March 29, 2021

Episode #10 - Actively Tending To Your Grief - with Rochelle Bugg

Having lost both parents by her mid-20s, Rochelle Bugg felt there wasn't much support for people her age. She found that nobody was talking about how things affect young people, as if they were too busy enjoying life to ever worry about losing someone they loved. Rochelle wanted to change that, which is why she started her blog chronically her journey while nursing her mum through a terminal brain tumour, having already lost her dad to pancreatic cancer when she was just 14. Her new book Handle with Care (Bonnier Books) shows how she navigated changing family dynamics with her two younger sisters, the financial and emotional pressure of being a full-time carer, and the challenges of rebuilding her life after the loss of her parents. Rochelle is open, honest, engaging and truly inspiring for the way she's actively tended to her grief and built up a toolkit to help herself, and her young audience.

Image: Star Tree by FAS (by Hannah's 10yr old daughter)


🌳  Rochelle's paperback book now available... 

 

🌳  Hannah mentions Ben Howard's song 'Keep Your Head Up' as one sent both to her and to Rochelle

 

🌳  Rochelle mentioned 'The Body Keeps The Score' by Bessel van der Kolk. I would also recommend 'Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma' by Peter A. Levine

Transcript

Hannah Velten  00:12

Hello, good afternoon, or good morning, do come in come and join the circle. I've got an amazing guest to introduce to you today. And I won't talk too much. I'm going to introduce her just in a second. I can't quite remember how I found Rochelle Bugg, who I'm going to be talking to. I think I went on social media at some point and asked for somebody's recommendation for somebody who was really inspiring and was talking about their grief and Rochelle's name came up: when you meet her, you'll understand why she's a perfect guest for the show. So I think we better just introduce Rochelle now. And we'll let her tell her story. And yeah, she's written an amazing book as well, actually, that I'm just going to show you, called 'Handle with Care". Let's bring Rochelle on and I can talk to her and tell her what I think about her book. Hi, Rochelle, thanks so much for joining us.

 

Rochelle Bugg  01:23

Thank you so much for having me on.

 

Hannah Velten  01:25

It's a pleasure. I know you've been really busy for the past few weeks with the launch of your book, so I hope you've kind of managed to come down a bit.

 

Rochelle Bugg  01:36

Calm down a little bit [Rochelle laughs]. It was definitely full on, but enjoyable.

 

Hannah Velten  01:42

So this is Rochelle's first book, I believe. [Rochelle nods]. And I mean, if you have a look at my copy, I've got marks and pen and writing all over it, because I was reading it thinking, 'Oh, that resonates with me so much'. And it's just such a beautiful book; really, really well written and I recommend anybody should read this. Absolutely. So, Rochelle, do you want to just sort of give us a bit of background about your family life? And what's happened to that family life?

 

Rochelle Bugg  02:21

Yeah, sure. So I am the eldest of three sisters. And there's me my middle sister, Hannah, and younger sister, Olivia. And up until I was 14, I would say completely idyllic upbringing, house full of love, full of laughs, really tight close knit family. And then when I was about 13, my dad started saying he was getting abdominal pain, that kind of thing, was going backwards and forwards to the doctors, they were saying, well, maybe it's IBS, maybe it's gall stones. And then finally, they diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer, but by the time they were able to diagnose and there was only about six weeks, until he eventually died. And so, obviously, that sent massive shockwaves through the family. As I said, I was 14, middle sister 10, youngest sister was six, Mum and Dad ran a business together; so there was a whole added load of pressure from that. But at the same time, it definitely brought us closer together as a family as kind of a unit of four, even closer together than we already were. Fast forward 10 years. And I got a call to say, from my sister, that they thought my mom had had a stroke or mini-stroke. And so I was actually up in Leeds at the time. So I came home to check on my mum, instantly I just had this gut feeling that something wasn't quite right with her. And so, you know, long process of going to medical appointments, asking questions, not quite getting the right answers. And eventually, three months later, we were told that in fact, she hadn't had a stroke, but she had a terminal brain tumour. So I then cared for her for about 18 months until she passed away. I started a blog while I was caring for my mum and that's kind of formed the basis for the book, but also hopefully incorporates some of my story and you know, the 10 years since she died, lessons I've learned, things I wish I had known, things I wish I hadn't done. So yeah, hopefully it's a real mix of my story and also kind of practical advice as well.

