The boys grief …

He is six-foot tall and wears a number 11 shoe. He has a beautiful open face, perfect teeth and a brilliant smile. He is very bright, a gifted sportsman, he is the “silent” type. He is Vic’s youngest son.

Last night he received an award at the school’s prize giving. His aggregate for the year 84.7% with 8 distinctions.

This is the most difficult year of his life. He lost his mom in the beginning of the academic year.

Jared is the perfect older brother.  He is fiercely protective of his younger brother.  Jared is gentle and caring.  He has a white soul…

On the surface the boys are coping well. They are “getting on” with their lives.

Thank goodness for social media…It gives me an insight into what is happening behind their stoic appearances.

Jon-Daniel’s WhatsApp status is “Live until you die.” That is the example his Mom set…

Jared posted on Facebook on the 18th of September “Can’t believe that it has already been 8 months… Miss you mommy… It feels like a lifetime already… Love you mom  always in our heart♥ forever in our memories…

On the 18th of September Jon-Daniel posted: “How? I ask myself.. It already been 8 months without the greatest Mommy in the world! Time has flown since January, but the memories have stayed. And they will always stay, along with that special place in my heart that is only for MY MOMMY! Love you always Mom, miss you stax!”

 On the 26th of September Jared posted on Facebook “Missing you mommy… you were always there for a laugh

The day of Stepping Stone Hospices’ official opening Jon-Daniel posted “Stepping Stone Hospice was officially opened this evening. Amazing to see 1 person’s dream can turn into something so big! And so amazing how much people will do for somebody they don’t know. Thank you to all that attended!”

 He cried in the doorway of the Vicky Bruce Room

 On the 11th of October he posted on Vic’s Facebook page “Mommy, I miss you! When are you coming home?”

 I am helpless in taking the children’s pain away. Their pain and grief is still so raw and deep.

The stress started years before Vic died. The boys grew up knowing that their Mommy was ill and in a lot of pain. They grew up living with Vic’s imminent death and dreadful suffering.

Teenagers appear to feel grief more intensely than adults, especially if one of their parents has died. The Adolescent Life Change Event Scale (ALCES), which mental-health specialists use to help quantify the events that are the most stress-inducing in teenagers, ranks a parent’s death as the number- one cause of adolescent stress. Second is the death of a brother or sister, followed by the death of a friend.

Teenagers are embarrassed by displays of grief and struggle to express their emotions. The boys seldom talk about their grief. They will tell me when the other brother is having a rough day….

 Jared was very concerned about how his little brother would cope with his first birthday without his Mom. He went to great measures to ensure that his little brother was “protected” from the grief on his birthday. He blew up 40 balloons so Jon-Daniel would wake up to “fun”. (Vic always had lots of balloons on the boys birthdays.)

 The firsts are coming fast and furious now. The first birthdays, prize giving’s, confirmations without their Mommy… Jared and my birthdays, Christmas and New Year is looming…

 I love the boys with every fibre in my body. I hate that they occasionally walk in on me when I am crying. I hate that I cannot make their pain better. I hate that I am so helpless.

 I wish I had died and not Vic. I wish that I could change places with my child. I wish I could rip the heartache out of my grandsons’ lives and hearts. I wish I could protect them.

 I wish I could shake the cold world out there and make them realise how much pain the boys are in….

Please pray for Vic’s boys. Pray that they will heal. Pray that God will hold and protect them. Pray that they will learn to be happy again. 

I pray that one day I will hear their happy, uncontrolled laughter echo through the house again.

I love you Angel Child

Vic and her boys on her 38th birthday

I am at a stage where it feels as if it is impossible to recover from the pain of losing Vic.  I am told that the grief will gradually get better and become less intense as time goes by.

The first few days after Vic died was so intense.  Family and friends cried, and we comforted one another.  The house was busy with people coming and going.  The planning that goes into a funeral and the writing of the eulogy took a lot of time.  My grief was raw and incredibly intense.  My heart physically ached.  I experienced feelings of anxiety, panic, sadness, and helplessness. Yet it is actually a surreal feeling… it felt as if we were removed from the world.  It felt as if I looked in from the outside.  I heard myself speaking and reacting mechanically…Old school friends phoned and I rushed to get through their words of condolences so I could ask them about their lives.  I did not want to discuss Vic’s death.   They must have thought I was crazy.

People said “you are so strong…”

When a loved one dies at home I think it is harder afterwards…There is a “mystique” to the room of death.  The smell of death lingers and the room is littered with medication, blood pressure equipment, thermometers and syringe containers.  Bedpans and vomit-dishes are still in the bathroom…

The planning of Vic’s memorial service actually helped me get through the first days after her death.  Friends and family spend time with us talking and sharing memories about Vic.

Many times, people show their emotions during this time of ritual.   Overwhelmed by Vic’s death we actually did not show emotion right away — even though the loss was very hard.   We stood amongst our friends and family at the reception after the memorial service smiling and talking.  To the world it must have appeared as if we were strong and accepting of Vic’s death. Being among other mourners was a comfort; it sort of reminded us that some things will stay the same.

But the time came when the far-away family left, friends went back to their lives and the steady flow of visitors stopped.  In a way it was a relief.  We were forced to stop and come to terms with the reality of the situation….the pain of the loss and the enormity of our grief.

Within a week we were back at work and school.  People were and still are wary of us – they do not know how to handle our grief.  We quickly learnt that other people are not interested in our grieving process…We stopped talking about Vic’s death…But although we no longer continuously talk about our loss, the grieving process not only continues but intensifies.

It’s natural to continue to have feelings and questions for a while after someone dies. It’s also natural to begin to feel somewhat better. A lot depends on how your loss affects your life. It’s OK to feel grief for days, weeks, or even longer, depending on how close you were to the person who died.  I was told yesterday by someone who truly loved Vic that Vic’s death is only a reality when they are in our home.  When they leave it almost becomes a distant memory….

The loss of a child is different to the loss of a parent.  The boys’ grief is different to my grief…   I will go further and say that the grief of a teen is different to the grief of an adult child who lost his aged parent.

Vic’s death has been a devastating, distressing experience in the life of the boys. Although the boys have spent the majority of their lives in our home their sense of security and stability in the world has been turned upside down. Vic’s death has become the defining event in the boys lives. The boys have begun to define their lives into two categories: “before Mom died” or “after Mom died.”

The boys and I have experienced a sense of relief, ambivalence; guilt and regret after Vic’s passing. The boys have categorically expressed their sense of relief that Vic’s intense suffering and pain is over. I prayed for Vic to die.  This sense of relief has however brought on more guilt!

Jon-Daniel was the first of the boys who had to cope with the realization that Vic would not be around to celebrate rites of passage;  Vic slipped into a coma the day Jon-Daniel received his school’s honours award for academic achievement…..

The boys are battling to cope with Vic’s death.  Their grief is intensifying.

On the 8th of April they will meet the Hospice Psychologist.  On the 25th we are flying down to Cape Town for 13 days.  We need a change of scenery.  We need to grieve without being told to “let Vic rest…”

I make a point of telling them that I miss their Mommy too.  They light candles for Vic.  I cry in my pillow.

I know that the boys will eventually move on.  It is the way it is – children bury their parents.  It is normal.  But a parent should never have to bury their child…

For 38 years my beautiful child was the centre of my life.  I lived for her.  Now I merely exist.

I hear her say “Mommy I love you” and I whisper “I love you more than life angel child…”