“Kenneth Anthony Brodhagen passed away at his home in Astorville on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at the age of 62, embraced by his loved ones, after a short battle with cancer.”
Those are the words that began the hardest piece of writing I have ever had to do, the obituary for my father.
For me it was also the beginning of my healing from his death. Prior to his passing, my editor suggested that I consider writing about how my father’s illness brought our family and friends together. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to express my grief and share this experience.
I have always known that family and friends will band together in a time of crisis or illness. My parents have always been well-liked and that is evident by the wonderful friendships they have formed. The same can be said for my own friends, since they helped to care for my family while I spent time with my parents. Extended family came to visit and provided endless support.
I think what amazed me the most was the support of the community at large. In his final days my father was under the wonderful care of the Red Cross Palliative Care team and the Community Care Access Centre. They provided medical support and information and emotional support at a time when we needed it.
There was also the local quilting group that gave him a cancer quilt to keep him warm during treatments. The volunteers and families at the Daffodil Lodge where my parents stayed while receiving treatment helped them pass the time and gave them a chance to share their experiences. And finally, the funeral home coordinator who made taking care of my father’s remains as easy as possible.
The lesson I have learned from this experience is that the families left behind after the passing of a loved one are not just dealing with grief, but also the business of dying. There is paperwork to be signed, decisions to be made and a lot of money changes hands. It seems to me that at such a time of sorrow we should try not to have to make those decisions and we should not rely on the family to know what we want done.
I will be looking into writing a will outlining my wishes and will even begin the process of prepaying for my own burial. This will hopefully take some of the burden off my own family.
I don’t believe that anyone can know how they are going to react when a loved one passes away. Books, websites and professionals will tell you that every person deals with grief in their own personal way. Luckily there are people out there who can help you work through the process. Don’t be afraid to seek out support from your religious or cultural advisors, community support groups, social media sites and from your family and friends.
Thank you to everyone who supported my family at our time of need and who continues to share in our grief and sorrow.
Holly Brodhagen is a citizen of Dokis First Nation and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work.