 

Hannah Velten  04:40

Yeah, that's what I loved about the book because you tell the story beautifully and it's so heartfelt, and you let us in totally to your story, with your parents and your sisters. But also there's a lot about, you know, what you've learned in the lessons carried forward and we'll talk about that more during the programme. If we can go back first of all to when your dad, James, can you sort of describe your grief around that age 14? And whether you coped with your grief or what you did with your grief?

 

Rochelle Bugg  05:20

Yeah, I think now I'm able to compare the two experiences of losing my mum and my dad. With my dad, I can see I went into that experience only having had, or only ever having, the reference point of like the typical grief that you see: thinking that it's kind of something that lasts a couple of months, that you're sad and you cry quite a bit, and then that's that. You put it to one side, you move on. Obviously, now, I realise it's a completely different experience to that. But yeah, I'd say at the time, because I was only 14 and because we were such a close knit family, and I was so close with my dad, I don't think I was able to comprehend the fact that he was gone; it just didn't seem a possibility. Because he always used to say, like, he'd be like, 'my girl, whatever happens, I'm always going to be there for you'. Like, that was his thing. 'Whenever you need me, I'm always there for you'. So I was like, but this is my dad, my kind of my superhero, and he said he'd always be there. So I think I described in the book as me considering it a relocation, rather than a loss. And I kind of thought, you know what, 'Okay, fair enough, this must be one of those bad luck things, these things happen. So, my dad isn't really gone. He's up there. He's looking out for us. And I've got a guardian angel'. And I think part of me felt almost proud because I thought like, I've got the ultimate person up there on my team, no one can get me.

 

Hannah Velten  06:57

Can I just say something? In the book you were talking about you're relying on your friends a lot, for letting your emotions out also... because your mum was obviously coping with her loss and also it was interesting, your grandparents, as well, there was that comment about 'that's my son, you know, that I've lost'. So like, not having a role model as well as how to grieve and talking with friends and actually finding somebody who was kind of away from it and not emotionally attached.

 

Rochelle Bugg  07:43

Yeah, I think that's something that maybe isn't discussed that much; when you lose someone, the people that you would usually be turning to to help you through that are also going through the grief. So it's like you're looking around to everyone, like, who can fill me back up to 100%, because I really need help, but everyone else is running on empty as well. And so I know it can be difficult, in a lot of ways, to speak to friends who don't understand if they haven't been through the same thing, but, at the same time, I did find there was a certain freedom that I could talk, you know, talk about my grief, talk about my feelings, knowing that they weren't also being directly impacted by the loss. So I didn't also have to worry about it in the same way that if I got really upset in front of my mom or my sisters, there was a part of me that was thinking like, 'Don't put too much on them, you know, they're already going through enough. They're already going through what you want, so don't burden them too much'. So yeah, it's kind of a strange one, I found with friends that sometimes it can be great that they're not so closely involved. And then sometimes it can be difficult that they're not, because you're thinking like, 'Oh, great, well, at the end of this conversation, you get to go home to your happy family, and everything's fine. And I walk away, and I still got the same problem'. So yeah, that was kind of an interesting one.

 

Hannah Velten  09:11

Yeah. And then obviously, you were a student then, so you were getting on with life. And like you say, I think it was then that the school nurse sort of said to you, 'oh, you'll be fine in a couple of months'.

 

Rochelle Bugg  09:27

Or, yeah, she said, like, you know, it's fine at the moment that you're upset, but after a month everyone will be expecting you to kind of get back on with things like normal. Whereas now having been through the process, again, with Mum, understanding, doing a lot more reading about grief, about bereavement, about trauma in general. I'm like [Rochelle laughing] it hasn't even sunk in by a month. You're nowhere near, let alone being over it. You haven't even begun. You know, the initial shock hasn't even worn off by them. But I think it's probably a misunderstanding about what grief is, you know, like I said before, thinking it was another word for being sad. Whereas now I'm like, no, it's this catch all term, which goes nowhere near being able to sum up all the different emotions from that anger, the frustration, feelings of injustice, unfairness, abandonment, loneliness, as well as the tears, as well as then the joy, the gratitude that you've got to have them in your life, a realisation of how precious life is. It's just like this massive whirlwind of emotions and I think that's why it's so overwhelming because you think, where on earth do you even begin to work through all of that?

 

Hannah Velten  10:52

Yeah, and not having like a role model or somebody that, you know, like, even a ritual or anything, you're just sort of what I do with this huge amount of emotion? Yeah, and I can just imagine at 14, with your adolescence and teenage things anyway going on, and then you've got this... How do I deal with this?

