In 1986 the movie, The Mosquito Coast, was released. There is a brief scene that has always ruminated with me and it offers an insightful message about the reaction some people have to the loss of a loved one. In the film, the main character, Allie Fox, is sharing with his young children about the death of his mother. He explained that she was a strong and healthy woman. One day she fell and broke her hip and when she went to the hospital, she caught pneumonia and died two weeks later. He said that people were angry with him for not staying at her bedside during her dying days and called him callous. Mr. Fox went to tell his children, “it wasn’t that I was callous, it was because I loved her too much too watch her die.”
Recently I was honored to meet with a woman whose adult daughter died after a somewhat short illness. The women explained to me that her son had told another sibling, “I don’t want to go see our sister like this, I want to remember her the way she was.”
The young man never returned to the hospital to see his dying sister. Later the son confided to his sibling again saying, “I’m worried about seeing Mom, she might be upset that I didn’t go back to see our sister before she died.” Of course, the sibling shared her brothers concerns with their mother. The women had been struggling with whether or not to address the situation with her son or just leave it be. She explained that she doesn’t want her son to feel regret and that she is not upset with his decision. We went on with our conversation looking at the many facets of this situation.
It is undoubtedly difficult to see our loved ones as their health begins to deteriorate. The fact that the son did not want to see his sister in this condition to the point that he literally did not see her is not something he should be ashamed of. Many people feel this way, and it is not in any way a weakness, nor was his choice to not see her a cowardly or callous act. It is more likely a reflection of his love and respect for her, as it was too painful for him to watch her struggle. There are so many intense emotions at a time like this, we can only speculate what all this young man has been feeling. As a result of our conversation the woman decided to contact her son and let him know that she understands why he chose not to see his sister again and that she is touched by how much he loved her. She had described her son as very stoic and not comfortable showing a lot of emotion. Grieving the death of a loved one is an emotional process and can be excruciating for those not familiar with expressing or understanding their feelings. Hopefully, this mother-son conversation will help alleviate any anxiety, guilt or regret this young man might be feeling.
Grief can be very complicated. Midland Care offers grief support services through individual counseling, grief support groups, family counseling, book clubs, art project and many other formats.
Call 785-232-2044 to set up a consultation with a grief counselor.