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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 31-Mar-16 16:45:44

Stuck in Spain

When children grow up and start their own families, it's rare that parents get to have them all to themselves again, without partners or children in tow. But when Sinead Moriarty's father died suddenly while on holiday in Spain with her mother, that's exactly what happened, and what followed was an unexpectedly precious time.

Sinead Moriarty

Stuck in Spain

Posted on: Thu 31-Mar-16 16:45:44


Lead photo

"Nothing moves very quickly in Spain and the insurance company assured us that it would be at least four to five days before we could fly the coffin home."

In May last year, my father died very suddenly of a heart-attack. He was seventy six. He died while on holiday in Spain with my mum. Some holiday she had!

Late one night my brother rang to say things were not good. My brother, sister and I flew out on the first flight to Spain, but Dad was dead by the time we got there. It’s the small acts of kindness that I remember most. The taxi driver silently handing me tissues as I sobbed from the airport to the hospital. The surgeon who valiantly tried to explain in broken English what had gone wrong.

It’s very surreal to be grieving your father’s death under blue skies and palm trees. We sat in cafés in the hot sun, shocked and stunned, sweating in our winter clothes.

Beside us the sound of the waves on the sand and people eating ice creams and building sandcastles – I can't imagine a more surreal setting.

The strange thing was, while we were all desperate to get Dad’s body home and to get back to Dublin to family and friends, those four days being stuck in Spain ended up being very precious.

Nothing moves very quickly in Spain and the insurance company assured us that it would be at least four to five days before we could fly the coffin home. We were initially upset and frustrated. But it ended up being a good thing. We were alone, just the four of us. No kids, no spouses. Just us and Mum. Every mother or father with adult children knows how rare it is to have all of their children with them alone. It’s special, it reminds you of the old days, before spouses and kids came along - sitting around the kitchen table at dinner, chatting.

We talked, we laughed, we cried, we reminisced. We spent four precious days grieving without the doorbell constantly ringing and people calling in and our parents' house being crammed full of friends and family. Four precious days alone, four days to come to terms with our shock and grief.

When your children leave home and start their own families, you lose them. They’re so busy all the time and when they do call in they will have a baby or child or husband or wife with them.

The days of having them to yourself is over. It’s hard to lose that, hard to let that go.

There we were in sunny Spain in our winter coats, together again, except we were missing one very important person – Dad. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we reminisced. We spent four precious days grieving without the doorbell constantly ringing and people calling in and our parents’ house being crammed full of friends and family. Four precious days alone, four days to come to terms with our shock and grief.

We knew when we got home that it would be manic and it was. But manic in the best possible way. Family, friends and colleagues descended on the house to pay their respects, to grieve with us and to tell us how much Dad had meant to them. It was wonderful, moving and so very kind and generous. We were overwhelmed with people's compassion and sympathy.

But I will always treasure those first few days 'stuck in Spain' when it was just us. Just the four of us crying, laughing and remembering Dad.

Did you experience kindness from strangers when you suffered a loss? Do you think grief gives you a different perspective on life? Does grief make you a more or less compassionate person? Did anyone say anything completely inappropriate or bizarre to you? At Dad's funeral someone asked me what perfume I was wearing?!?!

Sinead's book The Way We Were is published by Penguin and available from Amazon now.

By Sinead Moriarty

Twitter: @sinead_moriarty

thepointlessgrandma Sun 03-Apr-16 15:48:48

What a great anecdote. I remember visiting the local supermarket just after my father died, and wanting to scream at everyone to stop acting so normally as something incredibly momentous had just happened and life would never be the same again. When your world is rocked it's hard to believe others can't feel it. Even total strangers. How lovely for Sinead to have that special time with her family to look back on.

annemac101 Tue 05-Apr-16 20:12:11

Sorry for your loss but I do think it was lovely that your mother and siblings to all be together. I know what you mean by never getting your son or daughter on their own after they have left home. I remember when my mum died ,the feeling of how everyone else was going about their daily lives when mine was shattered.