 

Rochelle Bugg  11:15

Yeah, and I think the temptation is to just carry on as normal. So when my dad died it was just gone one o'clock in the afternoon, so my mum came to school to pick me up later that afternoon, but for some strange timetabling issue one of my classes was at 6:30 in the evening. So I remember going home, my mom told me, we picked up my sister's from school, told them, and you know, and I just naturally walked back to school to my lesson. Because... a) because no one told me otherwise. And you're just so unprepared. You just think, okay, I'll just carry on as normal... maybe? And you almost don't know what the boundaries are with yourself. And I think that's one of the things I struggled with; that I'd second guess myself and think, 'you know what, this is six months ago, you're milking it now, you can't still be sad about this'. You know, whereas now - what is it like nine years on from Mum dying, and the anniversary is coming up soon - and I'm already like, at the weekend felt a bit funny and I thought, 'Oh, okay. I know what that is. I know that that's normal'. Whereas back then, so much closer to dad dying, and I was questioning, 'is this how I should be feeling? Should I be over it by now?' and all of that kind of thing really.

 

Hannah Velten  12:44

Yeah. Well, the whole area around children and grief is a massive, massive subject, which we may talk about in another episode {both laugh}. But then, you were saying you had your dad as your guardian angel (much like Christian and I probably, that kind of relationship) and then life carries on, you kind of adjust as a family. You do adjust your roles, don't you? You became, instead of the eldest daughter, you became... well, you tell me how your family changed....[Rochelle suddenly became muted for no obvious reason and we had to cut to a break... then resumed] Your dad at that point being in your mind as the guardian angel, looking after you all, and then your mum gets ill and you're sort of questioning everything again.

 

Rochelle Bugg  13:39

Absolutely. And I think that was even more of a shock for me, because I thought, 'Hang on a minute, this diagnosis must be wrong. This can't be right. Dad wouldn't let it happen'. So I think that fuelled my initial denial even more, I was like, 'okay, they must have misdiagnosed her'. I remember saying to Mum, when they first said it was cancer, but they hadn't done the biopsy, so they weren't sure what type of tumour it was, I was like, 'Mum, don't worry, this is just a sign from Dad. He's telling you to slow down, you've been working too much, like this is fine. We'll get it sorted in a couple of months.' So then when the diagnosis was terminal, it felt not just like the loss of my mum, but it made me reassess the way I viewed the world. And it was almost like the loss of my worldview and all of my beliefs and what had carried me through my grief from my dad was suddenly called into question. So now I can see like, no wonder I was struggling back then; you know the thing that I'd used, I guess, as a crutch or as a point of understanding to get me through after losing dad, suddenly I was like, well, then surely that can't be true, because why would he let this happen to mum? So it definitely made me have to go deeper within myself, start reading a lot more just to try and come to some kind of understanding or something that made sense for me of why this would happen.

 

Hannah Velten  15:18

Did you get any sort of any conclusions at that point?

 

Rochelle Bugg  15:25

No, I think the one thing that always came to me... well, one thing was as I was going through and reading absolutely everything I could and considering it from every different angle... I think the one thing that I took from it was to treat all advice, like a shop: take what fits, leave what doesn't; it doesn't matter if it makes sense to someone else. If someone says one thing that makes sense and resonates with you, excellent. Take that, even if you disagree with the rest of what they say, doesn't matter. So I think that taught me to very much build my own toolbox, if that makes any sense. Rather than thinking, Oh, okay, I need to find a certain religion and follow that to the letter or I need to start doing that practice. I was like, No, okay, I can do a bit of meditation and a bit of prayer and a bit of this, like, wherever I need to do. And I think the only conclusion I really come to in my head is that I suppose I believe that there are certain points along the journey that are set in stone, which you're always going to go through, but that it's down to you the route that you take in order to get there. So I think that's how, while Mum was ill, I began to think of things that I was like, 'Okay, Dad can't necessarily control the journey that we have to go on as a family, but he can be there to make sure there's enough petrol in, to give us snacks, to put the music on the radio that we want to listen to while we're going on this journey'. So I think that was how I made sense of it, that okay, maybe he can't stop the bad thing from happening, but he can be there to support us in his way, in order for us to make it through.

 

Hannah Velten  17:22

Absolutely. I've got chills during that. Absolutely. Okay, so we were talking about your role as eldest daughter, then move to sort of helping looking after your younger sisters, as well as looking after your mom, as a support. And then when she becomes ill, it's almost like overnight, you become a carer.

 

Rochelle Bugg  17:45

Yeah.

 

Hannah Velten  17:46

So can you sort of describe the journey.

