You’d probably think that after my last post then perhaps I have an issue with my mother, but you’d be wrong. Despite our painful past, Mum and I can at least get along for most of the time, but yesterday, I decided to unfollow her on Facebook.
If you’ve read or followed my blog, you’ll know that I lost my father in March 2019 to Multiple Myeloma which progressed into Plasma Cell Leukemia and sepsis. It’s been a long and painful journey that has plunged my family into grief, together.
One of the biggest issues with grief is that nobody really knows how you feel. They say they do (and may even think they do), but grief is so individual because every relationship is individual. My relationship with my father was not just a father-daughter bond. It is the bond that he, a person with his own thoughts and feelings had with me, another person who is of biological connection, who also has her own thoughts and feelings. Unless you can be me, then you will never know or understand our relationship and so you can never understand the pain I feel inside.
Even for my family, grief has united us and it has divided us. Even if we are all grieving over the same person, we are all feeling our own individual grief, in our own individual way. My mother is coping with regular breaks in the Welsh coultryside and the energy and enthusiasm she finds in her place of work, my brother is now on medication and I grieve through mindfulness, awareness and through carrying on what Dad taught me about mental health and psychology, sort of like his legacy. For my mother, she has lost her husband, her lover and her best friend. My brother lost his role model, and I lost my rock and inspiration. Being a married woman myself, I also understand some of the emotions that my mother is going through. My husband is my world, and I too would be lost without him.
One of the most controversial areas with illness and loss is videos and photographs. Sometimes, particularly with cancer it seems, what we thing is benign illness at first glance is actually the warning signs of terminal cancer. If you’d seen the video of my grandfather coughing during a Christmas Day visit, you would have just thought he had the remains of a cold. If you’d seen the video of my father wincing with head pain, you would have presumed he was experiencing an intense migraine attack – but both men had months to live, and both men died of terminal cancer. After their passing, we can be left wondering what to do with these videos. Do we keep them to ourselves and not share their memory, or do we share them and the fact they suffered, or do we bin them in their entirety?
Yesterday, my mother shared a video of my father on her Facebook feed. In the video, my father is experiencing an episode of intense head pain as a result of the Multiple Myeloma. It’s an extremely sad sight to see, but it serves as a reminder that my Dad was ill, my Dad was dying.
My mother’s intentions were not strictly about her loss. Her intentions, as well as they may be, were to highlight the fact that sometimes what appears to be a benign symptom may be something as aggressive as terminal cancer. While I fully support what she was trying to do, there are two problems with her actions.
First of all, fearmongering in this way can lead to more and more people taking up valuable doctor’s time over something which really is benign. Cancer isn’t diagnosed from one symptom, it is a collection of several symptoms and the results of tests and biopsies. Severe headaches can range in cause from cancer to caffeine, and it’s unfair on viewers and medical professionals to lead anyone to needlessly jump to such dramatic conclusions to soon. If you have concerns then by all means get them investigated, but try not to worry about the worst until you need to.
Secondly, seeing this footage compounds my own awful feelings about my loss. Instead of allowing me to remember him for all of the good times we shared, it focuses on the pain he went through and the fact he died. Instead of keeping my head up and smiling on, I slumped against the refrigerator and cried. That’s not how I want to remember my Dad, and that’s not how he’d want me to remember him, either.
Unfortunately, Mum isn’t the only one, and my husband regularly receives calls from his father to remind him to remember his Mum on the anniversary of her passing. While it may be how the individual chooses to grieve, it’s important not to force your ways onto anybody else. As I said previously – grief is individual.
I understand that my mother is grieving and I understand that this is her way of processing her grief. I understand that she feels she failed my Dad and she doesn’t want anyone to make the same mistakes that she feels she made, I understand all of this. The trouble is, while I may understand that and wish well for her, it doesn’t help me process my own grief.
Unfollowing Mum was not an easy decision to make. I love her dearly and I love keeping up to date with the family. In a way, Facebook might as well be Familybook, and much of what we share is really so that the family can see what we’ve been up to. Unfortunately, as Mum has processed her grief, more and more of her posts have been mourning and some of them have been the unpleasantness of some of Dad’s symptoms. While I will always love her, support her and be there for her, for my own sakes, I can no longer be one of Mum’s biggest fans on Facebook.