Lyndyn Wed 06-Apr-16 13:25:23

This is a lovely story, but strangely of loss.

Funnily enough I was only saying to my daughters a month or so ago, it is lovely that we live in the same town and we get to see lots of the local grandchildren. BUT we never see them without the DGC, and although our love for our 5 soon to be 6 GC is huge, we have never lost the love we have for our children. The girls then quickly arranged an evening meal in a local pub!
Our son, his wife and 2 DGC live in London, and so we see them less, but we are very grateful that we get on with all the in laws and they are relatively near.

In the losses we have experienced I resonate with the comments about the shock of seeing how everyone is continuing with their lives with no awareness of your personal loss! When our eldest and stronger of our identical twin baby daughters died, I felt I wanted a sticker on my forehead to proclaim our loss!

pensionpat Wed 06-Apr-16 14:04:10

When I was young it was the custom for bereaved people to wear all black for a certain time, then gradually mix a colour such as purple, and eventually wear a small black patch sewn on to a sleeve. There were probably set times for all of this. When I lost my parents I would have liked something visible to say to the world "be kind, I'm hurting"

annodomini Wed 06-Apr-16 14:41:06

Jet was used for mourning jewellery in Victorian times. If I were to revive any mourning tradition, that would be my choice.

Lindill49 Thu 07-Apr-16 19:44:18

Well done on keeping it all together. Here's another one - my Mum died unexpectedly (87) on Christmas Eve 2010 exactly half way through our month long Caribbean cruise. What to do? Brother in uk so Decided in the end to carry on - logistics too horrendous to contemplate flying home. Brother did funeral arrangements for when we got back but also managed to travel 150 miles and empty all her bank accounts with the death certificate!! Didn't find out till after the funeral - families eh?

HG15 Sat 09-Apr-16 10:00:07

A slightly different situation for me but ongoing grief and loss. My life with my 66 year old husband, despite his having a long term illness, was OK until November of last year when he was diagnosed with dementia. His deterioration was very quick and he is now in a nursing home. In a matter of months our lives have been devastated, and I now live the life of a single person without being single. Lots of people are in my position. If you are reading this and are one of them, how do you cope?

Sorry if anyone thinks I am trying to hijack the discussion. I am simply reaching out in my sadness to anyone who might be able to offer some comfort and hope.

Wendysue Mon 11-Apr-16 14:54:52

What a sad but beautiful story! I think a lot has to do with basic attitude, also. Some people would complain about the delay in getting home, getting on with the funeral and getting to be with their own spouses and children. Others would complain about the "manic" descent of family and friends after their cozy 4 days with just the most immediate family. The blogger did neither of these, focusing on the positive aspects of each, instead. Very heartwarming and, in a sense, inspiring!

My deepest condolences, Lindill49, on the loss of your mom. I know it must have been frustrating to have this happen while you were in the middle of a cruise. But I'm glad your brother was able to arrange for the funeral to be held when you got back. Sorry he emptied her bank accounts - and took all the money, I guess (?) - but I don't see how he could have done that, unless he was executor of her will or she had the money in trust for him, I'm sorry to say. Maybe he talked her into that while she was still alive? Sounds like there was more going on here than meets the eye.

So sorry for your situation, too, HG15. I haven't experienced this, myself, fortunately for me, at least not as yet. But "there but for fortune" and all that. I'm thinking it will take time to adjust but you'll do it. (((Hugs))) If several months go by and you don't or if you just feel the need, some counseling may also be in order. And, of course, we're here.

I also think you may need to get in touch with an attorney and a financial advisor (perhaps you already have one) to cover any legal or financial issues that may come up. Not always pleasant to think about, but necessary.

PRINTMISS Mon 11-Apr-16 16:27:03

That was a lovely story, and what a beautiful way to share sorrow and memories.