Thursday, 14 January 2016

" Death At Home"

The other night I had to break sad news to someone over the phone.
I had to inform them of the sudden death of a loved one.
I've done this many, many times over the years.
and it's never an easy job.

Shock is a strange phenomenon. You never know just where it is going to go when it hits and I was reminded of this when I read a rather moving post from Rachel's Blog last night entitled " Remembering Death At Home"
http://roadtokazakhstan.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/remembering-death-at-home.html

When I was around 16 our paternal grandmother came to live with us. She took over our second living room and was cared for by my mother as she was increasingly forgetful and frail.
Her death one winter's afternoon came as a surprise though not a shock to my sister and me but to my father it was strangely devastating. Moments after her rather peaceful death and with the house full of relatives he tearfully rounded on my mother and screamed " You've KILLED HER...YOU'VE KILLED HER,"
I had never seen anything like it before and I remember standing there in the dining room rather dumfounded by his outburst -looking at my mother for a lead on the whole thing.
For a moment there was silence,
then,  I remember her lowering her eyes slowly with the stinging hurt.  She said nothing at all as my father was led away and relatives whispered " he's in shock, he doesn't know what he's saying"

It was my very first taste of how death can affect people.

80 comments:

  1. Nope. We never know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And...I just remembered this story about a nurse breaking the news over the phone:
      When my beloved father-in-law was in his last day at the hospital, dying of liver cancer, he had reached the stage of not being conscious and was obviously about to leave us. His wife and my husband had left his bedside for a few moments to walk home where we lived then which was only a few blocks from the hospital and have supper and after they left, I got a call.
      It was the nurse. She hemmed and hawed and said, "Your father-in-law has taken a turn for the worse."
      "Worse?" I asked. I mean...what could be worse?
      "He's, uh, stopped breathing," she said.
      As sad as I was, I could not stop a tiny giggle in my heart. Yes, that WOULD be a turn for the worse. I am not ashamed of that giggle. I think Pawpaw would have giggled too, that dear, big man whose suffering was over.

      Delete
  2. When my darling pap died aged 94 and very ill for a long time, My quiet polite nan turned into a tiny bundle of hate and fury. She was so angry at him for leaving her that she had a huge bonfire and burnt all the cards and letters that they had given each other in 50 odd years of marriage. It was what she felt she needed to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grief is too painful to feel, anger can be accessed much more easily

      Delete
    2. That makes me so sad.

      Delete
  3. Your post and your friends post both sting a little as I am nearing the year anniversary of my brother's death. It was, as you might remember, a total shock. When the doctor called and told me of his condition, I thought that he had the wrong patient. I'm grateful I was there in the end.

    But you are right, it's interesting to see how people take the news. In my family, I'm afraid there is no forgiveness for one family member for what came before and after.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember very well kim .

      Delete
  4. Was I was around 10 my Nan was told in front of me that my Granddad had just passed away in hospital. She looked in disbelief and then went hysterical screaming and kicking. It was one of the most shocking things I had witnessed up until then. After a few months she got rid of everything she had that reminded her of him and vowed never to look at his photo again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Echoes of lisa's post ( above)

      Delete
  5. ...and your mother was simply caring for her? With all that that entails - the toileting, the laundry, the feeding, the inconvenience of it all. The last thing she needed was such a shocking accusation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never understood where the coment came from..it was never discussed afterwards at all

