TRIGGER WARNING: This story mentions instances of grief and the resultant pain grief can cause, if this could be difficult please look after yourself and consider before reading – help and support is featured at the end of this post.
My Story of Grief – Gordon Fong
Our family has recently suffered many deaths over a short space of time. If an author set out to write family tragedy, they would have stopped and thought, this is too much.
The Grief Overlap
This is a story of overlapping bereavement and grief as it engulfed one family to another. In the end, it touched five families in as many weeks.
It was clear my dad was getting frailer and frailer, but he was still sharp of mind and always pleased to be around family and visitors.
Over the funeral weekend of the Queen, he was rushed to hospital after suffering two large bleeds on the brain. He couldn’t speak, dipped in and out of consciousness but there were moments when he opened his eyes and nodded in recognition.
Sadly, his condition deteriorated and was moved to a side room. Reality began to settle in.
One piece of light in this darkness was that my brother from America made it back in time. The video call before he flew gave dad the strength to hold on just a bit longer.
We took turns to be there 24 hours a day, to hold his hand and comfort him. I said things that I had never said to him, to say I love you, and to kiss his forehead. Overt signs of affection are not usual for Chinese families.
It was noticeable, and sad, that some other patients didn’t get any visitors at all.
The Final Hours
My final bed side watch started at 2am. My dad became extremely fidgety. I rubbed and scratched his right-hand side. I got a lovely thank you from him rubbing the back of my hand with his thumb. That will stay as a lasting memory.
Around 7am, his breathing became shallower, so the on-call doctor was called.
I told the family to come in.
My mam came into the room first. She immediately told me that my uncle, her eldest brother, had just passed away that morning. Oh.
The consultants said there was nothing more in terms of treatment, and we should move to palliative care so that dad would be as comfortable and pain free towards the end of his life. It was only a matter of hours.
He said we could all go and sit with dad. We told my brother from America to go in first. Not long afterwards we all made our way, but dad just passed away moments earlier. It was fitting that my brother and dad were together for those final moments, after not seeing each other for over a decade.
I was there for his decline over the last hours, given all my emotion, said what I needed to say, watched him struggle and then settle to a still and quiet slumber.
There was silence in the room.
Then there were tears.
We sat in the room for a while longer until it was time to let him go, for now. We went home and slept.
It was a struggle for mam, dipping in and out of tears and memories, but some visitors would help break the day up.
More to Come
Two nights later I received a text. Mam’s sister had just passed away at the age of 95. I had to gently knock on my mam’s door, as she was asleep, to break the news. Within minutes we were at their family home paying our respects alongside many others.
Funerals were now being planned in between the forthcoming weddings.
It would be a few weeks before my dad’s funeral, so we returned home to Bournemouth.
On our return up North, I took mam to visit my favourite aunty, her next eldest sister. We chatted, we lamented, and we left. A few hours later, that aunt stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital into intensive care.
Meanwhile, we still had my dad’s funeral. It was a sad day, but also a calm day for me. Grief, the emotional response to loss, is different for everyone. There is no normal timetable for those grieving and there should be no expectation on you, or others, on how that manifests itself.
I said a few words as part of the church service, and thanked my dad for the lessons taught, that you only appreciate once you are older. I thanked him and my mum for their hard work in bringing up a family, as first-generation immigrants from Hong Kong to the UK.
Even More Loss
As we were about to leave, the message came through to head to the hospital. There was about 40 of us there, all dressed in black from the funeral, to take turns in saying our final goodbyes to aunty.
What a torrid day and week.
I went to my eldest aunt’s funeral. I then went to my favourite aunt’s funeral.
At that last funeral, I stood by my dad’s plot, whilst everyone else was gathered around the coffin further up. To my left, I saw a metal stake in the ground with the name of my cousin’s 12-year-old son. The grandson of my mam’s youngest sister who passed away the previous week. So tragic.
Five families touched directly by sadness.
What have I learnt?
Be there. For our family, it was natural to turn up to give support, talk about that person who passed, even tease about their good and bad points, to remember them. That kept my mam occupied.
Even families that had just suffered their own bereavement would turn up in support of others, which was amazing.
I love looking back at old photographs of my dad. In part, it helps me answer the question of “did I do enough”? Those holidays together and happy memories show that we did and had fun too in his retirement.
Sharing a photo album on Facebook also helped.
I do catch myself getting overwhelmed by emotions sometimes, whether sat at my desk, driving or having a coffee outside. It’s fine to allow yourself to feel that way, and it reminds me to remember the good times as well as the sad ones.
Today’s Guest Blogger
A huge thank you to the wonderful Gordon Fong, for his incredibly honest and thoughtful story of grief, and how he managed this, with so many losses in his family over such a short space of time.
Help and Support
If you’re struggling with grief, you are not alone. Here are some really great support services that could help you in those difficult times.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your well-being. The group offers peer support. They help to reduce stigma by normalising conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here. You’ll find links for 1-2-1 and groups of mental health support we offer here.