Private grief, public grief

Andrew was born on the 9th of September and he died on the 9th of September.

He lived only an hour and my mother never saw him. He’d been delivered by caesarean and by the time she came round from the anesthetic he’d been taken away.

One of my earliest memories is my father telling me not to talk about him because it would upset my mother. That was the way death and grief were treated back then.

Only recently, more than 20 years after my mother died, did I find out he’d been cremated in Dunedin and his ashes scattered in a cemetery there.


Tom died on the 9th of September, more than 20 years after the birth and death of his uncle.

One of the doctors who had looked after him told me that we all make a fuss over saying hello, it’s must as important to say goodbye properly.

Tom had a degenerative brain disorder and a lot of people said it was better that he died.

I knew what they meant but as I bobbed round in a sea of grief I wondered, if this was better how bad would worse be?

I was constantly tired but couldn’t sleep, I often felt physically unwell and I would get upset and angry over things that I ought to have been able to deal with calmly.

It took a Women In Agriculture day on feelings that are a pain in the neck to help me understand grief was the problem.

What I learned that day made me realise that although I didn’t blame anyone for Tom’s disability and death, I was still really, really angry that the baby we’d wanted and loved had died.

That day learning how to name and claim my feelings helped me tame them.

I also had wonderful support from extended family and friends.


Queen Eilzabeth II died on September 9  on the New Zealand calendar, though it was the 8th in Scotland.

Knowing it was the anniversary of my brother’s birth and his and my son’s deaths, made me grateful that I was able to grieve in private. Those who loved the Queen and were closest to her, have to perform public duties and have so little opportunity for private grieving.

The Queen was a public figure and there is widespread sorrow at her death. Her family and friends will be touched by the many, many people whose life she touched and who are sad it is over.

But how hard it must be for them, to be in the public eye when the pain at the death of their mother, grandmother and great grand mother, is so raw.


Grief is hard and it hurts.

It’s not like an illness you get over, it’s a process you go through. It’s more like a wound, the scar of which you’ll always carry even when, with time and love, the intense, raw pain passes and you’re able to be happy again.


If you’re looking for something to help with grief, or help someone who is grieving, one of the best resources I’ve found is Refuge In Grief.

That’s where this video comes from:



One Response to Private grief, public grief

  1. Heather Adam says:

    Such good advice. So many people don’t know how to handle another’s grief.


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