DILEMMAS: I want to mourn my mother, not Diana

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Tina's mother died on the same day as Diana and very few people came to the funeral, as it was also on the same day as Diana's. Tina has found it hard to cope with the anniversary publicity and dreads it happening year after year. She feels furious and impotent.

What can she do?


There is very little Tina can do, except perhaps kick herself for arranging the funeral on the same day as that of Diana, Princess of Wales, which is a fairly pointless way of spending the time. But perhaps it may help her to remember that fury and impotence are common symptoms of bereavement, and it's quite likely that if she were not feeling enraged about the Diana publicity she would be venting her anger somewhere else - on the doctors who attended her mother, on a family member, or even on her mother, for dying. Diana's death is just a focus for completely natural feelings that would pop up somewhere, whatever had happened.

Look what happened to the people of the nation, after all. They needed something to vent their anger and impotence on and they picked the Queen and the Royal Family as their scapegoats, furious that none of them had come to see them, angry that the flag on Buckingham Palace was not at half-mast, shocked that the Queen had not addressed the nation, and so on.

And witness Diana's brother Charles, who vented his own anger on the press and the paparazzi, and was so enraged that he took the opportunity to let out his rage from the Westminster Abbey pulpit. As far as a funeral goes, there is often something about it that drives one wild with fury, too. When my mother died I was livid that the vicar referred to her as "Janet", which was on her death certificate, instead of "Janey", the name by which she was known.

When my father died I was appalled at the rudeness of the vicar, who never came and shook hands after the service, but scampered away immediately on his bicycle to visit the sick.

At my father's memorial service I was seething and miserable because my mother was not mentioned at all when his life was celebrated.

Normally I could not care less about things like this, but because anger is often sizzling very near the surface after a death, it is quite common for people to find something in a funeral to get enraged and offended by.

And is Tina really sure that people didn't come to her mother's funeral because of Diana's funeral on the same day?

Some people must have come, surely, and perhaps the others would not have come anyway. It is unlikely that they were all glued to their tellies, unless they were totally inhuman.

Perhaps Tina felt cheated of some kind of grieving process when the whole nation was in mourning last year. Interestingly, the national association for the bereaved, Cruse, found that during the big Diana gloom, phone calls to them dropped markedly. It was as if everyone was suddenly permitted to grieve, and did not need to get hold of a counselling agency to say it was OK.

So it is not surprising that Tina felt that her own bereavement was overshadowed by everyone else's. It is obvious that many people who were apparently grieving for Diana were in fact grieving for their own personal losses in the past, and Tina was deprived of one of the only perks of bereavement - that of feeling special. Normally, when you are bereaved everyone's attitude to you changes; you are treated with kid gloves and cared for like a china doll.

Tina must have missed out a lot on that, with everyone crying about the Princess.

As for all the publicity, is Tina worried that it will remind her each year of her mother's death when she really wants to try to forget? The sad truth is that one rarely forgets, and on anniversaries of deaths all the old feelings often return for a few days.

Long after Diana's death is forgotten in the media - which it will be - it is likely that Tina will still be hit by pangs of fury, sadness and impotence.


It was my worst week

Like Tina, but unlike Tina, my personal experience of the two weekends involving Diana's death and funeral was traumatic. The first weekend, I should have been arranging a joint holiday. Instead, I told my deceiving husband to visit his transatlantic girlfriend, who had been blighting our life for many years, and sort himself out. By the following weekend he had booked a holiday with her. He duly left me and our two children. I am not ashamed to admit I was mourning a 20-year marriage, not the Princess.



The pain will subside

When my own mother died, I felt such overwhelming anger and frustration that I thought I could not bear it, but it did pass gradually. The fact that your mother's death and funeral coincided with that of Princess Diana is nothing more than an unfortunate and painful coincidence. Whatever date it had been would be remembered by you with pain.

The process of grieving is complex and individual, but usually follows a pattern, from stunned disbelief through anger to eventual acceptance, when you can look back with pleasure at shared memories, even if you do not believe this now.

Take one day at a time; talk about her to your friends and other family members. Look at photographs, talk to her out loud if it feels better, maybe visiting places you both enjoyed. The pain does subside, and pleasant memories take its place.


Bournemouth, Dorset

Choose another date

My mother was an amusing, gregarious, 64-year-old grandmama of six when she died suddenly, five years ago, on 31 August.

Taking into account that 31 August will always be devoted to Diana for reflective soul-searching, I made 29 August my mother's day for visiting her memorial and thinking of her peacefully. On 31 August I didn't read any paper, watch TV or listen to the radio, so the coverage didn't intrude into my thoughts. There will never be a 31 August now that will not mention Diana. For those of us who have more personal tributes to bear, we will just have to make our own arrangements.



Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I've lived with my mother since I was 10, when my parents split up. She's a lovely mum, but now I'm 16 she's taken to coming out with me and my mates. They all like her, as she can be really good fun. But she borrows my clothes, and comes out to clubs and gets drunk sometimes, and people say we're like sisters. She's also very attractive and flirts a lot. I didn't mind at first, but now I'm getting really brought down by it. I don't seem to have any private life. What can I do?


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