Grief and Online Friends

Social media, and especially blogging, allows for the development of close bonds and friendships with people we may never have the pleasure of meeting in person. Such people can play a hugely important role in our lives and relationships are built around shared interests.

In some cases, people that we grow close to online can be enormously supportive in our lives. The very fact that they live thousands of miles away but are still there with words of kindness, fun, advice and friendship makes them all the more special. They don’t care how much money we have or don’t have; what we look like; how we’re dressed ….. they see straight into our minds and hearts through our words and photographs and they care about us, just as we care about them.

There’s no easy way to learn that any friend has died. The passing of online friends can sometimes happen without us ever hearing about it. They just go silent. In other cases, we learn the sad news via other online friends or acquaintances and there is a horrible sense of shock and helplessness. There’s nowhere to go with a plate of sandwiches or an address to which to send a sympathy card ~ there’s just a vacuum. That vacuum is when you are in the non-virtual’ world and occurs because one’s nearest and dearest are unlikely to have had any connection or possibly knowledge of the online friend who has died.

But, there can be great communities of support in some cases when a much loved online friend dies. This has been the case in recent days with the sad passing of Paul Curran, who was such a good blogging friend to some many of us here on WordPress.

I can’t remember when Paul first came into my life ~ I guess it was three or four years ago. He was one of those people who commented on my blog on a very regular basis and I loved to read the Sunday guest posts which he wrote on Willow’s and then Mark’s blogs.

Paul was a Canadian man with a huge heart. He had lived a life of adventure and ups and downs and was a true fighter when it came to the illnesses with which he had to grapple. Most of all he was a man who had a love of life ~ down to the simplest of things.

He was man enough to be able to laugh at himself and shed tears for those he felt were less fortunate than himself. He spread hope wherever he went in blogland with his wise and well-chosen words.

So, how do you cope when someone as significant as this dies?  I wish Paul was around to give an answer to this question!

image289-1paul
Paul Curran (RIP)

My sense is that, like any other death, you’ve got to give time a chance to let the reality of the situation sink in and also do what one can to remember the person as they have suggested they would like to be remembered.

What Paul’s comments always suggested to me was that he longed to be at the ocean ~ and he was soon to be there if he had just lived a little longer.

He would also want openness ~ yes, Paul, I have shed tears knowing that you are gone from us and I’ve given Puppy Stan, whom you loved, a special cuddle. I’ve also read back over some of your comments and smiled, pondered, wondered, smiled again.

One thing I DO know is that just because you were an online friend doesn’t make you any less a friend than a ‘real’ one. I know I will think of you when I’m by the sea or old places that you always thought were awesome. I’ll give a little wave to truck drivers as they pass me by and think of all your adventures.

You can be damn sure, I won’t ever forget you and I know that there are many, many others all around the world whose lives you touched who feel just like I do tonight.

Rest Peacefully, Paul, and know that you have made more of a difference than you could ever, ever know.

paul
The Seashore of Love

 

 

 

Tramore in Mourning

Tramore is in deep mourning today as the community tries to come to terms with a horrific car crash out along the Cliff Road last night.

A sixteen year old school girl lost her life and two other teenagers are seriously injured.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the girl who died and our thoughts are with the injured boy and girl and the driver who, though, not badly injured will clearly be scarred for life.

Every parent lives in dread of these awful accidents which can bring such drastic changes in a heartbeat.

The community is certainly drawing together to try and support those who have been beareved and injured. I guess we all know that this could just as easily be one of our own children and, in a small place like this, where people know each other, there is a sense that we have lost a child who was part of Tramore and its environs.

A sad, sad time here which will live on in the collective memory for a long, long time.

Rest in Peace, Beautiful Young Woman and know that you are held in the most loving arms imaginable.

Heart

A Gentle Reminder

A met a stranger recently who on hearing my name asked me if the Frank Tubridy who took photographs was any relation of mine.

I responded, with a smile, that he was my father and she said that she had always loved his work and then asked me if he was still alive. I told her that he had died in 2010 and she said that she was sorry to learn that.

I know that people can be feel very uneasy about mentioning someone who may have died, in case they upset the person they are asking or somehow remind them of the the fact that they have died ~ as if it would be something they might have forgotten about!

I am always chuffed when people talk to me about my late parents and say things like: I always think about your mother when I see the snowdrops blooming; or I have a photograph that your father took hanging in my sitting-room and every time I look at it, I remember how he loved a good joke. 

Comeraghs
Our Perch in the Comeragh Mountains : Photo by Frank Tubridy

It’s so good to know that people who mattered to us are remembered fondly, especially as the years pass since their deaths.

So, I give thanks to the stranger (now friendly acquaintance) who clearly knew that speaking kindly of those who have died can be extremely comforting. I guess she had learned this from personal experience.