      Delete
  6. death brings out the best in a few people and the worst in many.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remember when my gramma died on Christmas Eve over 35 years ago. She had been in a nursing home for about one year. There were difficulties (very mild way to say it) with a batshit crazy, money grubbing daughter, my Mom's sister. My gramma slowly but relentlessly declined physically and mentally. A leg had to come off toward the end. She couldn't eat and although she was deaf all her life, she began screaming in her sleep. I was an organist at the time. The priest insisted I play that night. He told me I had to do it. I don't remember it. I don't remember Christmas at all that year, except for Gramma dying. For many years thereafter on Christmas Eve I would burst into tears without warning. It would shock me and I would have to think why it happened and remember Gramma and the day she died. This all happened in mere seconds. It has passed over time. The first Christmas after my mother died I was ironing in the living room and the same thing happened. As I collapsed to the floor I said out loud "I don't want her laying there in the cold ground". There was no warning, it hadn't been something I was thinking about and it hadn't been on my mind, well on a conscious level, I suppose. Subconsciously, that was another matter. Your father owed your mother an apology. I hope she got it, although I think she knew what had happened and why. May God Bless her soul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry for your loss.
      It is amazing how the most simple things can set one off and take you back to that fresh pain. There are commercials that make cry, even silly music videos that are not even sentimental. I let it happen though because clearly our body and brain need to let it out.

      Delete
    2. Carinepa,
      I have always wondered if letting go and having histrionics helps acceptance ....

      Delete
    3. I have friends who se young adult daughter dies unexpectedly and abroad. The dad tore wallpaper from the walls and the mum was a "tower of strength" but she had a complete breakdown later

      Delete
  8. It's never easy.

    Have a blessed day.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Working in a high risk Ed and icu for 44 years has provided me with grief experiences beyond human understanding. Personal loss has also shaped my experiences. That said, in all those years and all those deaths only two people were in fear. I remember their personal pain as if it happened yesterday. For the rest,their lives completed, each of the many fine souls in my presence at the time of their passing were at peace. To know this brings a sense of contentment, a calm, an acceptance. After the shock, one hopes that the grief stages are less dramatic and more accepted. It is never easy. But it is the way of life. Working with the ill gives the medical person a different perspective. A needed perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess unless we are psychopaths we all loose someoneclose and learn by that experience some empathy

      Delete
  10. We never know how we or others will react to any sudden and stressful situation. One thing I do know that usually with age and experience there comes tolerance and a level of understanding after the situation. I'm sure your mother and father made things better between them after this outburst, although there is always that little bit of hurts that remains, as I found out after my Dad's death.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never asked either of them about it sue, i now wish i had

      Delete
  11. I never knew that, I remember her passing away at your house but like you said it was never discussed. I guess he just needed someone to blame and vent his anger at and your mum was the closest. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course karen and as you may remember your uncle wasnt very good with illness, hospitals and the like....it was all too much for him

      Delete
    2. I think he was just so scared to show emotion, he saw it as a weakness, a vulnerability if you like. I guess his outburst at your mum was his way of dealing with it. 36 years ago tomorrow since nanna died. Xx

      Delete
  12. Some of us should be abandoned on a desert isle for a couple weeks after with no familial contact.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This strikes me as such a painful memory. How did your mother recover from the hurt? Did she understand your dad's grief? My paternal grandmother also came to live with us when I was 16, and she too died at home, and my dad was devastated, sitting at her bedside and holding her cold hand to his cheek and weeping. I'd never seen him so broken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mother was a bit of a diva and could be incredibly neurotic but fundamentally she was very strong. I think she understood my father's outburst for what it was.....a bizarre reaction

      Delete
  14. My husband's father died soon after being diagnosed with Lewis Body (sp?) disease and his mother's reaction to his death has been tragic. She threw away all photos of him, stopped eating healthy food, stopped showering and practicing any self care. She watches QVC all day in bed and won't speak to anyone. We have tried antidepressants,vitamins, liquid health smoothies, shrinks and her minister. It's been over 2 years now. Any help or advice would be sincerely appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds as though you are doingeverything you can. Do you have C R U I S E where you are?

      Delete
    2. No, I have never heard of this?

