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Death of a Loved One…

For many of us a big consideration when deciding to relocate is the increased complexity of looking after the family and friends we leave behind… Sometimes we leave siblings or others behind who can help look after loved ones who become sick or in need of care, but sometimes this is not possible.  Certainly a huge fear for many of us living overseas or interstate – away from loved ones is that we can’t be physically be there at critical times.  How do we deal with this?  There is no simple answer, we just need to take each situation as it comes…

I recently spoke with a client, Gabrielle, whose Grandmother got very sick while she was living overseas.  Her Mum, not wanting to bother Gabrielle, told her that she would let her know when the funeral would be… Gabrielle, who couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her Grandma again explained to her employer what was going on. Her employer told her to take all the time she needed.  Gabrielle returned to her hometown and alongside her mother and aunt took shifts helping to take care of her Grandma in her final days.  Even though her Grandma could not speak, she explained to me that she got to squeeze her hand, connect and say her final goodbyes – Gabrielle’s grandma knew she was there.  After a week Gabrielle needed to return home.  Upon arrival at work on the Monday she got a call from her Mum to let her know that her Grandma had passed away… Gabrielle was very sad, but really grateful to have had a chance to say goodbye to her Grandma, who had been such a big part of her life growing up.

For some of us it isn’t possible to return home for the final goodbyes.  While I was living in Brazil with my family, (my sons were 6 & 8 at the time) Mum rang me one morning to tell me that my Nan had passed away.  She was 93 and had lived a long and full life, but my heart was stripped raw… I remember sitting on the phone to my Mum with tears just streaming down my face, I am not sure that I have ever felt so far away or alone…  My Mum was strong, as always, and upbeat.  I could tell that she was trying to make it easier for me.  The funeral was booked for the following Thursday and there was simply no way I could get to it… It would take 36 hours travel time between Sao Paulo and Melbourne and another 3 to get to my hometown… I could not leave my sons…

Gabrielle was very sad, but really grateful to have had a chance to say goodbye to her Grandma, who had been such a big part of her life growing up.

For some of us it isn’t possible to return home for the final goodbyes.

The next week was one of the most desolate of my life, I was going through all the actions, but it was like a dream.  One of my deepest concerns was that I couldn’t be there for my Mum, who had lost my Dad, her soul mate, less than a year before. I cried, but that didn’t help.  I felt so lost… I began to write down how I was feeling.  Then I began to write to Nan, getting the words out somehow easing my pain.  I said goodbye in a poem.  I immediately felt better – like I could do something.  If I couldn’t be there in person, I could be there in spirit.  I sent Mum the poem and she got the priest to read it out at Nan’s funeral… amazing that this one small thing helped me so much.  I still felt a long way from home … but I had been able to finally say goodbye….

If you are wondering about my poem I have shared it here. Looking back on it now, it is only short and simple. It is hard to believe it gave me the strength to carry on with my life 10,890 miles from home…

 To me this reflection shows that we can overcome even the death of loved ones when we are far away. There are myriad ways for us to be connected even when we can’t be physically close.  I grew stronger in that week, more grounded in my love for my family and more determined to live each day as fully and as gratefully as possible. 

It is hard to believe it gave me the strength to carry on with my life 10,890 miles from home… 

Do you have a story of getting through the death or illness of a loved one that you would like to share with us? 

We would love to hear your story…