 

Rochelle Bugg  17:55

Yeah. So I had recently finished university up in Leeds, and had just started a new job, it was the first week of a new job when I got the call. And I suppose, at first, I thought it was just going to be something minor, but pretty quickly, within, I think it was probably at the end of two weeks, I phoned my manager up and said, 'I'm really sorry, but I'm, you know, going to have to quit the job'. Because in my head, I had that experience with Dad, and I thought, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure the same thing doesn't happen; obviously, thinking that I had some control over these things when I didn't.

 

18:37

Like a magical power... hmmm.

 

Rochelle Bugg  18:38

Yeah. And, yeah, it's funny because obviously now I've written the book, and I talk about it, and I'll refer to myself as a carer, but I don't think I... well, I really struggled with that. And it was more kind of a term that I started calling myself because it meant something in NHS appointments, or it meant something if you were phoning the council, but ultimately, I was just a daughter, wanting to look after my mum and care for her the way that she had cared for me my whole life. And I saw how she was with my dad in the final year... well, in the final weeks of his life, and I thought, do you know what, you deserve that as well and I want to be the person to do that for you. So, it was so instant, and it was a massive decision yet also I didn't even think about it, because I was like, that was my mum. I'm gonna do whatever needs to be done. But yeah, the fact that something can change so quickly - that you can wake up in the morning and, you know, all you're thinking about is 'Oh, I need to remember to buy some bread later. And you know, I've got a zoom at five o'clock.' And then something can happen at three o'clock in the afternoon that completely changes the course of the rest of your life. And I think that's maybe something that my system has never quite got out; that realisation that absolutely anything could happen at any moment. And I think for a long time, I struggled with that. But I think now I tell myself, okay, like, if something's that bad can happen at any moment, equally, something that good can happen at any moment. And that's the only way that I've been able to kind of balance out in my mind, to keep going; to say, whatever chance your brain is telling you there is of something awful happening, equally, there's a chance of something great happening: an email out of the blue from someone, you know, meeting your future husband, getting the job of your dreams; whatever it is, there's just as much chance of those good moments happening as the bad.

 

Hannah Velten  19:03

Absolutely. Absolutely. We'll talk a bit more about the emotion that you are holding on to in your body and being on high alert all the time, a bit later. But so with your mum, you had the anticipatory loss, because it was a terminal diagnosis, but you also had the ambiguous loss as well, because, like, her whole character and personality changed, didn't it, as you were you were caring for her.

 

Rochelle Bugg  21:42

Yeah, I think I would say anyone who's experienced losing someone to a terminal illness, I think I called it in the book like a 'buy one, get one free on grief', because, yeah, you have to deal with all of those emotions once with the diagnosis, and then again, when you actually lose them. And then I think, in addition to that, anyone not only with brain tumours, like my mum, but anyone who has a loved one with a neurological condition, you know, Alzheimer's and dementia is similar, you lose so much of them as a person, even though they're still physically with you. And that is a massive readjustment in itself, to lose them emotionally. And then it felt like, you know, you're just about to get your head around the way that they're not the same them emotionally and then they're gone physically. And then, you know, it just seems like this constant snowball of loss that gets bigger and bigger as time goes on really.

 

Hannah Velten  22:53

Absolutely, I wrote down in one of my notes, it's like cumulative loss. You never managed to get any of the grief out really at all, all the way through: from your dad, then the anticipatory loss, the ambiguous loss and then obviously when your mother did pass on, which we will talk about... but I just wanted to talk about the self-care that you... you talked about toxic positivity and you how you were taking care of your mother, and your sisters as well. I mean, all the exhaustion as well. You pushed yourself to rock bottom several times, can you just talk about getting yourself to rock bottom and then the thought process and having to really surrender and actually look after yourself and start asking for help.

 