I expect that there may be divided opinion on this topic but I also suspect that more people than we realise are warmed by hearing their loved ones being remembered with fondness. 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Good Loser

The importance of being a good loser was something that was drilled into me as a child ~ whether it was playing tiddly winks, tennis or … and my parents were undoubtedly prouder of me if they saw me losing with a smile than winning with arrogance.

Early Learning Photo: Frank Tubridy
Early Learning
Photo: Frank Tubridy

It’s something that has stayed with me all the years and I tend to look for it in sportsmen, women and children all the time. This weekend, I saw it in both Serena Williams and Andy Murray at the Australian Open Tennis Championships.

When you think about it, though, being a good loser, is a bit more complicated than might at first appear ~ especially when broadened out from sport.

The term loser is a very derogatory one,  here in Ireland anyway, and tends to be applied to people who have fallen by the wayside. The stereotypical loser is a person who squandered opportunities and is now a homeless, friendless, drunken lout who shouts abuse at passers-by. Little attention is given to the stories behind the losing and generally speaking there are back stories that would break your heart.

Web of Life
Web of Life

At another level, there is the matter of viewing death as losing a battle against some illness or other. I squirm when I think of this because there was a time in the years after the death of my boyfriend from cancer in 1981 that I came to view people who had survived cancer as people I admired most and I remember thinking of the wonderful Bob Champion and Jonjo O’Neill from the world of horse-racing in this context. I can see clearly now that my boyfriend wasn’t a loser (good or bad) because he died.

It seems to me to be time that we moved away from talking about disease in war terms. Interestingly, we don’t hear about people fighting Alzheimer’s Disease or losing the battle with it. I guess that’s because we don’t see this as something that anyone can overcome. That in itself puts such diseases into a category where those who have them can be written off as hopeless cases, when, in fact, they are very much unique human beings who deserve our love and every effort at maintaining connection by whatever means ~ touch, music …..

Layers of Humanity
Layers of Humanity

I’m not sure what being a good loser in the world of work and business means. Imagine going to an interview and stating that being a good loser is among one’s positive attributes? Should we be measuring people by success all the time ~ even if that success comes at the expense of walking over others? I don’t think so.

And, finally, I have to examine my conscience about writing of ‘Losing’ Elderly Parents on this very blog. As I look at that whole issue now after the deaths of my parents in 2009 and 2010 respectively, I’m not sure that losing is the best word. It felt like that from the other side ~ when they were frail and dying ~ but now I realise how much they are still with me in my everyday life through memories and genes.

Presence
Presence

In grief terms, there are certainly  perceptions of being a good loser and oftentimes, these are about ‘moving on’ and sparing other people from one’s sadness and upset. Such perceptions can put huge pressure on people who are grieving and are most unhelpful.

So, I suppose I would conclude that those urgings to be a good loser are really urgings to be a person who is humane.

What do you reckon about all this? 

 

Riding the Waves of Grief

I guess everyone has days in the year, like my January 4th/5th, that have the mark of grief on them no matter how much time passes.

I’d like to thank everyone who listened to my words about Seeking Solace yesterday and a special word of gratitude to those who wrote such empathetic comments.

I don’t believe that time, in itself, is the great healer that we hear so much about. Rather, it’s a combination of how that time unfolds and how we ourselves shape it, that is hugely significant.

And, there is no doubt that everyone is different in how they deal with loss and the same person may deal with different losses in very diverse ways. You just can’t generalise when it comes to grief, it seems.

Ever since J died in 1981, I’ve woken in the middle of the night at the time he died. That morning, I stole out to a beach we loved, saw the most beautiful sunrise and got a sense of his mental strength pouring into me. It was one of those other worldly kind of experiences and I’m certainly not about ‘other worlds.’

So, it didn’t surprise me to wake in the very early hours this morning. I got up, took Stan for a good walk and then went off to watch the new day dawn over the sea.

It wasn’t a spectacular sunrise but every dawning has its drama.

Sunrise on Tramore Beach (Jan 5th, 2016)
Sunrise on Tramore Beach (Jan 5th, 2016)

There were lots of seagulls around and I couldn’t take my eyes off this pair:

Togetherness
Togetherness

The gulls were a delight to watch as they wheeled about in the unfolding light. The two pairs of gulls in this next shot; one pair away in the distance and the other much closer, made me think of  the interplay between past and present and the importance of knowing that a new partner respects and understands the baggage that each brings to a relationship:

Life's Interrelationships
Life’s Interrelationships

Sunset never meant a thing to me on the 5th of January until today. At some kind of subconscious level, I think I felt that the sun had set when J breathed his last and that January 5th couldn’t have two sunsets.

