How I’ve Pre-Grieved Since Childhood

Help me decide if it’s a good or bad thing

Nikki Waterson

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Photo by Lux Graves on Unsplash

When I was younger, I was terrified of family dying. I truly thought that every year would be my gran’s last, after she had her first stroke. And then she had her second stroke. 20+ years on and she’s still here, I should get to see her this Christmas if I can make it back to my home in Sydney.

As an adult I experienced my first actual death of a family member— Our family dog Milly, the black Labrador.

Photo by the author © Nikki Waterson

Back around the time when I was finishing high school, Milly was 10 years old and overweight. I remember being told off by my school friends for what I’d say when they came over and showed Mil lots of love and affection.

Me - 'She’s got arthritis and she’s too fat. She’ll die soon.'

A friend - ‘Ohh poor Milly, you don’t want her to die, do you?’

Me - ‘Well no, of course not. I’m just saying it because it’s going to happen.’

Apart from sounding like a heartless clairvoyant, it turns out I was just wrong. Milly lived until she was about 15 years old.

Photo by the author © Nikki Waterson

It was around late 2014, and I was 3 years into my career in the police. I’d experienced that weird shift in parent-child relationships where you one day find yourself being asked for advice, not being the one asking it.

I’d built up an unhealthy level of emotional armour in my occupation. And I think that appeared to most of my family members as a new level of reliability. I mean, sure, it made me more reliable for a while. After all, when you’re bottling up the ‘TS’ in the ‘PTSD’, how reliable you appear is what really matters.

So when mum called me to tell me it was time… I was okay. And my concern was for my mum and for my two older sisters. Then mum…

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Nikki Waterson

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