Rochelle Bugg  23:55

Yeah. My mum was super independent, made it very clear she wanted to be looked after at home and that was something that I wanted to be able to do for her. And I think it took me so long to understand the distinction... or to understand the concept that just because... I suppose sometimes if you were to look at a to-do list that I had back then, I would look at it and be like, but I'm more than capable of achieving each individual task. I'm more than capable of writing that email, of driving her to that appointment, I'm more than capable of showering her, blah, blah, blah. But when it's all packaged together, then you put in the emotions that you're dealing with anyway, and how much that drains you. I don't think I really realised that just because you can do everything, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should do everything. I think I completely underestimated the admin that is involved for caring for someone with a terminal illness. And then dealing with a bereavement - even that, you know, 'how many copies of the death certificate do you want? Oh, how are you going to pay for this? Oh, you do know, if you don't order enough copies of the death certificate, they're going to be more expensive if you come back'.... and all these things, and having to make all of those decisions. I think at the time, I thought, well, you know, that's just one small thing, not realising how draining it was, and how much energy it takes to try and put on a positive face for my mum - not that I did it all the time - but do you know what I mean? I wanted to be the upbeat one, because I thought, I'm not the one with cancer, I'm well, I should be the one that's keeping her going through the gruelling treatment. I know she hasn't got long left, so I want to make this time as good as possible for her. And I think as well, because the only version of grief and loss I've really seen was in films, that was a very glossy, very Hollywood take, where you know, it goes from diagnosis in the waiting room, flips to like, you know, them in bed, quietly passing away, a few tears, funeral and then gets on. And, you know, the only real bit that you see in between is maybe people ticking off bucket lists or running sponsored marathons, or doing something great, you know, having some big achievement that came from it. So I thought, Oh, this is what I should be doing. And then I thought, No, I should be finding a cure, there has to be a cure out there for her - because that was the other narrative that I'd seen in films where it's like, you know, the parents in the libraries till midnight, getting every single book out. And so I think I took all of that responsibility on my shoulders to keep... in my head, I thought, well, no, I have to keep life as normal as possible for everyone. You know, doing all the household bit, not realising that you can't be normal in an abnormal situation, that something has to give at some point. And that basically [Rochelle laughs] terminal illness doesn't unfold the way that it does in Hollywood films. You know, everyone always used to use the analogy of an oxygen mask, you know, when you go on a plane, and they say, make sure you put your oxygen mask on before helping others. And honestly, if one more person said that to me... because my mind set was, 'my mum is ill, so she can't do it for herself. I've got two hands, I'm well, so I'll hold my breath while I put her oxygen mask on. Or I'll put them both on at the same time.' And I couldn't get it into my head, because that was the analogy being used. I was like, because if I was on a plane with my Mum, I would help her and me. But now I think I definitely see it much more like charging up a phone. That it is inevitable, when you are going through trauma, that your battery is going to drain and drain quickly. You know the best, most expensive phone in the world still needs recharging. And so do you. And you know, when your phone flashes up, saying low battery, you don't think 'you're pathetic, you should carry on, I'm going to expect you to not turn off for at least another seven days.' Yeah, you know, you're just like, I know what needs doing. So, yeah.

 

Hannah Velten  28:44

So it was a big lesson in having to ask for help as well, wasn't it. Like doing things that were good for you - so giving yourself time - but also asking for help from outside and just surrendering to what was happening.

 

Rochelle Bugg  29:02

Yeah, I think that was so difficult, because yes, asking for help is so important. But also, I think it can be so difficult when you do ask for help and it's not necessarily there, or it doesn't come in a way that is useful, then it makes you not ask for help. But I think slowly with time, I learned to lower my expectations of what could be done. Because I think I was asking for help from a perspective of who can do something that's going to fix this? Who can do something that's going to make this okay? Whereas now I see... you know, I could have been Beyonce with a whole team of assistance, and nobody would have been able to do anything to fix what was inevitable. So now, I would say like yes, do ask for help with someone picking this up, or do ask for help with filling this form out, but do it with the understanding that, unfortunately, it can't change what is at the core of what is wrong. That is something you have to come to peace, you know, something you need to find peace with. And I guess kind of almost similar to how I was explaining with my dad, like the car journey; that's almost the same with asking for help; you know, no help that anyone can give you will change the end result, but it can make the journey easier. And even if it's just making it easier by 5%, because they fill the petrol up or... do you know, I mean, you just need to look for the tiny wins, instead of expecting the end result to be magically fixed, I suppose.

 

Hannah Velten  30:53

Yeah, we're just talking about your dad there. Because obviously you had that thought that he was looking after everything. You wrote a beautiful letter to him that you've put in the book: how did you... I was going to say 'mend', but that isn't the right word, but how did you heal your relationship with him and your sort of thought process, your emotions change while your mom was ill?

 

Rochelle Bugg  31:21

Um... I think it was just coming to a point of acceptance, and almost tuning back into the relationship that I had with my dad and my understanding of my dad, that I came to a point where I was like, well, this must be out of his hands. Because I know if he could do something to change it, he would. So obviously, this isn't something he can change, in the same way that I was looking at myself and thinking, I would literally do anything right now to make Mum well, but that was out of my hands. So I was thinking well, actually maybe that was the same for him. But I think I definitely did go through kind of anger at him. And then maybe a feeling of like loss, because I was thinking like, okay, right, yep, no, that means he's gone forever. He's not up there. There's no one there, there's nothing after you die, that that's just it. But I think slowly over time, I've just come back to that same thing of, you know, just accepting that there are some things that you can't change and finding your way through them as best you can, I suppose.

