Over the weekend, I had the most wonderful oppportunity to volunteer at a local COVID-19 vaccination centre. It was a really good experience and I really enjoyed ensuring the vaccinations went smoothly, making conversation with those being vaccinated and meeting fellow volunteers.
One subject that came up a lot when meeting my fellow volunteers was what I am up to and if any of my family have had the vaccine. My technique when it comes to talking about family is to just talk about my dad and my sister, I don’t really want to have to say what my mum used to do.
But I was asked about my mum. And so I had to tell them that she passed away last year. Everyone who I told this to was very sorry to hear this and acknowledged how difficult it must be.
Something that I noticed, however, was that the follow up question was always the same. “How’s your dad coping?”. It’s a valid question. My parents were together for 30 years before my mum died and, as all of these volunteers were married, they were probably looking at the situation from the perspective of a spouse.
Silently though, I wished they had asked me if I was okay. Nobody seemed to think about the fact that a loss is painful for everyone involved, no matter what your relationship was to that person. We cannot compare grief and think about how it must be so painful for one person and not as painful for the other. It is painful for each individual who had the priviledge to know the person who has passed.
This is not the first time I have had this, though. I have had people who I know very well say how tough it must be for him. And 100%, it is tough for him, and I would never want to take away from that. But it is tough on the patients who loved my mum and asked every week when she would be returning to nursing. It is tough for my grandmother, she has lost her daughter. It is tough on my sister, she was only 18. And it is tough on me.
So, when it comes to grief, we cannot think that it is hurting one person more than it is hurting someone else. Everyone’s life was impacted because of that person, and each person is experiencing a loss. The important thing is to support everyone and ensure that everyone is receiving the help that they need, irrespective of how much or how little you expect that person to be upset.