Through caring for my mother I also learned to let go. After she died, I felt a loss of identity. I couldn't quite re-orient myself as a motherless child, and felt like I had gotten lost in the natural order of things. I still feel this way sometimes when I remember that she’s gone.
To paraphrase mental health researcher Allan Kellehear, grief is a ‘forever thing’ and requires ‘forever strategies’—it’s not a matter of ‘returning to normal’ following a loss. Workplaces may offer a few bereavement days and friends may check in for the first few weeks, but the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual costs of loss last a lifetime.
As part of my strategies for coping, I began to read personal memoirs about love and loss because it made me feel a sort of comforting solidarity to join the ranks of the bereaved. It also allowed me to become more settled in the reality of my own future mortality. And while I couldn’t change the grief I felt, I knew I could choose how to engage with it, spending many hours exploring the corridors of darkness and light.
I didn’t have a single, all-revealing ‘aha’ moment, but rather a series of insights which began to connect my own experience with the experience of others, and with the broader social, political, cultural and economic order of things. Part of my ‘forever strategy’ has been to look at the ways in which curiosity, compassion and conversation can transform the way we think about the end of life, and about caring for those who are dying.
The heart of the matter is that the universality of death and loss can be a source of connection and solidarity. We have an active role to play in supporting each other in times of grief and mourning, much like we rally together in times of celebration and social struggle. But for that to happen we must change how we think about elder care in fundamental ways.
Can the end of life be an opportunity for social change? | openDemocracy
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