 

Hannah Velten  32:49

Yeah, absolutely. And it was interesting the way your relationship with your mom as well changed as the brain tumour, you know, became more and more obvious in her behaviour, and how your role really changed. And with your sisters as well, you can see the real difficulty you have in balancing being daughter, and then mother and all these sort of different roles that you're trying to juggle...

 

Rochelle Bugg  33:24

Yeah, it's really difficult because you don't want to... you know that what the person you're caring for wants most is to just go back to normal. So when they're trying to do small things to keep that going... so for example, with my mum, she would get very confused so it might be that she would... she always used to like {Rochelle laughs}, she was determined to... she'd sit in her wheelchair and like, scoot herself around - she only could use one side of her body - so she would scoot herself around, on one of her feet, and try to be so helpful in the kitchen, but she would put dirty plates back in the cupboard. Or... I don't know, instead of getting the washing out of the washing machine and putting it in a basket, she'd put it in the fridge or something like that. And so because I was so frazzled, and so tired, I'd then find it and be like, 'Grrr, why can't she just leave things alone, she's making more problems for me?' And then feel so guilty and like the most horrible person in the world, because I knew that all she was trying to do was help because she could see that I was struggling and she still wanted to be a mum, she still wanted to look after me and she thought that was her way of helping. So, you know, it's so difficult because I think, as a family unit when you're going through something like that, all of the roles just get tossed up in the air and it's like you take a bit of that one, a bit of that one, and it's so hard. Or I would tell my sisters to do something, 'Argh, why can't you bring your plates down out of your room? Or like we've run out of glasses because you've got them all in your room!' And then they'd be like, 'Well, you've not my mum, so you can't tell me what to do!' It was just one of those things. Obviously now looking back, it's funny... but I also see there is no other way. It's inevitable. And I think that's one of the things that I want to get across to people is that it is inevitable that you are all going to drive each other crazy; that you're going to feel lost; that nothing is going to make sense; none of the normal rules apply. But maybe if you take that expectation away, it can maybe help, because you're not trying to keep pushing to try to be normal [Rochelle laughs] when it's completely impossible, because you know, your world's blowing apart.

 

Hannah Velten  35:56

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And so if we go further forward to when your mum was nearing the end and there was a hospice nurse that came to the house...

 

Rochelle Bugg  36:17

So the Marie Curie nurse came when we could sense Mum was starting to get ill. So, thinking she maybe had a bit longer and for someone to sit with her overnight, but then the first time they came around, kind of a couple of hours later, was when she died.

 

Hannah Velten  36:38

And in the book, you have this beautiful... obviously that shock that she's actually died physically, you have to deal with that, but you actually washed her body. I read that and I was quite taken aback by it. But how did that feel? Did that help at all in the process?

 

Rochelle Bugg  37:06

It wasn't intended as a ritual. None of the three of us had any idea what to do when someone dies at home. I literally had to Google to find out what you're meant to do. So, the Marie Curie nurse had said to us, 'Look, your mum's really not well; I think, you know, it's probably going to be tonight that she'll die.' And so me and my sisters were sat with her. And then..., yeah, I can't, to be quite honest, I can't remember. I think the nurse just said, 'Do you want to get your mum ready for when the funeral directors come?" And like I said, it wasn't pre-planned; it wasn't a ritual, but I think it's something that me and my sisters will always treasure. It just seemed the most beautiful, beautiful, most meaningful thing that I've done in my life, and I can ever imagine doing. An almost a real, like, seeing it through until the end with her, if that makes any sense. And just making sure that... it almost felt like washing the illness off of her and making sure that she was good and just, yeah, like sending her off for a night out somewhere...

 

Hannah Velten  38:40

Yeah. And there was something that you actually said in the book about, you actually felt she'd left her body. And that sort of thought that she's not actually in this body and that she's gone to join your dad... can you just sort of talk through that?