So, it was that I brought Stan out to Garrarus Beach this evening and wasn’t even aware that it was sunset time and didn’t have a camera with me.  What greeted us there was one of the deepest, sweetest sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. There was a young woman on the beach, walking her dogs, and I noticed that she was taking photographs. We fell into chat about the magic we were part of and agreed that we’d never seen a sunset like this one before, even though we discovered that we’re both absolute regulars.

I was surprised when I heard myself asking her if she would email me a photograph of that special sunset. She very generously agreed and about an hour later, six photos arrived! Here’s the pair I like best.

Gentleness of Garrarus Photo: Rachel Moore Kennedy
Gentleness of Garrarus
Photo: Rachael Moore Kennedy

And how about this for intensity?

G1
Elemental Garrarus (Jan5th, 2016)         Photo: Rachael Moore Kennedy

So, January 5th now has a sunset again after 35 years and a new bond has been made with another Woman of the Sea here in Co. Waterford.

It just goes to show that grief days can evolve into days emblazoned with colour and new beginnings.

I’d be more than interested to hear about your ‘grief days’ and how they’ve evolved. 

 

 

 

Seeking Solace

January 4th into January 5th has caught me every single year since my boyfriend died from cancer in the early hours of January 5th, 1981.

He was fourteen years older than me ~ a big enough gap ~ but still you don’t expect a fit, outdoorish, non-smoking, non-drinking thirty-seven year old to be swished away in the space of a couple of months.

I needed nature to be kind to me today as I went in search of a swan as I totally associate J with swans and always feel the need to be around swans during these days that left such deep imprints on my heart.

Garrarus was soft and soothing this morning:

Soothing Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford
Soothing Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford

I sensed that there would be at least one swan waiting for me out along the coast at Annestown. The River Anne is in flood and the reflections were enchantingly deep:

River Anne, Annestown, Co. Waterford
River Anne, Annestown, Co. Waterford

And a lone swan was gliding across the waters reaching down to touch the sadness that still lingers all these years on.

Symbolic
Symbolic

True love never dies

 

May 26th ~ A Date that Haunts Me

May 26th, 2009 was a lovely hot sunny day, just like today. The lilac tree in the garden was in full bloom and our huge rhododendron was a blaze of crimson, just like it is today. It was a Tuesday too.

The Lilac Tree
The Lilac Tree

In spite of the loveliness,  it was the stuff that nightmares are made of.  Mother in hospital for tests; Dad having a heart attack in the early hours of the morning and begging, begging, begging for something to ease his suffering.

Mad dash to the hospital with Dad; Mother then told that he was dying and having a stroke within the hour from which she never recovered consciousness and died 5 days later. Dad didn’t die ~ and went on to live for a further 16 months.

Six years on, it still feels incredibly raw and I suspect that it probably always will.

However,  I’m getting better as the years pass at not trying to fight this day and know that there will always be reminders like lilac, the vanilla scent of  Clematis Montana; the first rounds of the ice-cream van, lengthening days; deck chairs …..

Mother and Father were extremely close and it came as no surprise to me that she died from the shock of hearing that he was dying. It would have been so fitting for the two of them to go together.

More than anything, now, May 26th whispers words like Hope and Love at me.  It also makes me remember that wonderful smile that father gave me when he came around and his words: I’m so glad to see you, Child.

Grown-up children never lose their childishness and parents are always parents.

Love and Hope
Love and Hope

 

Thoughts of Princess Sophie Rose ~ Companion Animal

Sophie and Me
Sophie and Me

It’s a year now since my beloved King Charles, Sophie, was facing her last night before I had to have her put down. She was a true companion for thirteen a half years ~ years that brought many highs and lows.

We called her Princess Sophie Rose after a character in a much-read children’s book and it suited her perfectly.

Sophie probably knew me better than anyone ~ she was always there with those beautiful eyes watching my every move and was empathy dogified.

She left her mark in so many ways: every hardback book chewed like the most delicious bone; paw prints on my heart marking the days and nights that she sat with me knowing I needed her.

I’m just glad she didn’t have to suffer and that I was with her right to the very end, holding her soft spaniel ears. Her ashes live here in the Study with me. I’d intended to scatter them out in the woods but couldn’t bring myself to do it and I’m glad now that I didn’t.

I can’t imagine how she’d have got on with puppy Stan, who came into my life just ten days after she died. I hope she’d be pleased to know that he has pulled me through the sadness of losing her ~ both physically and metaphorically.

Puppy Stan
Puppy Stan

However, I hope she also knows the extent to which her love was beyond special and will always, always be part of my very being.

Dogs have been a fundamental part of my life since I was a child and I think tonight of a research paper I co-wrote with a psychologist some years back about the whole issue of pet bereavement and the extent to which the death of a companion animal can be a highly significant event in the owner’s life, especially if the animal is the last connection to humans one has loved.

Sophie certainly fitted into that category as she was greatly loved by both my parents and always tugged to go cross the road to call into their house in the years after they had died.

I have both my parents to thank for introducing me to a love of dogs ~ yet another of those priceless gifts.

Soph
Soph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging Down the Years

Thoughts of  the unfolding of years are among the Decemebery things that come round every year for me like berried holly and fresh mistletoe.

As I was out walking yesterday, I was thinking of how so much of own’s life can be encapsulated by thinking of the defining events, images, memories associated with particular years in each decade.

This brought me to:

1964 ~ I was seven and we had just moved to Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan. That was a whole new adventure and it was the last year in which all five of us (Mother, Dad and us three kids) were together as a family as my sister headed off to boarding school in 1965.  Being insulated by a warm, warm family is what stands out most as well as the arrival of our very first television in time for Christmas.

Running Free Photo: Frank Tubridy
Running Free
Photo: Frank Tubridy

1974: I did my Leaving Certificate in 1974 by which time we were living in Drogheda, Co. Louth.  It was a year of turmoil in quite a lot of ways and the Troubles in Northern Ireland were a huge worry.

I had placed all my hopes on pursuing a career in tennis but a serious wrist injury put all that on hold.  I had deferred taking up a university place in the hope that summer surgery would rectify the problem but by the December it was clear that a career in tennis was out of the question. That was the year I began learning to drive and it was also the year that my sister and I were re-united as she came back ‘home’ to teach in the school that I had just left.  It was all a bit of a social whirl with big sis as ‘chaperone!’

The song I played over and over in 1974 was this one:

1984: This was a year in which I was still reeling from the death from cancer of my long-time boyfriend from cancer in 1981.

I was ensconced in Trinity College, where I had embarked on a PhD on the experiences of people with physical disabilities in Ireland and I was also very busy working as a researcher on an exciting EU project in the Midlands about the  integration of people with disabilities into society.

Tennis was back on the agenda and I simply adored being able to compete again after all the missed years.

Weather-Beaten Photo: Frank Tubridy
Weather-Beaten
Photo: Frank Tubridy

1994: Undoubtedly the highlight of 1994 was pregnancy and anticipation of motherhood.

That was a year in which I was working in two areas I love: teaching and research and was able to work from home base here in Tramore.

Tramore Bay
Tramore Bay

 2004: This marked the last year that my parents were in good health but they loved spending time with our son, Harry, who was very close to both of them from the moment he was born.

This was a time of major juggling between work and ferrying 9-year old Harry to all sorts of sporting activities.

A major highlight of 2004 was Waterford’s victory in what is considered to be the greatest Munster Hurling Final of all time:

It’s a year I very much associate with my father’s photography and being down in my parents house hearing about their outings to places here in Co. Waterford which they adored.

Curraghmore, Co. Waterford Photo: Frank Tubridy
Curraghmore, Co. Waterford
Photo: Frank Tubridy

 2014 ….. Right now, it’s hard to focus on highlights of 2014 but I certainly associate it with an ever-increasing love of Co. Waterford, nature, the ocean, blogging, poetry and a whole new adventure into the world of carpets.

_Sinead_Boyle_Image_IMG_7202_ (1)

And, of course, the new love affair with Stan!

Stan
Stan

 

 

 

101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #18 ~ Give a Thank You Letter as a Christmas Gift

Letter 3

I wrote a post back on December 17th, 2012 about a Thank You Letter which I gave my father for Christmas  a few years before he died in 2010. It’s one of those posts that I wrote very much from the heart and I was a little surprised that it received so little attention at the time.

However, over the last few weeks, it has been the most read post on the entire blog by a long shot and that has made me think a lot more about whole idea of writing Thank You letters as Christmas gifts for one’s elderly parents.

I was fortunate that, for some reason, I was inspired to write the letter to my father while he was in good health and able to appreciate it.

However, I would say that it is never, ever too late to write that letter of thanks. Losing elderly parents, to me, is a process which can begin years before they actually die and goes on probably forever after they have died.

Heartfelt
Heartfelt

I know now that my mother would have appreciated such a letter but I never wrote one to her. I’ve been thinking, though, that this year ~ the 6th Christmas without her here ~ that I will take time to write to her and say everything I would have wanted her to read.

Writing a Thank You letter to a parent can’t be a token gesture. If you feel that no thanks is due, then don’t do it. But, I guess that most of us have lots of things for which we can thank our parents.

So, I would urge anyone who is fortunate enough to have an elderly parent still alive and well to give the gift of time, thought and gratitude in a Thank You letter this Christmas. It is probably the present which will be most treasured by both the giver and the recipient. And if your elderly parents have already passed on, there is still time to write and the right time will come to you, as you are the only person who knows exactly how you are feeling about your parent.

Remember, there’s no set formula ~  be yourself and dig deep!

letter 4