Posted in A Mother's Grief, Bereavement, Compound grief, Death of a child, Grief, Hospice, Parentified child, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, teenage grief

1423 days


I have survived 1423 days (3 years, 10 months, 23 days) without my beloved child.  

It has become easier.  I am used to the pain.  I am at peace with the fact that my child’s suffering is over.  I honor her memory every day of my life.  Every day, when I walk through the In-Patient-Unit of Stepping Stone Hospice I thank her for her selfless request that “no-one should suffer the way she did”.

Families talk to me about my brave little warrior and thank me.  Thank me?  I don’t think so.  I would never have had the guts to start a Hospice.  I would still be lying in my bed grieving.

Life has been hard without Vic.  It was so difficult getting my life back on track after she died.  I have missed her wisdom and guidance with the boys,  I have resented the fact that I have become a backup mother to my precious grandsons.  I wanted to be a mother and a grandmother.  I hated being a bereaved mother.  I still do.

Our lives have settled.  Until May this year.

On the 31st of May, I received a phone call from Jared (eldest grandson) to tell me his father had died.  I was filled with terror, heartache, and fear.  My go-to person was no longer around to advise me and run interference with the boys.

I was in England at the time of Colin’s death.  I flew back the same afternoon.  All I can remember of the flight was how my face ached from crying. I was heartbroken leaving my little UK granddaughters behind.  They sobbed.  I sobbed.  We all sobbed.  I dreaded arriving in South Africa and facing the boys’ heartache.  I was consumed with guilt that I wasn’t with them on that horrible day.

I arrived in South Africa to meet two dazed young men.  I had to go and identify Colin at the mortuary and once again arrange the funeral of a child.

On the surface, the boys were brave and yet so devastated.  I was heartbroken.  At a certain level, Colin’s funeral was more difficult than Vic’s.  Colin was young and healthy.  He had truly connected with the boys and they loved spending time with him and his new family to be.  They loved being part of a family.  Vic had been ill for so many years and her suffering inhuman.  I was relieved that her suffering was over.

But Colin was so young and alive.  He had so much to live for.  So much to give.  He was at peace with his life and in love with a wonderful woman.

The day Colin’s clothes were brought into Stepping Stone Hospice, as a donation, I had a total meltdown.  It was the second time a child of mine’s clothes were donated to Hospice.

Yet, time passed and I am once again getting used to the pain.  That horrible empty feeling in your heart when you suffer a great loss…

I read many blogs and I often wondered why people remained stuck in their grief.  I wondered why they were unable to move forward…

Vic’s eldest son started displaying signs of PTS (Post-traumatic stress).  He suffers from panic attacks  and stopped wanting to be home.  He was angry with the world and especially me.

There are many reasons for this and it is not for me to write about his reasons.

What I am able to write about is the fact that Jared was trying so hard to protect his little brother and I from the pain and trauma of Vic’s death that he never dealt with it for himself.  He spread his angel wings over us and never stopped looking to see whether we are okay or not.

Now this beautiful, “parentified” young man is caught up in a cycle of trying to deal with the layers of grief resulting from his parents’ deaths.  He is working so hard to learn how to deal with his complicated/compound grief.  He is brave and beautiful.  He is in so much pain.

But, I know that in time he will heal.  He is no longer avoiding his grief.  He is dealing with the cancer in his heart eating away at the very grain of his soul.

I pray that I will have the wisdom to guide him through this difficult time in his life as he guided his brother and me through the first years after Vic’s passing.  I pray that he will always remember my love for him.  I pray that I will learn to cope with my guilt of not protecting him from something that I was aware of…

I now know why people remain locked into that cycle of grief.

https://tersiaburger.com/2012/06/30/a-mothers-love-for-her-sons/

Posted in Chronic Pain, Family Life, Grief, Palliative Care, Terminal Illness, Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

Whispered secrets


Jared and Jon-Daniel taking Vic for a walk during one of her hospital visits 28.8.2011

It is Monday the 3rd of September 2012.  Vic had a horrible night and looked absolutely terrible this morning.  Jared’s kidney hurt like hell and I got an appointment for him to see the urologist at 13:00.

Vic wanted to go with but Jared held her little body in his arms and said: Mommy please stay in bed.  Oumie will take me to the doctor.  I promise I will phone you if I am scared or need you.” 

Vic sobbed uncontrollably.

“Please Mommy, you are just going to be more sore and sick if you go with now…”

Jared and Jon-Daniel are strong and terribly protective of their Mommy.  It stresses and scares them when Vic tries to do too much.  The boys are continually stressing that Vic, in her endeavors to mother, overdoes things and then pays the price.  They feel guilty…they assume responsibility for Vicky’s actions.

“Mom picked me up from school and is now very tired….”

” Mom came to watch me play cricket and is now sick in bed for a week again…”

” Mom broke another vertebra taking me to school….  “

Whilst friends and family “ooh and aahh” about how mature and responsible the boys are, their lives are lonely lives.  They are missing out on their own childhood experiences.  Most of the children in Jared’s class are having “Sweet Sixteen” parties.  Jared is invited but chooses to stay home.  He says it is because the kids smoke and drink…  But I know he does not want to leave his mother.

