Death, detachment and the subconscious

My grandfather passed away on Friday night. He’d been very frail for a couple of years, we knew he was dying and his doctor asked him earlier in the week if he’d prefer to die at home or in hospital; he died peacefully in his sleep two days later.

I’ve not mentioned this particularly widely because I’m ok; I don’t need people’s sympathy or condolences. Aside from at my sister’s weddings, I’ve not seen my father’s parents in about 20 years, partly because I fell out with my grandmother in the late 1990s for 15 years,  so the only contact I had with them was tersely civil thank you letters in reply to birthday and Christmas cards. The combination of the geek-detachment I have, of my anxiety and of being on a low dose of antidepressants means that my main conscious emotions are mild anxiety at the prospect of travelling up to his funeral in Leeds and mild frustration at the break in routine. I do realise this is unsympathetic and somewhat inhuman of me — and I do also feel sympathy for my family and a little sadness that I won’t ever see him again — but he is someone who, whilst I loved him as a part of my family, hasn’t really been much of a part of my life for almost half of it and I’m generally detached about things like this in any case.

It would seem, however, that my subconscious is not quite so heartless and detached or as good at managing grief.

Nainie (my maternal grandmother) passed away five years ago now and, by my teens, I was much closer to my mam’s parents than to dad’s. My conscious, bless it, appears to have conflated the suppressed and barely-experienced emotions about grandparental deaths into an odd dream last night. I dreamt that, for some reason (I forget the backstory), I was walking into 1950s or ’60s Dolgellau and had the opportunity to walk into Nainie’s sweet shop. She didn’t know who I was, obviously, and I didn’t have any predecimal money, so I couldn’t buy anything, which upset me, but I did get to say hello and shake her hand, which I subsequently related to my cousin, who was also there (but in the now, not on the 20th-century side of whatever portal I’d travelled through). I woke up actually crying, something I don’t remember experiencing before.

Evidently, I’m not the remote, disconnected, unemotional bastard I thought I was.

(Just to reiterate the point I made at the start, I’m fine — I don’t need sympathy or condolences. The therapy I sought has been achieved by writing this post, even if noone out there ever reads it.)

The image of the Graveyard at St. Michael & All Angels in Newburn, Tyne and Wear, is taken by and copyright (© 2010) of Andrew Curtis. The image of Eldon Square, Dolgellau is taken by and copyright (© 2012) of Trevor Littlewood. Both images were found on Geograph® Britain and Ireland, a project to create CC BY-SA 2.0-licensed images of the UK and Ireland, indexed by OS grid reference.


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