That ol’ guilt

So, last Monday evening, my routine was as normal. Well, as normal as can be during a global pandemic. But the day started off as any normal day. I got up for work. I logged on my computer and I procrastinated for a good part of the morning. I tried to put off that elusive paperwork that is the horrible part of my job. 5pm came and I took care of my children while my partner went for her run. This evening she did not do her usual 30 mins as she felt a little tired. I took this as a bonus and thought I would get my run and 20 minutes on the punchbag out of the way. I hate the thought of going for a run. But it is like many things; once you get into a rhythm it’s not too bad. I finished my routine and settled on the sofa to watch a movie. The Jackal with Richard Gere. Not a bad remake, but Gere’s accent is atrocious. I went to bed. I was just drifting off at around 11.50pm when my life got turned completely around. A phone call came through. Normally at that time of night I ignore as it could be one of my friends who has had a bit too much to drink. But this evening the call was from my uncle. He made the call but passed me over to my mother’s sister almost immediately. Obviously, in the second or two that it took for him to pass the phone over to his wife, I had already made about 50 calculations in my head about why they were phoning. The obvious one, and most likely, I put out of the equation as it was just not plausible. My aunt told me that my mother was dead. But, I just told you that it was just not plausible. So there had to be an explanation to this phone call at almost midnight. I told her to repeat herself. She did through distressed tears. But, I just told you that this was impossible!! I lost one of my parents already! It cannot be true nor fair!!
As I was almost sleeping prior to the call I concluded that I am dreaming. I have to be. I screamed at my partner to wake me up.
I hung up the phone on my aunt and immediately called the person who found her. But why am I calling him if this is either a dream or that it is not plausible? This person confirmed the story. But to me this is all it is… a story. A figment of my imagination. The police call me and they break the news to me. They tell me that my uncle is there and he has identified my mother. I do feel that I need to mention that my mother lived in Ireland, while I live in the UK. My uncle and my mother had not really spoken in such a while due to a family dispute. Nonetheless, he is there in my mothers house while a coroner allocated undertaker is on route. I immediately book the ferry home. There are no flights due to a global pandemic. It is now 1am and all of the commotion has awoke my 6 month old. The boat is booked for 3.30pm. That means we need to set off at 11am at the latest. The forecast has given snow. Better make it 10.30am. No. Make it 10.15am. That is 9 hours and 15 minutes until I get that one bit closer to home. My family call me. They offer condolences. They ask what happened? Was it COVID? A heart attack? I cannot answer. They advise rest as it will be a long trip tomorrow. How the hell can I rest? I watch the hours go by so quickly. My mother in law arrives just after 9am to look after the children as me and my partner are making the trip home. Thank God for her. We get in the car and for once the weather forecast was right. But it felt like it was only on our street as the roads were clear. All the way to Scotland my phone did not stop. Friends, family calling me wishing me well and offering heartfelt condolences. My partner drove in the UK. When we arrived in Ireland, I drove as I had a couple of hours rest on the boat. I think I made it back to the family home in record time. My aunt and two uncles were in the house waiting for me. We can’t touch due to COVID. My aunt asks me to follow her to the bathroom where it happened. She said that she was found dead there. There was some blood on the wall. The police never mentioned anything about a physical trauma. We still don’t know how she died. I turn on detective mode and look for clues as no-one knows what time she died. Over the next two days, I narrow down the time of death to a 45 minute window.
In Ireland the wake and funeral of a loved one is very much a tradition that is comforting and swift. Under normal circumstances, the wake comes before the funeral and is carried out in the family home with the remains there. However, the funeral is usually within two days of death. As my mother was not under the care of a doctor, a PM was required. All I could do now was wait, speak to the funeral director and make preliminary plans. Covid-19 has caused a rupture in the fabric of grieving. We had to have the wake at the funeral home and only 25 were allowed at the funeral. If this had been normal times my mother’s funeral would have been attended by about 1000 people. This would have been testiment to how well she was known. I went through the the initial shock of seeing my mother in the coffin and was consumed by overwhelming emotional pain. This was for short bursts. The funeral and burial took place and I was an emotional wreck.
Here I am, 6 days on and I have seemingly returned to “normal”. I’m back in the UK. With the exception of two or three emotional outbursts, I seem to have returned to normal. Why?
I have almost cleared out her house and I go back next week to finish the job and lock up for the last time. Why do I feel normal? I don’t want to feel normal?
The relationship with my mother was always temperamental. We both have the same firy short fuse. When my father was alive, he acted like a referee, but when he passed our relationship deteriorated. Ironically, we became closer the further I moved away. Now I have great and probably everlasting guilt about how I was to my mother when she was alive. In the last 3-5 years of her life her memory was gradually getting worse and I became easily frustrated with her that she would not see her GP. I even called the GP behind her back, but it did not do any good. In the last two years she was plagued by leg pain that remained undiagnosed and this was a source of frustration for me that caused me to be short with my mother. Now, I am left with an overwhelming feeling of guilt. I know that she would have been proud of what I had achieved and of her two grandchildren. However, I am so wracked with guilt that I was not a good a son as I could have been. That I am not showing any true emotion right now and that mostly I feel normal. What the hell is wrong with me?

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Hello JohnDoe. I am so sorry to hear of the very recent passing of your Mother. I’m glad that you’ve been able to share how you are feeling here, and I hope that you find the community a good source of support. Everyone here has experienced the loss of a loved one and will understand some of what you are going through. Everyone grieves in different ways, and I am confident that our lovely users will respond to you shortly, telling you how they try and cope.

Please continue to post, and know we are always here for you. Should you feel you need a little extra help, Sue Ryder offers an online bereavement counselling service. This is a free service and sessions are held via video chat so you can attend from home. There’s more information about this service here:

Take care,
Online Community Team

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I’m so sorry for your loss,

I hope you find ways that help you forward, feeling’s of guilt is quite common grief reaction. I know that feeling.
My dads recently passed away and like you, i think could I have been a better daughter? Could I have done more? I should of called him and told him I loved him, Or when I am doing “normal things” I sometimes feel bad that I’m moving on.

What helped me was recognising, my emotions will fluctuate. Times we may feel fine and able to get back to usual activities and that’s ok. Other times we could feel overwhelmed with emotions and wishing things were different. I have found focusing my attention away from the past to the present helpful as this is all we truly have.

I can’t help when my mind wonders off, but as long as I’m aware I can bring myself back to the present - it’s only thing I have control over. And if I do get thoughts about what I should have/could have done for dad, I try to write how I’m feeling, it helps me process it and it does not seem so overwhelming. Or I text someone close. I say to myself these actions are positive and will make a difference to me in this moment. Rather than dwelling on events I wished I could change, which is just draining.

We all respond to grief differently and our experience personal and I hope you find what works and is helpful for you.

Sharing your experience is also good like you have done on this forum. It can feel like you are alone at times, but you are not alone. We are here if you need someone to talk to.

Sending you my love :two_hearts: