On Sunday night I got the call in the middle of the night that all expats (and everyone else, really) dread. My lovely mum had died. It wasn’t really a surprise as she was 83 and had been sick for many years. I’d actually been planning to fly back to see her next week, but events overtook me.

I know I’m very lucky. I didn’t lose her until I was well into middle-age, and we had a straightforward relationship where we knew that we loved each other and said it often. I know that it’s in no way comparable to losing your parents as a child or losing your spouse, and I can’t even begin to comprehend the pain of losing your child. Mine is a simple, rather than complex, grief. But, still.

Most people, when they think of grief, have heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s 5-stage model, being Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The model was originally written in relation to terminally ill patients coming to terms with their diagnosis and many people, including the author, have been uncomfortable with its widespread application in the grief process.

My son said that he didn’t know how to feel, and I told him that there was no right way to feel. You feel what you feel. Sometimes you feel really sad, sometimes you feel a bit better, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you feel happy at times because the loved one wouldn’t want you to.

I certainly don’t recognise any signs of Kubler-Ross’s model in myself. On Monday I was just stunned and didn’t know what to do with myself. Yesterday I felt really stressed, nauseous, and woolly-headed. I had to make lots of decisions about logistics and really struggled to think straight, which is not like me. Today I feel a bit better, but I’m not sure I’ve really got to grief yet, I’m just working my way through stress and feeling very, very tired.

I appreciate the support of the lovely friends who contact me regularly to ask how I’m doing and offer food, and I know that we’ll be ok. I think when the state of shock wears off I’m going to feel very guilty about moving across the world and not being there at the end, although I know that my mum would not have wanted me to feel that way. I’ve no doubt I’ll be going for a chat to my own therapist in due course to help me process these thoughts.

In the meantime, breathe. And hug your loved ones close every day and tell them how much they mean to you.

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