(Writers note: My article this month focuses on grief in general rather than child loss or infertility specifically. Talking about dying and death is very much a personal choice regarding to whom you share this information with, so your choice is yours and is right within you.)
“This hurts, it really does. Just tell me. Please. I need to know. I want to know. It’s my family after all. Don’t do this again.”
Those thoughts ran through my head last week, as I found out my Mother’s Uncle was dying. But I was in college finals with summer school. Memories flooded back with something similar that happened just two years ago.
When my Grandfather was ill in December 2011 and was diagnosed with cancer, once again I was in college final exams. I had called home on a frigid Tuesday evening to see what my Grandparents learned at a follow-up appointment at the hospital earlier that day. My Mother said, “The Doctors are still looking, they aren’t sure what’s wrong yet.” I thought that was pretty strange- considering it was one of the top research and teaching hospitals around. Plus I had this gut feeling I knew what it was.
Two days later, my Mother said, “So I wasn’t completely honest with you Tuesday; Grandpa has cancer.” I knew it. That is what I had thought the whole time. He died a month later- to the day of diagnosis. This still tears me apart today. That’s two days I won’t get back. Two days I could’ve comforted my family and been acknowledging our pain.
Fast forward to last week, it happened again- almost. This time with Mom’s Uncle.
It happened very suddenly- he was to take part in some clinical trails for advanced lung cancer, but suffered several strokes in the past few weeks. He was in hospital hospice/ palliative care for 3 days.
I knew he wasn’t well after the strokes he had experienced. Last Tuesday was when I found out he was in palliative care. My mother started off saying, “I wasn’t going to tell you because of exams but…”
Two years ago when Grandpa died, I wasn’t studying grief and bereavement. I knew it was wrong then to do just that. I know even more so now. Holding this knowledge from those who deserve to know isn’t okay. It actually hinders the grieving process.
People around us–especially family–deserve to know age and stage appropriate information regarding death and dying.
Sure, my mother’s concern was for me to not be distracted by this information to ensure I do as best as I could on my college finals. I understand that. But if I needed, there are supports at the school that would allow me to write my exams another time.
I’d rather know, and work with that information and knowledge I’ve gained. It’s not fair to not let me make the choice.
I’m an adult. I have the ability to make my own decisions with the information presented to me. We live in the information age today, so please, just please give me the benefit of the doubt and let me decide what I’d like to do with it.
I’m kind of angry. Angry that I am not being given the information I feel I deserve. And upset I was not allowed to make my own decisions as he died just two days later.
Yes. He died. And not knowing all the information available made an already difficult situation more difficult for me to process the thoughts that come with grief over losing a loved one.
Death takes so much control out of our hands as it is. It’s human and completely understandable to want to retain as much control in these sad situations as we can.
Without that autonomy, the grieving process is even more difficult than we already know it is.