      Delete
  15. what a terribly cruel thing to say. even in grief and shock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ive heardworse believe me

      Delete
  16. I was calm and studying for college throughout my mom's declining and was there with other family remembers when the breathing tube was removed. For some reason, when the doctor took us to a private room I snapped and threatened to sue the doc and hospital for trying out Interferon on her for her renal cell cancer. Thankfully they were used to such outbursts and I calmed down and thanked them. Afterwards I allowed myself one year of destructive grief since my parents died 6 months apart and no, they were no longer together. It was cathartic as hell, but not for everyone.

    When I studied Oncology Massage and volunteered for Hospice I saw the many stages of denial and grief. People crying over loved ones in ICU, some not quietly. I will never forget the young woman yelling out, "Mama! Mama! I'm so sorry!" and almost collapsing on her comatose mother's body. Her relatives held her up to give her strength while the nurses and doctor's just went about their business as they have to. Though I sometimes wonder just how much becomes white noise and how much still touches them? I bet more than I realize.

    Now I leave you with one of my favorite morbid quotes, courtesy of the Brothers Grimm -
    "I'm Death, and I make sure that everyone is equal.”


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That quote is chilling

      Delete
    2. It is chilling
      And now Alan Rickman. While ISIS destroys cities and lives.
      Unfuckingbelievable week.

      Delete
  17. So sorry you've had to take this on so many times. It's awful. Your father's behaviour is something I would never forget nor, honestly, forgive. Grief does do terrible things to people but passing your grief onto someone else's shoulders in such a cruel way is something I just can't accept. My cousin was hit by a car and killed when we were both 13. At the funeral, his paternal grandmother began screaming at this mother that she was too busy living the good life to take care of her children... as if the loss of her son (whom she dearly loved) wasn't already devastating enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its my choice mitchell
      Work is a choice

      Delete
  18. The reaction of your father must have been so upsetting for you to see ... and what a graceful and lovely way your mother dealt with it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your father just lost his mother. Mothers have a special kind of bond, both good and bad sometimes, with their children. If this was totally uncharacteristic for your father, John, then it could be assumed that he 'snapped' and hit out on the person he is closest/most connected to. Yes, death can bring things out that we have never seen before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed jimbo...i dont think my mother bore a grudge

      Delete
  20. Sudden death is the worst kind of death for those left behind I think John. Having a few months to prepare (as I had with my first husband) meant that we both discussed it and when it arrived I am sure it was a relief to both of us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am a firm believer of talking about death including my own . Some people ( like my mother and brother) couldnt do it

      Delete
  21. That seems so very sad for a little boy to witness. When we lose someone there can be such a rush of emotions: guilt, sadness, relief even (after a long illness) and then the reality that there's a big gaping hole that can never be filled. Your poor parents, your dad was angry and hurt and your mum sucked all his pain up for him, and there you were learning how to be a gentle bearer of bad news...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was 16 or 17...so it was time to grow up..
      I was just sorry for my mother

      Delete
  22. Oh I want to hold that little boy and soften the angry words with loving words and tender hugs. Children are always so vulnerable to adults and their behavior , whether it is good and loving or just off the wall.
    When my husband died, the doctors would not let me see him at first, although he actually died at home .. but an ambulance had been called and we were at the hospital. too late but there I was . While I was sitting there, next to him, lying in the hospital bed .. looking like he was just sleeping and actually looking very good .. an old minister came in. Told me who he was, sat himself down next to me and started talking ... on and on and on. All I wanted was to have those last minutes alone with my husband . And this old man just would not shut up. And finally I overcame my good manners and said would he please leave me alone now .. I want to say goodbye.
    I still look back on that and I am amazed that I was so polite .. shock .. it is amazing. you never know if someone will turn into a angry monster who will hurt anyone nearby or a silent lump just sitting there trying to absorb the godawful truth of what has just happened and how the world has totally changed forever for that person.
    I am so sorry that you experienced that as a child. From someone you loved. But look at how kind and gentle you are now .. it did not change that .. that experience .. unless it just made you so much more aware of how words can hurt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was 17 so it was time i grew up a bit .
      Your comment with the minister reminded me of my last time with meg ( sorry for he comparason) i told the student orking with the vet to get lost..i couldnt bare him being in the sameroom

      Delete
  23. I was just thinking how wonderful that your mom cared for her MIL when I read about your father's outburst after your gran passed away. Sorry you had to hear that; hopefully your mom was strong enough to forgive/forget. In 1996 my father-in-law was admitted to a small hospital in a nearby town. My MIL had been with him, saw him settled in bed and on a drip. (his heart was playing up) and she came home. Next morning she phoned the night sister at 6.45 to inquire after Mr Hedges' health. The sister returned and said "I'm sorry, I just discovered now that Mr Hedges passed away at 5.30!" MIL was bitter for a long time. It's 20 years later and we have her in a retirement center just around the corner from our home. She is still bitter. I wonder if that's the reason?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Know your facts
      The first rule for a good nurse

      Delete
  24. I lost my father in July last year. I was with him until the last and said my goodbyes quietly. I feel glad that he's released from all the suffering he went through. I've taken his death so well I am scared that the grief will one day hit me like a truck without warning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does rear its ugly head in surprising ways, i think

      Delete
  25. I can imagine that memory comes up once in awhile when notifying others of their loved one's death for your job. Death isnt easy on anyone, but yet a part of life. We do a disservice if we don't allow people to grieve in their own way, but for the ones who have to deliver the news, it can be a crapshoot on how others respond. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  26. Do you think this event had anything to do with your choice of career, John? I frequently wonder how people make the career choices they do, and have wondered how you came to nursing. I realize it's not usually a single event, although for some it is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was my grandfathers funeral that I finally decided to become a nurse.. My uncles new wife was left by all at the graveside and she was distraught, and I , even as a young man , comforted her....i knew thats what i was going to be good at

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply. Would make a good post if there are more details to add. It seems you chose very well.

      Delete
  27. My dad had Alzheimer's and when my family could no longer cope with him (he became violent) he went into a home. I flew back as often as I could but knowing "this could be the last time" was awful every time I left. He wasn't very with it most of the time but I had flown in for my niece's wedding and went to see him. He just took my hand, looked up at my mom and said "Anna?" and she said "yes". That was it. As we were leaving I knew that I would never see him (alive) again, so I turned around and went back, kissed him and told him how much I really loved him (we never expressed these kinds of sentiments normally). And he died two weeks later. BUUT after the funeral he has been back to see me several times, very very vividly, and made contact so strongly one 17th July telling me he knew what a difficult time I was going through but that I should realize how close he really was. I started out of my sleep sobbing and then I realized it was the anniversary of his death. Just a thought though dad, next time could you make it a little less dramatic please. And you know what, belief in the after life is SO comforting. It could all just be poppycock but I know, for me, it exists. Anna

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anna, being there is the most important thing....and you were there towards the end..... Not having that " bit of peace" in my experience can be terribly damaging

      Delete
  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Everyone is entitled to their feelings, not matter understood or not. It's a birth right and a death right.

    I feel for you in carrying that weight in your chest when having to tell someone of the passing or their loved one - whether loved or not, because you know their weight will be heavier than yours - and there is nothing you can do about it except to hold compassion for them. But as you say, it is your job and from your sharing of your experiences, I think you do it well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A psychologist I knew well, always said to his patients " you feel what you feel,....never apologise for that"

      Delete
  30. Grief and shock play by their own rules. Sometimes we know where the response comes from, sometimes not.
    I go numb immediately (protection from pain?) but the sharp pain of grief sometimes bites me years later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is what I think , numbness, blunts the pain .. until later.

      Delete
  31. Being advised of a death over the phone is one of the hardest things...there you stand holding a cold receiver to your ear while your world falls apart around you. It's awful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've all had that phone call have we not?