Until earlier this year, when Vic spoke to the boys, there were whispered secrets, secret tears when we thought they were not looking and false bravado when they were looking.  You see, although we know death is inevitable, the timing is uncertain.  It is like running a marathon without knowing any details about the timing or the course. The boys also experience guilt because they too pray that Vic’s suffering will end.

Yet Vic struggles with dying.  It is impossibly painful to leave her sons.  To let go….. To allow them to be grandmothered….

So, today I again, experienced the unbelievable selflessness of a parentified child when Jared said “Please Mommy, you are just going to be more sore and sick if you go with now…”  https://tersiaburger.com/2012/06/30/a-mothers-love-for-her-sons/

Tomorrow morning Jared will return to the operating theater for the 3rd time since the 27th of June 2012.  The sonars show at least two more kidney stones.  Obviously last week’s lithotripsy, or shock wave therapy (EWSL), (to break the stone up into smaller fragments to allow those small pieces to pass more easily into the bladder), was not the solution.  The urologist will perform ureteroscopy.  Instruments are threaded into the ureter that will allow the urologist to place a stent (a thin hollow tube) through the urethra, past the bladder, and into the ureter to bypass the obstructing stone. This stent will be left for two weeks when  Jared will once again go back to theater and the urologist will use instruments to “grab the stone” and remove it.

Tomorrow morning Jon-Daniel will go to school – fearful for both his mother and brother.  He will bravely write a maths test and excel at it.  Success and high marks are his coping mechanism.

How unfair is life.

Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

A Mother’s Love for her Sons


I have been researching the effect of a mother’s illness on her children.  The boys are two beautiful, well-adjusted, honest and compassionate young men.  Vic’s illness has certainly deprived them of a childhood in the true sense of the word and prematurely matured them into compassionate, caring, young men far too early in life.  At the tender age of thirteen Jared was cooking for the family…  This must certainly have an effect on how the boys perceive relationships with people.

Now according to my research the boys have become what is called ‘parentified’ children. These children solve the problem of sick and inadequate parenting by taking care of their parents. They in effect become parents to their parents, giving to the sick parent what they need from the parent. Now the roles are reversed. This seemingly creative solution is unfortunately too self-sacrificing to be healthy in the long run.

“‘Parentified’ sons who take care of their sick mothers in order to cope with their inability to parent, struggle to suppress obvious needs for love and feelings of loss. They learn to work hard taking care of the needs of others and living off of the scraps that come in the form of reinforcements for their competence and reliability. Their needs for love are overlooked and overshadowed by everyone else’s needs.”  The boys, especially Jared, falls into this category 100%.  When his little girlfriend was hit in the eye by a hockey ball, he immediately went into caregiving mode,  At the time I thought it to be extremely unhealthy that he already has this caregiving character trait.  He used to always make the tea and offer to do so much around the house and for his Mom.

I have put a stop to this.  I pray it is not too late for the boys to adjust to a “normal” household…

It is however important for them to realize that death is a part of the circle of life and that it is not something dark and something to be feared but rather, if happening in a timely fashion, something that one can embrace. The boys appreciate and respect Vic as their mother.   Vic has raised her sons to be respectful.

“The power of a mother’s strength comes from her heart, from her unabashed, unconditional, and unwavering love for her child. There is, as J.K. Rowling wrote in her Harry Potter books, a magic in that love. No matter what happens, a mother is always there for her child. A mother’s love is never to be questioned, and – though she may not know it at first – neither is her strength.”

Vic literally rose from her deathbed to be there for Jared with his operation on Wednesday.  When my Mom died I related her final moments to someone jumping from a diving board into a deep pool, reaching the bottom and kicking to rise to the surface of the water for one more breath… only to sink again.  This is what Vic does.

Before Jared was wheeled into theatre he whispered into his mom’s ear.  She took his hand and said “I promise”.

Vic, drip in hand, walking with Jared to theater!

The surgeon said the operation would last two hours.  Vic dutifully went back to bed and rested.  One hour and forty-five minutes later she was, IV drip in hand, standing outside the theatre door, waiting for her son.  I begged her to at least sit on the chair but she refused.  “Mommy, I promised Jared my face would be the first thing he sees when he comes out of theatre!”

It took a superhuman effort but Vic’s love for her son drove her to keep her word.  It is true that no mother wants her child to suffer in any way, but life is unfair like that. So, we as mother’s do what we can to provide support, comfort, and protection. And we grow strong enough to bear their hurt as well as our own.  As Vic did.  As I do. Motherhood cuts deeply, brings you to your knees most days; but it also brings a strength that may surprise you.

The vicious cycle of anger truly rose to the occasions on Wednesday.  I got angry with Vic because she was not putting her health first!  I KNOW I would have done the same but it was terrible seeing my child do herself harm to be a Mother.  I want to wrap her in cotton so she would be spared that extra day…

Yesterday Vic said she doubted whether she would see the end of the year.  She is however adamant to be at Jared’s confirmation…one more goal…

Go Girl!!!

Well, Vic is home.  I am so grateful.  She is conceding that she is too sore and ill to go to hospital…Saturday Jared comes home!!