 

Rochelle Bugg  39:01

Yeah. So I would say that moment has completely changed how I think about things: my openness to becoming more spiritual, or looking at different meanings, because until that moment, I had no concept just how different it feels that you can sense when someone goes from a person to a body, within half a second. Nothing else had changed: you know, it wasn't as if she was moving a lot beforehand, her breathing had been really slow and rattley for hours by that point, so you know... there was just this sense that she had gone. And it sounds... you know, I can't even describe it in any more detail than that, but it was just such a strong felt sense that it made me think, 'okay, there must be something because I can feel that she's not here. Even though her hand is still around mine, even though she's in the exact same place that she was five seconds ago, I can tell that she's not here right now.' And that... yeah, it was just the weirdest, weirdest feeling. But also, I suppose, bizarrely comforting, because I thought, 'okay, if she's not here, that means there's something that was here that has been able to travel somewhere else, that isn't the body that's here.' Yeah, if that makes any sense? I'm probably not explaining it very well. But it means that if I can sense that something has gone that means there was something to go that is still around.

 

Hannah Velten  40:53

Yeah, absolutely. And I know you talked a lot in the book about using your intuition - like really early on knowing that something was wrong, that the doctors weren't really getting the right diagnosis - and you talk a lot in the book about songs that are sent, or you hear on the radio (Ben Howard's song is one that I always get a lot), so these sort of signs that you're getting... and I know on your Instagram as well, you've talked about the signs and looking out for the signs and things from your parents that you see. Yeah. So, in terms of your grief, I really just want to talk about how you moved through your grief, because obviously, from reading your book, it took a long time for you to actually feel the grief. It didn't really hit you... you were waiting almost for this grief tsunami, you call it, and then obviously it came. Can you talk through that?

 

Rochelle Bugg  42:08

I think, initially, I was... I suppose frustrated with it, because I was expecting this one dark night of the soul, sobbing on the bathroom door and then, you know, you hit rock bottom, and then you start getting on with life. Not realising that, number one, there are about 500 dark nights of the soul, crying on the bathroom floor, but that... I suppose how I see it now - and I've said this to a few people recently - I think, since I've written the book, I've had a lot of people saying, "I almost don't know where to start with the grief and I've just pushed it to one side, sometimes for years, because it seems too much". That's been a common theme. And also people saying, "I can't believe you know, it's been three years since I lost this person, and I've just been hit by another wave of it". And I think, now, what I'm understanding is that if you had to deal with all of your feelings at once, it would be too much and your brain would completely short circuit. And so it's almost as if it's being brought to you bit by bit. So rather than seeing it as, 'Oh, you know, I'm failing at healing, I'm back to square one, because it's five years later and now, you know, suddenly I'm upset about this particular thing all over again." It's like, no, that's massive progress. That's showing that you've gone through all of these layers, you have worked through that enough that your brain now feels safe to be like, 'Okay, now let's deal with this. How are we going to get through this bit?' And I think reframing it like that, for me, I think telling myself, my brain knows what it's doing. Whereas back then, I thought, 'why am I so broken? Why is this not working? Why am I not crying all the time? Why am I not doing this?' Whereas now I see, my brain knew how much I could cope with, at any one given point. So it was like, 'okay, let's deal with this. Give you a break. Now let's deal with this.' And I think that approach has definitely helped and definitely given me more confidence to face each time like a new level in the grief or if it pops up in a different way - that has given me more confidence to work through it because I know that it's coming up because my brain knows that I'm ready and capable to deal with it now.

 

Hannah Velten  44:59

Yeah, absolutely. And I think you said in the book, and when we talked earlier, you said about the car accident that you actually had. Can you talk about that and how much of a trigger that was as well, for you to move further into the grief?

 

Rochelle Bugg  45:16

Yeah. So that, again, was me just completely normal day, driving home from work, there was a diversion on the motorway because they were doing work. And in short, what happened was, a guy was coming around the corner in a van, as he was coming around the corner, something fell off his passenger seat, so he went to grab that, let go of the wheel, came around the corner on the wrong side of the road straight into me. The physical impact of that, for me, was kind of like headaches... well, one of the things was that a lot of the symptoms I then had as a result of that, the doctors initially thought that I'd had a stroke. And so because my mum was originally misdiagnosed as having a stroke, I ended up in the same stroke ward, at the same hospital, where she was, which then brought a whole other level - it made me feel like I was living exactly what my mum had gone through, which then made me rethink everything, like, try and see things from her perspective of how she felt. But I think, as a result of the car accident, it made me read so much more about the physical impact of trauma, and you know, how emotions aren't just all in the mind and the real mind-body link. And so for me, I think reading the book "The Body Keeps The Score" [by Bessel van der Kolk] ... you know the more I was going through to try and alleviate all of the physical symptoms, and also like the panic attacks, and fear of driving and all of that, that came from the car accident, all of the stuff that I was reading, I could see how applicable it was to grief. And so I think that's also really helped me and I've tried to maybe incorporate bits of that in the book - to understand that there is no way that you can get through losing someone you love without being affected in the same way that there is no way that that van could smash into the side of me, and me not be affected. Do you know I mean? That is the way that your body deals with it, there has to be some effect. So you can put it off for as long as you like, but at some point, you're going to have to deal with it. But yeah...

