“The day she died I slept so well. It was like the first good sleep I’ve had in years.”
That was Samuel Johnson’s response when asked if he was OK after the death of his sister Connie. But to people who’ve never experienced losing someone to a terminal illness, these words might seem harsh.
The first night without a person you adore should be impossible to endure as you grapple with how to live without them.
This might be true for people who lose someone suddenly or unexpectedly. But when you’ve watched a person you dearly love slowly waste away, when they finally go, all you feel is relief.
That’s certainly what I experienced when I lost my mum to Alzheimers a couple of years ago. Was I devastated she was gone? Of course. Did I wish she was still here? Absolutely. But was I exhausted? Like you wouldn’t believe.
LISTEN: Hear Samuel Johnson describe his feelings following Connie’s death to Mia Freedman (post continues after audio…)
When someone you love is suffering from a slow and debilitating illness, and there’s no chance of improvement, it’s a long and torturous experience. Watching someone go through that when there’s nothing you can do consumes every second of your day, whether you’re asleep or awake.
Getting a full night sleep is almost impossible because you’re constantly consumed with questions… “Could I be doing more?” “Are they OK?” “Is it selfish to sleep in my own bed?” “What will I do when they’re gone?”
When they eventually pass away and you know they’re no longer in pain, it’s like you can finally exhale because you know there’s nothing more you can do.