      Delete
  32. Heck I am sobbing all the way through the post and everyone's comments. A profound post and responses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll be back with bulldog farts and welsh terrier shite tomorrow

      Delete
  33. My mother called to tell me that my grandmother had been in an accident. A senior citizens bus, crashed, she was killed along with the little old lady sitting next to her.
    A year later, my mother called me to tell me that my favorite cousin ( we were almost the same age) had been killed by a drunk driver. Just months after returning back home from an overseas tour in the Army.
    It is enough to make a person quit answering the phone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, i still dread the phone ringing in the middle of the night
      Its never good news is it?

      Delete
  34. Oh John I really felt for you and what you witnessed. I remember after my dad died and before he was buried becoming very upset that he was "put in a box". I love as 10 and had been with him when he died, as you know.
    On a very sad note in the news here of a family killed in India. A mother , her sister and her three adult children were killed in a car accident. The father of the mother and her sister and grandfather of 3 died of a heart attack after he was told of the deaths of his daughters and grandchildren. I feel so sad for this family and such a tragic chain of events.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never recalled being anything more than surprised at the time leisha

      Delete
  35. I'd only recently turned 18 when my paternal grandmother died and shock, in one of it's beastlier forms, took over. Her children refused to cooperate with one another and it grew so ugly the funeral director refused to deal with them; because he'd known me since childhood I ended up doing all the planning/coordination. Grieving came later. When my maternal grandmother died a year or so later, as the result of a botched surgery, everything went like clockwork until they started to close the casket. My mother became hysterical and repeatedly attempted to throw herself into/onto the casket. It was left to me to find her Valium and make sure she took it... again, my grieving came later.
    It's become a pattern throughout my life; staying calm and making sure everything and everyone was taken care of and grieving later. This last year saw the loss of far too many of my loved ones and because of distance and/or my health there was nothing I could do.

    The grief nearly killed me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never witnessed bad behaviour in my own family and no one has ever fallen out....but i understand how it happens

      Delete
  36. Thankfully, I've never experienced that and, sadly, have had more loss in a short span of years than anyone should...Grandmother, Grandfather, Father, other Grandmother, Mother, my best friend and other Grandfather, all from 2001 to 2009. I stayed strong and supported those around me and they seemed to seek guidance and direction from me. It was not easy but we made it through it. Maybe I'm just lucky that I haven't had to experience it. And hope I never do.

    Very thought provoking post John! Fascinating reading everyone's experiences. Death really does make everyone equal but not all reactions are, that's for sure...

    ReplyDelete
  37. My father died at home, in bed, and out of the blue. My mother's reaction was bizarre and she was dispersing things like his golf clubs, as we sat with the police officer while awaiting the coroner. As my brother says, she skipped the 5 stages of grief and went right to acceptance.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm sorry you have had a loss and that you are charged with having to make the calls. Making the calls always seem to land on the shoulders of the strong ones.

    ReplyDelete
  39. My father battled Lewy Body Dementia for over 30 years. He fought long and hard. When he finally passed peacefully at home, my sister, a physician, told me that she hated our mother (they had been married 65 years) because she killed our father! I was stunned to say the least. I believe at that moment my sister was not in charge of her full faculties.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Grief is so very strange. That call must have not been easy to make.

    ReplyDelete
  41. this reminds of my father who had been diagnoses with TypeII Diabetes and was not taking very good care of himself. He had been deer hunting earlier that morning, probably walking miles and not eating then came home for lunch. As my mother bent to kiss him as he was seated at the table, he fainted(probably from sugar inbalance) and blamed it on her for sucking the breath out of him. He just would not take responsibilty for himself and hurt her much. Sad

    ReplyDelete
  42. summit may have you done that you know I am practically and it came Make Money Online so close yet I pondered it and I on Pac be ion packed a group and without question enough it arrived I couldn’t remember taking it off so I came genuinely close tasting wine with that yet I haven't done it yet to the degree I know by what technique would I have the capacity to one protesting.

    http://x4facts.com/make-money-online/

    ReplyDelete

I love comments and will now try very hard to reply to all of them
Please dont be abusive x