 

Hannah Velten  48:08

Sorry, I was just going to say that the car accident, like happened, and that then took you into the kind of next level of healing. So you'd kind of got a lot of the emotions out but actually, to get the physicality, this sort of energy of the shock and the trauma out of your body... because we've talked about this before... the sort of top layer of grief, and then there's the underlayer of grief - during this show we talk all about that, you know, we go through all of that, plus past lives and you know, ancestral as well. So there's a whole heap extra, but certainly getting that trauma out from your body is so important, isn't it? And, you know, we've talked about this before, it's like, I just don't think we know as a culture how to deal with grief. And I know you started writing your blog, didn't you... can you sort of tell us how writing the blog helped you, what it gave you and why you started it and how it sort of evolved into the book.

 

Rochelle Bugg  49:28

So I started the blog, initially around the time of Mum's terminal diagnosis. She was part of a big family of nine brothers and sisters, add on my dad's side of the family, her friends, my friends, and repeating the same news over and over again, having to deal with other people's emotions, "I can't believe it." "Surely it can't be true". And then you're having to comfort them, and you think, 'Hang on a minute. I haven't dealt with this. I'm the one who needs comfort - leave me alone'. So, it got to the point where I thought, 'right, if I just write it down in one place, I let everybody know where to find it, then, you know, it saves me the emotional ordeal, I guess, of going through it over and over again'. But then fairly quickly as mum's symptoms progressed very quickly - like I said she lost all use of her right side - so it was very, very hands on and someone needed to be with her a lot of the time. And so bar the hospital appointments, I wasn't really going out or doing much and so I thought, okay. You know, I started writing, not thinking anyone was ever going to read it, but more for me just to process things, not with the intention of doing anything other than just saying what was going on and how I felt, I suppose. And, yeah, that evolved, and kind of as word spread about the blog, and more people got in touch with me that I didn't know who had somehow come across it and said, 'Oh, this is great', ... I think so often, with cancer, you find books and resources out there for the person going through it, but perhaps not so much for the person who is in the second chair in the waiting room, who is every bit as devastated by the diagnosis, but you know, the focus, understandably, is always on the patient. So I think a lot of people kind of started to get in touch because they felt, 'Oh, finally, someone understands'. And so it's from then, over a number of years, that's kind of evolved into the book that it is now.

 

Hannah Velten  51:57

Yeah, and I know it's a sort of therapy for you in terms of writing and getting your voice heard, because you do sort of lose your identity, don't you, when you're caring or in that situation, but it really helps other people. And, you know, even just doing this interview for us you've like really shone a light into what it's been like for you and to see how you've healed and transformed yourself as well, from such a dark place. And yeah, this book is absolutely beautiful and I do encourage people to go out and buy it. Also, yeah, it's kind of inspired me as well to think about passing on lessons - I know you pass on lessons in your thinking about other carers and how you can help them. But I'm really sorry, we've come to our time. That's like nearly an hour already!

 

Rochelle Bugg  53:00

It's gone so quickly...

 

Hannah Velten  53:02

I know, I know. But thank you so much for joining us. And I wish you luck; I wish... whatever you're going to be carrying on... do carry on writing, because it was a beautiful, beautiful book.

 

Rochelle Bugg  53:15

Thank you.

 

Hannah Velten  53:16

Thank you so much, Rochelle. Next week where we're going to be discussing something - actually which Rochelle might be interested in - we're going to be talking to Natasha Harris, who's a coach and energy healer and she works with the Akashic Records which hold all your past lives. I'm sure Rochelle will have heard about them, during her reading. So we're going to be talking about that all next week. So lots of love, Rochelle, thank you so much for joining us. And we'll see everybody next week.

 

Hannah Velten  53:50

[Outro] Thank you for listening to 'The Finder of Lost Things'. I think we've been triggered so long and so hard by COVID. And it's going to carry on. People are getting used to stillness and they're getting used to more solitude. But how do you use that time for the highest good. This process that we're going to explore will bring back the joy and purpose to life. That wholeness you know, that sort of harmony and flow and togetherness. People are really ready to find their lost parts now. You can find me at www.hannahvelten.online