The pity face

The pity face.  It’s not for me.  I am sure that people genuinely are trying to say they are sorry.  But it’s not for me.


When faced with it, in my head I give them an Ally McBeal face slap with an enormous scaly, wet fish.  In reality, I smile, thank them and move away as quickly and as politely as possible.


I don’t need or want pity.


My Mum had an amazing life for at least the last 44 years and the years she lived in Switzerland as a child. She has travelled extensively with my Dad since he retired… she saw whales in the Arctic (or Antarctic – not sure which!), swam with dolphins in Australia (her biggest dream…), she skied, she skied a lot, holidayed in Europe, a lot, went to the Galapagos and chatted to the turtles, saw every National Trust property and garden as humanly possible (she even saw Hogwarts!), she ‘did route 1’ or at least the best bits when James and I were travelling.…. She saw the Pyramids, went down the Nile and was nearly exchanged for 50 camels (my Dad turned down the offer!).  She saw the world, she experienced the world.


I don’t need or want pity.


She had a wonderful marriage with my Dad… they were very happy together.  Mum’s flamboyant, highly emotional, creative character was Ying to Dad’s calm, practical, hardworking Yang.  She created a beautiful home and delightful haven of a garden.  She had 2 longed for daughters, who gave her teenage and adolescent grief but far more joy and happiness, especially when they gave her grandchildren.  She saw love, she created love, she experienced love.


I don’t need or want pity.


She had no quality of life left at the end.  She hadn’t really had any quality of life for the last few years. She lived in a state of paranoia, frustration, anger in the last year or 2 at least.  For the few years before that, confusion.  A few weeks ago, even she didn’t like the look of her future; a future in a home, lying in a bed or sat in a chair, being spoon fed puree and wearing tena pants.  She didn’t like what she saw and she decided it was time to go.  She decided to put us out of our misery, watching her degrade. She decided.

On Tuesday 26th January, the Social Worker and my Godmother (retired nurse, midwife, all round health guru) went to see my Mum… and they agreed Mum had the look of someone who had decided enough was enough.

On the Wednesday, my Dad was with her alone and they said their goodbyes.  Apparently she made signs that she wanted to be held, to be kissed; a lot.  My Dad only realised he was crying as he left … he knew she was saying goodbye.  She didn’t look at him again.  Not once. She held mine and Bambi’s gaze but never Dad’s. Maybe if she had have looked at him, she would have changed her mind?

On the Thursday, the doctor determined that it would be dangerous to feed or give water to my Mum for fear of choking or drowning her. Realistically, someone in good health can survive 7 days without water. He called the ‘end of life situation’ but it was my Mum’s decision.  And she decided to hang on until their wedding anniversary, 6 days later. A final act, declaration of love for my Dad. She decided, she was in control, she made her choice to go.


So I don’t really need or want pity.


I know I am not looking at my best.  Grey, dark circles under my eyes, sometimes red or pink, no make up.  Wearing gym kit despite not doing any exercise. Puffy from wine and too much sugar.  If I do catch myself in the mirror which isn’t often… I know I am not looking my best. (I don’t like mirrors.  Always hated them.  In my eyes I always look fat and ugly, big thighs, wobbly arms, podgy cheeks..  I am careful what I say to my boys about how they look, always positive.  When I look in a mirror I still hear what my Mum said to me as a teenager… She was being protective, honest.  But I still hear it.  Maybe that is why I am fanatical about exercise and health, eating well and looking after your body.  I am working on the voice from the mirror but it is serving my health well!)


If I saw me, I would probably give me the pity face too.  But I don’t want pity… It just reminds me that I have lost my Mum and their pity makes me think that they think I should be sad, miserable, grieving…. The pity look makes me feel guilty, not better! The pity look makes me feel guilty for being out and about, for living…  Even if I was crying publicly, I wouldn’t want pity – it would just make it worse.  And when someone says, ‘I know how you are feeling…’ No you don’t!  You absolutely don’t. Even if your Mum has died, it’s my Mum that has died now, last week!   Grief is private.  Grieving is private.


I really, really, really don’t need or want pity.  There is no room for pity in my private, heart felt grief.  I am sad, but I am also grateful, focussing on remembering the good times, happy memories.  I am sad, but I a cognisant of the fact that she is in a better place – her mountains or fields of glow bugs.  I am sad, but my so happy that my boys did meet their Granny, that I had a lovely Mum and I had her for 40 years.


A pat on the shoulder, a fierce hug, a big smile with love and empathy, fine… but just not pity look.


fish slap

PS.  Anyone who has read ‘Drop the Pink Elephant’ (brilliant book)… I really mean it… I am using the ‘don’t’ as an emphatic… an emphasis!  It is not silent!


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