Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Coping with loss


My aunt "Tata Titine" in the traditional costume around 1940

My aunt passed away at the week-end. In a way it was expected. She was 92 and for the past few years had been in a retirement home. She was more like a grandmother to me, and I have very fond memories of her. She had a strong personality, was very opinionated. and also quite stubborn (a very common trait amongst Breton people!).

Unfortunately, I cannot attend the funeral but this time around, it will be a bit easier as my sister is coming over for a long week-end, so at least we'll have each other.

Grieving when you live abroad is probably the worst experience expats have to deal with. A couple of years ago, several people I knew passed away. And their death was unexpected. Three persons I knew died in the space of 2 months. On top of that my parents weren't in the best shape either and it really made things difficult.

At what point do you decide you have to go home? How do you measure the importance of the person who died? I mean, those people were not from my immediate family, but were close nonetheless. I wanted to be there for my best friend whose dad passed away. I wanted to be there for my sister whose brother in law and father in law died in the space of a month. I wanted to be there for my dad's heart surgery. I wanted to be there for my mum who also had to undergo some tests at the hospital. 

But I couldn't be there. In the end, I went home as I couldn't cope any more with all these emotions. My sister and I needed each other. I had to see my dad at the hospital. I had to see my best friend and cry with her. But I couldn't attend any of the funerals.

Coping with loss on your own is hard. You have no one to talk to because chances are, they don't know those people who passed away. You can't share memories. You can't mourn properly. In a weird twisted way, the loss can have the opposite effect as you don't really realise those people are dead. I had this weird feeling for a while where I felt detached from reality, that all of that didn't really happen.

I'm not a big church goer, but I do think the ritual is important, and it definitely gives closure. Someone asked me once if I had ever been to a funeral in Ireland, but I hadn't. His answer was "You should go, it's great craic"! Well, in Brittany, it's the same. After church, the whole family gather in a restaurant nearby, drinks coffee, eat cake and crepes. And as we call it, we "send the dead to heaven". 

So today, I'm sending "Tata Titine" to heaven, with a glass of wine (hey, there was no coffee left!) and when my sister comes, we'll share some memories. And my mum will definitely ring to tell me in details how the funeral went.

Will it replace being there physically? Probably not, but being abroad, that's the best I will get.