Jan was 52 when she lost her husband. “I felt numb,” she says. “Then the numbness was superseded by pain and disbelief.” Her husband died of cancer after a 15-month battle, but knowing it was coming didn’t make it any easier for her or her four children. “Despite knowing the end was inevitable, I wouldn’t know whether you could say it was better for someone to die suddenly or with warning,” says Jan, observing how everyone assumed that because they’d had 15 months they had more chance to prepare.
What made the death of her husband even harder for Jan and her children was her husband’s reluctance to speak about his illness. “People deal with dying in different ways,” she says. “But what kept my husband going was believing he could fight his illness. Therefore, at no time did he ever discuss how he wanted to die, what his funeral was going to be like and what I should do in the future.”
This had a pronounced effect on the couple’s children, too. Jan notes how they dealt with their father’s death in very different ways. “In some, I think the grief was instant; in others it took longer to present itself,” she says. “None of them were living at home, but my eldest came and ran the house for a while so I could concentrate on looking after my husband – which was a huge help, but I also think that affected how she grieved. She felt totally numb, too, but somehow it probably felt like less of a shock because she had been a part of the journey,” she continues. “The other three were unable to return that often, so I think they experienced their grief very differently.”
Lincoln’s advice on how to respect these different experiences of grief and make sure everyone is getting the support they need – both children and parent – is to be open with each other.
More articles you might like
What is a good death?
We asked a Bafta winner, an artist and a funeral director what having a good death means to them
From funeral costs, to engaging a funeral director and deciding on a funeral service, there’s a lot to think about. Here are answers to some common questions
A guide to making funeral arrangements
What will it cost and who chooses the readings? Here are things to think about when organising a farewell ceremony
Why your family might need support if you die
Nobody likes to think about how their family would cope financially without them, but ensuring that the people you love would be provided for if the worst were to happen can provide great peace of mind.