Sorry For Your Loss

Bereavement is another country, a place you didn't plan to go to. Even if you have been here before - and I have, so many times. You'd think a person would get used to it.
But you find yourself in this parallel universe of bereavement as dazed as if dropped from a great height. You've been here before but each time the landscape is a little different and the language of this country changes too, as alien as it is familiar.
Each new day here has things to navigate that simply floor you, like how to tell someone who doesn't know yet what's happened, or how to buy a newspaper without automatically reaching for the one you used to get for him. Or even (however much I want to) how to have a normal conversation about something else without bringing the subject back to the person you've lost.

I am clear headed about Nick's death, it was uncannily timely and as we've all said, he couldn't really have picked a better way to go, and for that I am beyond glad. We celebrated his life whole heartedly and every old photo reminds me of what a good one it was. And of course I did so much daily grieving while he was alive, we all did, seeing him gradually losing every drop of independence and physical ease, flattened by the monstrous illness. I'm so glad that's all over.

But I miss my brother. Not just the helpless person I've cared for over the last few years, but my friend and companero and partner in crime; the person who knew so much about me and I him, who
shared all that history and completely unconditional love.
And I miss our dad, and our mum, and Nana, because all those other losses suddenly swing into sharp focus in this strange but awfully familiar new landscape.
All my lost babies and my dear friend Dimi and my cat Delilah. When bereavement hits you, all these old heartbreaks come up to greet you.
Although I'm way through the acceptance stage of grief for them all, it doesn't stop me being sad.
I need the company of gentle people, or no company at all, and it is one of life's great ironies that at just this time, when the funeral is over, there is Stuff To Do.

In the first couple of weeks after Nick died, I had to keep going. So much paperwork, people to notify and decisions to be made. The flat to clear, funeral expenses to organise, speeches and sandwiches to prepare.
It was good as it only seemed like a variation of the constant shadow-boxing of the caring role and kept me focussed.
Now that the initial pressure is off but there is still a ton of admin to do, it all seems so difficult.
Even the simple things are like mountains to climb. A deep, melancholy tiredness is taking over and sleep is either as dense as falling down a well, or just not happening. I catch myself staring at phone numbers to ring and letters to sign as if they're in a foreign alphabet. It's exhaustion, of course, it's only natural.

Part of the tiredness does come though from having to steel myself yet again to talk to someone on the phone. I'd say 80% of the receptionists I've spoken to in the last month have not had a clue how to deal with a bereaved caller. Cumulatively it's quite shocking, though mercifully outweighed by the sheer loveliness of every single person who had had direct contact with Nick.
But I have had some really staggering conversations with people who have either not seemed to bat an eyelid at the news, or not even listened. Phoning one organisation to say that my brother had died, I had this dialogue:

"I just need to ask you some security questions. Did you say it's your son?"
"No, my brother."
"OK. And where is your son now?"
"er, Sorry?"
"Your son. Where is he now?"
"I'm sorry, I don't understand. I'm phoning you about my brother"
"Where is he now"
"Er...In the mortuary"
"Oh. I thought you said she'd moved house."

Yes, I complained, but fuck it, I shouldn't have to.

I've also had a couple of calls where I say I need to report a death and the receptionist says cheerfully, "That's fine, and how's your day going today?"
Imagine being really tragically bereaved and having to make these calls about a child, say, or a partner you expected to have the rest of your lives with, and getting these responses.
With my old campaigning head on I want to do something about this because it is wrong, wrong, wrong. All of us are affected by loss and no one goes through life without it.
We might not want to be reminded of this on a daily basis but can we not find a better way to treat each other?