadness.
Knowing this, Susan and I sat with Mum. Just as with Oprah, I was drawn to do a full Egyptian Emotional Clearing Technique on Mum. This technique is inspired by a sacred anointing ceremony that was used in Ancient Egypt on the Pharaohs before they passed over, and on the Priests and Priestesses before they were initiated into the next level of priesthood.
I anointed Mum with an oil, and then Susan and I used that same oil on ourselves. We did that with the 13 oils of the Egyptian Emotional Clearing Technique, creating a sacred bond between the three of us.
After each oil went onto our body, Susan and I talked to Mum.
We talked to her as if she was still in the room with us, knowing that indeed she was. We continued on with the conversations I had been having with Mum the night before, sharing our gratitude for everything she has given to us, our sorrow that she will no longer be there to hug and to love (in the physical), but also our knowing that she will always watch over us.
And as each oil went on, we noticed the impact it was having on us. A deep sense of peace was washing through us. Sure, we cried at times. But the overarching emotion was one of “perfection”. We were grateful to be together, to be sharing this precious moment with our Mum. We both knew that the seeds of healing we were sowing in this moment would flourish into a sense of completion with Mum.
Indeed they did. Although this blog won’t be published for another 10 days, I’m writing it the day after Mum’s passing. Susan and I moved through our grief with such ease and grace, and I know that our anointing ceremony was an integral part of the journey for us.
But it was more than just the oils. The oils are magical. But it was also that we gave ourselves unlimited time to be with Mum. This is what allowed us to stay present, with no other thoughts intruding. We could “be” with our grieving process, and this enabled it to warp time, giving us a level of healing that would normally have taken months to achieve.
Today, I am still sad. I’ve shed a few tears. But not many. I feel Mum around me, in big and small ways. As we walked into Mum’s home today, I wanted to find her photo albums so we’d have photos for her funeral, and Susan wanted to find her address book so she could contact some relatives. Despite the fact that Mum’s home looks like a hoarder’s haven (and will no doubt take us months to sort through), we were both able to find exactly what we needed within minutes. It was nothing short of a miracle.
And we feel her joy. She’s reaching out to us, to let us know she’s happy. She’s shown me how thrilled she is to be with my father again. She didn’t realise how much joy it would bring her, and she’s feeling that joy in all its purity. She’s thanked me for being there for her as she made her transition. It comforted her to know I was there, and to feel me around her.
Grief comes in large and small packages, and there is no time limit to how long grief goes on for. I'm sure it will catch me unawares, when I least expect it, as I remember the woman I've loved for over half a century. But regardless of the timeline, the process remains the same.
When we embrace our feelings, our tears will always purify and heal us.